After more than 12 years of evaluating website user experience, Forrester reached a major milestone — completing 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews. That's more than 100 reviews per year or more than 10 per month. Whew! We've been busy.

These reviews (using an expert/scenario/heuristic review methodology) span B2C and B2B sites, intranets, and employee portals across many industries and countries. What we do: We identify target users and attempt to accomplish realistic user goals for those users, and then we evaluate the experience on a set of 25 criteria graded across possible scores of -2 (severe failure), -1 (fail), +1 (pass), or +2 (best practice) for each criterion.

So what did we find?

  • Many poor experiences. Since scores for each of the 25 criteria range from a -2 to +2, total scores could range from -50 to +50, and passing all tests would result in a grade of +25 or higher. But the average score across all of our reviews was only +1.1, and only 3% of the sites earned a passing score (that's a total of 45 sites out of the 1,500. Yes, you read that right: 45).
  • Fluctuations in scores over time. The average score rises and falls when we look across versions of the methodology and over time. But, finally, in the latest version, there was a significant increase in the average score over the years just prior — a trend we hope to see continue. There's a similar pattern when we compare B2C and B2B sites. B2B sites have consistently lagged behind B2C sites in user experience scores, but we're finally seeing that gap narrow.
  • The same problems over and over. Looking across the 1,500 reviews, we see the highest failure rates for the same criteria over and over again. Problems with text legibility, task flow, links to privacy and security policies, and use of space have dominated the top failure list since 2005. But some of these problems are relatively easy to fix, like increasing font sizes and foreground-background contrast to make text easy to read.

This last finding is the most discouraging. Digital customer experience professionals, I implore you: Stop making the same mistakes!

More detailed findings are available in the report, "Lessons Learned From 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews." Or check out the "Executive Q&A:Website User Experience Reviews" if you're looking for more info on the methodology.