The newly revamped Marks & Spencer website, which was launched last week, has received a thumbs-up in a new report which evaluates the websites of the UK’s high street retailers.

The M&S website has jumped eight places in the Webcredible High Street Retailers report, while the overall usability of the 20 websites studied has also improved over the last year.

Some highlights from the study:

Overall usability has improved

The overall average score for high street retailers’ sites has improved from 67.8% in last year’s study, to 73.3% in 2009.

Most improved e-commerce websites

As well as M&S, the usability scores for the John Lewis, Boots and Woolworths websites have improved dramatically, and, along with WHSmith, occupy the top five slots.

In the case of Woolworths though, the fact that the site is split into three separate sections with distinct checkouts undermines the user experience.

Could do better

The two websites with the most room for improvement were TopShop and Accessorise, with scores of 56% and 59% respectively, with just a one point improvement on last year by the latter.

Among areas to work on for the two retailers were login and registration forms, while the TopShop website scored poorly for providing filtered navigation options, and not making delivery charges clear enough.

Areas for improvement

Of the 20 best practice guidelines that all the websites were compared against, changing colour of already visited links was an area where all bit one site (Debenhams) failed, where providing a single form for login and registration was a practice only followed by John Lewis and Woolworths.

Another more obvious area for improvement was in the quality of error messages offered during the checkout process. When shoppers have made an error, they need to be shown exactly what they need to do to correct it and get back onto the purchase. Waterstones, Next and The Body Shop are among the retailers criticised for vague and unhelpful error messages.