A new website assessment service launched by Accenture could help businesses get more bang out of the bucks they invest in their consumer sites.

The Accenture Web Evaluator assesses how well companies use their websites to support their brand, attract customers, deliver services and generate sales, Accenture said.

To determine what makes a website effective, consultants in the Accenture Marketing Sciences unit evaluated 260 sites of the world's most prominent consumer brands and established benchmarks based on the top five, which they determined to be nike.com, ford.com, google.com, adidas.com and microsoft.com

These sites, according to Accenture, successfully use a number of techniques to attract viewers and generate business. The techniques include providing detailed, useful information in interesting formats, establishing customer relationships through interactive dialogs and using promotions to encourage return visits by current and existing customers.

The website assessment service evaluates several key factors such as search and navigation, information, relationship building, branding, e-commerce and globalisation.

Nike's site won top grades for customer relationship building, among others. Accenture said the site innovatively engages consumers, for instance by allowing them to design their own sneakers.

The Ford site scored high for its in-depth product information. Users can enter a virtual showroom where they can access interactive product information, and can also locate dealers and learn about financing options.

Accenture Marketing Sciences provides media auditing, benchmarking and related consulting services aimed at helping businesses manage their marketing and media efforts more effectively.