With the rapid growth of companies setting up their own Web site, it was apparent to us at OCS, that many sites were not all they should be.
As a result we decided to undertake our own formal review across different market sectors to see if there was a trend. Those that did well were interesting, quick to respond, gave correct and up-to-date information, and left us with the idea that it was a site we would like to visit again.
But how do organisations know what business they are missing out on because visitors or potential buyers have strayed off due to the fact they have been unable to find what they need?
Not so long ago the standard time a visitor would wait for a site to present itself was around 12 seconds. Now we have the faster access opportunities, this wait time has dropped to around 4 seconds. Users want to go in, get the relevant information or make the transaction and move off.
We looked at how sites gave us extra information about the product or services available. In other words they really wanted to make an impact on the visitor through their Web site. This was achieved through related links, articles, and pictures to support the words, and so on.
An example would be buying a vacuum cleaner through the Web. How would anyone, unless in the trade, know what an LX32R-7 is? Instead, a picture with some key features will help make the sale to anyone interested in buying such a product.
The individual marks showed a few organisations had embraced the opportunity to take advantage of having a web presence. There was one market sector that stood out as what could almost be a shining example, and that was the PC retail organisations.
It was also encouraging, according to our assessors, that Number 10 Downing Street has a particularly effective site and actually came 2nd in our poll. Given their views on moving forward with e-business it was good to see them being fully involved and taking a lead.
Interestingly, the bricks and mortar type organisations showed the better overall offerings. Maybe this is because they are more experienced in business development and give the right time to both development and testing? The worry is that too many of the newer organisations seem to be paying lip service to the Web opportunities available to them. But three tips to organisations are:
Keep the site updated
One of my bugbears is how old the information is. In the age where speed and access are important, what is its value if the information you are looking at is out of date? I do not mean just old, but is it still relevant?
Load testing is vital
I am disappointed that in the press we hear so often about the problems of Web sites being highlighted because they fail when real loads are put through. There are so many test tools available now to load test sites that it should never really be a problem once a site is running live. When was your organisation's web site last checked for speed and availability? How much traffic is it seeing? Can it cope with more?
How clean is the shop window?
Ask yourselves if your Web site portrays the image you want it to. Is it a quality, fully-operational site or have shortcuts been taken? Given the results of our survey I think in a number of cases shortcuts are evident in the race to get a site up and running. Organisations need to make sure they stand out from the crowd by giving visitors what they want, and even more.
Clive Bates is managing consultant at e-business specialists OCS Consulting
Top 10 websites
1. Time Computers
2. No. 10 Downing Street
3. Dell Computers
5. British Airways
6. Tiny Computers
7. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
World Intellectual Property Organisation
OCS conducted a survey of 100 major Web sites scoring them a maximum of 100 points based on 10 key features, including security, content, download time and ease of navigation.