From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Report: Some UK Retail Websites Erect Barriers for Shoppers

A report released in December reveals that some of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best known retailers will miss out on a predicted bonanza of 7 billion UK pounds (13.6 billion US dollars) in online sales this holiday season because of the flawed ergonomics of their web sites. It showed the sites make it too difficult for shoppers to browse, find and pay for goods.

For the report, Online High Street 2006, web usability specialists Webcredible evaluated the websites of 20 leading retailers in Britain in October against 20 key criteria. Each company was awarded a Web Usability Index score out of 100

Department store Marks and Spencer topped the index, with a score of 81. It was the only retailer to achieve more than 75 percent, according to the report. Toy chain Hamleys and department store Debenham’s fared the worst, with scores of 54 and 50 respectively. Thirty-five percent of the 20 websites scored less than 50, failing even a basic level of web usability.

The criteria take into account the complete online shopping experience, including browsing and navigation, the checkout process, searching, and the display of product pages. The most common and potentially the most costly mistakes were made at the shopping basket and checkout sections. Confusing purchase processes and hidden “proceed to checkout” buttons were among the biggest errors.

The report identified a lack of separate links to both the basket and the checkout, orientation cues to show users where they are in the website plus highly visible “add to basket” or “proceed to checkout” buttons as specific flaws. Without cues like these, users are not shown where they are and where they’re going in the checkout process, according to the report. It argues that by not providing a summary page clearly marked, “You haven’t bought this product yet,” websites have lost millions of pounds as users have clicked away from the page without realizing they hadn’t actually purchased their products. The report explained that users can mistake the summary page for the confirmation page, so the distinction must be obvious.

It also reveals that many of these big retailers are not using their product pages to cross-sell and showcase other items. In the absence of shop assistants, websites that can make recommendations, provide user reviews and guide buyers to special offers have a strong advantage.

Trenton Moss, director of Webcredible, remarked that independent research shows as many as 83 per cent of internet users leave a website because they can’t find what they are looking for. “Therefore, it’s unlikely that visitors will hang around on a website that makes it difficult to find and buy products.” He noted that the retailers spend considerable time, money and effort on the layout and look of their physical store at Christmas time, but many ignore “the golden rules of providing a great online shopping experience. Our study highlights the importance of including usability criteria at an early stage of web development.”

Source: Professional Free Press Release News Wire