Archive for Online Experience Index
As the election date looms, the political parties of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are locked in a fierce battle of wills to gather support and win the favour of the public.
In an increasingly digital world, websites and social media pages are becoming the major touchpoints between the parties and the people, so it is critical to provide a user-friendly and engaging online presence. As such, we decided to turn a critical eye to the web experience of the major players in this years’ elections.
Looking at the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP, we assessed and analysed the websites for each party on their usability and overall user experience. At this stage in the year, visitors to the site may be looking to connect with the party, or contribute to the campaign; the tasks we tested the sites on included:
- Signing up for news updates
- Registering to volunteer with campaigns
- Connecting on social media
- Donating money to the party
- Joining or becoming a party member
By utilising our leading Online Experience Index, we were able to score each site on multiple facets of the user journey – including:
- Homepage & Design
- Flow & Layout
- Form & Errors
The Index allowed us to rate the site on various aspects, with points being awarded for usability, and penalised where changes could be made to improve the experience. These individual ratings were weighted to give more credit to more vital site requirements, thus allowing us to quantify the overall usability of each facet of the site to compare between the parties.
NOVEMBER 2014 – Mobile phone provider sites
With the Online Experience Index, we aim to identify which ecommerce sites are leading the way in providing a powerful customer experience.
In May we reviewed appliance e-commerce sites and found variation in the levels of usability between the sites, as well as identifying some recurring trends and issues.
Following on from our review of appliance retail websites using our Online Experience Index, this report reviews the websites of five mobile phone providers: Three, EE, O2, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. Reviews were performed in the week of 4th November 2014.
In addition to the main Index, we have also included scores for accessibility, and persuasion, emotion and trust (PET) techniques, to explore a broader scope of the online experience.
- Most websites presented their brand and purpose well, although there was room for improvement in navigation around the website.
- As expected for this sector which needs personal and banking information to purchase, the checkout process was lengthy and websites varied in how well they communicated what information was needed and why.
- Filters were generally well implemented for selecting phones, featuring a comprehensive range of criteria.
- Most websites offered a search function with search suggestions but there was room for improvement in presentation of search results.
- Use of PET techniques was low, with only two websites implementing several techniques in areas of social proof and trust.
March 2014 – Fashion ecommerce sites
Understanding, measuring and improving the customer experience is a pretty fundamental part of everything we do at SimpleUsability.
Whether we’re working on competitor/comparator testing at the start of a project, multi-platform testing across a number of devices, or an expert review, our research and the resulting recommendations help our clients to improve their customer experience and benefit from the associated commercial gains around improved conversion or internal cost savings.
Whilst usability or accessibility scales are common place, our intention with the Online Experience Index is to apply 30+ years of combined user experience knowledge to benchmark the overall user experience within specific ecommerce verticals and identify who is leading the way in delivering a powerful customer experience.
We report here a review of clothing retail websites Marks & Spencer, Hobbs, Karen Millen, French Connection, Boden, Oasis and Fat Face. Reviews were performed in the week of 10 March 2014.
- Most sites communicated their brand and purpose of website well
- The main navigation was clear and descriptive on most sites
- Few provided support for search or clearly indicated the order of search results
- Product pages were comprehensive and pricing clearly indicated
- Most sites supported customers through the checkout process well, however, few allowed users to make a purchase without setting up an account
In order to score each site’s overall experience rating, a panel of expert UX professionals assessed the site in the context of a core user journey of browsing and purchasing an item.
The examiners rated the site on over 120 key touchpoints, which were tailored to provide a thorough, representative picture of the user experience. These were systematically weighted to denote the relative importance of each individual aspect of the site, and were designed to span multiple facets of the user journey, including homepage, navigation, search and product pages, as well as the flow and usability of the checkout process. From this, an individual rating was able to be drawn up for each facet, based on the overall usability.
In order to emulate a naturalistic user experience, examiners conducted the review whilst undertaking the task of browsing for and selecting items for an outfit, and proceeded to purchase these items as a new customer to that online brand.
The Index, by facet
Considering each facet of the user journey in turn, we found a variation of design usability across the websites that is highlighted through their individual ratings. The following diagrams illustrate the best and worst individual ratings by facet of the user journey.
The homepage announces the brand identity and the purpose of the website. Most of the sites in this review did this well, with the identity in the header and purpose of the website clearly shown above the fold. One site, French Connection, did something different. Their identity is dropped to the footer where it might be missed by users familiar with finding the logo and identity in the header.
In general navigation was done well in these sites, using a top level menu in the header with drop downs for the sub categories. The labelling was clear and descriptive with few examples of jargon. All sites honoured the back-button and most made good use of breadcrumbs to help locate users and provide additional navigational routes.
Sites should, however, take care that navigation is clear and distinctive from other elements of the site. For example, the header on Hobbs crowds the main navigation menu with the search, basket and sign in elements that may overwhelm and confuse users. One site, Fat Face, used an innovative form of navigation that may confuse users new to the site.
All site provided a search function for users and on most sites this was easy to find in or close to the header. Few sites, however, offered search prompts to help users type in search terms and few offered suggestions for spelling mistakes or zero results sets.
In general search results were displayed in a similar layout to product listings, enabling users to interact with them in a familiar way. However, it was not always clear what order results were displayed in or how many results were available. French Connection, for example, displays a count of results much higher than the number of items displayed and obscures the function to sort the results under the Filter link so the casual user may be very confused.
Most sites provided well organised filters that enabled users to narrow their results within several categories. For some sites, for example Karen Millen and French Connection, features within the filters were displayed with very low contrast that may cause problems for users with visual impairments.
In general the sites broke down the process into several stages and clearly indicated the stages up front. Most also allowed users to move backwards and forwards in the stages to enable them to make changes. Few sites allowed users to make a purchase as a guest, so unlike buying from a high street store, the user was forced to set up an account with the site to make a purchase.
The Index visualisations
The following diagrams draw together the individual ratings to visualise, by retailer, the user experience across all facets of the user journey.
Total index score: 80%
Total index score: 78%
Total index score: 74%
Total index score: 81%
Total index score: 72%
Total index score: 83%
Marks & Spencer
Total index score: 86%
Watch out for our next online experience index which will have some new features including; persuasion centred design and scores based on the mobile experience.
We’ll be adapting our index to add sector specific questions and omit areas of the index that are not as relevant depending on the subject that we are reviewing.
Our plan is to target particular categories and topics moving forward. We’ll be looking at how well department stores are bringing multiple department shopping experience to end customers, and looking at specific categories such as shoes and younger fashion.