Customer Support Websites Reviewed
In this essay I will discuss the similarities and differences of two popular customer support websites: support.microsoft.com and support.gateway.com. I will provide a review of Microsoft’s and Gateway’s support Web sites based on content, format, organization, mechanics, and ease of use. I will point out key elements and provide you with my pick of the best for ease of use.
Microsoft’s support website, http://support.microsoft.com, exhibits a very appealing look and feel. The blue theme Microsoft chose invites the user to explore and provides a sense of tranquility. Microsoft’s support content is up-to-date, robust, and informative once you’re able to find it. Its content is written more for the experienced professional, non technical-savvy end-users may have trouble understanding the techno-jargon Microsoft employs. The format of the site which includes the FAQ knowledge base, and support contact information are simplistic and easy to find.
The website navigational controls shift from the left side of window to the right, depending on the link that you clicked, this could confuse or frustrate site visitors. The navigational links are context sensitive and change according to the type of support page that you are viewing. Clicking on the Windows XP link displays a webpage with Windows XP’s Latest News and Solution Center articles that are placed in the main content area of the webpage. The organization of Microsoft’s support website pages are somewhat awkward and are presented with a vast amount of information, a significant amount of scrolling is necessary to view all of the material. It is easy to get lost or distracted when surfing the site.
The consistent element throughout Microsoft’s website is the navigational banner at the top of each web page. It is the only element that never changes, and it is home to the Microsoft’s website search engine. The search engine allows users to search Microsoft’s content more quickly. A link to Microsoft’s site map, support, and home page are also in this area. Microsoft’s support site is very informative; but it contains some confusing navigational controls. I found no spelling or grammar mistakes anywhere. Microsoft’s support site is definitely tailored towards power-user and computer professionals and leaves the average end user scratching their heads. Microsoft’s web site has the potential to be a better support site than it is, all it needs are few usability tweaks and content adjustments.
Gateway’s support site, http://support.gateway.com, boasts a brilliantly designed user interface. The home page is appealing to the eye and welcomes the user to explore the website. The first element that you see when the website loads is the navigational aids at the top of the webpage. This gives the user a sense of control and direction. Like Microsoft, Gateway also displays a search engine at the top of every web page.
Gateway’s content is easy to follow and understand than Microsoft’s support website. The unique design of the user interface provides ease of use and quick access to content, downloads and technical support. Gateway also includes a help link that displays an FAQ and the website requirements and procedures. Quick links back to the home page and site map round off the top navigational element. Gateway also provides the user the opportunity to provide feedback. It is obvious that Gateway put a lot of time and effort into the design and implementation of their end user support web site. Gateway’s support site features well formatted easy page views with very little scrolling. Users are able to find content in a matter of seconds. The step by step layout ensures that users find the right support needed quickly.
I like Microsoft’s and Gateways look and appearance, they are both very eye appealing. Equally both support websites display a consistent navigational and search engine element at the top of each webpage. However, that is where the similarities end. Gateway support website is easier to navigate and provides the user quick and easy access to needed information, driver downloads, and technical support. Gateway also put text-only navigational links at the bottom of each page with little or no scrolling. The ease of use, the layout and the content are concise and to the point, that’s why I prefer Gateway’s support website over Microsoft’s.