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Guardian leads newspapers in cross-channel experience

Guardian leads newspapers in cross-channel experience

The Guardian has been named most user-friendly news provider in user experience consultancy, Webcredible’s 2011 Newspaper Usability Report, surpassing other popular UK news providers including The Sun, The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

With over 2.8 million monthly unique users, The Guardian proved to offer its worldwide audience the most comprehensive and intuitive content across three digital platforms and was concluded to offer the best cross channel experience from the physical paper to online.

Webcredible’s report reveals that The Guardian received the highest average mark of 3.9 out of 5, primarily due to its user friendly website and well designed iPhone app packed with convenient features. As the iPad and tablet device market is still a relatively nascent market, Webcredible did not penalise The Guardian or any of the other news providers for not having an iPad app, but did note that the lack of iPad app would be a significant failing in the months and years to come.

The FT follows The Guardian in second place, with an average score of 3.6 and The Telegraph in third with an average score of 3.0. The Times and Metro come in at joint fourth place with a score of 2.9 followed by The Daily Mail and Daily Mirror at joint sixth with 2.6. The Independent and The Evening Standard followed respectively, with the Sun trailing the tail end, receiving the lowest average mark of 2.0 due to a poor utilisation of the digital platforms and low usability in particular for its iPad app and mobile site.

The Guardian in comparison received high scores for its website and mobile site as it proved to successfully aggregate a wide portfolio of content including videos, images and podcasts giving readers the opportunity to dig deeper into a topic.

The news provider also scored well against navigation and functionality guidelines for each platform and also provided a clear cross-channel proposition with the paper version doing well to refer to blogs and other media like video and image galleries on the website.

While the iPad app was not available at time of this report, The Guardian has proven to have the potential to develop an advanced app meeting users’ usability needs. The Times and Daily Telegraph scored well for their mobile sites due to their design and navigation. The Times also struck a good balance between text and images, and had zero ads to confuse the reading experience, unlike The Sun and Daily Mirror whose mobile sites appeared cluttered with ads that continually interrupted the reading experience.

The FT received extra points for its iPhone app by using podcasts as a media for opinions and background information. The Daily Mail’s iPhone app also did well to prove good utilisation of this digital platform, giving easy access to the website, image galleries and news categories. Receiving the highest score for its iPad app design due to clear article presentation, the FT also racked points for communicating its cross channel business proposition clearly on the website. Both the iPhone and iPad apps however lacked basic features such as viewing videos, where critical points were lost.

“There has been massive growth in users accessing news content on digital platforms, first on the PC to view websites, then mobile websites and now apps and tablets. Increasing the usability of each of these new platforms will increase the success users have in finding and consuming the information they want, whenever they want” comments Trenton Moss, Founder and Director, Webcredible.

“Incorporating such best practise guidelines into strategy moving forward will be a critical move for news providers to ensure users continue to enjoy their reading experience across all their platforms” he continued.

The 2011 Newspaper Usability Report analysed four different digital platforms together with the cross-channel experience against specific best practise guidelines, offered by 10 of the UK’s major news providers in April 2011. Guidelines tested everything from content to navigation and functionality to design, as well as how effectively the platform was utilised and whether the news provider clearly communicated its business proposition; all factors that impact upon the user experience.

Additional key findings from the report saw iPhone apps receiving the highest average score across the different platforms, indicating that news providers have in general managed to take advantage of the platform offering well designed apps. Each platform, however, is mostly working independently and thus there is very limited use of cross channel integration.

“An unexpected finding was the limited cross channel integration among the providers. As cloud based applications get more and more popular due to great flexibility, features like having a simple login giving access to personal settings at any computer is something that news providers should adopt in the future” says Moss. The report suggests news providers should continue to improve their presence when it comes to the websites but must also consider improving each of their mobile platforms.

Moss continues, “The underdevelopment of platforms is most evident with iPad apps where it seems like common design conventions especially navigation is resulting in low discoverability of controls and poor memory. “This will of course come over time. As we have seen with the iPhone apps, the common design conventions, which users have become familiar with over the years, will be something that we predict will come with the iPad. The iPad and other tablet devices will become more commonplace and part of daily life as the iPhone has done and so a lack of a sophisticated iPad app in the future will be something that will affect the overall score for each news provider significantly. This will be interesting to follow in the coming years.”

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