It’s always interesting to compare two leading companies in a sector and see how they approach their sustainability websites.
There is a “standard” website design which has pretty well been settled on these days (3 columns, head and footer, menu system etc) but the question always remains how to use this to the best advantage.
Barclays and Standard Chartered are two of the best performing banks in the UK, yet their approaches to how to design a sustainability website are radically different. You end up wishing they could have got together and produced one super-duper website, but that’s what competition and market segmentation is all about: being different to your rivals in certain, key areas.
Landing Page Layout
Barclays has eschewed the now traditional 3 column layout but retained a top menu bar for navigating the site and placed the Sustainability section’s menu horizontally below it. Standard Chartered, on the other hand, have retained the 3 column layout, with the top menu bar allowing site wide navigation while the left column provides navigation of the Sustainability section and the right column navigation of the Sustainability Review.
In terms of content, Standard Chartered kicks off with a video of a cosy chat between the Chairman and Chief Executive recorded in 2010. It’s actually rather interesting because they talk much more about the business and sector than they do the environment or citizenship.
Barclays, on the other hand, have opted for a grid of squares, each focusing on one of the section’s areas (e.g. Citizenship, Community Investment, etc) and one square is also set aside for “Most popular”.
I’m a growing fan of this way of presenting subsections because it allows a little bit more information to be given up-front, is easier to take in at a glance than a menu, means you can sneak in other links (as Barclays has cleverly done, for example including “Environment” under “Citizenship”) and — most importantly of all — is easily extensible.
Depth of Content
A growing aspect of sustainability websites is how deep and how relevant the content is. Barclays pages allow you to drill down several layers into ever more focused activities. There is some data provided, for example a breakdown of customer complaints (nice!) and community investment. However most KPIs are only available in PDF form.
Standard Chartered is, on the face of it, a little flatter than Barclays in the depth provided but it has two aspects to its website which Barclays does not.
First of all it includes governance and policy within the Sustainability section, meaning there’s a nice long list of policies, terms of reference etc for people to browse through.
Secondly the Sustainability Review is published online (as well as in PDF format) meaning you can get to those all-important KPIs (and other fiddly bits) without having to fire up a PDF reader.
Widgets and Technology
As is fairly common these days, both sites use Flash in one way or another; however neither seem to have been able to grasp it fully. Barclays have a top bar on the Sustainability landing page which revolves between two reports. It’s neat and slick, but why only two reports? They have plenty more which could be put in there.
Standard Chartered have a very interesting Flash implementation in their Resource Centre, which gives access to various other aspects not found elsewhere (for example, a Microfinance Event Brochure and information on the bank’s HIV/AIDS work). However there’s a form of Flash which my browser doesn’t like .. I come across it very rarely but this is it. Now you can argue that’s my (and my browser’s) problem, and that’s true, but it is also the site’s problem.
Another interesting aspect of the Standard Chartered site is that the online report has various report tools in its right hand column, such as “Add | View Notes”.
Barclays has some interesting multimedia scattered through its site, especially videos of projects in Africa, presentations, ceremonies etc. These could do with being pulled together into one basket. Similarly, I caught a fleeting glimpse of a Facebook group on one page .. that could also do with better promotion.
On the social media note, one of the most interesting things about writing this was that as soon as I mentioned the name Standard Chartered on Twitter (in my “wot I’m doing today” tweet), their Twitter persona immediately started following me. Doubtless automatic, but an interesting observation nevertheless.
Finally, and totally by accident, I discovered Standard Chartered have their own multimedia Web Theatre, which includes a section on sustainability.
So all in all a very interesting pair of websites. Barclays has more in depth content and is generally more informative, while Standard Chartered are pushing the boundaries of what to do online (even if a few ideas seem to be wide of the mark). If they ever managed to produce one site together .. well that would be rather Wow!
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