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Usability Winners | What, Why—and Who does it best

Website Usability. UX.

Part 2 in a blissfully short series (that’s a little longer than I expected)

In my last post, I shared why usability is really a tale of two cities and why dotcom teams need a totally different usability view than the stakeholders who own different parts of a Website. In this post, I’ll share which of the industry’s largest and most successful IT Websites hit the usability balls out of the park based on seven usability dimensions.

Consistency, innovation & interactivity.

With all of the new designs hitting the airwaves—and huge strides by sites including IBM.com–this category is having a huge effect on online brands this year. When six usability metrics are combined (consistent, innovative, interactive, relevant, responsive, and addressing user limitations), Cisco.com takes first place with a whopping 88% score. To put this in perspective, I can’t think of any site that has achieved 88% in any category over the 12 years we have been reporting on leading IT Websites. Truly a “wow” moment.

To further prove that networking Websites are the ones to watch this year, Brocade.com and Juniper.net took second and third place, respectively—followed by EMC.com and Intel.com (tied for #4), and Dell.com completing the top five roster.

Bottom of the stack? Insight.com. Interesting, but given the business model—probably not important (and unlikely to keep this team up at night).

Website logic and purchase processes.

This set of usability metrics are all about visitor complaints that they can’t the find information they are seeking.

Among the Website areas we evaluate, product marketing and corporate marketing zones do the best jobs. Events, support, and training areas fall in the “can’t find it with a mask and a gun” category.

Along this dimension, the enterprise software set take the podium, led by the IBM Software Group site and CA.com—both Good Practice performers. The pity party section includes Newegg.com (can you spell no influencing the market behaviors?) and Deloitte.com.

Click Stream Effectiveness (otherwise known as what keeps most Web teams up at night.)

Again, networking sites rule the roost (Cisco.com and Juniper.net rank first and second and both deliver good practices). The IBM Software site and CA.com create the second tier, and IBM.com brings up fifth place—and completes the Good Practice roster.

CDW.com, Insight.com, and Newegg.com anchor the bottom of the roster (who knew?)—along with Deloitte.com that ranks 21st out of 23 sites (I’m starting to smell a problem here).

Content Clarity (easy to understand).

Spend some quality time on leading IT Websites and one thing will become clear. Seven companies deliver sites stocked with content visitors can actually understand (IBM.com (and its IBM Software Group nephew), CA.com, Symantec.com, EMC.com, HP.com, Cisco.com, and Oracle.com). The rest range from “close but no cigar” to “are you kidding me?” with Deloitte.com and Newegg.com bringing up the bottom of the stack.  Of the two, Newegg.com is the bigger surprise.

Complete & Thorough Content (a.k.a. the effect of (1) clueless stakeholders who are (2) stretched too thin).

It’s nice to know that only half of the leading IT sites we review are facing this problem.

With a gazillion pages in the bag, IBM.com ranks first and Cisco.com is hot on its heels. The IBM Global Services and Software Group sites (see a trend here?), and CA.com round out the top five. Since every category needs an anchor—Insight.com and Newegg.com play these roles.

Finding content (the voodoo that few do so well).

There are three things that are relatively easy to find on most/all sites: product marketing information (big surprise), corporate marketing information (a big hot spot in this economy), and search facilities (a no brainer unless you’re blind or a marginally authorized microsite).

When 24 usability metrics are rolled up, Cisco.com takes the podium; IBM.com nestles in second place. CA.com, Juniper.net, the IBM Software Group site, and Oracle.com round out the Good Practice roster. In what is becoming a bad habit, Insight.com, Deloitte.com, and Newegg.com anchor the bottom of the list.

Call to Action, ecommerce & purchasing (a.k.a. where a Website’s rubber meets the road).

We look at 16 issues to determine how effectively a site supports the buying process—and our focus ranges from product marketing to services marketing to the quality of the site’s sales contact and ecommerce capabilities.

When the dust settles, Symantec.com (surprise) and Dell.com (not a surprise) end up at the head of the class. Sites operated by CA, IBM, Adobe, IBM Software, and Oracle round out the Good Practice roster.

The bottom of the stack? IBM’s Global Services site, Brocade.com, and Newegg.com (courtesy of perfectly awful scores for sales contact behaviors and the ability to find purchasing overviews & information).

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the really ugly (not to mention the random surprises).

In my next post, I’ll share the sites that surprised me—and the ones I didn’t expect to miss the mark. Hey, I figure after 12 years of watching and 3,000+ evaluations, I’m entitled to my 2 cents.

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I focus on strategy and trends – and how the Web turns business rules on their heads. My job is to identify the Web-related trends and best practices that will change your world over the next 18 months. Where you need to cut through the clutter of conventional wisdom. How to change the competitive rules of the game. More gory details in my profile -- and unvarnished opinions about the sites we evaluate on Google+

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