E-commerce sites failing on simple usability

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E-commerce sites failing on simple usability

New research into e-commerce web sites has found that only around half of users were able to complete simple usability tasks set for them, highlighting that online retailers still have work to do to make their sites easier to use.

The research, conducted by usability agency Yuseo and research firm Ciao Surveys, tested over 3,600 users across the UK, France and Germany using 14 different sites, including Amazon, Play.com and Littlewoods.

Volunteers were given eight pre-assigned tasks using an online Web Behave tool, which records and analyses user behaviour in real-life browsing conditions, and captures all instances of inter-page and intra-page navigation.

The volunteers were then asked contextual questions to determine how they felt about and perceived the sites, so that the testing firm could distinguish between what they said and the reality of their behaviour as observed while browsing.

The research found that the average success rate for each task among UK users was 52 per cent at best, and that the figure fell to around a third for some sites.

Jean-Pierre Le Borgne, Yuseo's development manager, argued that, although none of the sites suffered a major failure, they all had "small blocking elements" which can cause major issues to some customers when combined.

"As much as they've been expending massive efforts on building up customer service, delivery and so on, when it comes to the user experience, what sort of information are they actually gathering?" he asked.

"[Bricks and mortar] retailers have been regularly assessing and analysing how people behave in their stores for 50 years now. The better you understand what's really happening, the more efficient you are and the better you can pinpoint when you are at fault."

The key problems for retailers identified by the survey were information about delivery costs appearing at too late a stage in the shopping process, and details regarding what to do about damaged goods being generally unsatisfactory across the board, Le Borgne added.

He also criticised Amazon's site for relying too heavily on search as a means for users to find products, and for poor navigation by price or features.

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