Barrier Freedom in the Internet

Website design for older or disabled people

The Situation

Using financial services via the internet has become firmly established in Germany. With the increasing use also by older or disabled people new requirements in questions of usability confront the companies and so also the banks. According to surveys 30% of disabled people declared to be confronted with barriers especially in the context of readability and navigation of web sites (BMWI 2001).

Usability of Web Sites

Latest surveys (@facts survey 6/2002) show that in Germany 6.0 million people older than 50 use the internet but the figure for the usability of web sites is as half high as the figure for younger internet users. (Nielsen Norman Group 2002).

New Demands on Internet Solutions

The Federal Equality Law

The federal equality law defines among others the rules about barrier free information technology only applicable at the moment for federal institutions. It was defined that web sites of federal institutions have to be barrier free designed with a transition period until end of 2005. For the private sector target agreements are to be set up with the aid of the government and with deputies of the organisations of disabled people. As the access to a bank via the internet is of special importance in particular for people with a restricted mobility efforts are shortly to be expected from the organisations of disabled people.

International Guidelines

The standard for barrier freedom is orientated on the international accepted guidelines of the work group WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). Barrier freedom is in this context not only related to technical barriers (such as the use of special hard- and software) but also to a content related adjustment at designing the web site

What means barrier freedom?

Barrier freedom of a commercial web site means that the offer is to be designed in such a way that also customers with a restricted sight can use the web sites without any problems. Individually adjustable font sizes and types as well as different colour settings for improving the contrasts are part of it. Due to motor restrictions some users prefer working with a keyboard than using a computer mouse. For blind people and also for users with a very slow internet connection, which cannot view multi media elements therefore such as graphics, a web site is only accessible if there are alternatives to multi media elements. 

Customer Satisfaction and Customer Retention

The user friendly design of a web offer is decisive for customer satisfaction and customer retention. Users who do not get along with a web site leave it very quickly and according to surveys they do not return to this web page normally. Further examinations show that satisfaction especially by older users is only achievable if there is an appropriate search function. The search function is not only a key function for the customer segment of older users it is for all users of highest importance.

Design for everybody

The barrier free design of a web site is not only beneficial for older and disabled people it improves the usability for all users significantly. 
Therefore internet banking should be orientated to the concept „design for everybody“ which uses one customisable solution which can be used on various technical platforms instead of using multiple special solutions for certain user groups.

Chances and Risks

There are chances but also risks for banks which result from the mentioned requirements. If the requirements are realised quickly clear competitive advantages arise. The acceptance of the internet solution increases due to the reasons named above and so also the customer satisfaction. So, the customers are tied closer to the institute. Parallel, new possibilities of winning new customers arise by the pioneering role. The one who reacts hesitantly to the challenges risks that customers could move to competitors who have already realised the new challenges.

Barrier freedom with sunShine

S&N takes account of the named requirements with sunShine, the e:Integration-platform. sunShine is based on XML/XSL and enables by a consequent separation of content, layout and processing to realise such solutions in short project times at low expenses. Subsequently, barrier freedom and user friendliness can be considered right from the start when a web site is to be designed. So, higher development costs hardly arise. In contrast, the expenditures on maintenance are reduced as content can easily be exchanged or extended without touching the layout.

Customised Concepts

But it is important to have mastered the way to it. Therefore S&N offers in cooperation with Fraunhofer Institut customised concepts in the context of projects in order to realise such concepts together with financial service providers. The technical product platform sunShine is thereby enhanced by consulting and software services. Project management as well as banking specific advises, the realisation of interfaces in third systems and the support in operating such a solution are part of the deal.