Millions of people visit Yahoo every day, but a recent survey of useful Web site content has put the world's most popular portal near the bottom of the list.
Surprisingly it's down there along with other Internet specialists WebTV, Pointcast and Marimba. Up at the top are Autodesk, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, 3Com and Quantum.
In a study of 50 of Silicon Valley's technology companies and management consulting firm, Shelley Taylor & Associates, notes that few IT web sites use available navigational aids or provide sufficient content.
The survey was the firm's second in-depth look at major corporations on the Internet. The initial report evaluated 100 of the world's largest corporations.
The report demonstrates that web sites mirror and amplify a firm?s integrity. ?Any corporate dysfunction is broadcast to all who visit the site," said Shelley Taylor, author of the study.
She explained that companies which ranked the highest in the study - Autodesk, Sun and Cisco - reflect a high degree of cross-functional integration which is visible in their web sites.
"All three provide comprehensive content to key stakeholders and navigation which enables them to find this information,? she said.
Its findings point out that only 58 per cent of the firms provide information about how to buy products. Only 32 per cent permit sales online and 18 per cent enable customers to read terms and conditions before buying.
Nearly half of the companies do not provide a link for investors on their home pages. And although the competition for employees in the Valley is legendary, 25 per cent of the firms surveyed have no job links on their home page. A further 46 per cent do not make online application available.
Of the firms that do post job listings, 84 per cent fail to state when the listing was posted. "You may be looking at something that's two years old," Taylor added.
Taylor's first study of corporate web site performance found that "information is much more difficult to find on technology company sites than on others."
The 50 company web sites analysed represent the software (14 companies), semiconductor (10), semiconductor equipment (5), computer and computer equipment (9), Internet (7) and communication equipment (5) industries.
Investors are the most ignored audience. Forty eight per cent of sites do not provide an "Investor" link on their home page, and 70 per cent omit the name of the investor relations contact. This is in contrast to sites of major multinationals.
However the report notes Oracle's site having the best investor pages, while Sun is praised for its customer content.
The study also points out that only four companies gave customer contact details, although ten provide some form of online communication with marketing staff.
"The research highlights the huge lag between the potential offered by this new media and the ability of companies to exploit it. With few exceptions, corporate executives, whether due to lack of insight or information, have failed to respond to the opportunities presented by the Internet," Taylor said.
One of the exceptions is Cisco which made $1.4 billion worth of sales online in the last quarter. Usage rates grew from approximately 5,000 logins per month in 1993, to more than 900,000 per month in 1998.
3Com, whose Internet online sales don't quite match Cisco's, plans to do more and more business on line as the new year approaches. "We have a team, a Web organization split between different groups, who are responsible for the navigation, the home page and the look and feel of the site," said Linda Webb, 3Com's Internet Marketing Services production manager.
One of the companies Taylor singled out for criticism was a Microsoft's subsidiary, WebTV Networks. "It's not clear from the home page what it is that you could buy as a customer," she said. "There's a link that says, ?tune in to WebTV?, but I did struggle with it for a bit."
And what was the reaction at Yahoo. According to Karen Edwards, vice president of brand marketing, she was not surprised. "We try to keep our Web site simple but there's so much going on on the Internet."
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