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Developed by mathematicians from Oxford University, Bill Monitor allows consumers to compare phones and tariffs and find the best price plan from the five network operators.
It has also received accreditation from Ofcom, meaning the site can place a nice logo on the homepage which should help reassure customers using the website to select their next mobile phone contract. I've been tying it out...
Bill Monitor earns commission every time customers sign up for a new price plan from the site, but says it is totally impartial and doesn't favour one operator over another.
Searching for a phone / tariff
There are a lot of mobile price plans around (138,960 tariffs and 154 bundles, according to Bill Monitor), so choosing the right combination can be a daunting task for consumers.
An effective selector tool should be able to provide enough options to deal with different customers' needs, while remaining simple enough to be straightforward and fast to use.
Bill Monitor's selector tool provides enough detail to return some decent results; number of minutes / texts used per month, make of handset, data usage requirements, contract length and more:
The options are generally good, and not too much data entry is required to fill the form out; customers can fill as many or as few fields as they want to produce a set of results.
The handset selection could be better though. Users have the option of selecting a specific handset, but with so many handsets, the drop down menu is a bit unwieldy and requires much scrolling:
Also, the tool may be more useful if, instead of being forced to choose a particular handset, which makes the search more restrictive, customers could have other options, such as searching by manufacturer, or by phone features (MP3 player, emails, size, weight etc).
Results are well presented, in order of price, and are clear with a useful summary of each price plan:
There are some nice touches; like the way that some results are labelled 'safest plan', which means that you are covered if your usage increases above the monthly ration of free minutes.
Effective use of colour means that crucial information stands out and makes the results easily digestible, meaning that the monthly line rental and calls to action cannot be missed.
On some searches you may not get any results at all because of your selections. In this case, I have opted for a Blackberry Storm on a 12 contract, which nobody offers.
A smarter selector tool would let me even search for this, but at least Bill Monitor tells me exactly why I have no results:
There are some excellent filtering and sorting options that allow users to alter their results and arrange them in the way that best suits them, such as this chart which compares price plans for a set of results across the five networks:
Other sorting options include the ability to see results for just one network, or by contract length, while users can also choose to see the same results for different handsets:
The original search options are displayed on the left hand side of the results which the information you entered, so at any time you can alter this and change the results without having to go back to the homepage and start again.
The whole site looks good, the white space makes the content easy to read, while good use of colour makes the essential information stand out for web users, who will often to skim-read pages. Also, considering the amount of price plans Bill Monitor has to search through, the search results load and update very quickly.
While I have pointed out a few tweaks that could improve the user experience on Bill Monitor, it is a well designed and usable site.