10 things that I’ve enjoyed this month – days out and new products

July has been a hot month here in the UK. In some ways I enjoyed the heat, but by about Thursday this week, I’d had enough of it and was glad to see the rain. The houses here in the UK are generally built for insulation, not for keeping cool. We’ve had some good days out in the sunshine, but the garden is glad of the rain, and so am I because it makes everything cooler. Here are some of the other things that I have been enjoying this month.

1. Chilli and cheese festival

This was actually June, but the end of June, so the June favourites post had already gone out! It happens every year and you can go to an event and buy lots of spicy things such as chilli sauces, marinades and cheese with chilli. We also picked up some different types of cheese, along with some spicy sausages. The bag was actually quite heavy by the time we got it back to the car, but most of the things in the header photo have already gone – certainly all the cheese and sausages. It will take us longer to get through the marinades and sauces, but we use a lot of this kind of stuff in our cooking at home, so the chilli and cheese festival is a good way to stock up, and it also supports not necessarily local, but smaller independent companies.

2. Pretty Animalz masks

Ok so this is also about the packaging, which is a bit lost on a blind user, but it’s kind of cool to have a fox or a penguin mask!

The fox is a brightening mask that contains coffee extract, liquorice and vitamin C. It’s intended to reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. When I got these, they were on 3 for 2 at Feelunique. They aren’t any more, but there are often sales on there with as much as 60% off at times, so it’s worth a look. Scroll down to the bottom to see how you can get £10 off your first order.

The penguin mask is a nourishing and purifying mask with lily flower, grapefruit and paper mulberry.

I know it’s just a sales technique with the animals, but I’ve had Masquebar masks before and was pleased with their quality, so I didn’t feel I was just buying into the packaging cuteness.

3. My first Lime Crime product

Because who doesn’t love cherries? I read a review of the Lime Crime wet cherry gloss on another blog, not sure where now, and I had some credit to use up on Feelunique! So I got myself one. I am not so much of a lip gloss wearer, but I thought it would be nice for the summer, and it promised not to be heavy and sticky, which is something you don’t want when you have long hair on a windy day! It comes in a range of shades, so you can choose whether you want
“Juicy Sheer with a translucent burst of colour in nudes, reds, berries and peaches.”
or
“Sparkly Sheer packed with iridescent pearls that light up lips.”

4. Hair protection spray

This was one of my Latest in Beauty choices. I do have a sun protection spray, but I thought it would be nice to try a different brand – and I love this one from Tigi Bedhead. It was a full-size product on Latest in Beauty too, which meant a saving, and this stuff smells amazing! Mango! I think we all know about the importance of sun protection for our skin, but sometimes forget the need to protect our hair. This does say it’s specifically for coloured hair, which I don’t have, but I don’t see why this would do any harm. My other one is potentially better, because it specifically mentions protecting against sun rays, rather than just heat, but it’s good to have alternatives. Also the other one appears to be out of stock now!

5. Ocado app

I raved about Ocado before in my online shopping post, but at the time of writing, I hadn’t tried out the app. I wish I had! The app is even easier to use than the site itself! You just have to locate the product that you want, and swiping upwards changes the quantity in your basket. I still tend to check out on the laptop, because it’s less hassle to book a slot or add any voucher codes that I want to use, but certainly for dealing with things that I want to buy, topping up things that have run out, and adding new things to the order while I’m out and about, the app is a great way to make this task easier.

6. Meeting online friends

I spend a lot of my time online, working with people in other parts of Europe. Occasionally I get to meet some, which is what happened 2 weeks ago, when S and I drove to a park in Kent to meet with someone whom I’ve known online for the last few years. I met Alf in an online forum on a German website similar to LinkedIn, and when he said that he was coming on holiday to the UK with his wife and little daughter, we all decided to meet up for a picnic. The internet makes so many new connections possible, and it’s great to meet online friends in real life.

