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Fast-Downloading, Information-Rich Web Sites

  |  September 27, 2001   |  Comments

When people come to a Web site, they are invariably looking for information. They don't want to hang around. They don't want to be left waiting. The best Web site is the one that gets them to the right content in the fastest time.

People who use the Web want pages to download quickly. They want Web sites that are full of useful information. They want to be able to customize these Web sites so that they can get to the information they want as quickly as possible.

Those are the results of a Jupiter Media Metrix study published September 10, 2001. They reinforce results from study after study about what people want from the Web. Jupiter's survey found the following:

  • 59 percent of people want more product information.

  • 40 percent will visit a site more often if its pages load faster.

  • 36 percent want personalization features.

  • Only 20 percent are interested in multimedia or rich media features on a Web site.

  • Only 12 percent are interested in mobile commerce facilities.

"To make the best use of their budgets in the near term, most companies should avoid risky, glamorous Web enhancements," according to Cormac Foster, analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix. "Retail sites especially might learn that they can address their user experience issues at a low cost without having to invest in new technologies."

It has been obvious from day one on the Web that what people want is fast-downloading, information-rich Web sites. Speed is a critical factor that drives Web use. When people come to a Web site, they are invariably looking for information. They don't want to hang around. They don't want to be left waiting. The best Web site is the one that gets them to the right content in the fastest time.

Despite these critical and obvious demands, too many technologists, marketers, and designers force on people what they absolutely don't want. Mobile commerce has not worked because it wastes time and money. Mobile commerce will work when it delivers the right information faster and cheaper than a Web site. Rich media pundits are like reverse Luddites: They demand that you have the rich media technology whether you want it or not. They think that because something is more difficult to do, it must be better.

Staples has made a success of selling office supplies on the Web by finding out what its customers want and giving it to them. Its number-one priority has been to make its Web site usable. That sounds like an obvious thing to do. So why are there so many Web sites doing the exact opposite?

People who are in charge of Web sites tend to do what suits them, what reflects their likes and dislikes, their experiences and skills. Technologists love to push new technologies. Marketers love to drive image-rich messages. Graphic designers want to show off their art-school training. Though they may claim that their Web sites are for their customers, they're really for themselves and their peers.

That doesn't happen at Staples.com. "We have five guiding principles," Jeanne B. Lewis, president of Staples, told PC Magazine in September 2001. "Listen, watch, prioritize, execute, and stay focused." Staples.com expects to bring in $800 million in revenue in 2001, up from $94 million in 1999, when it launched.

It has achieved such tremendous growth by focusing on what people want and giving it to them. What people want is lots of quality product information that downloads quickly and can be read easily. As Colin Hynes, head of usability for Staples.com puts it, "What is a Web site worth to anybody if they can't find what they need?"

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gerry McGovern Gerry McGovern is a Web consultant and author. His most recent books are Content Critical and The Web Content Style Guide, published by Financial Times Prentice Hall.

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