Archive for the ‘UX benchmarking’ Category

July 2010 News – Additional course dates, venues and free reports

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

We’ve been making arrangements over the past couple of months to go pan-European (at least on a small scale) with our UX and UCD courses. I’m pleased to be able to add dates in Brussels and Hamburg to our regular London series for later in 2010. Plus, for London and Brussels, you can book three places across any of the courses and only pay for two. See our course schedule for more details.

Also, we’ve recently released our User Experience Benchmarking Report on US and UK clothing e-tailers (the top 6 of each according to traffic figures). It was a close-run contest between the two sets of sites, with the UK coming out just a bit ahead on average scores. However, if it weren’t for the USA’s top performer, the results would have been heavily in favour of the UK contingent. (I have tried very hard not to take sides – I was born and raised in the US and have been living in the UK since the mid-1970’s.) Download the full report to read the exciting details – a small taster is given in the overall summary chart below.

Click for full benchmarking reports

Click for full benchmarking reports

Full results of mobile e-commerce user survey published today

Friday, August 28th, 2009

The detailed results from a survey of Britain’s 12 biggest mobile phone e-retailers are being released today by benchmarking specialist Syntagm (http://www.syntagm.co.uk). Scores show which sites provide the best experience for shoppers trying to buy a phone online – with some big surprises in the ratings.

Overall results:

• Expansys 62%
• O2 50%
• Argos 47%
• Carphone Warehouse 46%
• T-Mobile 44%
• Virgin Mobile 43%
• Mobiles.co.uk 43%
• Orange 41%
• Phones4u 41%
• Vodafone 41%
• Three 39%
• Tesco 36%

Syntagm compared the sites across 13 categories including content, design, navigation and online support. The results suggest that, in the rush to expand their online storefronts, the majority of mobile sites offer a substandard shopping experience and second-rate service.

However, the overall picture masks a number of excellent results in specific areas:

• Expansys achieved the highest or joint highest score in eight of the 13 benchmarking groups.

• O2 ranked in first place for content (83%) and online support (10%), and T-Mobile topped the table for trust (60%) and navigation (97%).

• Argos, Phones4u and Virgin Mobile were each marked top in one of the categories – checkout (85%), trust (60%) and accessibility (80%), respectively.

Results were not all favourable though. Tesco in particular performed poorly, receiving the lowest or joint lowest scores in five categories, and languishing in the bottom three in a further four groups.

And many of the mobile providers were found guilty of prioritising style over substance: half of the sites scored 80% or above for visual design, whereas three quarters scored 60% or below when it came to providing effective product information.

The shopping basket should be central to e-commerce, but the survey found it surprisingly difficult to access on some sites, and often poorly designed. The individual results for this category ranged dramatically from 28% for Tesco to a near-perfect 96% for Expansys.

William Hudson, Syntagm’s CEO, comments: “In the current climate retailers need to be making it as easy as possible for potential customers to find and purchase a product if they are going to survive tough consumer spending conditions and fight off competition from rivals.”

“Whilst there isn’t a direct correlation between usability and sales, we would expect a better shopping experience to result in higher customer conversion rates, and we encourage the companies to concerned to employ the results of our survey to that end.”

Ends

Notes for editors
About Syntagm:
Syntagm is a small consultancy based in Oxford. Established in 1985, it specialises in design for usability (user-centred design and user experience) and people development. It has worked more than 100 blue chip organisations across Europe and North America.

About the benchmarking report:
Benchmarking took place in late May and early June 2009, comparing the 12 mobile phone sites across 13 categories: content, visual design, navigation, engagement, accessibility, trust, persuasion, shopping basket, search, selection, checkout, account management, and online support.

Syntagm and its staff have no financial interests in any of the organisations benchmarked.

