Accessibility tested web sites: Nokia vs. Sony Ericsson

Having done an amount of cell phone research lately, I’ve had the not-so-pleasant experience of seeing the level of quality of certain cell phone vendor web sites. Therefore, I’d like to compare Nokia vs. Sony Ericsson.

Background

When I see a web site used as a base for all the different national web sites for a company, spread out through the world and where getting information about and selling the product is key, there are some criteria I think must be met:

  1. It must be accessible to as many people as possible.
  2. You should always be able to navigate around in the web site.
  3. By making information more accessible, it will also result in a better search engine ranking.

Web sites tested

I decided to test the UK version of Nokia and the UK version of Sony Ericsson against the above mentioned measurements. Naturally, a test could be a lot more detailed than what I am about to show you, but I think it gives you a hint of the technical level and how the rest of the web sites probably are implemented.

Start page, with JavaScript enabled

Nokia

A picture of the Nokia start page

Sony Ericsson

A picture of the Sony Ericsson start page

Start page, with JavaScript disabled

Nokia

A picture of the Nokia start page, with JavaScript disabled. Everything works, but it has some different content and layout.

Sony Ericsson

A picture of the Sony Ericsson start page, with JavaScript disabled. Onlu sporadic patches of content is visible.

Products page, with JavaScript enabled

Nokia

A picture of the Nokia products page

Sony Ericsson

A picture of the Sony Ericsson products page

Products page, with JavaScript disabled

Nokia

A picture of the Nokia products page, with JavaScript disabled. All cell phone models are clearly listed, with picture and text; looks a bit different from the JavaScript version

Sony Ericsson

A picture of the Sony Ericsson products page, with JavaScript disabled. Virtually no content is to be seen, but a green background color.

Analyzing the results

After having tested the two pages for both respective companies, let’s run it by my three points of quality I mentioned in the beginning.

1. It must be accessible to as many people as possible.

Looking at the above screen dumps, suffice to say, Nokia has realized that you should never, ever completely rely on JavaScript for a web site. Nokia have created good fallback web pages with easy links to other parts of the web site and the products.

Sony Ericsson has completely failed to acknowledge this factor, thus resulting in pages being totally broken for users without JavaScript.

Why it really matters

Taking a quick look of how many web surfers have JavaScript enabled, it states that it is about 93%. That means missing a whopping potential 7% of your customers, just out of not doing a professional job to begin with.

But the problem doesn’t really stop there. Add to the mix overzealous anti-virus programs, strict company proxy servers and firewalls, effectively blocking JavaScript to a lesser or larger extent, but leaving that number of users outside of the statistics; a perfect case for unobtrusive JavaScript, though.

Nokia: pass. Sony Ericsson: failed.

2. You should always be able to navigate around in the web site.

As you can see, all parts of the Nokia web site is available without JavaScript, and the menu navigation looks and behaves exactly the same.

Without JavaScript on the Sony Ericsson web site, you practically don’t get any content, and the menus are solely Flash-based without fallbacks.

Nokia: pass. Sony Ericsson: failed.

3. By making information more accessible, it will also result in a better search engine ranking.

Why this is interesting from a search engine ranking perspective, making it even more important from a business standpoint, is that when there’s almost no proper internal linking going on in a web site, and fewer elements to find text in and virtually no proper and semantically marked-up code, it will affect the search results.

I took the liberty by searching on Google for one each of the companies’ products, together with the word “specifications” (on Google.com; local variations may apply). The results, literally, are as follows:

Google search for “nokia n96 specifications”

A picture of the Google search results for the search 'nokia n96 specifications'. The first link goes the Nokia web site.

As you can see, a Nokia web page is result number one, just as expected.

Google search for “sony ericsson w980 specifications”

A picture of the Google search results for the search 'sony ericsson w980 specifications'. The first link goes to the CNET web site, the second and third to the GSMArena web site, and the fourth to Sony Ericsson.

To prove above established point, Sony Ericsson fails to gain the first position, and isn’t actually found until the fourth place, surpassed by CNET and GSMArena.

So, again: Nokia: pass. Sony Ericsson: failed.

Usability concerns

Another thing which I thought I’d mention, but is a little bit our of the scope for this article, is that, for both companies, by using Flash for their products pages, it raises some usability concerns:

  • The Flash with the available cell phones has a fixed height, which makes it far less than optimal in the web browser window; the height should naturally be adapted to its environment.
  • A native scrolling method is introduced in the Flash, where the result is both a small local scroll instead of just the page scroll, and also that the scroll wheel doesn’t work for any of them.
  • If I for instance want to open three product detail pages in different tabs, it’s impossible. In their choice of Flash as a technology, they have crippled my normal web surfing behavior, with a “we think we know what work flow is best for you”-attitude.

Conclusion

There are lots of other things which could, and probably deserve to, be dissected when it comes to these web sites and factors such as truly accessible and semantically correct code, HTML validation errors, performance etc, but let’s leave that for now.

I think what this shows is that the overconfidence in Flash is very much still out there. And please, let me point out that I have no problem with using Flash, but given the usability and accessibility challenges offered, why go down that road if it doesn’t really offer any heightened end user experience? Just use the right tool for the job, really.

The Flash in the Sony Ericsson web site states, for every page load:

There’s a lot to load, but it’s worth the wait

In your case, it’d say it’s not worth it, neither for you as a business nor your end users.

Therefore, I strongly urge any Web Developer out there to seriously take accessibility into concern, and to anyone ordering a web site from a company, demand that this crucial factor is seen to.

Posted in Developing,JavaScript,Reviews/tests,Technology |

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