To celebrate World Usabiltiy Day we tested two financial services sites, & to see how UX pet insurance offerings are.

The UX world has been gearing up for a big event this week. Today (November 8) is actually World Usability Day 2012, during which organisations and companies around the world hold events to spread the word and work of Usability and UX Professionals.

This year’s theme, apt for the current economic climate, is Financial Services. So, in keeping with this we decided to take a look at how two of the UK’s most popular financial comparison web sites stacked up against each other: and

Using we asked users to conduct some typical tasks involving a specific type of financial service that many of us may be familiar with as it blurs the line between finance and lifestyle: pet insurance.

The results were quite surprising and not what I would have predicted. My guesses of the issues: confusing terminology, cluttered layouts, not knowing where to start, were all present but not the main problem.

I think it’s a reasonable assumption to make that when someone goes to a comparison site to look at the cost of insurance they expect to be able to, well, get a comparison.

The two sites that we tested both failed in this mission in their own way.

Inputting personal information

Finding the pet insurance section was relatively easy, although one or two of the testers did not see the category immediately and thought that the home page was cluttered.

The process requires users to fill in a detailed form in order to obtain a quote. Some found the questions overly detailed and obtrusive, asking for the pet owner’s marital status and date of birth for example.

This seems excessive, particularly as the information does not seem to be required at the purchase stage by the insurers. If quotes are based on answers to this then it would be helpful to point this out in the form so that people are happier providing the information.

The questions not only required personal information of the owner but were also overly detailed at an early stage: if the animal was a pedigree there is a compulsory question requiring entry of the microchip number which in most households is likely to be buried in some sort of pile of paperwork.

This does not seem to support speculative shopping around and proved to be a pointless question in any case as users were able to enter dummy data in order to progress to the next step.

Making sense of results

When users did get to the results page, they were met with a set of results that at first looked like a pleasingly large range of quotes.

However, they soon realised that the features of each result differed vastly and that they needed to work on narrowing it down. provides a set of filters at the top with a slider mechanism for altering the values.

Used appropriately, (stand up and take a bow ) sliders can be a useful interaction device for selecting certain ranges of values. Used in the wrong context they can be fiddly and pointless.

Why use a slider to select between two values of Cover Type  ‘Any’ and ‘Lifetime’?

The designers seem to have opted for keeping a uniform appearance with this decision with little regard for usability. This UI design also meant that it was easily possible for the user to select values for which they would get no results time and again, as shown in this clip:

Language and explanatory text

When it came to the details of the results, users were put off by the language used to describe the different types of cover. This could have been worded more simply, and was made all the more difficult to digest as explanations are crammed into a small rollover text box.

The strength of is that it brings back plentiful results to choose from but the multiple variables are not presented clearly enough to be able to compare them as they are in other sections of the site, e.g. life insurance.

“How do I get a quote?”

Finding the Pet Insurance section on was easier at first but the insurance landing page has very few calls to action to get users started.

Neither the subheadings nor the large images underneath are clickable, instead users must click on a small link within each pod.

The next step is no clearer. This clip shows a user struggling to start a quote:

“It’s supposed to be a comparison site and clearly they’re not comparing!”

Users were disappointed when they realised that they would need to go into each separate provider’s site in the list in order to get a range of quotes as shown in this clip:

The required information to obtain a quote depends on each different provider but those users that tried the first one or two in the list found their forms, with fewer questions than,  much less effort to complete.

One user pointed out that after the difficulty he had comparing quotes on then perhaps it was for the best that does not offer price comparison.

As we found on, pet insurance seems to be treated differently from other types of financial products such as credit cards or travel insurance which all keep the user within the site, or at least within a sub-site e.g. TravelSupermarket.

It seems on both sites, pet insurance is a neglected area which lacks forethought of design and user centred focus and which, like man’s best friend itself, is in need of a good dose of love and attention.