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Report: Most News Sites Score A “D” For Mobile User Experience
Out of a possible 5 points the average score was a dismal 1.7.
While not yet dominant across the industry, mobile visits to news sites continue to grow. Yet most of the top traditional news sites woefully underperform on mobile devices according to The Search Agency’s latest “User Experience Scorecard.”
The company scored the mobile performance of the “top 50 print news and media companies” in terms of “user experience” and SEO criteria. The selection of the top 50 sites was based on Experian traffic data for November, 2014. In evaluating mobile performance the firm used a five point scale and tested only the site’s mobile homepage on iPhones and Android smartphones.
The graphics below reflect the design approaches of the 50 sites tested. The majority were either response or dedicated mobile sites. Dedicated mobile sites loaded the fastest, followed by responsive sites. The worst performing were those media companies that simply served their PC sites on smartphones.
Out of a possible five points the average score was 1.7 — pretty dismal. Here’s a verbatim discussion of the methodology for the two sets of tests:
We then assigned each company two different scores. We based the first score, out of five, on the presence of seven factors visible on the home screen of a mobile phone served with the company website: page load time, website format, social markup, social media buttons, search bar functionality, app advertisement, and sign in capability. We based our second awarded score, again out of five, on the presence of four SEO ranking warnings; large page size, missing meta descriptions, missing title tags, and click depth. These scores were then averaged individually per scorecard, according to The Search Agency’s weighting factors, to arrive at a total score, out of five, for each print news and media site, for each scorecard. We then averaged these two scores together to arrive at a total, overall score
The following chart shows The Search Agency’s “user experience” ranking of the top 50 news sites. The Guardian offered the best overall user experience according to The Search Agency’s criteria. The NY Times was 24th and the Wall Street Journal was 30th.
The top-scoring mobile SEO list was quite different. Here are the top 10 mobile web SEO performers:
- The Atlantic
- Motor Trend
- USA TODAY
- Life and Style
- Women’s Health
- The Christian Post
The data above do not reflect news apps, only mobile web performance. Bucking the larger apps-dominate trend, Pew/Journalism.org data show that most US news consumers read news via the mobile web rather than in apps.
While one can disagree with The Search Agency’s evaluation criteria, the findings are striking. The only conclusion is that news publishers must improve mobile site performance in a hurry.