SiteMorse™, the leading automated website diagnostic service, today announces the publication of research, commissioned by NMQA (, an independent specialist testing consultancy, to rank the performance and user experience of the top 20 retail brand websites.

With 52 per cent of households in the UK (12.8 million) having internet access this year, compared with just nine per cent (2.2 million) in 1998*, this festive season looks set to see the biggest growth in online transactions to date. The increase in internet usage has prompted NMQA to commission SiteMorse™ to identify which retailers are ready for the online Christmas rush.

The SiteMorse™ research study examined the top 20 sites for a fixed seven day period, at 15 minute intervals and tested the homepages of each site for response time and errors, two factors which will determine whether a user will choose to shop on a particular website.

The results showed:
• came top with 100 per cent availability and usability
• Toys R Us ( was second with 100 per cent availability but 99.75 per cent usability
• The least usable website was, which each time tested, failed to meet the basic standard

The criteria set by SiteMorse™ is for the front page of each site to respond within 1.5 seconds to a request, and to have a download speed greater than five kilobytes per second. This testing equates to the minimum response time expected by an average user.

The good news is that all the top 20 sites tested were available for 98 per cent of the duration of the test. However the testing also revealed that although the site availability was good, there were problems in the number of errors which occurred on the available pages. One example was found on where a window that should have displayed images of items for sale, was in fact blank.

SiteMorse™ also carried out it’s standard MorseMark™ testing process on the first 250 pages of each of the websites tested during the seven day period. This examines the website performance, accessibility, metadata, HTML quality and function of the sites.

Two high street fashion brands came top of the league with Next ( at number one and Topshop ( in second place. At the bottom of the table, representing the poorest performing site overall, was HMV (

Highlights of the report include:

Website Compliance
In the compliance sector, SiteMorse™ tests the standard of HTML code used as well as website compliance to W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) guidelines on accessibility for disabled users. Since the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act in October, all sites are required to comply with the Act.
• Only two sites were fully compliant with Priority Level One – and
• Five of the 20 sites had no pages that complied with the mandatory accessibility requirements (Priority level one standard) – these were:,,, and
• All sites failed priority level two standards

Website Function
The website functionality category examined errors that prevent a website from operating correctly and which include broken links, DNS settings, server errors, missing files and faulty e-mail links.
• Next ( and Topshop ( topped the site function category with no errors
• The site with the highest amount of errors was Tesco ( with over 3,500

Website Speed
Both the average speed at which the server transmitted data to the SiteMorse™ system during the test and the average time taken by the server to respond to a request to access an object were measured.
• The site with the highest download speed was Next ( had the slowest download speed and was 50 times slower than Next

Scott McKibben, Commercial Director NMQA said: ‘We chose SiteMorse to carry out this research for us as its monitoring and web-tools are fast becoming the industry standard for online performance measurement. By building in the seven day user experience monitoring we have been able to get a detailed picture of exactly when and how the top websites are performing. Our conclusion is that online retailers should consider the experience they are offering consumers. A slow or faulty site will result in consumers shopping elsewhere. Early diagnosis of faults will avoid the more expensive option of rectifying performance issues once the site is live and ultimately will enable more customers to shop.’

Nicholas Le Seelleur, Director SiteMorse™, comments: ‘It is disturbing to see that some of the UK’s biggest retail brands are entering the vital Christmas period with websites that simply don’t work properly. Retailers need to recognise that having an online offering is not just about design, but functionality. Online customers do not have the patience to tolerate delays, errors, and missing files, no matter how loyal they are to the brand’s high street equivalent. A key part of the SiteMorse service is to provide hard facts and statistics on how a website is performing, and the results of this research show that many retailers need to continually evaluate their websites, to identify potentially costly flaws with the online purchasing process.’


For a full copy of the SiteMorse™ Website testing and ranking of major UK Retail Brands Websites report please email for any further information please contact:

Fred Slezak/ Leanne Tritton
P: 020 7247 8334
M: Fred 07956 977780/ Leanne 07747 104 435

*Source: National Statistics Omnibus Survey – Individuals accessing the Internet published 28th September 2004

About SiteMorse™ (
SiteMorse™ is a leading automated website testing service with unique website diagnostic testing, monitoring and reporting facilities.

SiteMorse™ technology can provide detailed diagnostic reports for websites, on function and performance, HTML compliance checking, availability monitoring, brand, corporate and company compliance and accessibility testing.

By acting in the same way as a user’s browser, SiteMorse™ requests every combination of every item from every page on a web server. The results are identified exactly by page, line, type and link to produce exact details of problems or failures. SiteMorse™ technology is non-site specific and requires no downloads, configuration or technical support services.

SiteMorse™ produces independent monthly website rankings in sectors including FTSE 100, Central and Local Government, NHS, Banking and Finance, Solicitors and Insurance firms. SiteMorse™ automated web testing has been used in the annual ‘Better Connected’ report by Society of Information Technology Management (SOCITM) and is the benchmark for all Local Authority websites.

About NMQA (
NMQA have been operating for 5 years, providing testing solutions to our clients that minimise risk, control costs and reduce time to market for their business critical systems.

NMQA are an independent specialist software testing company, our services include Consulting, Recruitment and Managed Testing Services. 80% of our business is via referrals, or repeat business from our clients.

NMQA provide services covering the complete project lifecycle from defining test strategies and planning, then system, integration and functional testing through to performance testing, configuration/build management and disaster recovery.

We boast an excellent history of delivery and execution of testing services to many blue chip clients. Our clients include major organisations from most industry sectors, including Finance, Retail, Telecommunications, E- and M-commerce, Energy and the Public Sector.

Published on: 12:00AM on 24th November 2004