FTSE-100's Web sites getting better, but a third of them still don't get it
04 Jan 2004
We highlight the findings of the third annual Web "Oscars", which ranks the UKs top 100 companies by the quality of the Home Pages of their corporate Web sites.
These are the findings of the third annual Web "Oscars", which ranks the UK's top 100 companies by the quality of the Home Pages of their corporate Web sites.
This third year of research, carried out for Interactive Bureau, one of the UK's leading Web strategy and design companies, shows that, despite an overall improvement, around a third of Britain's top companies have been consistently poor performers, over a number of years, and appear "not to get it" when it comes to their corporate Web sites.
An alarming number of them still treat their key audiences - investors and the media - appallingly, making it difficult to get the information they need. 35% still do not provide a section which meets the fundamental requirements of the media from their Home Pages. A fifth still do not give their share price, or bury it away - and five percent either have no dedicated investor area, or bury it away as well.
Thirty-five companies now rate in the "good" or "very good" categories for their Home Pages - against twenty-eight last year.
According to the report "the benefits of the cumulative data are beginning to shed some light onto the companies that are taking the Internet seriously and those that are not".
Adrian Porter the report's author commented that "The report shows that the Internet, and its associated Web sites, is an organic medium. Companies cannot expect to create a Web site and leave it to gather dust. Those that do, fall by the wayside and this report identifies those companies".
The report says that "redesigning a site is not necessarily a guarantee of success, however it is noticeable that out of the 20 top ranked companies in this year's report, only one has not been redesigned in the last two years (J Sainsbury) and one other is a new entrant into the UK's top 100 companies (Yell).
"Of the bottom 30 ranked sites, 10 have not been redesigned in the last three years, and four are new entrants. So perhaps it is time to list the names of those companies who do not appear to have any ambition for their Web sites, since these are the ones which have been falling down the rankings for the last three years, as their peers have got steadily better.
However, four of last year's bottom five performers have re-designed their sites and have improved. They are Man EDF Group (96th - 70th), Severn Trent (97th - 54th), Schroders (98th - 30th), and Alliance Unichem (99th - 25th)
"We believe these results show that the criteria Porter Research is judging these sites by are correct and that our report is becoming an important benchmark for these companies", says Mark Everest, Project Director of Interactive Bureau, who commissions the annual survey.
He notes that "it is interesting that three of this year's bottom five sites are new entrants into the FTSE 100, which suggests that they are less aware of the expectations put on their corporate Web sites when they enter into the top division. But also, that those at the top of the list have concentrated on and got the basics of a good site right. We know many of them have purchased the report in previous years and have clearly taken action and improved their Web presence accordingly."
The report also identifies thirty companies which have never got into the top half of the rankings, including BSkyB, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Dixons and Tesco.
On these Porter says: "Many of these sites have deliberately consumer-focused Home Pages, which neglect to accommodate their corporate audiences. While we can understand this consumer-bias, when you see the Home Pages of companies like Shell, Aviva, J Sainsbury and Vodafone it is evident that it is possible to create a page, which appeals to, and caters for, both corporate and consumer audiences."
"This year's report shows that there is a nucleus of companies which treat their corporate audiences as secondary. It would appear that these companies do not really care how the corporate world sees them, or the impression they are creating of themselves by continually presenting important site visitors such as the media, investors, potential investors and their brightest potential employees with inefficient, poorly created Home Pages."
Interactive Bureau commissioned the report from Porter Research, the leading Web usability experts, which ranked the corporate Home Pages according to four main criteria - based on established conventions.
These were eleven standard elements - "must haves" like News and Contact Us, which you would expect to find on the Home Pages of corporate sites - overall design, navigation and technical performance - speed of loading and cross browser compatibility.
Adrian Porter of Porter Research said: "This is very much a report with two stories. Firstly, and most positive, is the overall improvement of these sites. We noticed more and more sites are getting the basics right. They are getting to know their audiences and what those audiences want from them, and they are designing sites which cater for them. In particular we noted that in design terms simplicity is becoming more popular at the expense of over elaboration. This is probably as a result of a need for less high maintenance and more accessible sites, but it also makes sites more able to react in a timely fashion to news and events, and be generally proactive in their offerings.
"Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, we commented last year that the majority of sites were 'wallowing in mediocrity', but this year we have been able to clearly identify the sites that are dragging the rest down, the ones that have always been mediocre. They are not always the worst, but they are the ones that seem to lack ambition - the sites of companies that really still don't get it."
He added: "Nevertheless it still amazes me that some of these companies' Home Pages do not even offer links to basic corporate information, and, or contain everyday pre-requisites."
The reports says "it is still astounding that 20% of these companies do not offer visitors even a link to their share price information from their Home Pages. Notably among these are; BP, WPP, Vodafone, Rolls-Royce and Diageo.
"21% do not offer a link to a recruitment section
"6 sites do not offer a link to contact information from their Home Pages HSBC, Rentokil, Royal Bank of Scotland and Dixons, Morrison and Johnson Matthey
"19% did not offer visitors a brief explanation of their mission, or activities from their Home Pages.
"We believe this to be one of the most fundamental elements of any Web site and are therefore surprised by the omission of this information by 19 percent of sites. As with last year most of these are household names, such as Rolls-Royce, J Sainsbury, and Barclays, companies which we presume wrongly believe it is unnecessary for them to provide this kind of information. However, for those companies who are perhaps less well know, such as Carnival, Xstrata and Liberty International, we believe that this omission is even more inexcusable.
"75% of companies offered a link to Corporate Social Responsibility sections from their Home Pages. However, we were still surprised that companies such as Cable & Wireless, MMO2 and Rolls-Royce did not offer a link to this information.
Overall the average score went up from 52% last year to 55% this year.
The top five Home Pages are: (2002 rank and score)
1) Shell 81.75% (31st 57.5% last year)
The bottom five are:
96 Reed Elsevier 29.5% (93rd 32.5%)
The report: "The Third Annual Report on The Home Pages of the UK's Top 100 Companies' Corporate Web Sites" is published by Interactive Bureau Limited, on Monday January 5, 2003 Price £400 plus VAT. Copies can be ordered online at http://www.iablondon.com or from Interactive Bureau, at 9 White Lion Street, London N1 9PD. T: 020 7278 4352