27/09/2017

Works in progress: A report on the effectiveness of corporate websites in the construction and engineering sector

BY Clare Bennett

Companies in the construction and engineering sector are already under huge pressure from changes in contracting, technology and compliance. There are small signs of optimism (a boom in August in London, for example), but many commentators believe the sector is on the brink of recession. For these companies, being clear about who they are and where they are heading on their corporate website matters more than ever.

Methodology

Our benchmark, based on criteria we specifically designed, comprised 10 companies of various sizes across the globe involved in different aspects of the industry.

We focused on three key areas that we identified as being important, in our experience, to meeting stakeholder communication demands, as well as being useful in building a company’s reputation.

Stakeholder engagement

We looked at how well these companies are serving their stakeholder needs, alongside evidence of investment in infrastructure and technology and collaboration with partners and suppliers. Criteria we used to assess effectiveness included evidence of brand story, values and purpose and the future strategy of the business.

Content experience

We looked at the general presentation of content and the experience for all corporate stakeholders. Judging criteria included design, imagery, interactivity, signposting and structure.

Sustainability and governance

We looked for evidence in operational setup, of business impact and how labour relations are managed. Judging criteria included health and safety, green building techniques and reporting.

We used this methodology to compare and contrast corporate websites and describe some of the things that they do well and not so well.

The results

Overall, we judged that construction and engineering companies are telling their story effectively, with 70% using values, ethos, history and their ‘people’ as tools for creating a more immersive experience.

Stories and values are highly visible on these sites, with many claiming that sustainability is core to their operations. There is some evidence of tone of voice delivered in words and imagery in order to enhance messaging and add depth.

Perspectives on the future, and on the impact of innovation and technology are presented on only 60% of sites – and with mixed success. Often, for example, this content is hidden within the Sustainability section, with only a scant mention of BIM technology (Building Information Modelling).

Many of the sites we looked at are dense, with labelling and navigational systems confusing the user-journey and obscuring content. Those with more contemporary designs, still failed to provide the right balance between telling the company story, creating content engagement and delivering a good user experience; with dead ends, error pages or just missing content.

Calls to action and related content help to move users through the site, however, they are not always used to best effect; linking users to content already promoted elsewhere and usually channelling users to more static content.

Whilst sustainability is covered by 80% of the sites, we found content depth and features varied dramatically, and that often governance was covered only loosely.

Health and Safety is the number one priority for the sector, yet we found the content presented on the subject across the sites inadequate. The same goes for Labour relations with some companies only providing a link to their policy.

Overall, we found that only a few companies, mainly the larger ones, provide more curated and useful content for different stakeholders, but they still fall short of utilising digital design and content to effectively bring their site to life and make it easy to navigate.

As the spectre of recession looms, it seems that now is a good time for construction and engineering companies to explore how they can deliver more effective stories and content tailored to key audiences.

For a presentation of the findings – and our recommendations – email Clare Bennett, Digital Strategy Director at clare@gather.london or call 020 7610 6140