RealTime IT News

Web Site Errors Driving Shoppers Away

Despite shoppers' mandate to make Web sites more usable, a new study finds that one in seven Web site home pages fail a simple link integrity test with one or more errors severe enough to drive users away.

Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corp., which is the parent company of this news site, studied 239 'well-known' consumer-facing Web sites. And the results aren't heartening.

Jupiter analysts report that one in seven of the sites studied had prominent errors on their home pages. Twenty-four home pages had broken links, 14 provoked server errors, five linked to sites with non-existent host names, and three pointed to servers that responded with 'server unavailable' errors.

The errors are severe enough, according to Jupiter analysts, to undermine visitor confidence and cause them to turn to competitors' Web sites.

''Despite the high priority of improving site usability, the basics of Web site operations -- having error-free pages, consumer-friendly messaging and navigation that makes sense -- require putting yourself in the visitor's shoes, a tact only indirectly served by traditional quality assurance,'' says David Schatsky, senior vice president of Research at Jupiter Research.

The study's findings aren't good in light of a recent Jupiter Research Executive Survey that showed that the top challenge facing Web site operators is improving site usability. Forty-nine percent of respondents named that as their leading goal. Usability outweighed the 47 percent of respondents who called budget constraints their biggest challenge, and the 40 percent who said measuring ROI was their greatest hurdle.

An October Jupiter Research study showed that basic site improvements are a much bigger customer draw than even personalization.

Research analysts found that 54 percent of respondents cited faster-loading pages and 52 percent cited better navigation as major incentives. And only 14 percent of consumers say a personalized Web site lead them to buy more often from online stores.

Industry watchers say the best thing a company can do for a consumer is make sure the site is easy to navigate. Make consumer service telephone numbers easy to find. Make sure search engines are top-of-the-line. Help people answer basic questions.