Australia's wireless carriers hinder their customers with inefficient task flows and poor performance, according to Forrester Research, after evaluating the websites of the Australia's five largest wireless websites 3, Optus, Telstra, Virgin Mobile, and Vodafone.
Vodafone stood out, according to the research, but for good reasons.
Vodafone performed the best overall, but no site even earned so much as a passing score from the scathing analysis.
In particular, Forrester Research found that no site had all of the functionality that the user required, rated the performance of all five websites as "average or worse" and described task flows on most sites as "inefficient".
Forrester concluded that Vodafone provided the "most efficient experience", while 3's landing page pointed out all key features users need to find the right phone and plan for them.
It recommended that Australian wireless carriers should build smart tools for "real user" needs, establish a culture of performance optimisation, and simplify their information architectures.
Forrester's methodology relied on a single customer persona: a 40-year-old man who wants to find a cost-effective plan that includes a phone with a built-in camera connecting to a network that will work on his parents' farm.
Such a user would need to check network coverage of a given area, compare phones and plans, check camera capabilities and find an appropriate store in which to complete the transaction.
This user experience was measured according to the site's compliance with the 25 criteria in Forrester's Website User Experience Review methodology, each graded on a scale of -2 to +2, with a passing score being 25.
For Australian wireless carriers, the average score was 8.8. None reached Forrester's passing score of +25.
All websites missed at least one key piece of functionality. For example, Virgin Mobile fell down by not allowing the user to zoom in on and check network coverage at an exact address.
Site performance was disappointing with noticeable delays when Flash-based tools like Vodafone's plan comparison system had to load.
The report found critical errors in Optus' site including an HTTP Server Error 503 and a VBScript Error in addition to displaying programming code intermixed with the text.
Checking the type of plan and phone required to obtain coverage in rural areas also proved tough. "On most of the sites, users have to memorise what they find in one area for cross-checking against others," the report stated.
Menus names contained jargon and sometimes overlapped. Keyword searches on some sites were baffling, the report found.
Optus' site was described as "uniformly poor" as its results included many media releases, which did not help users who are trying to find a suitable phone and plan.
Forrester recommended that Australia's wireless carriers should learn from Verizon Wireless and Amazon and build their sites as they would physical stores - without artificial distinctions between product information and shopping.
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