7. Coffee bags

Just like teabags, but for coffee. I’m not sure why nobody thought of this sooner. I’ve got a couple of brands to try and although it would be expensive to do this all the time, it’s a great idea for travelling – you know, in the hotel rooms where you get a kettle but rarely find decent coffee? It’s also good because you don’t have to clear up the coffee grounds – they stay in their bag, so you can just throw away the bag, like a teabag. The ones I tried were nice, if a little weak, so I’ll need to leave them in for a bit longer. I’ve also picked up another brand, because I think they will be more intense. I’ll let you know. These were from Ocado, so I imagine you’ll be able to find them in other supermarkets too.

8. New beginning – back to studying

I was a bit hesitant to write about this, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, but now that I’ve paid for the first module, it feels real! From October I’ll be starting a part-time Open University IT degree. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, because I always tell my students that we should never stop learning.

My biggest concern was accessibility – whether the materials could be provided in a way that is accessible to a blind student, particularly where they rely on diagrams and graphical information. I’d had some problems with distance learning in the past, but that was a long time ago, so I wanted to explore my options again.

I may do some more university posts once I’ve started the course, but after several discussions about how we can make things work, I’m feeling more positive about giving it a go, so wanted to include this in the good things that happened in July.

I am looking forward to officially developing my skills in areas that I’ve just been researching and learning myself.

9. Going to the zoo

It was S’s birthday this month and we decided to go on a day out to Marwell zoo with another friend. A lot of the animals were hiding because of the heat, but we did see the giraffes, the tiger, the bongos, the penguins, zebras, capybaras, cheetahs, owls, flamingos, and more! There were also some wooden and metal animals around, which I enjoyed “meeting” so I could get an idea of what they looked like – such as the big hippo and the wooden shark. The most vocal of all the creatures were the penguins, and I had no idea that they could make so much noise. S managed to get a video of them, which was a real highlight for me!

10. Moisturiser

My first product from Origins – this GinZing moisturiser contains GinZing and coffee extract to jumpstart hydration levels and leave you with a radiant and glowing complexion. I like this non-greasy moisturiser that I didn’t know about before, and again this is another reason I like the beauty boxes, because you get to discover new brands. This was from my M&S Summer box, which has now sold out.

What have you enjoyed this month?

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They lost my business after 15 years – why website accessibility is important

Why I recently switched from Tesco to Ocado for my grocery shopping.

Sometimes my international customers are surprised that I do my grocery shopping online. It’s not as popular in Germany as it is here.

I’ve been doing all my grocery shopping online for years now – since shortly after I moved to London. So that’s at least 15 years. It made me so happy, because previous trips to the supermarket had been a challenge.

In theory you can ask for assistance if you are blind and can’t locate the products yourself. In practice, you are sometimes given any member of staff who can be spared, and that doesn’t always work out well. I had one really helpful lady, but the next week I got a young guy who thought that you find cheese in the freezer section, and when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the next week I got someone who couldn’t read. This was appalling – both because I ended up without most of the things that I wanted, but as an employer, the supermarket set that guy up to fail, giving him a task to do that he had no fair chance of completing. He felt bad because he wanted to help, but couldn’t. I felt bad because I couldn’t point out the things that I wanted. It was a disaster.

So, I tried online shopping and it was amazing. At first Tesco had a separate access site for screenreader users, and this was later removed, but the main site was perfectly accessible. I used it for years. Around 15 years. But then things started to go downhill.

I found the site was getting slower, and a recent revamp meant that it became considerably less accessible. I’m not sure how the appearance of the site changed, although in an IT group for access technology users, one member said his sighted wife didn’t like the new site much either.

The thing that a lot of people don’t understand with accessibility is that it’s not how the page looks, but the way it’s been designed, and whether a good user experience for access technology users has been built into the page at the design and coding stage.

For example, using style headings for product names means that a screenreader user can quickly jump from one product to the next by pressing just one button, without having to read all the associated information if they don’t want to buy that product. A screenreader user can’t skim read and scroll, so having a good navigation structure on web pages is essential if you want screenreader users to be able to move around efficiently.

