Posted: 15 Minute read

Neurodiversity & Your eCommerce Store: What You Need to Know

Now, you’re probably thinking ‘neurodiversity and ecommerce, what have they got to do with each other?’ You’d be surprised. A well-structured, neuro-inclusive website design could not only make the online shopping experience more enjoyable, but also more successful from a purchasing perspective.

But how, why, what, *insert other interrogatives here*. Don’t worry, we’ll explain that too – just stick with us to find out more…

What is neurodiversity?

According to the dictionary, neurodiversity is a noun that describes ‘the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders)’.

That’s all a bit clinical, so let’s try again. 

According to Judy Singer, the Australian sociologist who coined the term in the 90s, neurodiversity is ‘a state of nature to be respected’, ‘an analytical tool for examining social issues’, and ‘an argument for the conservation and facilitation of human diversity’.

With this definition, neurodiversity is certainly more politically charged than people think (but that’s another article entirely). However, it doesn’t actually explain what the term means.

So, for the TL;DR version: 

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term used to describe how some peoples’ brains function differently, which influences the way that they interact with, understand, and interpret the world. Neurodiverse people often see things in another way, and/or react to stimuli and sensory input more or less than others.

For reference, the opposite of neurodiverse is neurotypical.

With the neurological differences neurodiverse people experience, adapting your website can have a big impact on their online buying habits. Which leads us nicely to the next section, which is…

Best practice tips and tricks

So, how do you do it? What steps can you take to make your ecom site more accessible for neurodiverse shoppers?

Fortunately for you, we’re diving straight in, with some of our top tips to making sure your website is neurodiverse-friendly.

What the Font?

Font choice makes a big difference to how people can access your text, especially if they’re dyslexic. Dyslexia can cause letters to get mixed up in people’s minds, or make it hard to distinguish between the letters if they look too similar or are too close together.

So, for tip one: make a point to avoid cursive, flowing, or overly faffy fonts wherever possible. 

Whilst fancy fonts look delightfully artistic in certain circumstances (like a 17th Century manuscript), your ecommerce site is not the one. This doesn’t even have to be a neurodiverse thing. No one can read cursive comfortably on screen, so you’ll end up alienating a large percentage of your customer base.

Tip two: you also need to check your font for tricksy little beasts called ‘letter mirroring’ and ‘imposter letters’ as these can make reading comprehension harder.

Letter mirroring, as it sounds, is when letters seem to be mirror images of each other. For example:

Image demonstrating letter mirroring

As you can see, these letters look similar enough that a dyslexic person may struggle separating them from each other. Turns out, minding your ‘p’s and ‘q’s is even more polite than we first thought.

Next up, imposter letters. Unfortunately, this is not a term to describe the alphabet sneaking into places it shouldn’t (like maths). Instead, they follow a similar theme as above, where letters look very similar and are hard to distinguish from each other. The most common example uses a capital i, a lowercase L, and the number 1.

Image demonstrating imposter letters

Depending on the font, this can also happen with e, c, and o – where the lines are close together and look the same. Either way, imposter letters make understanding a text way harder than it needs to be, so the best thing is to avoid them.

Tip three: make your content clear and easy to read. You could even explore some of the fonts specifically designed to be dyslexic-friendly (like Dyslexie and OpenDyslexic), and make it easier for people to navigate your site and find the all-important buy button.


If you went to school in the 00s, you were probably told in one class or another to ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ (or at least, we were). Originally coined by the US Navy in the 60s, this describes a design principle where systems should be kept as simple as possible – to make them easier to navigate, or easily fixable.

Fortunately, the same principle applies to your ecommerce site. Many neurodiverse people can struggle with comprehension, especially of hidden meanings, sarcasm, or other nuanced expressions.

So, the first thing is to try to make sure your content is written clearly. This isn’t to say you can’t be creative – we’d never say that. But, you should try to make sure your text is easy for everyone to understand.

