The Web sites of some of Australia’s largest organisations have been given a poor report card from the world’s leading online usability think tank.

Headed by Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman group recently staged a conference in Sydney. Disappointed in the bulk of Australia’s Internet efforts, the group was quick to point out popular Web sites as examples of bad Web usability.

Topping the list of sites with poor Web usability, according to the company, was the Australian Government Services Web site , which was reported as a site that lacks integration, has hidden critical information, poor search, inconsistent look and feel, and logo problems, just to name a few.

Next on Nielsen’s hitlist was the redesign of the Coles Web site. According to the group, Coles fixed only part of its previous site problems while creating even more issues in Web usability. The think tank were quick to point out that this was a prime example of a company making quick – rather than thoughtful – changes to its site, and suggested this lack of strategic planning will have future repercussions for Coles.

The NRMA (National Roads and Motorists’ Association) scored a mixed result, rated as being simple and clean. However, finding information about roadside assistance, for which NRMA is most noted, is not easy to find and colour contrast was found to be problematic for seniors and other visitors with low vision, according to Nielsen.

Nielsen Norman claimed it was being harsh but fair when assessing the award-winning Sydney Opera House Web site saying that “it has a few usability problems that make the site visit less than optimal”.

The only site to receive good marks was the joint-venture between Microsoft and Australian Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL), the Ninemsn Web site, although it finished a distant second compared to its parent site, MSN.

What do you think of Web usability in Australia? Do you think that we are behind the rest of the world when it comes to this fundamental element of Web development? E-mail us at ZDNet Australia and tell us what you think.