University of Ballarat

School of Business
Teaching Period One, 2007

Subject: Unit code: Lecturer: Tutor: Due date:

eBusiness Fundamentals BC501 Ian Knox Ian Knox Thursday 9.00am, 26th April 2007

Assignment title:

Critical analysis of three business websites

Student: Student Number: Tutorial Group:

Debbie Ivkovic 2553091 One

INTRODUCTION
The reality of today’s business world is that businesses of all sizes are increasingly recognising the value of adopting eBusiness practices into their everyday operations. At the very minimum a number of businesses have a web site to compliment their “brick and mortar” business. On the other side of the spectrum are businesses that use internet for communication, research, networking, marketing, sales, purchasing and financial management in the complete sense of eBusiness (Business Victoria home page). As already mentioned, the minimum internet component for every business is to have web page. However, simply having a web page does not automatically mean that the business is successfully expending into eBusiness. According to Rappa a place in cyberspace must be built with the same attention to detail and architectural sophistication as the physical part of the business. How a site is designed can make all the difference for the visitors – ultimately the potential customers, who may or may not come back (Rappa, 2007). So the next obvious question to ask is how can we differentiate between the good and the bad web site? The Massachusetts Institute of Technologies (MIT) has provided the guidelines in what factors should be considered when evaluating a web site. Obviously, not all factors apply to every site, nevertheless, the factors recommended include: •Navigation •Functionality •User Control •Language and Content •Online Help and User Guides •System and User Feedback •Web Accessibility, W3C’s Tools, Checklist and Guidelines •Consistency •Error Prevention and Correction •Architectural and Visual Clarity

With this in mind, three businesses have been chosen to evaluate the usability of their web sites. All three businesses are in the building industry with the majority of their business being building the new residential homes in the various parts of Australia. The chosen web sites are: 1. JG King Homes 2. Metricon Homes 3. Simonds Homes Having taken into the consideration the limitation of this report, each web site has been evaluated in the following areas: • • • • Navigation Language and Content Online Help and User Guides Architectural and Visual Clarity

FINDINGS
Navigation 1. When opening the web sites the following was noted: • • JG King Homes – The additional click was needed to actually go inside the web site (Appendix 1) Metricon Homes – The web page is geographically divided between various areas of Australia which also created the need for the additional click (Appendix 2) • Simonds Homes – The web page is also geographically divided between various areas of Australia with additional click needed to go inside the web page (Appendix 3)

2. Once inside the web site (Melbourne area was selected for all three sites) each page offered the following: • JG King Homes – The page is somewhat overcrowded with the images of the various homes on the right hand side with the menu on the left rather unnoticeable at first, which is a bit overwhelming for the first time user of the web site. However, the menu has the extended options available with the major parts of the site directly accessible from this page. (Appendix 4). One click on the logo will take the user to the main page, however this is the only way the user can go back as there is no ‘home’ link available. Very easy to use Search function is provided, but only after selecting the specific option from the main menu and not available on the main page (Appendix 5). • Metricon Homes – The menu is clearly visible with the minimum distraction from images. The menu also has the impressive options available for the various users such as first home buyers (Appendix 6). The likable feature of the web site is the “you are here” sign at the top indicating the current location within the site. One click on the logo will take the user to the main page but there is no ‘home’ link available. The Search function is provided automatically when the user selects the specific option from the menu (Appendix 7). • Simonds Homes – After selecting Melbourne area this web site took the longest to load after which the user is confronted with the various images but very little options on the menu – larger part of the menu was devoted to display homes only (Appendix 8). Only closer examination will reveal the tabs at the top of the page with more options available. However, the options are divided into various groups such as single or double story houses which makes the selection more easier (Appendix 9). The Search function is hidden in the ‘Our homes’ tab under the Selection Wizard which can be hard to find at the beginning (Appendix 10). One click on the logo will take the user to the main page with the ‘home’ link also available on every page.

Language and Content The language used for all three sites is simple, without jargons with the brief and clear paragraphs. The pleasant feature of all three web sites is the obvious grouping of the related information on the same page or menu which makes the browsing much easier. One example of the categorisation by subject – such as ‘house and land packages’, ‘display homes’ or ‘land for sale’ is provided in Appendix 11 for the Metricon Homes. The information given is extensive, particularly for the floor plans. Each site provides the comprehensive measurements of each room as well as of the whole house. There is also a virtual tour of all display houses, together with the prices and specifications for all plans. However, only Metricon Homes has the PDF format available for downloading the floor planes (Appendix 12). JG King Homes and Simonds Homes lack this options which is very disappointing. The only site providing client interaction is Simonds Homes with its newest feature – online home creation (Appendix 13). This is very simple to use with clear and easy to follow instructions in all five steps. The very practical feature is the inclusion of the price for the house at the bottom of the screen which keeps adjusting with each change of the floor plan. The only downside to this feature is that only limited number of houses is available for the client interaction at this stage. All three businesses have gone one step further with offering the financial services to the customers. But the clear winner in this area is Metricon Homes with the extensive range of mortgage calculators available (Appendix 14). Simonds Homes has rated the lowest with only limited text file provided with no additional information or links (Appendix 15).

