Online Accessibility – The Top 10 Tips For Auction House Success

Accessible Design Takes the Lead Across Hookson’s Auction House Websites and Digital Products

Hookson enjoys significant experience of working with the auction house sector.

These enterprises, often regarded as steeped in tradition and age-old processes have changed. Now, they are actually among the savviest online operators. The internet and the opportunities of online bidding have revolutionised our clients’ business models

For the auction business, UX is a priority.

Auctions are about items, yes – antiques, fine art and so on. But this is a sector that connects deeply with people and their stories. So User Experience counts for a lot here.

It’s crucial then that whether visitors are browsing at leisure or engaged in the enjoyable tussle found at live sales, that accessibility best practice prevails.

  • Online bidding has to function flawlessly
    Antiques and fine art need to pop and zing across every device
    Information – upcoming sales, invitations to appraise or consign, sale histories and departments – has to be clear and well understood

Fortunately, adhering to best practice across online accessibility goes a long way to providing the very best online auction house experience. First-rate accessibility can enhance and open up major components including home and department pages, route to consignment, valuation processes and, of course, live bidding functionality.

Aim For Game-changing Online Accessibility

So in this Hookson blog we’ll look at how auction houses can offer that game-changing online accessibility.

We’ll make the case that as well as being just the plain old right thing to do, widening accessibility makes great business sense too.

And, lastly, we’ll show how accessibility-led auction businesses will be the ones prepared also for some incoming legislation.

Ready to connect more deeply with your customers? Let’s start the bidding with our…

Top 10 Online Accessibility Tips For the Auction Sector

1. Let Improved SEO Strike a Hammer-Blow

Accessible websites make for sites with both cleaner interfaces and improved navigation. These retain visitors and reduce bounce rates. Benefitting SEO further, Google, and other search engines, are able to search and index video captions around that striking portrait or stunning vase.

2. Show and Tell With Captioned Videos and Films of Stunning Consignments

Using films and videos on your auction house site? Then open up to a wider audience by providing transcripts and captions. Doing this means deaf viewers, or those hard of hearing, can engage with your content.

Use of closed captions supports subtitles presented in numerous languages, adding to UX and widening audience reach.

Suitable For All

Auto-captioning is available on the likes of Facebook, and InstagramTwitter and YouTube. These automatically generated captions save time, but require checking for accuracy: even if it makes for mild amusement, you don’t want your fifty instances of the word auction transcribed as action.

At Hookson, we understand the impact a well-shot film has. Consignments as varied as coins and carpets, medals and manuscripts; and watches and wine are irresistibly brought to life. We can ensure your next film project is accessible to all.

Say High to SEO

Web crawlers love easy-to-index accessible websites - and that can boost page rankings

Be More. To More People

Accessibility can open your auction business to a wider audience, longer visits and increased sales

3. Unlock Online Auction Accessibility With Keyboard Navigation

A wide demographic buys and sells fine art and antiques. For any visitors challenged by limited mobility, accessible features like keyboard searching and visual descriptions help ensure this cohort enjoys the best-possible experiences of browsing and bidding.

Take Care of the Tab

To this end, assistive technologies like screen readers rely on keyboard-only navigation. So mouse-free browsing is a must. That’s because keyboard navigation can be the best, or only, option for those with compromised motor control and/or limited mobility. Test just how keyboard-friendly your site is by attempting to navigate across page areas using only the tab keys.

An organisation getting this right is the BBC, whose news site is a snap to browse via solely the keyboard.

Like all of the accessibility issues we’ll cover here, keyboard navigation is something Hookson can help your auction business achieve. It’s also worth visiting WebAIM, a leading non-profit organisation dedicated to improving online accessibility.

4. Use Big Words For Clarity by Allowing For Text Scaling

For those with vision impairments, scaling text to their chosen readable size delivers outstanding UX.

An example of an organisation thinking big is RNID, the hearing-loss charity. On the RNID website, visitors can scale text by up to a massive 300%, crucially without that text sliding out of screen.

Google is on the Case Too

The organisation champions keyboard navigation too and uses Google Lighthouse – Google’s website auditing tool – to identify areas for improvement.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google is making accessibility a priority, and offers users a range of tools and products. These include innovations around cognitive, hearing, mobility, speech and vision issues.

Accessibility best practice plays into the seamless user journeys auction house visitors expect wherever and whenever they’re interacting.

5. Make Your Brand Clear by Using High-Contrast Colours

To aid legibility, it’s important to think of colour contrast. Some visitors can struggle to decipher text when contrast is low – lightly coloured text on a similar background, for example. When contrast is high – black on white, for instance – that problem vanishes out of sight.

Empower Your Visitors

Going further, adding tools to sites gives visitors the power to adapt settings that match their needs. You’ll find an example of this at L’Oréal.

The beauty giant offers a simple tool for users to enable high contrast and also to deactivate animations. Why deactivate? Because motion can cause nausea, headaches and other symptoms for those with vestibular disorders.

The campaigning disability equality charity Scope is another organisation taking accessibility seriously. Aiding legibility, its site design offers high contrast between text and background. Accessibility information is also easily reachable on the website’s top menu.

Accessibility best practice plays into the seamless user journeys auction house visitors expect wherever and whenever they're browsing, bidding or consigning.

6. Ensure Images Say a Few Important Words (and Help SEO Too)

Alt text is an oldie, but a goodie. Alternative Text, to give it its Sunday name, succinctly describes an image on your website. Assistive technologies like screen readers – used by those with no or poor vision – can then read the text. For such auction house visitors, that makes for a richer experience and certainly demonstrates your organisation’s commitment to accessibility.

Alt text can also give SEO a boost, and descriptors can incorporate search terms your customers are using.

