Last year, the UK's top corporate Web sites were described as "wallowing in mediocrity", with some so wretched that they needed to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch. A year earlier the home pages of the FTSE's top 100 companies were savaged for being "woefully inadequate".
This year, though, there appears to be an improvement, according to the latest study from Web development agency Interactive Bureau.
It's Third Annual Report on The Home Pages of the UK's Top 100 Companies' Corporate Web Sites reveals that things "are getting better", with the overall standard of corporate home pages improving.
It seems more and more, sites are getting the basics right, "basics" such as including links to "News" and "Contact Us" sections, the overall design of home pages, how easy they are to navigate and how quickly they load.
"They are getting to know their audiences and what those audiences want from them, and they are designing sites which cater for them," said report author Adrian Porter.
"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," he said.
That's the good news. For despite the improvements, the study concludes that when it comes to designing and running a corporate home page, a third of sites "still do not get it", with companies showing "little ambition to get it right".
These companies are "consistently poor performers" with an alarming number of them still treating their key audiences - investors and the media - "appallingly", making it difficult to get the information they need.
Said Porter: "Companies cannot expect to create a Web site and leave it to gather dust.
"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," he said.
The top five Home Pages are: (2002 rank)
2. National Grid (1st)
3. Pearson (4th)
4. Standard Chartered (19th)
5. Yell Group (New entrant)
The bottom five are:
97 Next (100th)
98 Provident Financial (New Entrant)
99 Carnival (New Entrant)
100 Foreign & Colonial (New Entrant)
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, price £400 plus VAT. Copies can be ordered online atiablondon.com