The majority of UK businesses now recognise that a web presence is essential for effective sales, marketing and customer communication. In fact, thanks to the surge in the popularity of smartphones, a growing number of Britons are now browsing the web while on the move. However, the latest research shows that too many small websites are reflecting badly upon businesses of all types and sizes.
1&1’s ‘British Web Survey’ of 1,500 consumers found that British internet users still suffer as a result of numerous website gripes. In an era when consumers rely on around-the-clock e-commerce and e-banking, more Britons than ever are being frustrated by websites that are slow, faulty or taken off-line during the night for maintenance to be performed. A key finding is that Britons still waste two days a year waiting for slow websites to load.
Over half (59%) see large variations in the speed and reliability of the websites which they use. The data suggests that consumers have felt little improvement since 1&1 last conducted the study five years ago. Some 42% of men and 35% of women have decided not to use a company again as a result of an overly slow website.
The strength of consumers' reaction is indicative of their awareness of what slows websites down. Over the past five years, 37% of web users believe they have become better able to judge whether a website is running more slowly than it should. Respondents point to more attractive designs and more complex features as contributing to slow loading speeds.
Faulty websites are still regularly inconveniencing 71% of UK web users. The data suggests that only one in four consumers recognise improvements over the last five years. Britain’s top five ‘common website faults’, as found by web users, are:
1. Slow running websites (71%)
2. Websites down for maintenance (49%)
3. Web addresses that lead nowhere (44%)
4. Online orders that freeze (44%)
5. Broken website pages (42%)
Website faults such as these have led more than one in three (38%) to decide not to use a company again as a result of its faulty website. Frustrations with a business website have led 72% of web users to abandon a company website for a competitor’s.
While most website owners aim to schedule maintenance and upgrades at times as to minimise disruption, it appears this has done little to appease almost half of consumers (49%), who feel regularly inconvenienced by the issue.
At the same time, some 44% of Britons are more critical towards website errors today than they were five years ago. During that time, 39% believe that they have become better able to judge whether a website contains faults. One in three Britons report that they regularly feel anger, worry or stress as a result of using a faulty website. The most worrisome aspect is doubts over whether an online transaction has been completed properly, with 44% having been affected.
Graham Jones, internet psychologist, advises: "Users of your website are less likely to return if your site breaks or doesn’t work properly. People get frustrated by slow loading and by the addition of technologies that work only in certain circumstances. If you have shopping carts or other ‘add-on’ services, test them and test them again to be sure they cannot break or cause problems. Similarly, if you have forms – make sure they work."
The study suggests that choosing a fast and robust hosting provider has never been so important. While consumers can ensure their own super fast connection, if website owners do not host their sites effectively, the web experience will suffer. Make sure that your web host provides super fast connectivity, via their own pan-European and global backbones.
The best web hosting companies will also use geo-redundancy to help enhance the reliability of customers’ websites. By mirroring all data and processes across two different data centres, twice the protection from downtime is created. The web host can also carry out updates and planned maintenance work without any disturbance, so websites will not become unavailable as a result of hosting maintenance.
It is clear that when faced with a faulty or off-line website, consumers will turn elsewhere. Perhaps more surprising is the proportion that will be unwilling to return. With this in mind, businesses must ensure their websites are well designed, have robust functionality, and benefit from the most reliable and high-speed web hosting infrastructure available to them.
By Richard Stevenson,
1&1 Internet Ltd