Online Help and User Guides The web sites are designed in the manner that requires minimal help and instructions. The opening pages are particularly easy to understand with clear labeling used for all sites. No help was needed during the navigation of all three web sites as they are easy to understand and follow. The standard feature on all three web sites is the possibility of giving feedback via the feedback form. The JG King Homes has taken advantage of the feedback form to collect the additional information of the user by expending it to include questions such as gender, occupation and renting status (Appendix 16) JG King Homes is the only web page providing assistance for the troubleshooting (Appendix 17). The Metricon Homes and Simonds Homes have no help available as it can be seen in Appendix 18 - the ‘troubleshooting’ search returned no results on the Simonds Homes web page.

Architectural and Visual Clarity Each web site is organised from the user’s perspective which is evident in the straightforward and consistent site designs and layouts. The only exception in the consistency was Metricon Homes web site which changed the heading and background colour with no Metricon logo visible once inside the particular home information (Appendix 19). The font size for all three web pages is adequate which makes it easy to read. The majority of the background is lightly coloured with different colours used for the font which also adds to the usability and attractiveness of the web sites. Particularly pleasant fact is that the very minimal animation is used, or rather, unnecessary animation is avoided. All photos are well placed and are of the suitable

size. For example, Simonds Homes page with a large number of photos is only 7.97 KB which can also accommodate slow connections (Appendix 20).

CONCLUSION
The web experience is important part of a customer’s decision-making process (Dalgleish, 2000). It is well known fact that the design and usability of the web site can influence if the visitors – potential customers will come back again. It is therefore important to have well designed and user friendly web sites, especially in today’s business world when growing number of businesses are recognising the value of the Internet. After evaluating three web sites for the usability factors such as navigation, language and content, online help and user guides, and architectural and visual clarity the following has been concluded: • It is very easy to navigate each site with the reasonably fast downloads and easy to follow links. The only somewhat slower site was Simonds Homes which took longer to load for almost every page. • The information provided is sufficient, well explained and up to date. The only disappointing feature is lack of PDF formats available for download. At the moment Metricon Homes web site is the only site offering this option. • There is room for improvement for the help available on two web sites: Metricon Homes and Simonds Homes with virtually no help available on those web sites. • All three web sites are designed from the user’s perspective with straightforward designs and layouts. The sizes of the web pages are reasonable which can accommodate slow connections.

The purpose of all three web sites is more informative as the majority of the business is still done off line. It is therefore fair to conclude that the overall impression for the usability of all three web sites is positive with enough information provided to eventually influence customer’s decision-making process.

Appendix 1 Opening page for JG King Homes web page:

Appendix 2 Opening page for Metricon Homes web page:

Appendix 3 Opening page for Simonds Homes web page:

Appendix 4 The first page of the JG King Homes web site:

Appendix 5 The Search function on the JG King Homes web site:

Appendix 6 The first page of Metricon Homes web page:

Appendix 7 The Search function on the Metricon Homes web site:

Appendix 8 The first page of Simonds Homes web site:

Appendix 9 Tab options at the Simonds Homes web site:

Appendix 10 The Search function at the Simonds Homes web site:

Appendix 11 Example of categorisation by subject:

Appendix 12 Availability of PDF download for Metricon Homes:

Appendix 13 Online home creation on the Simonds Homes web page:

Appendix 14 The loan calculator on the Metricon Homes web site:

Appendix 15

Financial services page on Simonds Homes web site:

Appendix 16

The extended feedback form on the JG King Homes web page:

Appendix 17 Troubleshooting available on the JG King Homes web page:

Appendix 18 Search result for ‘troubleshooting’ on the Simonds Home web site:

Appendix 19 Inconsistency in design for the Metricon Homes web site:

Appendix 20 Web page size specification for the Simonds Homes web site:

List of references

(2007)

Business

Victoria

eBusiness.

Retrieved April

18,

2007,

from

http://www.business.vic.gov.au/BUSVIC.65736/LANDING//SEC11.html

(2007) Usability guidelines. The Massachusetts Institute of Technologies. Retrieved April 20, 2007 from http://web.mit.edu/is/usability/usability-guidelines.html

Dalgleish, J. (2000). Customer effective websites. Retrieved April 20, 2007, from http://vig.pearsoned.com/samplechapter/0130878278.pdf

Rappa, M. (2007). Managing the digital enterprise. Retrieved April 19, 2007, from http://digitalenterprise.org./design/design.html

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