Anyway – the headings for product names were done away with and the information was presented in a list, which was harder to navigate quickly. In addition to the slowness, sometimes the site crashed completely or threw up script errors. I tried different browsers, because sometimes this helps. But no. I just got more and more frustrated. Shopping took longer! My patience was at an end and I began to put off a job that I’d been doing easily for years.

I did pass on my comments, but never heard anything back.

One day was particularly frustrating and I ended up asking S to help me just to get the job done. But something had to change!

Some of our friends had been talking about how happy they were with Ocado, so I decided to give it a go. I signed up for an account and hoped that the experience would be better.

The first task was to import my favourites from Tesco. I believe a 3rd party site is used for this. It wasn’t great, because the buttons for the various supermarkets weren’t labelled properly, but I knew it couldn’t import anything without me logging in to the other site, so I clicked the first one and hoped for the best. It was Tesco! The cynical part of me wonders whether this is where most of Ocado’s customers import their favourites from! Who knows? This shows the importance of labelling your graphics – there are some people who can’t see the graphics and need to know what will happen when you click that button.

Anyway – the favourites will only be imported if there is a comparable product in the Ocado database, so I inevitably lost some. However, it wasn’t difficult to search for things that were missing, and I ended up getting a bit carried away with new things that I wanted to try as well!

It was easy to navigate around the pages, and Ocado does style their product names as headings, so I can quickly move through pages such as my favourites or a page of search results to find what I’m looking for.

Booking my slot and paying for the goods was easy as well, and when the shopping arrived, everything was as it should be.

I was also happy with the receipt. Tesco only provides an email confirmation of the order, but this doesn’t give any information about what actually arrived (for example if something was out of stock). The Ocado receipt tells you what was delivered, and also gives you information about when the products should be used up. This is particularly useful if you can’t see the packaging to check. To be honest I’ve never given myself food poisoning with out-of-date food, and now S is around to check, but in the past I’ve often frozen things to be on the safe side. With this information on the receipt, I don’t need to.

In terms of Unseen Beauty, I have been impressed at the extensive skincare and beauty section, so there will be some new reviews coming soon.

At the moment I am enjoying free access to the smart pass, which gives you free deliveries as long as you hit the £40 minimum spend. I will probably renew this when the free trial runs out because we will save in the long-term on delivery charges.

I couldn’t imagine doing my grocery shopping any other way now – as someone who is blind, there are so many advantages. I can read about the products. I can choose exactly what I want. I can browse for new things when I feel in need of some inspiration. I don’t have to wait for a taxi to get myself and all my shopping home. I don’t have to ask for help in-store. I can do the shopping any time that suits me, even if that’s the middle of the night. If there are cooking instructions for something, they can usually be found on the website.

In addition to all these advantages, it’s still important to have a website that works, that’s efficient, that provides a good user experience, and that doesn’t drive me crazy every time I want to do our weekly shop! Ocado ticks all of these boxes and I wish I had made the switch sooner.

Much is said in marketing about loyal customers, but even someone who has been using a company for 15 years will leave if they feel that the quality of service is not what it once was, or that there is a better deal elsewhere.

In addition to the plus points I have already listed about Ocado, there are other benefits such as the price match. If your shopping is found to be cheaper at Tesco, as mine was last week, you get a voucher for the difference. You can then redeem this voucher when you do your next shop. You also get 5p back for every carrier bag that you return, and there is a good range of products for people with dietary requirements, such as gluten or dairy free diets. When you’re checking out, you have the option of healthier choices for things that are in your basket. Ok you may want an unhealthy treat, but if you’re looking for a healthier diet, it’s nice to have the suggestions.

If you would like me to send you an invitation to Ocado, just fill out your details using the form below. You will receive a £20 voucher for your first shop, and a free smart pass, which gives you free deliveries for one year (minimum spend applies).

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