Of the 26 user-friendly websites, 12 websites - Shopping, Shaadi, Yatra, HSBC, Jobstreet, Ebay, Spicejet, Travelguru, SimplyMarry, Citibank, Reliance and Samsung - are in the ‘best practice group’, scoring more than 95 per cent points. Websites in the 85 to 95 per cent range qualified in the ‘user-friendly group’ included Naukri, Amazon, Bharatmatrimony, ICICI Bank, HDFC, NSE, Timesjobs, Rediff shopping, SBI, Indiabulls and BSE.
Of the remaining 95 websites tested, 45 websites’ (37 per cent) performance was average, qualifying in the ‘just about satisfactory group,’. This group also has some of the most popular sites, including Hotmail, Yahoo email, Gmail, Air Deccan, Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Monster, Jobsahead, Makemytrip, Cleartrip and social networking sites like Orkut and Hi5.
Nearly 42-50 per cent websites performed below-average and were classified in the ‘need definite improvement group.’ They included recently acquired website by Google, Youtube, besides online majors like Yahoo portal, Wikipedia, Indian railway booking site IRCTC, banking site ICICI Direct and content sites, Money Control and Times Of India.
Before I go ahead with literally bashing this "study", check out the way JuxtConsult has defined the "User Friendliness Index (UFI)" and "usability" (emphasis mine):
User Friendliness Index 2007 is a study to evaluate and classify top 121 highly popular websites in India based on their User Friendliness Index (UFI). UFI of these websites was calculated by evaluating them on 32 individual criteria grouped under 6 different ‘usability' aspects. The 6 usability aspects are ‘branding', ‘navigation structure and added features', ‘website design' ‘company and contact info', ‘contact responsiveness' and ‘technical parameters'. The findings compare each site's UFI score within their own individual category as well as against the entire universe of 121 highly popular websites on each of the 6 usability aspect.
The top item on their list of usability features is branding! Would anyone please tell me just how can branding be a part of website usability? Sure, branding can play a huge role in buiding website popularity and thus the user base, but surely not usability.
The second thing on their list is the vaguely named "navigation structure and added features." Kudos to them for considering the navigation structure of a website in determining it's usability, but added features? Any designer worth his salt will know that a multitude of features, does not add up to usability. Anyone stuck with a feature loaded mobile phone (2 megapixel camera, MP3 player, FM radio, games, bluetooth, infrared, etc. etc.) will know how fucking hard it is to send a simple text message or update the contact book. Getting to the much touted camera or MP3 player in a Nokia N70 which I happened to play with recently required much fiddling and up to five clicks! IMHO the "One button" Nokia phones were the most usable of them all -- Nokia 1100 being the best.
Sure, you can't roll out a product or website with limited or lame features. But blindly adding features over your competitions is not going to make your website more usable. This "Feauritis Curve" from the Creating Passionate Users Blog sums it all up:
How did "contact responsiveness" feature in a website usability study? Contact responsiveness or availabilty of customer service representatives can be used to measure a customer satisfaction index (CSI, if you please) -- but not a frikkin' UFI! The classis case is Cleartrip, where the website is miles ahead of its competitiors (Yatra, TravelGuru, MakeMyTrip, etc.) in usability, but the customer service (or contact responsiveness) simply sucks. That's because the customer care numbers given on the website are mostly engaged. Now, just because the customer care sucks how can you pull down the website for its usability?
(Disclaimer: I work at Cleartrip in the tech team. I know the customer care numbers are usually engaged because we are working with a lesser number of telephone lines. We will shortly be increasing the number of telephone lines after which, even that will change.)
Please go through the list of websites they have put under the 'just about satisfactory group' and 'need definite improvement group.' Yahoo email? GMail? Cleartrip? (Yes, that one's personal!) Youtube? Yahoo Portal? (THE Yahoo Portal? In the 'definite improvement group'? Who's tabbed homepage design is being poorly copied by the indian portals out there!)
And special mention to Wikipedia, which is in the 'needs definite improvement group'. It's a fucking Wiki! It brought in a whole new paradigm where anyone could edit anything on the web. It's in the 'needs definite improvement group'! I mean, what the fuck?!
And compare these to the list of "user-friendly group" websites --
- Naukri? (Hey, where's the job ad? Oh! It's there! Right among a gazillion other banner ads, and text ads! And oh, what's this -- I've got a billion new windows open?! Ah forget it, I'm just fine with this job...)
- State Bank of India -- I would request the reader to please go to the SBI website and search for the SBI branch in Lower Parel, Mumbai. Was it easy? Was it frustrating? Do let me know.
- Indiabulls -- the last time I checked many of my friends who had been lured into an Indiabulls life time free trading account were abandoning it in droves because of their utterly non-usable trading tool. (Runs as a Java applet)
- Bombay Stock Exchange -- Another website which forces the user to start of a Java VM every time they visit the home page. The bloody home page contains a Java applet. (Note: Java applets are bad, for starters, because they slow down the website from loading. And making the users wait is bad usability IMHO. Making the users wait for the home page to load, is harakiri! Try the BSE website here.)
Had these JuxtConsult fellows gone through at least the Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design before coming up with such a report, they wouldn't have put SimplyMarry in the top 26 most usable websites. I rest my case.