Research

Website benchmarking

How does your website compare with your competitors'?

For about what your Web developer charges to make a few small changes to your website, find out from our independent audit where your site ranks and where it needs improving.

Have one of our editors put your website through our website benchmark database. We will inspect over 100 elements of your website. A report will be emailed to you showing your ranking and highlighting where your website needs improving and what the benchmark is.

Request a website benchmark report now.

Download a sample report to see what's in a report.

About our website benchmarking project

On this page:

Why benchmark your website

What we benchmark

Qualitative and quantitative elements

Weighting the elements

Democracy of the data

Trends in website content and features

Why benchmark your website

One of the Internet’s leading usability experts, Jakob Nielsen, observes in his recent book,
Prioritizing Website Usability (New Riders, 2007), “Users spend most of their time on other Websites…This means that users gear their expectations for your site by what they have learned to expect elsewhere.”

Making your website easier to use is simple – make sure it meets users’ expectations.  If the navigation, or a feature such as a shopping cart, is different from that which users have come to expect, they think about how to use your website, rather than about your message. Worse than that, websites that work in unexpected ways can annoy users.

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What we benchmark

Our benchmark database monitors common practice across over 100 elements of websites including:

  • look and feel – eg amount of free space on the screen, font style used for the body text
  • navigation – eg number of menu groups,  if it has a search feature
  • content – eg readability score, presence of diagrams, flow charts
  • functionality – eg password protected section, email subscription
  • multimedia – eg music, animation
  • marketing – eg pop-up ads, Google ranking
  • e-commerce – eg shopping cart, secure function
  • usability – eg how easy is to find information 

Users expect your website to behave like and look like all the other websites they visit: remember what Jakob Nielsen says, “Users spend most of their time in other websites.”

By measuring common practice in each of the elements we can tell you what users expect of your website – ie what they commonly experience elsewhere.

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Qualitative and quantitative elements

Most elements in the database do not require the editor to make a judgement or cast an opinion. They are quantitative elements. The editor, for the most part, observes whether a feature is present and if so, how it is presented – eg does it have a search feature, if yes, where is it placed?

However, as the quality of a website cannot be measured entirely in facts and figures, it is vital to gain the editor’s opinion of elements of the website that cannot be quantified but that impact on the quality of the site. The editor’s judgment of such things as a site’s look and feel and appropriateness of the contents, is recorded in the database. This is done both at the very beginning of the review to get the editor’s first impression (just as every user will have a first impression) and at the end of the review. We separate opinion from fact when reporting on a website.

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Weighting the elements

The database produces percentages for each element showing how the majority of websites treat that element. But not all elements are equal. Each element is weighted according to a formula we have devised using the results of a pilot study. We won’t reveal the formula but we can say that it’s based on the idea that it is very important to conform to any element that the vast majority of websites treat in one particular way.

For example, currently the database shows that for all websites that have a search function, 84% place the feature in the top right of the screen. Because the vast majority place it in the top right, users will have become very used to seeing it there and will expect it to be there. Place it somewhere else and you risk confusing them or risk users not even seeing the feature.

However, having a site map or not on a website is not as critical as having a search feature. Currently, the database shows that 46% of all websites have a site map and 54% don’t. So users have not become particularly used to seeing a site map and are quite used to using websites without one. Consequently, it is less critical to conform to this element than to conform to placing the search function in the top right of the screen.  

Conforming to all elements of all websites is not necessarily valid for some websites. For some, conforming to the relevant industry sector and to companies of the same size may be more valid. Therefore, we have multiple weighting regimes: the whole database, the industry sector, the company size.

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Democracy of the data

Our approach to the formula for the weightings is very democratic and objective. While we set the parameters for the weightings, it is the percentages in the database that dictate the weighting category for each element. As new websites are reviewed and added to the database the percentages alter slightly and eventually some may change sufficiently for that element to be automatically re-categorised as being more or less important. So we let common practice dictate the rankings and weightings.

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Trends in website content and features

The findings for each element in the database will change as we add more websites. What was important to conform to three months ago may not be so important now. These changes actually mark new trends in website functions, content, look and feel etc. We will be reporting quarterly on the trends in website practice that emerge from the statistics in our database.

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