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It's not exactly the Oscars, but the Gomez Web Performance Awards give companies significant bragging rights for having a top Web site in their market segment.
Gomez, a division of Compuware (NASDAQ: CPWR), said Web site awards were given for three main criteria: best performance on average for 2009, response time (including how fast pages load and end-to-end processes like searching on the site or loading an image), and availability and consistency (measuring how consistent performance is across geographies, networks and times of day).
Web site performance can vary greatly. For example, a site with a related Superbowl ad campaign on TV or an e-commerce site during holiday shopping season can see a huge spike in traffic.
"If you look at the history of the Web, accessibility is not enough. It's also about how quickly they responded. The stakes for having consistent performance have never been higher," Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, told InternetNews.com.
Poepsel also noted that some of the bigger e-commerce sites set a high bar for consumer expectations so it would be a mistake for a company that, for instance, had the best-performing insurance site, to get too comfortable.
Gomez Web Performance Awards by category
"When you're looking for a book on Amazon you might have a great experience in that shopping mode and you expect that same great experience when you go to a banking site," said Poepsel. "Consumers don't think, 'Oh I'm in this vertical site so it should work differently.' They expect it to be easy and responsive."
Poepsel noted that companies have to engage in a delicate balancing act between performance and adding too many features. "Take the airline sites example which is like a workflow engine," he said. "If you have too many bells and whistles on the site, you sacrifice performance. Consumers have choices and they'll move on to a competitor's site if there are broken links or other things that affect performance and accessibility."
He also said even sites that have relative consumer lock in or customer loyalty can be hurt by poor performance. For example, consumers unable to use a site effectively end up calling tech support or the company's call center which is a much bigger hit to the bottom line than if they were able to get their questions answered or orders placed on the Web site.
The full list of awards, runner ups and more detail is available here in PDF format.