Standard introduced for best practice web sites

Standard introduced for best practice web sites

BSI benchmark will govern appearance, usability and technical standards

The British Standards Institute (BSI) is to develop a benchmark for company web sites.

The standard – known as a publicly-available specification (PAS) - will govern the appearance, usability, and technical standards of web sites, as well as search engine optimisation, the process of trying to influence how high up a search page a web site appears.

The move will allow companies to have a best practice guide for their web sites, said Mike Low, director of BSI British Standards.

"The PAS will enable organisations and their suppliers to better understand the need for web standards and consequently provide more structured web solutions," he said.

Web sites are increasingly the first point of contact between a business and a customer.

Research by vendor 1&1 Internet found that eight out of 10 users form a negative impression of a business based on a bad web site, and that one in four dislike domain names that are difficult to remember.

Common problems for users include poor text legibility and bad functionality as well as imagery and layouts that don't reflect offline branding.

The BSI standard aims to encourage organisations to improve web site performance and protect the integrity of their brand online.

The development of the brand is being supported by a number of high-profile organisations, including Shell and Unilever.

Many high-profile companies do not focus enough on their web-sites, said Simon Saville, head of web communications at Shell.

"More and more people are going to the web as their first point of contact with a company – and there's a lot of bad practice out there, even amongst high-profile companies," he said.

Companies often spend a lot of money on setting up a web site initially, but are let down by poor maintenance, according to analyst Forrester Research.

"Companies should conduct quarterly reviews to make sure that the site stays on-brand as updates occur and positioning shifts over time," says a Forrester report.

The specification will be developed using a two-stage stakeholder consultation, with a view to being available in early 2008.

A BSI steering group of independent stakeholders representing a cross-section of the industry will review and provide feedback on the best practice specification.

The BSI has been commissioned to develop the standard by web content vendor Magus.