What makes a good web design? Let’s take a look at the Royal Mail website and identify specific aspects that makes for an effective user experience.
Many small businesses serve different types of customers, or offer different products and services. How can you make it easy for your visitors to find the services most appropriate to them? How can they quickly recognise that you are the right business for them?
The Royal Mail addresses this issue by having 3 quick choices to say who you are: are you a personal customer, an small or medium sized business, or a public sector organisation?
A quick mouseover on any of these 3 navigation choices give quick and simple access to the main functions that specific user needs.
- The copy is written to quickly demonstrate the benefit of the services to each audience.
- The navigation is context sensitive, changing to display the most popular activities for the particular audience segment
- The proposition changes for each type of user
- And the images change to reinforce the suitability for the target audience
The Royal Mail may offer a vast array of products and services, but the Home Page doesn’t overwhelm the user with the full spectrum of choices. It is clean and simple and inviting.
Currently, and topically, on the home page there’s also an option to “find the perfect gift“, which takes the visitor to a page about the new collection of stamps commemorating the upcoming Royal Wedding. The link even has a picture of a cake, and we here at Hallam are in agreement that anything featuring cake is definitely an incentive to click!
So, we have audience segmentation and clear calls to action on the homepage. It’s easy for the visitor to work out to go.
The Royal Mail website is an excellent example of the use of benefit-led copy, with a clear focus on the customer.
The copy for small business users is spot on, addressing the particular desires of any small business owner:
Looking for ways to find, keep and trade with your customers? Whatever your mailing needs, Royal Mail has the services for you.
Examples of headings and calls to action: “Guides to help you”, “Solutions to help your business grow”, “Fresh ideas for your business”.
They also use questions as headings frequently. “Need it there tomorrow?” Customers with urgent postage are going to click. “Going away?” People going on holiday and worried about security are going to click.
It is clear to customers how the Royal Mail’s services can be of benefit to them, make their lives easier, and improve efficiency.
There is a nice feature on the website called “Ask Sarah“, which is basically a “Help” feature. But the Royal Mail, cleverly, have used a human face and a name, so that customers feel that they will get a response from this friendly-looking woman, rather than a generic, automated reply. It also features a clear call to action “Ask Sarah a question”.
What do your customers really think about your website? Wouldn’t you agree this is incredibly important information?
The Royal Mail are using an online survey tool to gather customer feedback. It’s a bit unfortunate that they ask so very many questions because I got fed up part way through. But an ideal survey will only ask a few questions, for example:
- what kind of customer are you (personal or business)
- why did you come to our site?
- did you achieve what you were hoping to do?
- how satisfied are you with out site?
- would you like to give us any suggestions?
Customer feedback of course leads naturally to Social Media. On the “Contact us” pages, there is a link to the Royal Mail Twitter feed. From what I’ve read of it, they seem to be pretty spot-on in their use of Twitter. It’s being used as a sort of instantaneous helpline, where people can submit comments, questions or complaints. And they seem to be pretty good at dealing with these. Between 8am and 6pm, the feed is updated constantly, and they take the trouble to direct message (DM) people as well.
Tools and Services
The website provides some useful tools alongside information about the Royal Mail’s services. I have already mentioned the Postcode Finder, but they also have tools for calculating postage, for tracking mail, for finding prices, and so on. They’ve also got a number of trademarked services such as “Keepsafe®” and “Smartstamp®”. The implication is that these services are trusted, and the only place to find them is the Royal Mail.
The Royal Mail has also identified a barrier to successful ecommerce transactions: the fear of delivery problems.
So, to overcome this problem they have developed a free tool that will provide an analysis of your ecommerce website and an action plan for improving your Ecommerce Delivery Promise.
Could do better…?
There are a couple of small issues. One is the error message that flashes up from time to time. I can’t figure out what’s causing it, but it seems to be something to do with visiting certain pages, such as the “Stamps” page, and then clicking back to the main navigation. The error looks like this:
There is also a small glitch which is hard to explain, but which may prove confusing for some users. In the “Personal” section of the website, clicking on the main navigation sometimes redirects to the “Corporate” or “Business” sections. It does not do this all the time, and again, I am not sure what causes it, but it’s a little annoying. The user then has to click back into the “Personal” section to find the relevant information.
But these are minor things. The site is huge, with a lot of information that’s constantly updated, so it’s not surprising there are a few glitches now and again. It appears that the web team are pretty good at dealing with customer feedback, so I would imagine that any issues would be fixed pretty quickly. Overall, this is a good website, well-designed, with clear calls to action, and plenty of helpful information. And I will definitely be making use of some of the online services they offer in future, hopefully saving myself having to queue for hours in my local Post Office!