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Usability Winners & Losers | Big surprises—and some things to watch for this year

Website Usability. UX.
In part 3 of my usability reviews, I share which Websites delivered some big surprises – which ones fell short of expectations – and the sites I’ll be checking in on regularly this year. Top of my list? Cisco.com, IBM.com, Symantec.com’s new site, Juniper.net and Brocade.com.

Part 3 in a blissfully short series—(OK, it’s kinda long, but it’s a big subject)

In my last post, I did a quick “Who Shot John?” about which sites aced our usability tests—and which teams need to go back to the drawing board. If you missed the first post—which explains why this actually matters—you probably want to start here.

This post is all about my take on why the winners win—who you should put on your radar–and what is in store for the future. As I said in my last post, I’m declaring my right to make these calls based on watching these sites for what seems like a gazillion years.

Based on the results in our new report, I’m:

Not surprised at Cisco.com’s tour de force showing. This site is operated by one of the best teams in the business and should be on everyone’s watch list;

Think that IBM.com’s revolution is paying dividends and will set more standards in 2012. Like Cisco.com, this site is operated by a hugely talented team—and should be on everyone’s watch list. This site’s new design and cult of personality strategy is nothing short of amazing—but a lack of controls could sink the IBM.com ship;

Find Symantec.com’s dominance of the buying process refreshing. In our POV, it’s almost impossible NOT to buy on this site;

Find CA.com an interesting ‘up and comer’. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this site’s design and architecture, but our evaluation results show that there’s much more here than a pretty face;

Find the reseller set’s poor showing interesting, but not surprising. These sites are truly a digital channel. It’s all about slapping down your credit card and making configuration decisions. If you want more, you need to go somewhere else. (BTW: these sites are so boring that (barring a write-in campaign) these sites won’t be on our 2012 siteIQ eBusiness Index list.)

Surprised that some of the ‘cooler’ sites on the list (such as Adobe.com) play in the middle of the pack. It just goes to show you that snappy designs and eye candy can take you only so far—and the real proof in the pudding lies somewhere else.

Wasn’t surprised at Microsoft’s standing in the middle of the pack. Despite all of its self proclaimed wonderfulness this is a perfectly (and consistently) mediocre site.

Expected Dell.com would do better outside of its ecommerce comfort slot. When you strip away the conventional wisdom and Dell.com’s IdeaStorm community there’s not a lot to learn from this site.

Going to be watching Juniper.net’s rankings over the next 12 months. This site’s relatively unique outsource strategy means it will be an interesting property to track over the next 12 months. IMHO its solid architecture and design will let it skate through 2012—but not far beyond.

Interested in observing Brocade.com over the next year—especially since we’ve added HP.com’s networking zone (formerly 3com) to our siteIQ eBusiness Index list. In yet another example of opinions are interesting but facts are stubborn things, Brocade does remarkably well when detailed views are applied. Just goes to show you that the odd surfing day doesn’t necessarily tell the whole competitive story.

So there you have it. A totally different way Web teams should look at usability, who does it best, some surprises—and what to look for in  2012. That’s my story—and I’m sticking to it.

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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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