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A row has broken out over claims that the Web sites of many of the UK's top companies are 'wallowing in mediocrity'.

The report by the Interactive Bureau published last week found that while the overall standard of the FTSE-100's Web sites had risen since last year, more than half the sites still have problems that need resolving.

Sixteen sites are so bad the report's authors claim they need to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch.

But the research has been dismissed by new media consultancy, The Usability Company, describing Interactive Bureau's research as "questionable".

Marty Carol of The Usability Company claims the Interactive Bureau research judges Web sites on whether they possessed certain features, such as whether the Web site has a search facility on the homepage.

Yet, this "one-size-fits-all" approach to the evaluation of the Web sites is misleading since it fails to take into account the actual usefulness of individual Web sites.

Said Mr Carol: "The Usability Company has worked on some of the sites assessed and can say, without ambiguity, that some of those ranked lower in the report are more usable than those at the higher end.

"It appears the methodology for this report did not include testing with real users. We would anticipate that some of the companies that were ranked low in the report would be dismayed at the results and rightly so."

The author of the Interactive Bureau research, Adrian Porter, dismissed the criticism, insisting that the research was valid since it pointed out some basic issues, such as browser compatibility.

He said first impressions were important and that if corporate homepages weren't up to scratch then it delivered a negative image of the company. ®

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