Mobile Phone Sites Fail to Connect

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Despite selling the technology frequently used for social networking, Britain’s biggest mobile phone e-retailers are failing to plug into the phenomenon, according to a report from benchmarking specialist Syntagm (http://www.syntagm.co.uk). The study of 12 leading mobile sites found that the majority offer very limited interactive features, and don’t encourage user-generated content or attempt to foster a sense of community – in stark contrast to e-commerce leaders like Amazon.

Recent research from Ofcom revealed that 30% of British adults now have a social networking profile, with many accessing this virtual world via their mobile phone. And consumers have come to expect the same level of interactivity when shopping online: user reviews, self-service and control over purchasing are commonplace everywhere from ASOS to eBay.

When it comes to buying a mobile, however, customers might as well skip the online experience and stroll into a ‘bricks and mortar’ store if they’re looking for an interactive shopping experience. Whilst some of the sites provided interactive search facilities or 3D phone viewers, only two (Three and T-Mobile) allowed potential customers to chat online to a sales advisor.

None of the sites made personalised recommendations based on previous visits, and most did not even attempt to show users the products they most recently viewed – a serious flaw given the amount of ‘site hopping’ people tend to do when shopping online.

Several sites subscribed to ‘read only’ third-party product reviews, but it wasn’t possible for users to make comments about their own experience of a particular product, or leave questions to be answered by other punters.

William Hudson, Syntagm’s CEO, comments: “Successful e-commerce sites echo the sense of community that has made social networking sites so popular, by enabling users to communicate and share information. In our survey, only outsider Expansys came close, whereas its bigger competitors seem to have got their wires crossed when it comes to social networking opportunities.  There’s a lot more they could be doing.”

Syntagm’s benchmarking report compared user experience between Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

The study concluded that the sites are failing consumers on some of the most basic services needed to buy a phone. And the biggest names were often the worst culprits: relative unknown Expansys was the only site to score above 50% on overall experience for online shoppers, putting its mainstream competitors to shame.

Hudson adds: “At a time of intense competition between the main mobile traders, they need to offer their online shoppers a more engaging experience. Our report clearly shows where their strengths and weaknesses lie – we hope the companies concerned will make use of the information it provides.”

Ends

Notes for editors

About Syntagm:
Syntagm is a small consultancy based in Oxford. Established in 1985, it specialises in design for usability (user-centred design and user experience) and people development. It has worked more than 100 blue chip organisations across Europe and North America.

About the benchmarking report:
Benchmarking took place in late May and early June 2009, comparing the 12 mobile phone sites across 13 categories: content, visual design, navigation, engagement, accessibility, trust, persuasion, shopping basket, search, selection, checkout, account management, and online support.

Additional sites can be benchmarked on request. Syntagm and its staff have no financial interests in any of the organisations benchmarked.

 For further details or to purchase the summary report visit www.uxbench.com

Buying a Mobile Phone Online? Prepare for Confusing Content and Poor Customer Service

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

A substandard shopping experience and second-rate service are blighting Britain’s biggest mobile phone e-commerce sites, according to a new report from benchmarking specialists Syntagm (http://www.syntagm.co.uk). Findings show that the majority of mobile sites suffer from poor navigation, lack of information and virtually no online support – failing consumers on some of the most basic services needed to buy a phone.

The benchmarking report compares user experience between 12 of the leading vendors – Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. Whilst visual design scored highly, with an overall average of 75%, account management scored just 12%, and online support was the weakest area across all sites, trailing the results table with a paltry 2%.

Most sites did not provide login accounts for purchasing – customers had to rely on email updates or ring customer service to track or cancel an order. And features which are mainstream on most e-commerce sites – allowing users to view or modify recent orders – are conspicuously absent if you want to buy a phone online (unless you’re shopping on the Expansys site).

When it comes to dealing with delivery delays and reporting or returning damaged goods none of the sites came up to scratch. Not one site lets customers ask a support question and get an immediate response online, although Expansys, O2 and Virgin offered online forums. When asked ‘How do I return a phone?’ Virgin’s automated Q&A service wonders if you would like to buy a phone. The other nine benchmarked sites would only deal with problems or questions through telephone help desks (often at national-rate charges).

Many sites performed poorly in providing effective product information. The content average was only 57% with O2 scoring the top mark of 83%. Trying to find a handset by feature was impossible on most sites, and only two (Three and T-Mobile) allowed potential customers to chat online to a sales advisor. And Tesco’s search facility returned products from across its entire product range – even though the search was performed from the mobile phone pages (a search for ‘LG’ turned up fridge-freezers and flat screen TVs as well as phones).

For online reviews and control over purchasing and support, mobile e-retailers could learn a lot from facilities customers have come to expect from sites such as Amazon. None of the sites made personalised recommendations based on previous visits, and most did not even attempt to show users the products they most recently viewed – a serious flaw given the amount of ‘site hopping’ people tend to do when shopping online.

Tasks which consumers take for granted in a physical ‘bricks and mortar’ shop, such as checking whether a product is actually in stock, are surprisingly absent in UK mobile phone e-commerce. Expansys was the only site to include clear availability information for every product, and Carphone Warehouse provided a fully functional ‘phone finder’, but seven of the 12 sites surveyed scored zero on this measure. In fact, some even promised next day delivery of a phone that was out of stock.

As a whole, the sites left users to research and understand terminology, features and key purchasing decisions themselves. Other common problems included a lack of clear delivery information and, in some cases, checkout pages that would challenge even the most determined purchaser.

William Hudson, Syntagm’s CEO, comments: “Customer service should be a priority even if you aren’t physically dealing with a person. Based on our study, consumers are, at best, confused and, at worst, badly served by mobile e-retailers. If they want to build their brands as trusted online retailers, in the same league as sites such as Amazon, Dabs and More Computers, we would recommend they look at creating a more rewarding shopping experience and providing proper online support beyond the purchasing process – and especially when things go wrong.”

Ends

Notes for editors

About Syntagm:

Syntagm is a small consultancy based in Oxford. Established in 1985, it specialises in design for usability (user-centred design and user experience) and people development. It has worked more than 100 blue chip organisations across Europe and North America.

About the benchmarking report:

The benchmarking took place in late May and early June 2009, comparing the user experience between 12 of the leading UK vendors: Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

Syntagm compared the sites across 13 categories: content, visual design, navigation, engagement, accessibility, trust, persuasion, shopping basket, search, selection, checkout, account management, and online support.

Each category received a numerical score and written observations. The numerical scores make it possible to see clearly where strengths and weaknesses lie for each of the mobile e-commerce organisations concerned, and improved scores can be used as targets for future development.

Additional sites can be benchmarked on request. Syntagm and its staff have no financial interests in any of the organisations benchmarked.

For further details of the report or to purchase a copy visit www.uxbench.com

Mobile Phone E-Commerce Report Delivers Blow to Big Brands

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Only outsider Expansys scores above 50% on overall experience for online shoppers

Britain’s biggest mobile phone brands are lagging behind relative outsider Expansys when it comes to the design and usability of their e-commerce sites, according to a new report from benchmarking specialists Syntagm (http://www.syntagm.co.uk). Findings show that the majority of mobile sites suffer from poor navigation, lack of information and limited online support – failing consumers on some of the most basic services needed to buy a phone.

The benchmarking report compares user experience between 12 of the leading vendors (Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone), revealing some big surprises in the ratings – and an unprecedented overview of the market as a whole.

Specialist handheld reseller Expansys topped the results tables in eight of the 13 groups (including some tied scores) but its overall score was still only 62%. O2 was ranked in second place overall with a score of 50% and Argos scraped into third position with 47% for overall user experience.

Tesco may be marching further into the mobile market, but online it slows to a crawl: it received the lowest scores for trust and shopping basket design, and suffered from problematic navigation and an indiscriminate search facility. This combination of weak results earned Tesco the bottom position overall, with a user experience score of just 36%.

