Guardian Triumphs in Webcredible Newspaper Study

The Guardian has been named as the most user-friendly cross-channel news provider in user experience consultancy, Webcredible’s 2011 Newspaper Usability Report, surpassing other popular UK news providers including The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

With over 2.8m monthly unique users, The Guardian was found to offer its worldwide audience the most comprehensive and intuitive content across three digital platforms, and to offer the best cross-channel experience from the physical paper to online.

Webcredible analysed four different digital platforms (online, mobile sites, iPhone and iPad apps) together with the cross-channel experience offered by 10 of the UK’s major news providers. Guidelines tested everything from content to navigation and functionality to design, as well as how effectively the platform was utilised, and whether the news provider clearly communicated its business proposition.

The Guardian received the highest average mark of 3.9 out of 5, primarily due to its user-friendly website and well designed iPhone app. As the tablet device market is still a relatively nascent one, Webcredible did not penalise The Guardian or any of the other news providers for not having an iPad app, but did note that the lack of an iPad app would be a significant failing in the months and years to come. 

The FT follows The Guardian in second place, with an average score of 3.6, with The Telegraph in third on 3.0. The Times and Metro come in joint fourth place with 2.9, followed by the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror on joint sixth with 2.6. The Independent and the Evening Standard were in eighth and ninth place, with The Sun bringing up the rear with the lowest average mark of 2.0, due to a poor utilisation of the digital platforms, and low usability in particular for its iPad app and mobile site.

In comparison, The Guardian received high scores for its website and mobile site as it proved to successfully aggregate a wide portfolio of content, including videos, images and podcasts, giving readers the opportunity to dig deeper into a topic. The Guardian also scored well against navigation and functionality guidelines for each platform, and also provided a clear cross-channel proposition, with the paper version referencing blogs and other media like video and image galleries that readers could find on The Guardian website. While the iPad app was not available at the time of the report, Webcredible says The Guardian clearly has the potential to develop an advanced app meeting users’ usability needs.

The Times and Daily Telegraph scored well for their mobile sites, due to their design and navigation. The Times also struck a good balance between text and images, and had no ads to confuse the reading experience, unlike The Sun and Daily Mirror, whose mobile sites appeared cluttered with ads that continually interrupted the reading experience.

The FT received extra points for its iPhone app because of its use of podcasts as a medium for opinions and background information. The Daily Mail’s iPhone app also fared well, offering giving easy access to the website, image galleries and news categories. Receiving the highest score for its iPad app design due to clear article presentation, The FT also racked up points for communicating its cross-channel business proposition clearly on the website. Both the iPhone and iPad apps, however, lacked basic features such as viewing videos.

“There has been massive growth in users accessing news content on digital platforms, first on the PC to view websites, then mobile websites and now apps and tablets,” notes Webcredible founder and director, Trenton Moss. “Increasing the usability of each of these new platforms will increase the success users have in finding and consuming the information they want, whenever they want. Incorporating such best practice guidelines into strategy moving forward will be a critical move for news providers to ensure users continue to enjoy their reading experience across all their platforms.”