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Small Firms Floored by Basic Web Errors

October 12, 2009 by  

Hosting Blog Gloucester, UK – The vast majority of consumers who used small business websites in the past year found usability faults, according to research released today by Streamline.net, a leading provider of value web hosting. The study of 1700 consumers(1) found that a remarkable 83 per cent of users faced faults including unfinished web pages, broken URLs and email addresses and an out-dated design. A further survey of 450 UK firms(2) reveals that whilst most (51 per cent) consider their website to look ‘professional’, 1 in 3 owners admit that they are guilty of ‘neglecting’ their sites. The data also highlights a worrying discrepancy between where consumers wish to find web addresses, and where companies are displaying them. For example, 48 per cent of firms questioned still do not make any efforts to optimise their URL on search engines like Google. In the past year, 1 in 5 consumers have used a web address taken from the side of a small company’s vehicle, whilst only 10 per cent of small firms currently display their web address in this way.

Data from Streamline.net’s ‘Local Web Matters’ study found that many small firms are alienating web users through simple web errors. Three quarters of consumers have now used the website of a small business (76 per cent). Whilst 47 per cent of consumers consider their experiences of such sites to be overall ‘good’, a further 1 in 4 Britons conclude such websites to be ‘barely usable’. In the past year, 83 per cent of online consumers have found technical faults on more than one occasion. Web errors reported included unfinished web pages (54 per cent), broken URLs (52 per cent), outdated email addresses (50 per cent), and missing contact details (31 per cent).

Top design gripe with SME websites is an outdated website design, faced by one third of users in the past year. 1 in 5 online consumers have encountered superfluous descriptions of products and services, and 15 per cent have found confusing jargon. A further 20 per cent have been confused by the use of generic corporate images (such as random office buildings) that bear no relation that individual company. The findings are in stark contrast to a survey of 450 small firms which found three quarters (76 per cent) were confident that the language on their website could in no way be perceived negatively by visitors, and 84 per cent who view all the images on their website to be fit for purpose.

Steve Holford, Marketing Director at Streamline.net, said “Whilst it’s good news that companies now recognise the value of a web presence, there is a real danger their work can be undermined by basic errors. As with many areas of business, if the basics of a website are not sound, customers will be deterred from purchasing. Owners must recognise that whilst online spending has snowballed, so have consumer expectations”.

Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, advises, “Small business owners are often so hooked in to their own company, they rarely see it in the same way as their website visitors. Some of the reasons why a web site does not achieve all it can are psychological; users react to the site in a particular way which may either boost potential custom, or reduce it. Businesses must stand back and be entirely objective if they are to create an effective website”.

The research lends weight to the theory that many companies may be taking their eye of the web. 1 in 3 business owners (34 per cent) surveyed feel that they are guilty of ‘neglecting’ their websites, and 63 per cent know of at least one technical issue with their website that remains unresolved. Worryingly, 1 in 10 owners (11 per cent) admit to having withheld their URL from customers in the past because they were aware of technical problems on their website.

Streamline.net’s research also reveals contradictions between where consumers seek to find business web addresses and where UK firms are currently advertising them. Almost half of companies (48 per cent) made no attempt at optimise the position of their URL on search engines, when 77 per cent of consumers call upon these to find small businesses. Many enterprises are prioritising the display of their web address in places unpopular with online consumers. For example, 43 per cent of companies publish their web address on industry websites whilst only 15 per cent of consumers have used a URL taken from such a source.

Furthermore, whilst 1 in 5 consumers (21 per cent) have used a web address taken from the side of a small business vehicle during the past year, only 1 in 10 firms surveyed are currently displaying theirs on their vehicles. Remarkably, only 9 per cent of businesses display their web address on their signage or windows of their premises, when 1 in 5 Britons have made use of a domain name taken from here in the past year.

Holford added, “Time-strapped business owners can sometimes take their foot off the online pedal. However, every opportunity to capture online custom must be seized upon, which means promoting a web address in every possible environment – online and off-line. A company’s domain name is a more important emblem than ever before”.

As the market leader for value web hosting, Streamline.net offers a comprehensive range of web hosting plans for the beginner through to the web professional. Packages include everything needed for a successful web project including web builders, web statistics tools and eCommerce functionality. Streamline.net provides a comprehensive range of domain registrations. Users can try Streamline.net hosting absolutely free for 3 months by visiting www.streamline.net/web-hosting/free-trial.

(1) 1730 UK adults who have used small business websites surveyed by OpinionMatters via electronic feedback form
(2) 454 UK firms with a website surveyed via electronic feedback form

About Streamline.net
Established in 1999, Streamline.net is a leading value web hosting provider. Based in the UK and operating 24×7 from dedicated UK data centres, Streamline.net hosts over 150,000 websites. The company focuses on providing unrivalled value for web solutions. Streamline.net delivers a high-quality online service at the lowest possible prices.

Streamline.net products include tools for web design, search engine optimisation, web mail and eCommerce.

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