European websites rule OK

Our economy might be going to hell in a handcart, but us Europeans still know how to make the best websites...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to an effectiveness index of 75 corporate websites, compiled by consultant Bowen Craggs (in association with the FT), eight out of the top ten corporate websites are European. Only two US companies (IBM and Coca-Cola) make it into the top 10, while the new economic superpowers of China and Russia languish in the relegation positions. Reassuring to know we’re still good at something.

Top of the pile – by a considerable margin and for the second successive year – was the slick offering from German technology company Siemens, while oil giants BP and Shell occupied the silver and bronze medal positions respectively. Other European high achievers were Nokia in 4th, Unilever in 6th, E.ON and UBS in joint 7th (pity their website wasn’t more effective at avoiding that $37bn loss), and Dutch bank ING in 9th. IBM in 5th and Coke in 10th were the only companies from across the Atlantic to break the Euro-dominance.

And although Chinese, Indian and Russian firms might turn out to be the economic superpowers of the future, they clearly haven’t got round to sorting their website out yet, if Bowen Craggs is to be believed. The highest-placed Chinese group was ICBC in joint 48th, while the four Russian firms in the list are all in the bottom ten and India doesn’t even feature. Even Japan, with its history of technological innovation, fares pretty dismally – apparently only Canon (in 39th place) is showing any signs of improvement.

Of course reviews like this are always going to be essentially subjective. Bowen Craggs says it takes an overall view – so rather than doing this as a box-ticking exercise, its analysts make ‘expert judgements at every stage’. So other than talking about the service a site provides to users (including society, investors, media and so on) and emphasising the benefits of multimedia and video, it’s hard for them to quantify exactly what makes a great website – at least in a way that effectively bridges cultural differences. So perhaps these Chinese and Russian companies can point to that as a reason for their under-performance.

What’s more, it’s not as if a re-launch will automatically solve all their problems – the study found that in many cases an expensive re-design didn’t actually make a corporate site any more effective than before. But as these companies start to operate on an increasingly global scale, it’s not something they can afford to ignore…

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