Hands-on With ARIA: Accessibility for eCommerce | How To

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Looking to make your site more accessible? Or maybe you want to make it easier to traverse your site overall using browsers and other interfaces? Using , you can do both. Let’s take a look at what is and how it can benefit an site. We’ll also go through some examples step by step.

What Is ARIA?

WAI-ARIA stands for the Web Initiative–Accessible Rich Internet Applications. This initiative takes the form of a set of guidelines and attributes that are maintained by the W3C. Using these attributes, we can create relations between our site elements that can’t be expressed through HTML alone. The most important for our use here is that we can define element relations outside of the parent-child relationship, and more clearly connect UI elements for our users.


At this point, it might be a good idea to check out our original primer on ARIA to brush up on some of its foundations.

  • HTML

    Site Accessibility: Getting Started With ARIA

    Kyle Speaker

Adding ARIA to eCommerce

Previously, we talked about how to apply ARIA to a general website that resembled a common small business homepage. This time, we’re going to take a closer look at how ARIA can improve the user experience for large eCommerce sites.

We’re going to focus on four key areas of eCommerce that pose unique situations: product pages, category pages (or product aggregate pages), multi-level navigation, and faceted navigation. We’ll be using these two wireframes to guide us through the process:

Product Page Wireframe
A very basic product mockup
Category Page Wireframe
Example of a Product Listing Page mockup

Preparing for ARIA

In the case of most websites, adding ARIA is a fairly straightforward process. You define the pieces of your site, break them down into landmarks and elements, and add in the necessary code.

We’re going to follow a similar process with our eCommerce site, but we now have a new layer of intricacy. With the complexity that comes with eCommerce sites, ARIA can become a rabbit hole in many cases. While it is important to improve the accessibility of your site as much as possible, we unfortunately will often run into business constraints. Because of this, we’ll want to do a little more planning upfront, prioritizing each of our ARIA additions.

By doing this prioritization, we can ensure that the most important aspects of our site are improved first, making the user experience as good as we can in the time available.

Let’s kick it off by taking a look at some product pages.

ARIA for Product Pages

A staple page for any eCommerce site, these pages typically show a product, its available variations, and a way to add the item to a cart. Each of these interactive elements should be considered separately.

For our product page, let’s break it into pieces like this: our core product information, interactive elements that affect the product, our add to cart button, and an expanded content section.

If we needed to prioritize the implementation on this page, we would want to group it like so:

  1. Core product info, interactive elements, add to cart button
  2. Expanded product content

The main factor at play here is something we talked about in a previous article: ARIA helps to define an element’s intent. In the case of the expanded content, most of the HTML elements that are being used have elements with semantic meaning and intent that match. This means that while it is useful to put additional ARIA information if we can, it is likely less important than completing the other three areas.

Core Product Information

Let’s start off by adding ARIA to our core product information. This is pretty straightforward due to the simplicity of the elements being used here. The code looks like this:

For starters, we’ll add a role to the main div, and a relationship between the image and the product title heading. 

Interactive Product Elements

This is where product pages can get a little tricky. Products on an eCommerce site can have quite a few different types of variations present. Beyond just the types available, the number of them that can be utilized simultaneously adds another layer of complexity. In our example, we have three elements that come into play: size, color, and quantity.

Let’s take a look at how you can mark that up. Here’s the code for the ARIA-enhanced selection and checkbox elements:

Add to Cart Button

The cart button is similar to a standard button, but we’re going to go out of our way to label it more clearly than other buttons:

Expanded Product Content

Finally, the expanded content area is treated just like a typical content area. Depending on your product pages, however, it might be a good idea to separate your main content landmarks from your supplementary content landmarks. The tabs add an extra layer to the code here as well. Here’s how we’d do it in our example:

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