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There’s a lot in the media about the future of the utility sector with smart metering,  smart grids being green and the tussle of running aging assets versus much needed investment… but there is not so much about focus of the short term… online presence.

Our latest report into the usability of the leading UK energy and water supplier websites shows there is still some way to go in the online user experience for the energy and water market.

What was particularly surprising was there was no difference in average score between the energy suppliers (operating in a deregulated market) and the water companies (non deregulated).

The results were as follows:

Energy suppliers Score out of 5
1. British Gas 4.3
2. Scottish Hydro 4.3
3. First Utility 4
4. Utilita Services Ltd 4
5. Good Energy 3.8
6. EDF Energy 3.8
7. Npower 3.3
8. Green Energy (UK) plc 3
9. Scottish Power 3
10. Ecotricity 2.8
11. E.ON 2.8
12. Equipower (EBICo) 2.3
13. The Utility Warehouse (managed by Telecom plus PLC) 1.3
Water suppliers Score out of 5
1. Thames Water 4.3
2. Anglian Water 4
3. Severn Trent Water 4
4. Southern Water 4
5. Yorkshire Water 3.8
6. South West Water 3.8
7. Wessex Water 3.5
8. United Utilities 3.3
9. Northumbrian Water 2.5
10. Scottish Water 1.8
11. Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water 1.3
12. Thames Water 4.3

Our report looked at an increased number of suppliers this year and is now available to purchase and download.

“Do your shopping from the comfort of your armchair!”  This is what we are so often told, as apparently it’s easier!

Apart from the fact that I like going to town, this mantra from the e-commerce age isn’t always true for all of us, all of the time.  Although I am very computer literate (I rely on them for my daily work and organisation), I rarely buy anything through the internet and when I do I tend to ask my parents to do it for me.  It’s all to do with those passwords and favourite questions – one for each site.  The warnings says “Don’t use the same passwords – look after your password – don’t disclose it!”

All very good advice but I simply can’t remember all those passwords and even if I did, I certainly would have trouble with those very long debit card numbers, written in “hard to see” silver on pale backgrounds. Long numbers are dreadful for many dyslexics as they often cannot hold the numbers in their heads long enough to punch them in.  Then there is VeriSign.  This is the banking security “extra”, which asks you for the 3rd, 5th, and 8th letter or digit in your (different) password. It changes which three it asks for each time.

Is writing the password down, then counting off the letters, really such a good idea, especially as I cannot write legibly?  Is this what they meant us to do? Do I then have to keep a shredder on my student desk along with my scanner, printer, speakers, head-set, mouse and lap-top? The problem is, that as time goes on, we are compelled to do more and more through the internet and less and less through real people. The options are closing.

This was a classic example of what was discussed when I spoke in Vienna two years ago at the European Commission’s e-Inclusion conference. You can hear my speech here.  What is easy for some people is hard for others and it is all too easy for designers to forget “the others”.  This is however, one area,  which, if solved, will raise a cheer from all the population!

Photo credit: bsr_dk via Flickr/Creative Commons

Banks and Utility companies have had to improve their use of ecommerce and digital marketing to support customer retention and improve brand reputation.


Our latest ecommerce report, the 5th in the series shows John Lewis topping the chart and winning our Webcredible Ecommerce Excellence Award due to it’s consistent performance.

The report, clearly shows a mature and well developed sector which is experiencing another surge in growth from mobile and social media channels.

What was surprising was the fact some basic areas for website usability for many retailers still needed to improve. For example, websites fail to track viewed items to help make it easier for visitors to shop online, thereby meaning a loss in potential revenue. In addition to this, most websites lost marks by failing to display a highly visible ‘Proceed to checkout’ button. A new guideline for 2010, this is considered to be an important feature and fairly easy to implement, yet continues to be ignored by seven websites.

The criteria used to evaluate the websites takes into account the complete ecommerce experience, including browsing and navigation, the checkout process, searching and product display pages.

The 20 ecommerce websites received total scores out of 100.

To find out more, listen to our expert panel discussion on the report or view the report.

Webcredible had a stand at the Ecommerce Expo again this October which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday. If you came by you’ll have noticed that our stand looked very different. We changed our brand and logo on Monday, and we had a new stand design with the new look and feel to match.

We met some really interesting companies at the event again which we’re looking forwarding to working with. It was also good to catch-up with some of our existing clients who came to the show and stopped by our stand.

We also launched our Ecommerce Usability report: ‘The Online High Street: 5 years of improvement’ at the show. There was a general trend for scores to go up this year and John Lewis jumped from up from 3rd place in 2009 to 1st place in 2010. With the Internet retailing marketplace continuing to grow it makes sense that Internet retailers are continuing to invest time and resources in making their websites effective and persuasive.

Feel free to download the report or listen to the podcast.

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