Sitemorse tested the first 125 pages of the retailers' sites and ranked them using several criteria including function, accessibility, code quality, performance and metadata. The top score attainable by a site was a 10.
The top-scoring site was that operated by UK furniture maker/retailer DFS, which scored 9.54. Alas, the much deeper-pocketed Amazon scored 1.86 and the similarly well-heeled eBay only managed a 1.56. Sitemorse Founder Lawrence Shaw said the low scores related to failure of some rudimentary site functions and features, such as page descriptions, problems Sitemorse repeatedly finds when testing both sites.
"Amazon used to lead the pack and be a benchmark of how to do E-Commerce, but I don't think consumers are getting a very good experience now when they go to the Amazon site," Shaw said. "When you look at the number of broken links, poor HTML _ all the basics you need to make a Web site work _ they fail pretty miserably."
The testing of the Amazon site for accessibility found that 56 percent of its top 125 pages fail basic requirements. "Following the Target case, (in which Target paid $6 million to settle a Web site accessibility lawsuit) I would have thought U.S. retailers would make some effort to get the very basics, like ALT text for images (text to describe the picture), correct," Shaw said.
He said he finds it almost inexcusable for major E-Commerce sites to be riddled with broken links, a problem that will send frustrated prospective customers off to competitor sites. "As an example, Shaw noted Amazon's link to its own Web Services page was inoperative. "Not a good advert for them if they can't link to their own sites," he commented.
On the bright side, Shaw said Sitemorse is seeing trends toward improvement in its regular testing of 250 top global retail sites. "At the top end of the table, the scores are going up to the nines and, even 10s," he said. "When we first started doing these tables, a lot of sites got four or below. It was very unusual to get a seven."
There are several benefits to doing a thorough sweep of an E-Commerce site and fixing the basic problems. Aside from providing better user experiences and aiding search engines to find site content, good site structure reduces the workload of a company's customer-service staff. "We're finding now, at some sites that are scoring eights or nines, that the number of calls to call centers is reduced and inquiries about problems are down," Shaw said. "This happens if customers go to a Web site and don't find errors or bad-performing pages."