7. Provide a Heads-Up by Structuring Content

Just like a physical saleroom, an auction website is a busy location. There’s much to communicate, and varied reasons for visitors to be there. But it needn’t get out of hand.

Sub-Headlines Help Make Text More Accessible

Amid text, smart use of headlines and lists can make reading and understanding content easier. That’s true for every visitor, of course, but well-structured content is especially useful to users of assistive technologies.

Under the bonnet, on content management systems like WordPress, use of H-tags – heading elements that help organise content – creates a heading hierarchy that, above all, helps keep content clear. Visitors browsing via keyboard, or by using a screen reader, will rely on well-written, well-ordered H-tags to assist navigation.

8. Make a Point With Larger Font Sizes

To assist legibility, it’s a good idea to aim for 12-point body text.

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) recommends that text can be comfortably zoomed by up to 200% whilst maintaining legibility. White space, both between text blocks and lines of text, also improves text legibility.

9. Design Auction Site Forms Thoughtfully

Online forms can challenge users with additional needs. But forms and tables can be made more accessible via careful design. This is of significant use to auction houses relying on forms for the harvesting of mailing lists, sales and consignment enquiries, plus valuation services for areas like sale, insurance and probate.

For maximum clarity, clearly labelling every field is important. And to assist navigation, place labels adjacent to their fields.

Going the extra mile, all users will appreciate short instructions regarding what information each field requires. Further to this, placeholder text in form fields provides the clearest examples of information needed.

10. Let Online Accessibility Deliver Mobile Bidding at its Best

By embracing accessibility best practice, mobile UX will benefit. That’s a big plus for auction houses that know bidding must be possible at any given time and location.

All of these accessibility practices will emphatically assist standout in the crowded auction house marketplace.

And remember, in truth, not every competitor will push go on online accessibility features. Consequently, that gives the smart auction business the opportunity to be the one that does.

Accessible auction houses can grab significant opportunities

Online Accessibility is Tested When Need Meets Design

Exceptional online accessibility characterises an outstanding auction experience

As we’ve seen, by cultivating your website and products’ accessibility levels you’ll demonstrate that you’re welcoming all visitors. It’s an approach that grows loyalty. That’s because the easier your auction website and digital products are to navigate and engage with, the more hits and sales, shares and likes you’ll earn.

But there’s also another great reason to ensure your digital presence is open to all…

New Online Accessibility Regulations Are Incoming

The European Union’s European Accessibility Act will standardise accessibility legislation around websites and apps, software, hardware and digital services

Very broadly, the Act will define and demand the adoption of common online accessibility standards. That’s a move that will replace the current jumble of country-specific rules.

This is important because from 2025, when the Act becomes law, the ideal is that consumers will benefit from seamless, joined-up experiences when online or using digital hardware like cash machines.

EU You Say? But What About…

…Brexit? Yeah, that’s what everyone asks at this point. And the truth is that it’s not yet clear if the UK will adopt the same or similar standards as those the EU will follow. But any enterprise – be it British or otherwise – doing business in Europe will have to align with the new legislation regardless.

For auction websites, which attract a global roll call of visitors and clients, it will be essential to comply with the new laws.  

So at Hookson, for our auction house clients, we view the new legislation as a friend: almost a checklist for best practice.

OK. But 2025? That’s ages away.

It’s not. Not at all. And for auction houses looking to gain competitive advantage, the time to embrace accessibility best practice is right now.

The auction sector connects deeply with people and their stories. User Experience counts - and online accessibility helps deliver outstanding UX.

Final Thoughts – Online Accessibility as an Auction House Brand-Builder. A Multi-Platform Hero. And a Pandemic Responder

The core goal of accessibility is of course the widening of access to your digital products.

But the trend right now is for businesses to be thinking about accessibility in a bigger, perhaps more lateral, way. And smart auction houses stand to benefit. So let’s wrap up with some terrific UX opportunities spinning out from a commitment to accessibility:

Online Auction Accessibility at Every Multi-Channel Turn

The multi-channel bidder is familiar now with auction journeys that happen across numerous digital products and devices. The expectation is of a seamless auction experience that’s accessible wherever and whenever engagement takes place.

To that end, accessibility best practice plays into this via its natural adoption of powerful UX.

Online Accessibility That Looks Inwards to Shine Outwards

Hiring new people? By making your auction house business accessible, and shouting about it, it becomes super-attractive to more and more candidates. And in an industry where expertise and experience are key, that widens the talent pool considerably.

Fresh Thinking Welcomed

Consciously accessible workplaces also indicate progressive brands; forward-looking enterprises that welcome fresh perspectives, and bold new thinking. In summary: places where people would love to work.

Accessibility as a tool of HR? You’d better believe it.

Becoming the accessible workplace to be proud of needn’t be a chore. But there are some possibly surprising areas to think about – from written job descriptions to, appropriately, the accessibility of online application forms.

Online Accessibility as a Covid Response

The pandemic, and particularly the effects of Long Covid, have compromised people’s health and abilities. As consumers and service users adapt, accessibility practice can meet these new needs. For auction houses that can mean the chance to provide top-class online sales and services.

The auction sector connects deeply with people and their stories. Providing a rich experience is crucial, and online accessibility helps deliver outstanding UX.

Looking to Connect Your Auction House Website and Digital Products With the Widest Possible Audience?

We can help – and get you ready for the new legislation

As well as connecting auctions with more consigners, bidders and buyers, accessibility is helping power areas as diverse as SEO and site usability, audience reach and brand building. As a result, it’s a genuine win/win and a great idea to get compliant with the incoming legislation changes.

Interested in making your auction house more accessible?

Hookson has the expertise to make it happen. So let’s chat about how we can help you offer accessible online auction journeys to be proud of.