Study criticises UK banking Web sites

Poor coding and load times are letting down customers using online banking, according to research

Many UK banking Web sites are failing in terms of performance with poor accessibility, HTML coding errors and slow response times greeting visitors, according to a new study.

The best of the 32 sites were Birmingham Midshires and The Co-operative Bank, which topped the table compiled by Web site testing firm Business2www. Propping up the league were the Bank of Ireland, Abbey and Britannia.

Only two sites were error-free -- Birmingham Midshires and Lloyds TSB, while Coventry Building Society had four times more errors than any other site. Examples of errors found in the study include images missing from a page at Barclays' Web site and internal broken links at the HBOS corporate site.

Warning messages are an indicator of poor HTML coding and the site with the lowest number of warnings was Co-operative Bank with 87. AIB had the highest number of warnings with more than 41,000, followed by Halifax with over 16,000.

Only eight sites passed the basic speed test for the front page using a modem, ADSL connection and a network-based user. The site with the fastest overall server response time was HFC Bank with an average page response of 0.02 seconds, compared to Yorkshire Bank, which was slowest at 21 seconds per page.

The sites were also tested against the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines, which aim to ensure people with disabilities are not prevented from accessing information on the Web site -- though this score was not factored into the overall results.

Britannia had no pages that were WAI-compliant and 10 sites scored less than 5 percent compliance. Eight achieved greater than 90 percent with Royal Bank of Scotland coming top.

A similar survey carried out by the company last month found many public sector sites were flouting the government's own guidelines.