It’s a common question, and sometimes I wonder if there’s an easy way to explain the (at least) 10 different disciplines needed for a true website evaluation. There are agencies that will do it for you, of course, but unless you’re a fortune 100 + company with a marketing department, sales force and, yes, IT department with a big budget, it’s not an easy task.
If you have a small business, that’s a tall order because you don’t have the time or the budget, nor do you know the fundamental basics of website evaluation – or maybe you do. Either way, it’s something you can learn through trial and error, or by reading on trustworthy blogs.
From the consumer viewpoint, does the information you give on your site affect their attitude? It’d be interesting to know. Basically, are they using your call to action? Are they downloading your eBooks? Are they horrified when they land on your homepage?
If they have to go digging to find information important to them, rest assured you’re already failing. If you can give them a reason to stay, at the very least, however… For example, if you have a business-to-business site, are you giving them valuable information they can only get from you? If so, then you have some kudos going for you.
You have to think like your consumer. You have to imagine how they got to your site. Once there, are they engaged? Are you giving them a reason to stay for more than a few seconds? Could you add anything to get them more engaged, like recommendations, satisfaction surveys and other information?
A site evaluation always starts with first impressions, as if you were the casual (or not so casual) visitor. When you open your site, you have to act as if you’ve never seen it before. This is easy for us, because we haven’t. For you – not so much.
Things to look at:
- Navigation – Is it easy to find things? Create a list of questions based on what you think visitors might come to your site for. How easy is it to find your answers?
- Content – Is the content engaging? Does it grab your attention with clean “draw the eye” layouts, such as bullets and paragraph headings? Would it keep your readers satisfied?
- Attractors – What are you using to get them to your site? Link building, guest posting, social networks, etc. Hint – don’t rely on search engines alone.
- Findability – What do you look like in relation to your competition? Where do you fall in the SERPs?
- Making Contact – This is very important, especially if you have an eCommerce site. Do you give your readers a way to contact you? Make sure you have things in place to remember the buying preferences of your users.
- Browser Compatibility – Does your site look the same across multiple browsers? As a sampling, you have Internet Explorer 6 – 9, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera. Is your site skewed when you navigate through the different browsers? If you don’t know, you’d better start looking.
- Code Difficulties – Do you have a lot of errors in your code? These could seriously slow down your site. Having unbroken code may not help your ranking, but it can help your user experience.
- User Satisfaction – Are your visitors engaging with you? This could be through blog commenting, Twitter, Facebook – any connections. Mashable does a great job of getting people to engage. Some may think Mashable is on overkill, but with millions of hits a day, they’re doing something right.
Useful Tip: Partner with like-minded services. Don’t be afraid of competition. With 1.9 billion users on the World Wide Web, there’s enough to go around.
Once you find out the answers to the above, you have to also evaluate content. This is extremely important, because content makes the Internet world go ‘round. Here are a few things to look at and use as sound benchmarks:
- Accuracy – How accurate is the information on each page? Why was the page written? If it wasn’t written by you, can you contact the author and verify the accuracy?
- Authority – Who published the page, if it wasn’t you? Are the person’s qualifications listed?
- Objectivity – What are the goals/objectives of the page? Does the page’s content meet these goals/objectives? What opinions are expressed, and are they pointed out to be opinions? Look at the page as an infomercial – whom was it written for and why?
- Currency – How current is the page? Has it been updated to meet current information? If there are links on the page, are they current and unbroken?
- Coverage – If there are links on the page, are they relevant to the page’s information? If special software is need to view some of the page, how much is being missed if you don’t have the software? Is there a balance between the number of images and the written content? Are the citations correct?
Although other areas are included in a website evaluation, such as design, the above are major areas that can affect your conversion/engagement/attraction rates. By looking at these areas, you can get a strong idea of what needs to be changed, tweaked and improved upon. Pick an area to get started on and test, test, test!
Great piece! I would add one point to your content evaluation (which I know you and Jahnelle stress… but I think is important to mention) is grammar, spelling and punctuation. It drives me up a wall to see sites with a ton of errors… just destroys their credibility, IMO.