Web Site Feedback Service Gains Ground

DUNDEE, ILL. (03/30/2000) - Online Lab of Dundee, Ill., has signed up more than 200 customers - including Virgin Airlines and Chiquita - for a Web site user feedback service launched in November.

The service provides a downloadable Java script that Web site developers can include on their Web pages. Visitors click on an icon - a plus sign in parentheses - and a box pops up that lets them rate the quality of the page and comment on how it can be improved. The service uses a five-point scale to rate Web pages. Online Lab tallies the results of the feedback and provides developers with detailed graphs that show the strengths and weaknesses of each Web page.

The Online Lab service, called OnlineOpinion, complements other Web site measurement methods such as traffic analysis tools and usability studies.

Company officials say one advantage of their service is that it gathers feedback from real users motivated enough to provide it. The service also provides quantitative results for measuring trends over time.

"Our research shows that people will take an interest in improving the sites they rely on," says Rand Nickerson, founder and CEO of Online Lab and a 25-year veteran of TV and radio usage measurement. Nickerson says users do not need software on their machines to rate Web pages with OnlineOpinion. The service avoids privacy concerns because users volunteer to provide feedback, he adds.

MVP.com, an online retailer of sports, fitness and outdoor equipment and apparel, has been using OnlineOpinion since the site's launch in January. About 60% of the site's pages feature the OnlineOpinion icon, which lets customers provide feedback on the content, design and usability of the page. In the comment section, many customers give feedback about the site's product selection.

"We get thousands of ratings a day," says Ian Drury, chief technology officer of MVP.com. "It's a very powerful tool for us. . . . We're able to monitor trends after we make changes to the site, and it allows us to get real-time feedback from our customers about the site."

MVP.com conducts usability tests with focus groups every six weeks, and it uses click stream analysis software called NetGenesis to track how users navigate the site. What OnlineOpinion adds is the ability to track what customers think about the site on a weekly basis.

"It has a very strong reporting capability in terms of helping us quickly highlight and prioritize which pages require work," Drury says. "We're going to continue to use it to . . . help us drive the evolution of our site."

OnlineOpinion offers two kinds of graphical data:

O-Scan, which provides an at-a-glance look at user feedback.

O-Metric, which provides in-depth analysis of the feedback and includes comments.

Web site developers can try OnlineOpinion for free, receiving up to 24 free O-Scans. After that, O-Scans cost $100 each, or 12 for $1,000.

O-Metrics can be purchased three ways:

One complete analysis of a site costs $850.

A monthly trend report costs $9,000 per year.

Unlimited use of the service costs $55,000 per year.

Online Lab raised $7 million in venture capital funding in November. The firm changed its name in early March from Performance Networks.

For a free test of the Online Opinion service, visit www.o-pinion.com.

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