March 6, 2007, 12:00 AM

Online retailers follow airlines in best web sites, new study says

Although retailers represent four out of the top five industry categories in terms of leading web site development, airlines are flying ahead of all, says a new report.

Although retailers represent four out of the top five industry categories in terms of leading web site development, airlines are flying ahead of all, says a new report from the Web Marketing Association.

The association’s Internet Standards Assessment Report, which benchmarks web site development across multiple industries, says airlines topped all industries in 2006, followed by computer retailers, online game retailers, toy-and-hobby merchants and food retailers.

The report scores each reviewed site from 0 to 70 based on seven criteria: site design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use.

The report also produces an index to show the ongoing average score of all sites that the association has reviewed since 1997. The index dipped in 2006 to 50.7, down 3% from 52.2 in 2005.

The association attributes the decline in the index to rising consumer expectations regarding the online shopping experience. "Web standards are not falling,” says association president William Rice. “We believe that consumer expectations, as reflected in the judges` scores, indicate that web sites have to work harder at creating a total user experience that both informs and entertains the visitors who reach their sites."

Ironically, the report says that Internet service providers are among the worst in site development, along with financial brokerages and credit unions.

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