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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who Says Fund Web Sites are Average?

Reported by Erin Kello

Mutual fund Web sites are merely average. While that news may disappoint fund marketers who have spent millions developing their sites, it comes from a reliable source -- The Web Marketing Association's 2006 Internet Standards Assessment Report (ISAR).

While you may not have heard of the ISAR, its author most certainly knows the fund industry. Over the years William Rice, the WMA's president, has worked in marketing and public relations with the industry's big dogs, including Fidelity Investments, Liberty Funds, Colonial Funds (also now part of BofA), and Smith Barney.

That experience means that Rice should know what makes a good fund website. At Liberty Funds he was in charge of the second mutual fund site to ever be put on the internet. Fidelity beat them out by only a week to have the first site.

ISAR relies on far more than judgment and experience to find the most user-friendly sites. The study measures a variety of features to arrive at an overall score on a scale of 1 to 10. On that scale, mutual fund sites are exactly average. The overall ISAR index average was 7.24 out of a possible 10 and the mutual fund category received a 7.24 on the dot. The highest scoring industries included those associated with Web sales (airlines, technology sites and gaming sites). Brokerage firms were among the low scorers.

The criteria used to identify the best of the best are design, ease of use, innovation, use of technology, copy-writing, interactivity, and content. Funds scored highest in the categories of content and ease of use, with the scores of 8 and 7.8 respectively. Of course one could argue that these are indeed the most important categories. Cohen & Steers is the winner for best overall website.

The fund category encompasses sites for load and no-load funds. Rice explained that "the rankings for each individual site was based on who the audience was", be that of financial advisors or retail investors. He also told MFWire that "due to the multiple classes of shares there are not really many no-load funds left."

If you have a fund site and want to prove its not just average fare, Web Marketing is now accepting entries for the 2007 rankings. To enter your spectacular site click here

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