Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Odeon - the missed opportunity

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

With the BBC and Wired covering this particular story, the Odeon is facing a vast barrage of criticism in its handling of the Accessible Odeon website and its own website. And deservedly so. Its new website has been under construction as far back as April 2002 - and its still nowhere in sight.

Thankfully, the RNIB are having some words with the Odeon. Apart from being an unlawful website according to the Disability Discrimination Act, keeping out a big segment of one's market is nothing short of ridiculous. The Odeon appeals to the creative types, the stand-apart types - those people willing to invest extra money to get something different - a typical Apple customer. A typical non Internet Explorer user.

How useful was the Accessible Odeon website?

The Odeon's website is reported on Wired to receive 800,000 hits per month. The Accessible Odeon website, run by Matthew Somerville was peaking this year at 345,000 hits during May 2004, averaging over 250,000 hits per month. That's a significant chunk.

The effects of the proxy

But, there's a catch in those numbers. The Accessible Odeon website was a proxy of the Odeon website. Requests for pages on the accessible site were fulfilled by performing a request to the main Odeon site, accessifying that content, and sending that back to the visitor. So every hit received by the Accessible Odeon website also resulted in a hit to the Odeon website.

Compensating for the proxy effect

That would mean on average, 250,000 hits to the main Odeon website were requested by the accessible Odeon webite, leaving only 550,000 hits to non-accessible clients.

On average, the main Odeon website was pulling in 550,000 hits per month, while its accessible version is pulling in 250,000 hits per month.

The big number

31 percent of Odeon's traffic was generated by visitors using the accessible version of the website. Now that's astonishing.

Those thirty one percent of visitors use the accessible version for a number of reasons - far better usability, the site is accessible, its cross-platform. Some people have no choice but to use the accessible version, some people did have a choice and preferred the accessible option. Now no-one has a choice - some people can't use the Odeon website, some people won't.

The cost to Odeon

What are the marketing implications of alientating 31 percent of your audience? That's like not doing business for two days a week! How long can a business survive on this limitation?

In related news, the Odeon is up for sale at around £380 million. Assuming the Odeon is being sold as a going concern, refusing to do business for two days a week would wipe £108 million off the company's value.

Do the potential bidders know this?

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