Net users adopt ‘favourite dozen’

UK Internet users are settling into conservative patterns of using a limited number of Websites, which will make it increasingly difficult for new entrants to challenge the loyalty of experienced Web users.

Research released this week by Netpoll suggests that most Web users, after an initial flurry of online use and exploration, quickly settle into visiting a maximum of a dozen sites on a regular basis.

Netpoll chief executive Mike Bloxham says: “After about six to nine months, consumers settle into a habit of visiting no more than ten or 12 sites as their Web use ‘crystallises’,” he says.

“They are tending to gravitate towards a particular search engine, news site, and special interest or sports sites. Once this behaviour is established, it’s very difficult for competing Websites to challenge these loyalties, unless they offer a compelling reason to change.”

Netpoll’s conclusions suggest that new market entrants should attempt to attract the growing band of consumers who are new to the Web.

It remains unclear from the research whether e-commerce sites can establish a foothold among long-term Web users. Bloxham adds: “We have yet to determine whether e-commerce sites will be forced to rely on deals with major sites to maintain their own high profile on the Web.”

Bloxham also warns the research shows that “redesign for redesign’s sake” runs the risk of alienating established users who have become familiar with an existing layout.

“Where users can see how a redesign has clearly improved the functionality of a site, they accept it. But there is potential resistance among established users to being forced into relearning how to use a site, when there is little evidence that the changes have added to its usefulness,” says Bloxham. “Website operators should be wary of simply redesigning a site every few months because it seems to be the ‘done thing’.”

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