It may not be on any anyone's Top Ten list, but www.ici.com is worth a quick visit anyway, since this edifice of the former behemoth Imperial Chemical Industries plc illustrates both what's better and worse about today's 'corporate' web sites.
We're not talking about those hardworking, vital, business-to-business extranets that sustain the bulk of net traffic and yet remain hidden from consumers by their passwords and firewalls. We're talking instead about that vast eerie necropolis of web sites that corporations large and small erect for admiration by some imagined global public - which usually boils down to their investors, critics, and the press.
True to form, ICI's public site is as glossy as an annual report - uncluttered design, clear navigation and a judicious use of decorative, if uninformative, graphics that download quickly (thank you). As for content, it offers boilerplate sanitised by the PR flacks: burnished financials, cheery environmental reports, global address directories, and inevitable editorial features ('Q2 Results - Solid Progress, Says Chairman'). Fair enough. But nothing here reveals the inner life of the company, its vision or mission, or inspires readers to explore it further - which seems a lost opportunity. Why do so many companies build sites like this, generic by design and interchangeable?