How to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Your Web Site ?
Most businesses today have a web site. Once that web site has been up and active for a while, they often wonder whether their site is as effective as it might be. We work with a number of clients to help develop, position, evaluate and improve their web sites from a content standpoint (we’re not web developers, but we work with web developers on behalf of our clients).
Recently we added a new service for clients that includes an evaluation of their sites compared to their top identified competitors and the current key words that they are using to optimize their sites. It’s proven to be very useful for our clients and, actually, a lot of fun for us as we compare web sites across various service categories, research key word effectiveness and think strategically about ways that sites may be improved to boost results.
The development of a web site is difficult sometimes for organizations, regardless of how large they are or how much experience they may have. While web sites offer the opportunity to share a wide range of inter-related and inter-connected information and to link to other communication tools, like social media sites, that ability creates added complexity. If that complexity is not navigated well, the result can be confusion for visitors to the site.
We take a very pragmatic approach to the evaluation of the sites we review. We start with some analysis of search results for the clients’ key words based on their search results compared to their competitors. We then review and analyze potential new key words that might provide better results. We look at competitors’ sites to see how they are positioning their services and to identify any potential best practices or gaps in their strategies.
Then we turn our eyes to our client’s site. Here’s what we look for:
- Home page: Is it informative? Is there a clear sense of intended audience? Does it set the stage for visitors and support the brand?
- Navigation: Is the navigation intuitive from a user standpoint? Does it provide ease of use? Is it consistent from page to page?
- Site organization: Is the site organized intuitively from a user standpoint? Is it easy to understand? Is there a consistent look and feel to the site?
- Links and labels: Are labels on section headers and content groupings easy to understand? Are links easy to distinguish from each other? Are they informative (e.g. no “click here”)?
- Search and search results: Is there a search engine: Is the search engine easy to use? Are there basic and advanced search functions? Are results organized and easy to understand? Do they give relevance weightings or provide context?
- Readability: Is the font easy to read? Are line lengths acceptable? Is the site easy to scan, with chunked information, or is it just solid blocks of text?
- Performance: Do pages load slowly or quickly? Are graphics and applications like search and multi-media presentations optimized for easy Web reading?
- Content: Is there sufficient depth and breadth of content offerings? Does the content seem to match the mission of the organization and the needs of the audience? Is language clear and conversational?
We also look at interactivity – e.g. use of video, social media connections – and SEO; how does the site compare to identified competitors based on the keywords being used?
As with any other type of communication tool, at the outset, when you’re considering the development of a new site, or a revision of an existing site, it’s critically important to have a very clear idea of their audience and their intended outcomes:
- What are you hoping to achieve with their web site? e.g. build awareness, develop themselves as a thought leader, generate prospects, generate sales, etc.?
- Who is your audience and how is your audience likely to approach a site seeking the type of product/service/information they have to offer?
- What are the key words or phrases that your audience is likely to use when searching for someone like you?
- How have your competitors positioned themselves relative and what key word are they using?
The beauty of web site design is that you can provide high level summaries as well as drill-down detail to meet the needs of audiences at various stages of interest level. It’s important, though, to recognize that the web site may be your only chance to engage with the audience so you need to ensure that you are providing information that can answer their most critical questions about you or your products and services.
Not necessarily easy work, but important work. We like to think of it as “complex simplicity.” If you’re at a point where you’re asking yourself: “Is my web site getting the results I’d hoped for?,” consider conducting an analysis like the one outlined above. We can help.