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Poor UX persists in Hong Kong’s corporate digital desert

When it comes to the corporate digital experience, Hong Kong has not so much fallen behind the curve, as it has plummeted. Recent website research of the largest listed companies in Hong Kong (by market cap) has revealed a very unfortunate state of affairs. From the poorly designed and badly maintained to the completely broken, billion-dollar businesses with a massive global footprint are failing to market themselves accurately online.

Official company websites are still the most frequently used source of trusted information for investors, media, government and the public. They represent the most accessible official communications channel and ideally should explain exactly who the company is and what they do.  Unlike social media channels which work primarily to facilitate the dissemination of news, updates and create a conversation with their audiences, corporate websites are (or should be) a ‘bible’ of corporate information, from business strategy, leadership biographies and historical financial performance to cutting edge thought leadership and sustainability reporting.

‘Build once and forget it’ seems to be the mantra employed by many corporates in this region. In an age where user expectations are firmly established by the UX driven consumer platforms, those in the corporate world not taking their digital communication strategy seriously, are falling further and further behind. It does require determined and committed effort plus proper investment in digital infrastructure, content and a solid team to manage it all, but this is now a necessity not a luxury.

The numbers

A study looked at a broad cross-section of elements that contribute towards effective communication online. Mobile responsiveness, for example, is essential in today’s online environment. Mobile usage is dramatically increasing, and by not providing users access to your content in a mobile optimised format you’re encouraging them to leave before they’ve even started looking.  Furthermore, the application of a modern and impactful online identity, use of film and inclusion of high-quality ESG related content are other attributes that signify a proactive approach to leveraging an online platform.

So how do things look for Hong Kong? And how do the Hang Seng companies compare to their FTSE counterparts?

Observations

Hang Seng Index Top 50 FTSE Top 50
Websites that aren’t mobile responsive 54% 8%
Websites that don’t have a modern and impactful online identity 82% 38%
Websites that have no film content 50% 25%
Websites not providing any annual report content online (only provided in a PDF download) 94% 66%
Websites missing important investor relations content 96% 44%
Websites providing insufficient or no ESG information at all 48% 8%
Websites missing recruitment information 32% 8%
Websites not leveraging re-marketing tools to track and market to their online audience 82% 60%

The results are clear:

  • Mobile users are hugely underserved. No one wants to be peering at a miniature version of the corporate website on their smartphone.   With global web traffic now over 50% mobile and over 60% in Asia, large audiences are being ignored.
  • Visually compelling experiences are lacking. A good website brings a brand to life and remains one of the most impactful and cost-effective ways to deliver a holistic branding experience.
  • Film content is under-utilised, despite it being a powerful catalyst for engagement and user understanding of content.
  • Investors are being underserved – with missing information and key performance data tucked away in PDFs, the very audience that listed companies rely on the most is being made to work hard to uncover the information they want. Search is therefore not optimised.
  • ESG content is significantly under-represented. Investors are now increasingly influenced by ESG scores with up to 70% requiring a minimum ESG score before they’ll invest – there’s a real business case for making sure this content is front and centre.
  • Some companies are not appealing at all to future talent. The corporate website should be at the heart of a strong recruitment strategy.
  • Opportunities to engage with audiences offsite are being ignored. Re-marketing to audiences, via platforms they already spend time on, can be a valuable tool when there are major company announcements or during times of crisis.

The solution

Getting digital right is not easy, but if a company can identify its shortcomings and has the ambition to improve, then there are five key areas to focus on when designing an effective online experience.

  1. Visual impact – make sure your website delivers the right brand impression. That includes utilising contemporary design methodology, keeping identity consistent across all pages and using high-quality assets.
  2. Content – make sure all suitable audiences are catered for with engaging, regular and informative content. Use design elements, film, graphics and other rich media to enhance and simplify messaging where possible.
  3. User Experience – make content quick and easy to find, make it easy for users to navigate to different sections and make sure mobile users experience a version optimised for small screens.
  4. Connectivity – ensure audiences know where else you exist around the web and use tools to track users so you can go directly to them when needed.
  5. Utility – make sure you’re visible in search engines by getting SEO fundamentals right, that your on-site search works well and ensure accessibility standards are adhered to.

It’s a steep uphill climb from where many Hong Kong Corporates are languishing now, but with real commitment and determination, it’s not that difficult to get back on top.


This article was submitted by Nick Read, a technical project manager at international, creative communications agency MerchantCantos.

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