The same can also be said for your website layout. 

There’s nothing more infuriating than finding the product you want, but not being able to navigate the website to buy it. Most of the time, rather than struggle, people will just abandon their cart and move on with their lives. And this isn’t just neurodiverse people. So, make sure your website navigation makes sense, and is simple to use.

Colour me El-no

It’s pretty obvious we stan a colourful website. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you need to make sure that your colours work together, and aren’t too overwhelming for neurodiverse users.

Colour can have a BIG impact on neurodiverse people, especially if they’re susceptible to sensory processing issues. Lots of bright, conflicting colours, and harsh contrasts can make it impossible to understand what is on a web page, let alone follow instructions or proceed to a checkout.

When you’re using colours, try to choose ones that complement each other instead of clashing. You should also consider erring more on the side of muted or pastel tones, as these are calming and usually less visually-overstimulating. Plus, make sure you’re using font and background colours that make the text clear to read.

Ready, set, pause

There is a time and a place for lots of pop-ups, animations and moving images, like when you discover PowerPoint transitions for the first time. But not your store website.

Multiple pop-ups and moving parts on your site can be a lot of visual input at once, which can be a lot for someone with autism or sensory issues to handle. If it becomes too much, people will just close the window and abandon any idea of using your site to shop.

Similarly, pop-ups and videos are very distracting and can break your focus. If someone has ADHD, too many pop-ups or moving parts may lead them to get distracted and navigate away from your store.

If you want to include videos or moving images, you can make them more neurodiverse-friendly by including an option to stop or start them playing on demand. This gives your customers more control over the stimuli on the page, and they can continue shopping in a comfortable way.

(We’re not saying don’t use pop-up advertising. But make sure you’re putting them on your page in the right way).

Stop the clock

Some people do their best work under pressure, some do not. And having a timer on your checkout can be a dealbreaker for some neurodiverse people. 

For example, someone with dyslexia may struggle to read each page of your checkout process, and including a timer on the transaction can put them under pressure and make it even harder.

Similarly, neurodiverse people who have challenges with language comprehension, focus, or even decision-making can find a timer an added stress they do not need. And may even just abandon their basket rather than go through with it.

So, if you can, avoid putting a timer on your transactions. Sometimes, this is necessary – like with concert or event tickets where you don’t want them to be sat in a basket when someone else wants to purchase them. However, for many ecommerce businesses, the timer doesn’t add anything to the process, so you can do away with it.

Remember – there’s no one-size-fits-all design solution, as neurodiversity presents differently in everyone. Incorporating these measures helps you create a better baseline, that should be usable for a range of people.

Who can help?

What we’ve laid out is just a snapshot of possible measures you can take to make your website more neuro-diverse friendly – there’s bound to be little tweaks and additions you can make that are specifically relevant to your brand.

The trick is knowing the right resources you can consult to help you make these changes. Or, in the immortal words of Ray Parker Jr, knowing ‘who you gonna call?’

Neurodiverse charities

Whilst they’re not the ghostbusters, neurodiverse charities and organisations are statistically a lot more useful in making your ecommerce site more adapted to neurodiverse customers.

There are dozens you could choose to speak with, including (but not limited to):

Consult neurodiverse people

If you’re going to design your website to be neuro-inclusive, why not include some neurodiverse designers? First hand experience is always valuable, and can give you more specific insights that will work well for your business.

And, don’t forget to include neurodiverse people at each level, as they’ll be more able to spot any issues before you go live.


W3C, or The World Wide Web Consortium, was founded by Tim Berners-Lee (of ‘inventing the web’ fame) to help create guidelines for a safe and inclusive online experience, and to guide the future of the web.

Their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, aka WCAG, are the industry standard for website accessibility. If you’re completely stuck on what other neurodiverse accommodations you should incorporate onto your site, this is definitely something you should check out.

So, why include neurodiverse accommodations?

