Web consulting firm Usability Sciences Corp. has developed a rating system for the usability of such rich media features as being able to zoom in on and rotate products, and audio and video. The results, released last week at the Internet Retailer 2007 conference in San Jose, reveal that consumers love to zoom in, but they also want to see inside a product.
In the study, 230 online shoppers tested five web sites with rich media features, then rated them for ease of use, quality of images, and helpfulness in making a buying decision. The overall winner was a grill selector at the Home Depot site, reported Jeff Schueler, president of Usability Sciences.
The grill finder allows consumers to search by brand, fuel type and features like side burners, Schueler said. Clicking on a grill produced a larger image, and there were audio and video explanations of features. One negative was not being able to look under the covers of all the grills. “People always want to be able to look inside something,” Schueler said.
Customers who use the grill finder tool are more than 50% more likely to make a purchase than other visitors to HomeDepot.com, reported Tari Huddleston, senior manager of e-business, who spoke with Schueler. She noted that a majority of visitors to the Home Depot site are women who want information about the sometimes complex products the home improvement retailer sells. “Women are doing their homework online,” Huddleston said. “They want to be educated before they go into the store.”
Schueler said that zoom was the most highly rated feature among participants in the study, selected as helpful by 76%. Rotate and product demos were deemed helpful by 59%, color changes by 54% and video by 38%.
Usability Sciences complemented the survey by inviting some participants to come into the company’s labs to test the five web sites and he showed film clips of some of those sessions. One woman expressed frustration at an introductory video about a refrigerator that showed a woman biting into an orange but barely showed the appliance. “Is that it?” she asked. “I want to be able to see inside.” She ultimately discovered that by rotating the refrigerator 360 degrees she could get the doors to open.
Among other lessons Schueler drew from the study were to use the best quality images available, make it easy to turn audio on and off, make sure the browser’s “back” button returns the shopper to the previous view and use zoom as much as possible.