John Lewis site tops usability poll of high street retailers


John Lewis’ website offers customers the best online user experience out of the top UK high street retailers, and has been the most consistently easy to use website over the last five years, according to a new study.

The 2010 Online Usability Report from user experience consultancy, Webcredible, revealed that John Lewis scored an exceptional 91 per cent for usability, an increase of 10 per cent on 2009, moving it to the top spot for 2010. The most significant improvement this year was made by Early Learning Centre which achieved a score of 90 per cent, improving by 15 per cent and climbing from eighth place in 2009 to second place in 2010.


After claiming the joint number one spot in 2009, both Marks and Spencer and WHSmith dropped two places to third and fourth this year with scores of 86 and 85 per cent respectively. However both websites did make improvements in scores and remain in the top five retail websites offering customers the best online user experience today.

Now in its fifth year, Webcredible’s 2010 Online Usability Report continues to highlight the significant online improvements made by the top UK high street retailers. Although last year’s lowest score of 59 remains the same, this year achieved by Monsoon Accessorize, the overall average across the sector has increased by 3.7 per cent leading to an overall score of 76.6 per cent. While 12 websites achieved scores between 70 and 80 percent, three websites achieved scores in the 80s, and two websites achieved scores of 90 or above, indicating retailers are continuing to recognise the importance of improving usability when it comes to making sales online.

Notable areas of significant improvement in 2010 included transparency when it comes to check-out and delivery charges. With an average score of 4.9 out of 5, most websites tested recognised the importance of providing this information at the beginning of a sale to encourage visitors to make purchases and to avoid any drop-offs during the final check out.

Despite this sector-wide improvement in website usability, there are still basic areas that many retailers need to improve. With an average score of 2 out of 5, most 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 improvement in ecommerce usability is most obvious in the case of John Lewis and Early Learning Centre, but other big improvements were seen with Hamleys and Debenhams, which both achieved joint sixth place. Moving from 14th place, Hamleys received a score of 79 per cent, while Debenhams equalled this score moving from 18th place in 2009 increasing its score by twelve.

"This has been another year of continuous improvement in website scores, which is good news for consumers trying to find good deals. The 2010 report indicates ecommerce is one of the most advanced sectors in ensuring usability is at the forefront of the proposition. It is clear however, that the many sites scoring between the 70 per cent and 50 per cent can do much more to improve the usability of their online offering,” comments Trenton Moss, Director, Webcredible.

“It is great that we’ve been acknowledged for all the hard work we’ve done around our website’s usability,” says Jonathon Brown, head of online selling at John Lewis. “Our ongoing mission is to run a website that offers the same level of service our customers have come to expect when coming into our shops. Winning accolades such as this, combined with the current sales performance of the site, shows that we are on the right path.”

Moss concludes, “John Lewis is a consistent high performer in our annual analysis and this improvement in site quality has proven to be worth the investment made, as the retailer reports a record number of site visitors over the past five years. With a 20 per cent year on year increase in sales, John Lewis is a prime example of how offering a top class user experience can lead to a significant increase in revenue.”

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 the following scores in total, out of 100:


Webcredible analysed the websites of 20 of the UK's leading high street retailers in September 2010. Each website was evaluated against 20 best practice guidelines and assigned a score of 0 - 5 for each guideline, with 5 being the maximum. With 20 guidelines in total, websites were assigned a total Web Usability Index rating out of 100. A full copy of the report can be downloaded from

A similar study had previously been completed in October 2009, 2008 and 2007 and 2006 using a similar sample of retailers. This year’s report included three new guidelines including, a store locator, a clear online business proposition and tracking previously viewed items.


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