Of course, knowing how to make your website more neurodiverse-friendly is one thing – but you may now be thinking why? Why should you include accommodations and/or design features onto your website? Let’s do a deep dive.

We should all be inclusivity stans

Of course, the obvious answer is that we should all want to be inclusive. Our society is built with structures that aren’t always equal, and where some people can benefit more than others. But, by creating a more inclusive environment, we’re encouraging and helping people to connect with, and use, online resources and media in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.

And this is especially true with ecommerce. Online shopping is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, which has only been hastened by the changes we experienced during the pandemic.

But this is nothing new for people with neurodiverse needs. Sometimes online shopping is their only option, or certainly the one that is the most comfortable to use. In a world that can feel like it’s built to exclude rather than include, online shopping is a haven. There are no unexpected loud noises, no crowds, no bright lights and incessant noises from every direction, no overwhelming time pressure (most of the time), and you can browse at your leisure.

By making your website design more accessible for neurodiverse people, you’re helping to make shopping a more enjoyable experience, and making it so that people can engage with your brand from their level.

The ‘cynical’ perspective

However, there is an alternative. We can talk about the moral imperative, the social obligation, and the validity of inclusion for all types of people all day. And we’re not saying people don’t make their websites for precisely those reasons – far from it.

But. There is a key business-minded reason for including neuro-adaptive accommodations in your ecommerce website. And that’s driving profitability. Some people may call this cynical, but that’s not entirely fair. You’re not suddenly Scrooge McDuck for considering how accessibility can help your customers and your business.

Making your online store more accessible for people with neurodiverse needs is a great way to help improve your market reach, and can help convert more people into paying customers. Put another way, by not making your website neurodiverse-friendly, you’re basically undercutting a proportion of your possible market.

Let’s explore this with a somewhat hypothetical example. Unfortunately, this scenario will require some maths. Bear with us, it may take a moment…

Okay. As of January 2024, the UK population is totalled at approximately 67 million people (67,736,802 if you want to be specific). Of this, studies suggest that around 80% of these people shop online, which works out at about 54,189,442 people.

Now, of the aforementioned 67 million (and change) people in the UK, studies also estimate that between 15 - 20% of them are neurodivergent. This is around 1 in 7 people. 

So, (and remember we’re looking at this in a wholly hypothetical way), roughly 18.75% of the people who shop online could also be neurodivergent. Numbers wise, that’s around 10 million people. That’s huge. And, if your website isn’t designed in a neurodiverse, user-friendly manner, you could be missing out on a lot of potential sales.

Of course, there are reasons outside of profit margins to include accommodations for neurodiverse people in your online store design, including:

  • Increasing customer loyalty – once people have found a website they like to shop from, they’re more likely to return.
  • Increasing customer satisfaction – happy customers are more likely to leave positive reviews, recommend you to their friends and family, and generally be more satisfied with your services.
  • Standing out from the crowd – improving your website can be another way to stand out from your competitors and encourage neurodiverse people to shop with you.
  • Broadening your customer base – making your ecommerce site more accessible  can help attract more customers.

TL;DR: Some people will call it cynical, but creating a welcoming site that has been adapted for neurodiverse people is simply good business sense.

A glossary

If you’ve been getting a little confused, we figured a brief explanation of what’s under the neurodiverse umbrella would be useful. So, here’s a quick dip into some of the most well-known conditions that tend to fall under this term.


This stands for ‘attention deficit hyperactivity disorder’. ADHDers may have issues with time blindness, completing tasks, hyperfocus, lack of focus, and feeling restless or impatient.


Autistic people can often find it hard to pick up on common social cues within communication, struggle expressing or understanding emotions, and with comprehension. They can also struggle with sensory input, which may make them stressed, uncomfortable, or overwhelmed.


This is a type of learning difficulty. It is not just being bad at maths, but a ‘specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers’. People with dyscalculia struggle with understanding how numbers relate to each other, including adding totals and assigning values to items.


Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty centred around reading and writing comprehension (which makes the name an even cruller irony). Dyslexic people can struggle with letter order, verbal memory, and focus.

Note – this is just a small selection, as we focused on the diagnoses that have the most impact from an ecommerce perspective.

Why neurodiversity as a term?

Well, it’s certainly much kinder than ‘normal’ vs ‘abnormal’, or ‘functioning’ and ‘nonfunctioning’. But aside from this, using the term neurodiverse rather than something pejorative is a move away from previous ideas which made people feel like there was something ‘wrong’ with them.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma attached to various neurodiverse conditions. Behaviours associated with autism, aspergers, ADHD, and tourettes, like stimming, or tics,  are often seen as ‘too disruptive’ in social situations. And let’s not talk about the negative connotations of dyslexia and/or other cognitive processing disorders.

By using ‘neurodiverse’, it’s implicitly understood that there’s nothing wrong with anyone who has one of these conditions. They’re just different. And, that’s not a bad thing.

A brief note on language

As you’ve no doubt picked up already, language matters when it comes to talking about neurodiversity. So, this brief interlude is to comment on one aspect of language that tends to come up a lot in the wider discussion on disability and neurodiversity: identity-first or person-first.

Identity-first language puts the condition first: for example, an autistic person, or a dyslexic person. Person-first switches this: so you would have a person with autism, or a person with dyslexia. Noting this linguistic parallel is important, as some have argued that the former puts the attention on the condition, rather than recognising the person.

However, the use of this language largely boils down to personal preference. Neither is particularly ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’ –  as long as you avoid using anything rude, you’ll be golden. And, if you’re ever unsure, just ask. Consult neurodiverse people, contact organisations and charities for more information, hire and speak to neurodiverse people.

Neurodiversity is on the rise?…

Now, unlike what some people think, neurodiversity is not a new phenomena. 

Neurodiverse people and conditions have always been here. Rather, it’s because of advances in research, more accurate diagnoses, self-advocating, and a push from younger generations to de-stigmatise atypical brain function that these conditions are gaining more news coverage and awareness. And it’s amazing.

But what about neurotypical people?

No-one, in the history of the internet, has ever said, ‘Gee, I hate that this website is clearly laid out, with simple instructions and an easy-to-understand interface’, or ‘Wow, why have they used these colours and fonts that are so easy to see and understand?’, or especially, ‘This sucks. I wish there were more pop-ups and videos playing all at once.’ We repeat: no-one. 

(We’re aware we laid it on a little thick there, but hopefully you see our point).

Regardless of what some people may think, by prioritising neurodivergent inclusivity, you’re not ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ – or whichever old-fashioned expression makes sense to you in this situation. Using inclusive design features doesn’t automatically exclude neurotypical people: these work for everyone.


So, whether you’re a cynic or not, there’s no denying that creating more inclusive solutions for neurodiverse shoppers can have an impact on your ecommerce store. Consider it as a part of your social responsibility, a business opportunity, and a way for neurodiverse people to feel included. It’s a win, win, win.

The bottom line is, there are plenty of neurodiverse people spending money online – making it easier for them on your website simply makes sense.

Feeling inspired? Hit Velstar up

At Velstar, our amazing team of developers and designers are the go-to for building your new and inclusive ecommerce website.

Drop us a line to find out more about how we can partner with you in the future! And, don’t forget to explore more of our Resources blog – where you’ll find exclusive Shopify insights, the latest news, and useful guides.

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Written by:

Photo of Rachel Stevens
Rachel Stevens
Content Executive
Rachel (she/her) is an enthusiastic content writer with a keen interest in fitness, socio-political history, and theatre. She is a writer to her core, and specialises in writing creative and engaging copy for a variety of topics. Rachel previously studied Ancient History at university, and tries to keep up with new and exciting developments within the subject. Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn.