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Marks and Spencer comes tops in website usability

Marks and Spencer comes tops in website usability

Marks & Spencer's newly launched website, has equalled WHSmith in offering its customers the best user experience out of the top UK high street retailers, in the run up to Christmas 2009, according to a new study.

The 2009 Online High Street Report from user experience consultancy, Webcredible, revealed that Marks & Spencer's new website scored 83 per cent for usability, a big rise of 15 per cent moving it to joint 1st in the report, from joint 9th in 2008.  It joined last years' top site, WHSmith, which remained one of the user experience leaders among top UK high street retailers for the second year in a row with a score of 83 per cent (the same score as in 2008)

John Lewis remained 3rd in this year’s report with a score of 81 per cent, an improvement of nine per cent.  However, the biggest improvement was seen with Boots, which saw its website usability score increase from 64 per cent to 80 per cent, pushing it up to joint 4th in this year’s report from joint 17th place last year.  Boots was joined in 4th place by Woolworths which, since moving to an online only business model, has improved its website usability score from 65 to 80

Last year's report saw a drastic improvement in the website usability of top UK high street retailers with an average score of 67.8 per cent, and the 2009 report has seen this trend continue as 15 of the 20 retailers have improved their website usability since last year, giving an average score of 73.3 per cent.  This demonstrates an acknowledgement among high street retailers that, in tough economic times, investment in online is still key as this is where a lot of consumers will go to find good deals

However, despite this sector-wide improvement in website usability, there are still basic areas where many retailers need to improve, including using the same form for logging on and registering, allowing customers to alter the number of products displayed on a page and changing the colour of visited links

The improvement in ecommerce usability is most obvious in the case of Marks & Spencer, Boots and Woolworths, but other big improvements were seen with Mothercare climbing from equal 17th to equal 11th, improving its score from 64 to 74, and B&Q which moved from joint 7th in 2008 to joint 6th in this year’s report, boosting its score by seven to 76 per cent.

Such has been the improvement in ecommerce usability over the past two years, a score of 70 per cent, which HMV topped the report with in 2007, was only enough for 14th place in 2009.  In addition, retailers that scored the same this year as in 2008, dropped drastically in the ranking, such as Hamleys, which despite maintaining a very respectable score of 72 per cent, dropped from 3rd to 14th

“Again this year we have seen an increasing focus on the user experience of websites by high street retailers to a point where no less than five have scored 80 per cent or more for website usability, which is unprecedented.  This is no doubt largely down to online shopping revenues continuing to increase despite the recession, making retailers realise that the user experience of their websites is a key point of differentiation in such a competitive market place,” comments Trenton Moss, Director, Webcredible

He continues, “Marks & Spencer has really considered the user experience with its new site and this is also demonstrated in the case of Woolworths.  Previously a high street retailer with an online presence, Woolworths never scored particularly highly in the usability report.  However, since launching as an online only retailer it has clearly put the user experience at the forefront of its proposition, and this is what all retailers must do.

The criteria used to evaluate the websites takes into account the complete ecommerce experience, including browsing and navigation, the checkout process, searching and product display pages.

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