Online retailers don’t seem to learn about usability

Every year there are studies of leading web sites to see how close they are getting to providing a good experience for their users. Every year, major businesses and well known brands are criticised in a range of studies for not making their web sites usable. So it comes as no surprise to learn that the latest research from WebCredible has shown that few of the main retailers have produced web sites that work. The research shows that Marks & Spencer has the most usable online retail web site, but Woolworths and WHSmith score poorly in comparison. The main criticism of online retailers is that it’s not easy for users to find things, particularly they are not able to track their shopping as they travel around the web sites. Marks & Spencer makes this much easier for people, but is still far from perfect, even though it’s judged to be the top site. For instance, my own analysis shows that M&S doesn’t have a clear focus for its online shop, the colouring isn’t what users would expect, so the instant impact is that it isn’t the M&S shop. Given that people make up their mind whether or not to give a web site “a go” within 50 milliseconds, M&S is probably losing out on people before they’ve even got into whether or not the site is usable. The same us true for many of the other sites checked out by WebCredible. So what does this tell us about online retailers? Essentially, they still haven’t grasped what they need to do to succeed online.

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