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The Daily Telegraph has come out on top in a report that examined the UX of newspaper paywalls.

Also included in the survey were the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and The Boston Globe. 

The report follows Qubit’s website analysis framework, which looks at elements of the purchase journey, personalisation and mobile.

This involves more than 80 criteria based on both the newspaper industry specifically and general best practice for websites.

As mentioned, the Telegraph came out on top overall with 72%, followed by the WSJ (69%) and FT (66%). The Times achieved the lowest score with just 56%.

For the purposes of this post I’ll summarise the results of the purchase journey, which Qubit refers to as ‘Find’, ‘Choose’ and ‘Buy’.

Find

This section assesses the visual appeal of each newspaper’s website, including the layout, navigation and first searches.

The Telegraph came top with 88% while at the other end of the scale The Times scored just 26% as its homepage lacked credibility due to an unfamiliar layout and the lack of important features such as a search function.

It also had poor navigation and was generally impractical due to the lack of insight into the subscriptions.

The Times is classified as having a hard paywall as there is almost no access to content without a subscription, which means the navigation is very different to the other newspapers. In contrast, most of the other newspapers had fairly intuitive navigation.

Choose

The Telegraph again came top in this section with a score of 79%. The newspapers were analysed on the effectiveness of the search function and layout of each page.

Features such as predictive search and filters can greatly improve the visitor experience, but the only sites to offer predictive search are the FT and WSJ.

The Wall Street Journal offered an advanced search where you could choose the dates in which you wanted results from, which is especially useful when searching for a particular article. 

Newspaper publishers do not follow the traditional layout of product pages, as they are selling different levels of subscription rather than shoes or clothing.

In this respect, the expectation of the imagery is more narrative-based to give a better idea of what the subscription contains. 

The images provided were generally good, high quality and provided a good overview of the packages on offer. 

In general most of the newspapers were upfront with their costs, however The Sun emphasised the fact that readers can subscribe for £1 before later revealing that this rises to £8.67 after a short promotional period.

On the plus side, each of the websites used prominent calls-to-action that created a sense of urgency.

Buy

The WSJ came top for the transaction phase of the purchase journey despite scoring just 69%. The Times and The Sun came joint second with 64%.

For this stage of the journey sites can benefit from elements such as:

  • Clear formatting of the summary page.
  • Comprehensive details of the package that the customer has chosen.
  • A clear price.
  • A quarantined checkout to prevent distractions.

Nearly every newspaper assessed had a well-formatted summary page, ensuring that the information and the total price was easy to understand. 

However in some cases the introductory offers were somewhat misleading and disguised the fact that the eventual cost would be more expensive.

The information displayed on the registration pages was kept to a minimum by all newspapers, making the page simple and easy to understand. 

With the exception of the WSJ which only had one stage, all of the newspapers had clearly labelled all the stages of the checkout. This aids the user in their final stages of the buying process.

David Moth

Published 24 October, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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