Site Development Lags Expectations

NEW YORK Despite increased attention by many companies to their digital presence, a wide-ranging study has found that Web site development is not keeping pace with consumer expectations.

The Web Marketing Association had 300 industry experts examine over 2,400 Web sites, judging each on criteria ranging from design to copywriting to ease of use. As a whole, the resulting Web development index declined 3 percent in 2006 from 2005.

“Judges’ expectations and consumer expectations are outclimbing what Web development has been doing,” said Bill Rice, president of the group, which gives awards for the best Web sites.

One particular area of concern: innovation, which was rated lowest overall of the seven categories judged.

“Innovation is so hard to not only get but to keep,” Rice said. “As soon as you have an innovation, everyone copies you and you’re run of the mill again.”

The top award went to TBS’s Department of Humor Analysis (, a Flash site that combines Web video and viral features to promote the cable network’s comedy programs. Big Spaceship, a Brooklyn-based Web shop, built the site.

Of the 97 industries examined, the airline industry was seen as the most advanced in Web development, which Rice chalks up to the Internet becoming a critical part of its business early. Within the airline industry, American Airlines was cited for its site, created by Interpublic Group’s TM Interactive, which not only lets customers book travel but helps them decide where to go.

Yet financial services, another industry that was an early adopter of the Web as a part of its business model, scored lower in past years. “Overall the industry has sat back and said, ‘We’ve made our investment.'”

IPG’s R/GA was the most lauded agency, taking 19 awards for work done for clients like Nike, Purina and Verizon. Zugara, a Los Angeles independent Web shop, won 18 awards, including work for Reebok and Sony PlayStation.