Usability of Half of UK’s Top High Street Retailer Sites Worse than in 2006

October 18, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Europe & Middle East | Retail & E-Commerce

Though online sales revenue from the holiday shopping period in the UK this year is predicted to top £10 billion (source: IMRG), the UK’s leading names in retail risk losing substantial revenues due to sliding standards of their online sales channels, according to a Webcredible study.

Some 50% of the UK’s best-known high street names are offering a poorer standard of online service to customers than last year, according to Webcredible’s annual benchmark study of online customer experience, “The Online High Street.” Overall, 55% of the retailers assessed dropped within the rankings compared with their 2006 results.

With an average usability score of only 57%, these retailers will doubtlessly be losing site visitors due to mistakes that could be avoided. The most significant drops in usability came from Marks and Spencer, which plummeted from last year’s score of 81 (out of 100) to just 55, and John Lewis, which dropped nine points: from 71 to 62.


Basic rules of good usability are often being ignored, leading to increasing frustration amongst consumers trying to find, view and pay for merchandise. Hidden delivery costs, confusing check-out procedures and repeated error pages are contributing towards a poor customer experience online.

Other findings:

  • The news is good for gamers and CD lovers, as HMV tops the rankings this year, achieving the highest score of 70 out of 100.
  • Game climbs from 18th place last year to 2nd in the rankings this year, improving its score from 35 to 66.
  • Last year’s lowest score was 25, but that has increased to 47 – an indication that although the number of websites offering a good standard of customer experience has dropped, there are fewer exceptionally poor customer experiences.

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

The most-common problems found by the study:

  • No support for customers during checkout when errors occur
  • Poor product descriptions and enlargeable images
  • Delivery costs not communicated at the start of the checkout process
  • Low visibility of the “add to basket” button
  • Customers not given sufficient help in choosing products (e.g., special offers, recommended products, buyers guides)
  • No options, or poor ones, for sorting and filtering products (e.g., sorting by price, color or best-selling products)

About the study: Webcredible analyzed the websites of 20 of the UK’s leading high street retailers in October 2007. An identical study had previously been completed in October 2006 of the same sample of retailers. Each website was evaluated against 20 best-practice guidelines and assigned a score of 0 to 5 for each guideline, with 5 the maximum. With 20 guidelines in total, websites were assigned a total Web Usability Index rating out of 100.


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