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Bad B2B web sites damage business, warns web design expert

Tash Shifrin

Commercial websites aimed at business users are losing out though bad design, despite their potential to generate far more money than consumer sites, new research has revealed.

Business-to-business websites offer visitors a much worse experience than consumer sites, the study by web design expert Nielsen Norman Group found. Users of B2B sites were able to accomplish what they set out to do only 58% of the time, compared with 66% for consumer e-commerce sites.

Jakob Nielsen, co-founder and principal of Nielsen Norman Group, said, “Most B2B sites are stuck in the 1990s in their attitude towards user experience. By still designing for themselves rather than for their customers, they place serious barriers in the way of prospects who use the web to discover companies to put on their shortlists.”

The research, conducted through field studies, focus groups and user testing by business professionals visiting nearly 200 B2B sites, found that bad website design harmed people’s perception of the company.

Lack of product pricing information was a major problem – “the most user-hostile element” of most B2B websites – the study found. The common B2B website tactic of requiring people to fill out registration forms could also be “a lead killer”, the researchers noted.

The study highlighted bad design elements that led to poor user experience of B2B websites, including incomplete product descriptions, overwhelming and convoluted content, a difficult navigational structure and pushy marketing tactics that caused annoyance and distrust.


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