But the return on investment from websites is impossible to calculate, making it very difficult for companies to direct their spending in the most effective way. The FT Bowen Craggs Index, published this week, attempts to judge whether a web estate is as good as it can be - whether it is doing all the things it could be doing, as well as it can do them.
It ranks the websites of 60 of the world's largest companies, based on how well they serve that company's various constituents, which are defined as jobseekers, society, investors, the media and customers. It then aggregates these scores to assess the overall performance of these websites.
David Bowen, a columnist for ft.com and a consultant with Bowen Craggs and Co, which compiled the index, says that there are three main factors that go into creating a ‘top class corporate presence'. He says: "First, you can move easily around easily without losing your bearings. This is a sign both of good construction and good governance -- that is, the web presence is run according to well-observed rules and processes.
Secondly, the best sites "do all the jobs they could be doing", according to Bowen. "They offer a high quality service to all stakeholders: people looking for jobs, customers, journalists, investors and the important social responsibility lobby," he says. "They even take care to offer good contact points - an element we include separately because it is often the most important role a site plays."
And finally, they make the best use of web technology. "With broadband spreading, video, podcasts and the like make increasing sense, though imaginative use of less bandwidth-hungry tools can be at least as valuable," he says.
The top ten sites in order are:
2. Royal Dutch Shell
10. General Electric
For more detailed results, go to http://www.bowencraggs.com/ftindex/indices
FT Digital Business
Review: Nick Loney