Over the past seven years, Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR) has used its Web Site Review methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of more than 600 corporate Web sites. The results are less than impressive: The average total score is 0.8 out of a total passing score of 25. Today, Forrester announced an update to the methodology to help clients better target and prioritize redesign efforts quickly, cost-effectively, and objectively.

According to Forrester, the key to good site design is an understanding of the site’s business objectives and target audience. Forrester applies research-based criteria to measure how efficiently and effectively users can accomplish their goals and how this affects a firm’s business objectives. The Web Site Review Program provides an action-oriented assessment of the Web site and its role in the company’s online strategy. The results are delivered with company-specific recommendations and a detailed scorecard that grades the site according to 25 user-experience tests.

“Forrester’s observations were right on the mark,” said Brian Snyder, eCommerce analyst at Whirlpool. “With the analysts’ help, we incorporated field studies, user interviews, persona development, usability testing, and feedback into the redesign process, which yielded unprecedented levels of acceptance and support from business units.”

“The Web Site Review Program has been extremely successful over the years — more than 70 percent of clients told us that it had a positive impact on their site’s usability,” said Harley Manning, vice president, Forrester Research. “In order to address evolving client needs, we updated the methodology, leveraging our expertise in site design and vertical industries. The new methodology includes revisions to the user-experience questions and an abridged, action-oriented evaluation of the company’s competition.”

Forrester first used the new methodology to evaluate major sites across four industries — auto, media, retail, and travel — and found that 19 out of the 20 sites failed due to design flaws across all evaluation categories:

  • Value. Some of the sites leave out essential content, while others make content and function hard to find, even when it’s right on the page.
  • Navigation. Search raked up the worst failure rate in the navigation category, especially on the media sites.
  • Presentation. Thirteen out of 20 sites failed to present easily readable content.
  • Trust. The average score for privacy and security handling was lowest out of all 25 criteria.

“The Web Site Review identified issues with the site that we didn’t even know we had,” said Chuck Konfrst, manager, Global Product Management & User Experience, Intercontinental Hotel Group. “The simple-to-understand methodology and output and simple-to-take action tells you the exact problem right away. There are things that we changed within a week or two of the evaluation. Many of the evaluations I’ve been involved with in the past give you great data but not a whole lot that you can act on.”

Clients have the option to receive a customized review of their site that evaluates industry-specific issues, in addition to the issues that are common to all sites. Clients can also find out how they rate compared with the competition. Forrester now offers both a full Web Site Review of competitors and an abridged version, which includes a full analysis and the presentation.

More information on the Web Site Review Program is available at www.forrester.com/Products/Consulting/WSR. The research mentioned, “Best And Worst Of Site Design, 2005,” is available to WholeView 2™ members and can be found at www.forrester.com.