European companies have the best websites, taking eight of the 10 top positions, according to the FT Bowen Craggs Index of corporate websites effectiveness. These include Siemens, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Nokia, Unliever, E.ON, UBS and ING.
The second annual index claims to take an overall view to assess how effectively the site serves various communities, namely the general public, investors, the media, job seekers and customers.
Independent website benchmarking firm said the top ranking European companies all "decided a few years ago to take the web seriously and are now offering an excellent service which they are constantly refining".
The study also concluded that "too many" US sites suffer from poor governance, "which leads to a strange mix of good content and terrible functionality." Bowen Craggs detailed some examples.
"Verizon Communications is in the top pack in the investor and media metrics, but is worst bar none on construction; Google should know better than to let its decentralised philosophy play havoc with its web presence. While the site (we looked mainly at the ‘About Google’ areas) scores well because the content is generally excellent, it is seriously uncoordinated."
Through the study, Bowen Craggs detailed some trends around multimedia convergence, the use of blogs and other web 2.0 development efforts.
"Developments under the label ‘web 2.0’ are hard to spot, though many are happening away from the corporate site," said the consultants. "What we are seeing is the use of blogs to provide a chatty alternative to formal content. Most are found on IT sites and in careers areas, though Wal-Mart’s frank Check Out, a blog by its buyers, is an intriguing sign of openness."
What's more, those companies that have invested effort into developing their websites years ago have had their efforts rewarded. "The top-ranking sites built a solid platform some time ago and are busy polishing it. Siemens has added a fancy new home page, but has otherwise left a solid and rational web presence intact. Shell has concentrated on bringing a great estate of country and business sites into a smoothly coordinated whole. Likewise, Unilever has been rolling out carefully localised country sites for the past two years."