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.
In our ever more connected society, retailers are increasingly attempting to present a truly joined-up multichannel experience to their customers.
People are able to shop across an integrated experience from in-store to over the phone, from desktop websites to the mobile and tablet equivalents. Shoppers should be provided with a multitude of ways in which to interact and transact, but how are the bricks and mortar shops on the high street coping with the increasing digitally driven population?
SimpleUsability took to the streets of Leeds in order to understand how a number of retailers are facilitating the customer journey.
We then mapped these insights against some of the presentations from the 2013 Internet Retailing Conference (IRC) to understand the broader multichannel reality.
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After reading an article about how Google Glass could change the way journalists work, it got me thinking how Glass could help us in the future with market research and usability testing.
What is Google Glass?
It’s like a pair of spectacle frames that lets you take photos, record video & audio, make calls, listen to music without headphones through its bone speakers and use the internet and apps discretely. It wirelessly connects to an android phone, giving you access to a stack of clever things through the tiny screen mounted on the frame that only you, the wearer can see. The wearer uses eye movements/gestures and voice commands to control it. It’s really smart and should be available to everybody late in 2013.
Google Glass and usability testing.
So what could we do with this exciting piece of hardware and a few Glass apps?
Easy interview recording?
It could be a great way to discretely record what’s happening during some usability testing. Glass will video what you’re looking at so it could be a great way to record a research session without lots of tech and obtrusive cameras. The participants maybe aware that you’re wearing a Google Glass but this maybe less invasive than using webcams and further software like Silverback or Morae to record the interviews.
Making notes during research?
Taking notes in any form of research can affect the participant’s behaviour. As you write, the participant becomes aware that what they are doing is of interest and may start to think in detail about why their behaviour is so interesting. Using the eye gestures in Google Glass in a custom app could maybe place bookmarks in a recording. This could simply be a marker on a timeline to note something of interest or maybe markers to help us time task completion.
Keeping an eye on time?
It’s a simple one – but sometimes it can be hard to sneak a look at your watch when interviewing a participant and not all research facilities have a clock in view. A quick glance at Google Glass could let you see the time, or a more advanced research Glass app may use a colour and countdowns to tell you how much time is left in the interview.
Reading a digital research script?
Having the interview script in Google Glass, may allow for a more relaxed environment within in-depths, where the facilitator could leave the printed script behind and just glance up at Glass and engage with the participant in a less formal/scripted manner.
Discretely receive questions and comments from the observation room?
Other members of the team observing the research, could send messages and questions to the facilitator either by audio or as a message to appear on Glass.
Potential problems with Glass for research?
- Apparently, battery life isn’t great – so we may need a powered version or hotswap batteries or just a big bag of charged up Google Glass’s!
- They’re not that discrete and I think people will slowly become more aware of Google Glass after launch so they may un-nerve research participants with their sci-fi look.
- Your eye gestures may put participants off if you’re using it during a face to face interview. A few have stated that eye gestures will become accepted at some point if this type of computer interaction takes off. So maybe we’ll think nothing of talking to somebody as they glance up to read their Glass.
What do you think?
I’m sure there are more ways we can use Google Glass in usability and market research. How else could researchers use it?
The truth is, unless you’re running a website without dynamic content, click tracking has some real big issues that will waste your time and potentially harm your conversion rates if you base decisions on this data.
We’ve heard horror stories – so it was nice to stumble on an in-depth article by Red Ant that matched our experiences of click tracking.
I’ll summarise the big ones below.
The playback recording is false
- It’s not a true recording of the session, it’s just clicks and screen grabs. There’s a huge difference between what you see on the playback and what the user sees. See these two videos to understand what you’re missing.
What the user sees:
What the service records:
- There are huge privacy issues with recording everything a user types. Are your customers happy that you are logging every click and letter they type with a third party service?
Eye tracking with click tracking?
- There is no useful correlation between mouse tracking and where you are looking. Click tracking services misquote out-of-context research to support their claim of this being a cheaper way of gathering visual attention data. We have a detailed article here about mouse eye tracking.
This is just the tip of the iceberg to get you thinking.
Now go and read the great article on Red Ant about their experiences of click tracking.
Over the last 18 months, the amount of smartphone and tablet research we’ve been conducting has gone through the roof. Our customers are innovating at a phenomenal rate, confidently informed by our research. It’s a good job our team is good at supporting innovation!
I think we all underestimated just how fast the mobile market would grow. Google is now saying that it is about to get more searches from mobile than desktop; revising its original prediction of early 2014. Another figure I heard from Google was that tablets/iPads are the fastest ever adopted piece of tech. Web usage stats on Boxing Day 2012, saw some pretty phenomenal shifts in platform use towards tablets.
So what trends are we seeing?
Sofa & bed is where your business case for a mobile strategy exists; the user on a bus is usually an edge case.
People need a good excuse to go fire up the laptop. As daft as it sounds, turning on the computer is now starting to become a chore that we have to think about. People love the instant-on of iPhone, iPad & their Android/Windows equivalents, hence we all now start a lot of our browsing on mobile, whilst sat on the sofa. Some research has found that 60% of desktop computer based web research starts on a mobile device.
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Prediction: Those that focus on broader mobile strategies over location specific strategies will win.
When I started my placement at SimpleUsability, I knew barely anything about usability or user experience. This isn’t the kind of stuff you learn at university (even as a Psychology student) and I found it fascinating that the usability testing I was witnessing would make an impact in the world, unlike my university dissertation…
After just half a day I was learning why it is that usability testing plays such a critical role in web development. After a few rounds of testing I was astounded by the richness and variety of comments and ideas that participants were producing. Many things that they were suggesting I had simply never considered – and judging from the frantic scribbling of notes from the web designers observing the session, neither had they.
I had been initially ‘switched on’ to usability by my interest in consumer behaviour and market research. Yet prior to seeing the work that SimpleUsability do, I had never come across usability testing before, though no doubt I had benefitted from it many times when browsing online. At the time of writing, the BBC reported that almost 2,000,000,000 people use the internet – almost a third of the population of the world, and so I was stunned that usability was not a more commonplace issue.
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Of course not all recruitment for website usability is equal, and it may be having an effect on the validity of your research outputs. We’re pretty passionate about quality recruitment at SimpleUsability. Here’s a few big reasons why;
- Speaking to the correct audience is an utterly fundamental prerequisite for meaningful research.
- If you have a limited budget every participant counts, you can’t afford off-spec recruits or no shows.
- We believe poor recruitment practices are widespread in the market research industry, but that new tools and techniques can help.
- Our methodology, eye tracking, is so truthful it’s nigh impossible to fake. We need the real deal, nothing less will do.
> Read more
In just over 10 years mobile gaming has gone from Snake II on a Nokia 3310 to a multi-billion dollar industry for mobile phones and tablets.
More people than ever are playing mobile games thanks to the rise of cultural phenomena like Angry Birds which, at over 20 million downloads, became the best-selling app of all time.
But what makes a handset or tablet-based game great? What problems can hinder the experience? Usability experts SimpleUsability look at the top ten features in mobile games.
This article is also avalable as a PDF for download: Moble Gaming Usability Study 2012.pdf