Many of the mobile providers were found guilty of prioritising style over substance: half of the sites scored 80% or above for visual design but only O2 had a respectable content score (83%), with the majority performing poorly in providing effective product information (three quarters achieved 60% or lower).

Online support was the weakest area across all sites, scoring just 2% overall. Expansys, O2 and Virgin received some marks for offering online support forums, but the other nine benchmarked sites received zero scores for only dealing with problems or questions through telephone help desks (often at national-rate charges).

With current levels of spam, phishing attacks and credit card fraud, consumers have every right to be suspicious of e- commerce sites. Yet very few of the benchmarked sites provided adequate levels of reassurance. Clicking the ‘Internet shopping is safe’ logo on the Orange checkout page produced a certificate error.

A surprisingly poor performance came in the area of persuasion (trying to sell services), which only averaged 11% in its benchmarked group. And, where accessories or upgrades were offered they were often irrelevant to the phone selected. The most commonly offered additional service was handset insurance, despite this already being included in many home contents policies.

“Having spent seven years benchmarking and offering design advice on intranets we’re now turning our attention to e-commerce sites, starting with mobile phones. The overall results were unexpected and disappointing, but we hope that the companies in the survey will find the information useful,” said William Hudson, Syntagm’s CEO.

“At a time of intense competition between the main mobile traders they can’t afford to lose customers due to confusing content, shocking customer service and missed sale opportunities. Expansys may not be a mainstream mobile phone site, but the user experience it offers puts many of its bigger competitors to shame.”

Ends

Notes for editors
About Syntagm:
Syntagm is a small consultancy based in Oxford. Established in 1985, it specialises in design for usability (user-centred design and user experience) and people development. It has worked more than 100 blue chip organisations across Europe and North America.

About the benchmarking report:
The benchmarking took place in late May and early June 2009, comparing the user experience between 12 of the leading UK vendors: Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

Syntagm compared the sites across 13 categories: content, visual design, navigation, engagement, accessibility, trust, persuasion, shopping basket, search, selection, checkout, account management, and online support.

Each category received a numerical score and written observations. The numerical scores make it possible to see clearly where strengths and weaknesses lie for each of the mobile e-commerce organisations concerned, and improved scores can be used as targets for future development.

Additional sites can be benchmarked on request. Syntagm and its staff have no financial interests in any of the organisations benchmarked.

For further details or to purchase the report visit www.uxbench.com

Dates study, user experience benchmarking and more…

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Many thanks to the hundreds of people who took part in our dates study. We had almost 1,000 responses in a one week period. I have written a full report of the study and put it in the resources section of our site – www.syntagm.co.uk/design/datesstudy.htm – but read on for a headline summary. Respondents who used month-first order were torn between ‘8/2/09’ and ‘August 2 2009’ with the former slightly ahead. Those who used day-first ordering had a strong preference for ‘2 August 2009’ while a very small number of respondents used the ISO date standard: 2009-08-02. Having said that, the thing I really wanted to know was whether people used leading zeroes without being asked. The answer is pretty much ‘no’. 76% of all responses used no leading zeroes in the day or month. Read the full report to find out why this is interesting (to me, at least).

Having spent 7 years benchmarking intranets, it is now the turn of e-commerce sites. The first in our new series of user experience benchmarking reports addresses the UK mobile phone market and covers 12 of the leading vendors: Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys, mobiles.co.uk, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone. There were some big surprises in the ratings – see our overview at www.uxbench.com. Also, join our UX benchmarking email list to have a chance to win a personal copy of the report. Just send an empty email to subscribe-uxbench@listman.syntagm.co.uk (unsubscribing is easy too).

Finally, a reminder of our upcoming courses. We are running our full-day card sorting and Ajax interaction design courses in London, Las Vegas and Berlin in the Autumn (the later two venues as part of the Nielsen-Norman Group conferences). See www.csadvances.com and www.ajaxusability.com for further details (and to book the London dates).