SAN FRANCISCO: Journalists visiting corporate Web sites are unable
to find basic information - even a PR contact and phone number - at
least 45% of the time, according to a new study by Web usability expert
'In some cases, the site's design impeded journalists' efforts and
actually drove them away in frustration,' said Nielsen, who presented
his findings at last week's 'Buzz 2001' conference.
Twenty journalists, both freelance and staff at publications in New York
and Copenhagen, Denmark, were asked to perform specific tasks, such as
finding a press contact or financial data, on one of 10 corporate Web
sites while a trained observer recorded their actions and comments. Web
sites tested included those of major corporations, such as Merck,
Wal-Mart and BMW, as well as hi-tech start-ups, such as TellMe and
Companies routinely frustrated journalists with stock photos, Flash
images and PDF files that slowed or often crashed older computers and
dial-up connections. 'We had not really considered the importance of the
freelance and work-at-home aspect of reporters' work,' said Nielsen.
Reporters were also frustrated by generic e-mail addresses. 'They saw
that as a black hole, where they might not get answers for days. Many
said they would rather go elsewhere or cover another company than try
that,' he said.
A full report on the study's results, along with 32 guidelines for
designing a press-friendly Web site, are available to download for
dollars 250 at www.Nngroup.com.
Nielsen, a Ph.D. and former Sun Microsystems engineer, is the author of
Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity.