July 23, 2003, 12:00 AM

Media sites top marketing sites on content organization, Forrester says

Dell gets a top grade on navigation, but other marketing sites lag media sites on navigation, content presentation and text legibility. “Marketers must develop the same competencies to serve online customers’ needs,” Forrester says.

Web marketers could take some pointers from the design of media web sites, according to a new report by Forrester Research Inc. Forrester recently compared features of top media sites to those at some leading marketing sites, including retail sites, and found that the media sites excelled at design basics in several areas.

“Media companies have core competencies at organizing and formatting content,” says Forrester analyst Harley Manning. “Marketers must develop the same competencies to serve online customers’ needs.”

On a four-point system ranging from a –2 indicating a critical failure up to a 2 indicating best practice on several tested features, five content and media sites reviewed by Forrester – CNN, Google, the New York Times, Time and Weather.com – all received a passing grade of 1 on home page navigation. The passing grade indicates that across the board, the reviewed media sites’ home pages clearly displayed key content areas and how to get to them.

In contrast, five marketing sites reviewed by Forrester received varied ratings on home page navigation, ranging from a top-level 2 for Dell to a 1 for insurance site MetLife, to a –1 indicating failure for the web sites of BMW USA and Sony, to a –2 for Tiffany’s web site. Visitors to Tiffany.com’s home page, Forrester notes, have to click down one level just to see product categories and open pop-up menus to find some brand names.

In general, the media sites also rated better than the marketing sites in presenting legible text and in reducing the number of clicks required to get to content. To emulate the winning features of media sites, marketing sites could improve home page design to better showcase the range of site offerings available, design navigation that gets buyers to product quickly, and make on-page text easy to read, Forrester says.


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