GUEST POSTING M&C Saatchi top ad agency site for usability, Leo worst

Last month, Mumbrella revealed that many of Australia’s agencies are poor at making themselves findable via online search. Now, in a guest posting, James Breeze from Objective Digital, scores the usability of the websites of ten of Australia’s biggest ad agencies.  

Most of Australia’s top advertising agencies have websites that scored very unevenly on usability criteria. Usability is sacrificed for bells and whistles, and the sites take ages to load.  Some didn’t even work at all! Admittedly, the primary purpose of the websites is to showcase creativity and list awards, not to provide quick access to info such as contact details, or lists of services. But on most of the agencies’ sites, it is the showcase of work that keeps you waiting.

 We gave the websites of the top ten advertising agencies a workout by looking for the services provided, and used eye-tracking to capture the results.  Eye tracking is a great way to demonstrate how someone uses a site as you can clearly see exactly where as person is looking on the webpage. What we look for is a gaze path that is ordered and shows that people can instantly see what to do.

We reviewed the sites against criteria based on usability heuristics, and grouped them into Orientation, Exploration, and Accessibility. We usually cover SEO criteria in our MarketPlace category but this has already been covered elsewhere by Mumbrella.

Most sites scored well in the Orientation category, which covers the home page, trust & credibility, links and navigation. However, the trust and credibility is low with the lengthy wait for the site to load. Once you manage to get in, there is a lot of consistency built into the sites, and most of the rules for links and navigation are followed, often in a quirky manner with the persistent navigation in unusual places. For instance, why do JWT hide the site navigation at the bottom of the page?

Unsurprisingly, the highest scores were obtained in the exploration category, which covers the general look and feel, and content design.  There is a neat consistency in presentation, and five sites scored 100% for content design.

The worst performance was in accessibility. This is not just about people with disabilities; it also covers things like download speeds.  As the majority of the sites are Flash-based, it is not surprising that accessibility is poor, or that download speeds are agonizingly slow.  On most sites, there is absolutely no attempt at making the site accessible to a wide range of users. This means that many Government departments, who have old versions of Flash, would have no chance to view the site at all! M&C Saatchi achieve well in this category, but their site is a tad boring.

Some general no-nos are frequently broken, such as playing sound whether you like it or not, no matter where you are. Other slipups are a ‘coming soon’ page instead of a gallery of work (McCann Sydney), and, with a lot of toolbars open, we missed the main navigation at the bottom of the JWT site.

Here’s how they scored:

Badjar Ogilvy

There was no possibility of scoring here, as they only have a holding page with a logo.

  • Total: 0%


Doubtful that many users will actually get into the site it’s so slow to load and you need Flash 8. It’s fun once you get there and the site has many standard usability features with their site orientation, forms design, navigation and interaction following standard practice.

  • Orientation:  86%
  • Exploration:  89%
  • Accessibility: 23%
  • Total: 77%


DDB is difficult to assess as the site is a single flash based page only, with little content and nothing to click, which is bit of a surprise for users. It loads quickly and includes contact details, but accessibility is way down. A screen reader just says, “DDB Group Australia, end of page”.

  • Orientation:  86%
  • Exploration:  93% (from only 3 relevant criteria)
  • Accessibility: 27%
  • Total: 55%


Lots of Flash here, but it’s nice and snappy to load with not too much content. This site does the job of promoting their work . Accessibility of course is low.

  • Orientation:  95%
  • Exploration:  82%
  • Accessibility: 50%
  • Total: 84%


Lots of HTML means that GPY&R score the second highest in accessibility, as well as in orientation.  The site doesn’t appear to be up to date though, with most of the work dated 2005.

  • Orientation:  92%
  • Exploration:  89%
  • Accessibility: 73%
  • Total: 86%


First you are struck by the innovative ways of loading. When the home page finally loads it moves and flashes at you.  And each click is accompanied by a gratuitous sound, bad, and irritating if you really want to look around. Also, if you have a lot of toolbars open, the main navigation at the bottom of the page may take you a while to spot.

  • Orientation:  80%
  • Exploration:  83%
  • Accessibility: 16%
  • Total: 69%

McCann Erickson

Nice when you get there, but you have to wait a long time for the McCann Sydney site to load. Wait long enough and a nice chappy comes out to tell you to check out the gallery of work, but alas, there is nothing there! Just a ‘Coming soon’ notice?  Navigation and consistency is all there too.

  • Orientation:  87%
  • Exploration:  85%
  • Accessibility: 44%
  • Total: 77%

 Leo Burnett

Lots of music on this site, even if you try to get on with something else while it loads.  The site is a lot of fun, but nothing is accessible as this is a full Flash production.

  • Orientation:  63%
  • Exploration:  66%
  • Accessibility: 37%
  • Total: 56%

M&C Saatchi

Without the Flash base, this site ticked all the standards, which also made access to viewing the work a lot faster.

  • Orientation:  100%
  • Exploration:  90.5%
  • Accessibility: 93%
  • Total: 96%

Saatchi & Saatchi

With the Australian presence minimal, we reviewed the global site, which is all about their people. Partly accessible, the site could be so much better with a few tweaks.

  • Orientation:  67%
  • Exploration:  79.5%
  • Accessibility: 56%
  • Total: 72%

James Breeze is chief experience officer of usability specialists Objective Digital.


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