FTSE 100’s Woeful Websites

Dec 31, 2001

  • Half of the FTSE-100 companies do not give their share price on their Web sites –
    or they bury it away making it difficult for shareholders to find it

  • A quarter of them fail to explain what they do on the Home Pages of their Web sites

  • A third of them have no facility to search their sites for key information

  • The best corporate Web site Home Page is Six Continents (formerly Bass),
    the hotel, restaurant and pub giant

  • And the worst is Associated British Foods, producers of Twinings Tea and Ryvita

These are the findings of the first-ever Web “Oscars” which rank the UK’s top
100 companies by the quality of the Home Pages of their Web sites.

The research, carried out for Interactive Bureau, one of
the UK’s leading Web strategy and design companies, shows that Britain’s top companies are
“woefully inadequate” when it comes to their Web sites. And many of them treat
their key audience of shareholders appallingly, making it difficult to acquire information they need.

The Interactive Bureau Web “Oscars” reveal that
Tesco hides its financial information away behind a barrage of product information.
Barclays Bank only displays its share price several clicks away from its Home Page. Marks
& Spencer hides its search facility.

Other notable failures include the revelation that one in
ten sites does not even have a clearly-labelled “about us” section on the Home
Page. One in ten have no news, or bury it within the site. Two thirds of the companies,
including Boots and Imperial Tobacco, have no dedicated media area.

Common errors included: ignoring shareholders and other
corporate visitors by making sites entirely product-focused, cumbersome splash pages, slow
loading due to too many graphics and a lack of the necessary navigation buttons.

Often important information and navigation buttons are only
displayed “below the fold” so that users have to scroll down to find them, or
Home pages are set out on pages that don’t even fit widthways onto a standard screen.

All these have the effect of frustrating and annoying
shareholders and damaging perceptions of the company, says the report.

Interactive Bureau commissioned the survey as a
“health check” on the quality of our top corporate Home Pages – the windows
through which the world sees the UK’s major businesses and where vital first impressions
are formed. The “woeful” state of the Home Pages is highlighted in the scoring,
which was against a set of simple criteria. Only 28 companies scored more than 50% and
only three scored more than 75%.

Six Continents’ high score (82.75%) was achieved through
simple and functional design, and all the necessary links displayed in the right place.
Colour coding and instant displays of secondary and tertiary links add to the Page’s
success, as do its loading speed and its recognition of several different audiences.

In second and third place respectively are Kingfisher
(78.75%) and CGNU Life Assurance (76.5%). Associated British Foods’ low score (27.75)
comes because the Home Page displays many of the clangers present in inferior Home Pages.
Second and third worst were Morrison (Supermarkets) with 28.25% and Celltech
(Pharmaceuticals) with 28.5%.

The research was done for IAB by Adrian Porter, the leading
Web site usability expert, who ranked the sites according to four main criteria based on
conventions maintained by respected Web site analysts including Porter Research, Jakob
Nielson and Steve Krug. These include the presence of 10 standard “must haves”
such as news, “contact us” or “about us”; overall design, navigation
and technical performance – speed of loading and cross-browser compatibility.

Some surprising failures to emerge from the survey were
BskyB (“all in all a very frustrating experience for any visitor”, says the
report), United Business Media and EMI, which ranked 87th, 82nd and 89th respectively,
despite communications being their core business. And there was wide variation within
industries. J Sainsbury came fourth, but fellow supermarket chains Tesco came 81st,
Safeway came 90th, and Morrisons 99th. Even the mighty Unilever could only manage 96th
place – (“A case of design at the expense of functionality,” says the report).

Adrian Porter of Porter Research says: “If the people
responsible for these sites behaved as badly towards their shareholders and other
audiences in any other field of their company’s activities, they would be in grave danger of dismissal.

“If they produced Annual Reports, which had no proper
index or where key sections were missing, if they re-designed the corporate headquarters
so that visitors had to wait outside in the rain and watch a display of spinning globes in
the window before they were allowed in – then the wrath of the CEO might well be visited on them.

“As this first annual survey of Home Pages shows, the
problem is that, by and large, our leading companies have not yet begun to come to terms
with the Web as a communications tool. In their excitement to get a Web presence – often
any Web presence – they have forgotten much, if not all, they ever learned about
communication.” Interactive Bureau managing director, Rodney Tyler, warned that a
corporate Home Page is often the first impression a potential employee, shareholder or
client will have of a company, and that first impressions count.

“A Home Page must be warm and welcoming, it must
explain what your enterprise is about and it must convey the values you and your
organisation hold dear. This report shows that, after more than five years of hectic Web
development in the UK, many of our leading companies still have woefully inadequate Web
presences. CEOs may spend millions on corporate re-branding, on having the finest
executive suites and boardrooms, on getting their printed material looking just right, and
on making sure they wear the right clothes and drive the right cars – all the things that
speak to the quality and prestige of their enterprises.

“But, when it comes to the Web many of them seem happy
to accept second best – or worse. The survey is a wake-up call to the UK’s major
corporations and the people they employ to produce their Web sites.” “A Report
On The UK’s Top 100 Companies’ Corporate Home Pages” is available from Interactive
Bureau/Porter Research (0207 490 2080) Price �200.

Information about Interactive Bureau is available at their
Web site, www.iablondon.com.