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Ease of use___

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The data shown in the graphs is sorted in descending order by the size of the percentages,
and color-coded as follows.


The Ease of Use category contains the Simplicity and Attitude CRI sub-indexes. The Simplicity sub-index focuses on how easy it is for all users to find what they need, while the Attitude sub-index concentrates on accessibility features that help in particular visitors with disabilities.

All users, regardless of ability, should be able to complete their online tasks efficiently. Information should be easy to find, and self-service features should allow users to answer their own questions. Pages should not take too long to load. Also, there should be consistency in page layout, especially for navigation areas. Those with disability should be facilitated by good design choices, such as appropriate use of color, use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for layout, and use of helpful HTML tags.

SIMPLICITY SUB-INDEX
Industry average: 6.6
Top scoring site: Celebrity Cruise Line with 9.2


Self service facilities
Search functions, site maps and Frequently-Asked Questions sections (FAQs) are the key self-service facilities. Users have different strategies to locate information: some browse site maps, others use search engines. More prefer to see if their question has already been addressed in an FAQ section. All methods of information seeking should be supported by providing all three of these tools.

We found only 24 percent of sites contained all three self-service facilities. 62 percent contain two. The remainder are sure to receive too many online queries asking questions that really could be answered by the senders. 74 percent of companies provide site maps. 43 percent of sites contain search functions, while 76 percent offer comprehensive FAQ sections.


56 percent of respondents to our 2006 user survey stated that they regularly used site maps, with 47 percent often using search functions. 48 percent often sought help using FAQ sections.

It is important that these facilities be easily available or else they become less useful. Ideally search functions should be prominently placed on all pages. Links to the site map and FAQ section should also be very easy to find on the homepage. We were surprised to find that only 40 percent of site had links to FAQ sections on the home page.

Navigation
A site's navigation system should allow users to find what they need easily and to complete their tasks without delay. There should be prominent links to areas such as the product or service information, the contact section and the privacy policy.
Features like a breadcrumb facility –where the path to the current page is shown at the top –help users to navigate and to place the current page in the context of the site structure. Only 21 percent of sites contain this helpful feature. Consistency is also important, in particular the location of the main navigation bar. 14 percent of sites have some variation in navigation structure.

Contact methods
Email forms are the best way for users to get in touch. They can be used even when the visitor is not at their own computer with access to their email account. Forms should be short and should not require unnecessary personal information to be submitted. 83 percent of sites contain an email form with 5 percent of companies relying on email addresses. A comparatively large proportion –12 percent -- do not contain any online contact method.


We found that the contact forms were quite long, with 57 percent containing ten or more fields.
It also good to encourage communication by other channels, such as by phone or through live chat. 93 percent of sites contain a telephone number for booking or general inquiries but only 7 percent have adopted live chat help.

Travel-specific features
Among the most interesting travel-related findings was the number of sites that did not show a full price in the initial search results. Of sites that contained travel search features, only 41 percent did so. 51 percent quoted a lower price (excluding taxes, fees, etc.), while 7 percent did not clearly state what the initial price included.


ATTITUDE SUB-INDEX
Industry average: 5.5
Top scoring site: Marriott International with 7.8


A company who prevents those with disabilities from using its site may be preventing up to 20 percent of existing or potential customers from interacting with it. It does not make business sense to exclude such a large group of the population when all it takes is to make sound design decisions when creating a Web site. Not only those with disabilities may be excluded, however. The experience of dial-up users can be made unnecessarily difficult by 'heavy' home pages and layouts based on HTML tables.

CSS layouts
Using CSS rather than tables for layout makes content more accessible for all users. CSS layouts can allow the content to be presented in a logical order, enabling screen reading software to follow a logical path. Table layouts do not always allow text to be presented in
this logical order. We found only 21 percent of sites to be built using CSS for layout.

Home page 'weights'
84 percent of respondents to our 2006 survey stated that slow-loading pages were the main source of frustration when browsing the Web. Excessive weight –caused by large amounts
of graphics or other media –is one of the main reasons that users have to wait while pages load. While users on dialup connections are most affected by large page weights, broadband users also can suffer.

24 percent of sites contain home pages that weigh under 150 KB. 62 percent of home pages weigh in at between 150 KB and 350 KB, while 14 percent were over 350 KB.


Color contrast
One of the most important aids for the visually impaired is good color contrast. Choosing colors that make text, images and navigation buttons easy to read also helps the nondisabled visitor. Reading on screen can be tiring if, for example, text is gray on a black background, and easy navigation can be hindered by orange text on red buttons.
Only 14 percent of sites consistently feature text that always contrasts strongly with the background while 21 percent contain some text that is low-contrast. More than one in five sites (21 percent) contain navigation buttons that feature text on a low-contrast background, and 36 percent contain images with low-contrast text.

HTML tags
Sites should also make good use of HTML tags such as
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