This is probably the most common question I get asked. And it’s a good question.
Web sites that don’t work are common. And they generally have some easy fixes. In this article I’ll walk you through how I assess a web site in my efforts to:
- find out why it doesn’t work, and
- develop some strategies for fixing it.
My Assessment Of A Web Site
First thing I do is have a chat to the web site owner. It’s important to establish their expectations, how the site has been developed, how much ongoing work has gone into it, how many resources (i.e money) have been allocated to the site, how important the site is to the person’s business, etc.
Then I’ll get down to the nitty gritty and take a look at:
- Is the domain name relevant to the business or product?
- Is it search engine friendly (If the business is selling ipods, you want a name with ipods in it)?
- Is the extension ‘right’? If it’s an Australian company selling to the US market, then the domain name has to a dot com. That is www.name.com. If the domain ends in .com.au sales will, in our experience, suffer hugely as a result.
- Is the domain name short? Shorter the better.
- Is the domain name easy to remember? Avoid confusingly spelt domains.
Then it’s onto the assessment of the web site.
Load Time – critical. Not everyone is on a broadband. Not everyone is on 56k modems. Work to the lowest common denominator and ensure your site loads as quickly as possibly for everyone. Below 12 seconds on a 28k modem would be best.
The ‘Look’ has to be okay – not exactly the most objective statement I know, but your site has to look professional and trustworthy. After looking at web sites 12 hours a day for 7 years, I can usually tell in an instant if the way a site looks is the problem.
Font – is it big enough to read. If your web site is aimed at 60 year+ users, then you need your font to be larger (not evetryone knows they can adjust the text size using their browser)
Background – as a general rule it needs to be white (or very, very pale) with black text.
Animations – the human eye gets distracted by blinking stuff. You can get away with 1 moving object on your web page, 2 asking for trouble and 3 animations is enough to consign your web site to the “Failure’ pile
Navigation – Don’t make me spend 5 minutes figuring out how to navigate your site. I’ll go elsewhere in an instant if it gets tricky.
Fits the screen – no vertical scrolling. People simply like vertical scrolling (probably because they’re not used to it).
Flash – never been a big fan of Flash (a program with which you can do lots of jazzy and arty things). Don’t use Flash on your site unless there is an overwhelmingly good reason to do so reasons: not everyone has Flash, it takes ages to load, not indexed by the search engines…..the list goes on.
Audio – has to be optional. If you welcome your visitor with a bit of music uninvited they’ll generally leave. Many people surf the web at work and don’t want music suddenly blaring out of their speakers. Give them the option to listen.
Pop Ups – tough one. Most web marketers will tell you they are very effective, most web users will tell you they hate them. Don’t overwhelm your visitor with boxes popping up all over the place.
Photos of staff or the office – this is often a good idea. Photos of the staff (or CEO) tends to personalise the site a little and increases the visitors sense of feeling welcome. Having a photo of your office (if you have one) increases the visitors sense of “Okay, this seems to be a solid company.”
Security – this relates to the look of the site before. As I mentioned above, the site has to look good to facilitate the perception of trust and sense of security in delaing with the site. Along with that aspect, a security statement related to how secure your server is, how credit cards are processed, etc is always a good idea. A lot of people will not deal with a web site if it does not reassure them about the security of their personal information.
Privacy – web visitors don’t like to hand over information to just anyone. A privacy statement on your web site reassures the visitor that you will not grab their email address and then spam them for the next 10 years.
Okay, so let’s say all looks good so far. Your site is nice looking, it doesn’t take a day and a half to download onto my screen and it lacks 12 different flashing animations that cause me to have a seizure. But it still doesn’t work. Hmmmmm, could it be because one of the following…
I always tell people a web site has to be 3 things:
The overwhelming thing your web site must have is relevant content. That is, the information on your web site must be relevant for the visitor.
All your visitor wants is information. Lots of information. They want it fast, easy to reach and relevant. It’s that simple. Too much information is barely enough!
Ever-changing – if a visitor happens along your site, takes a look and likes what he sees, chances are he’ll return.
If, on his return, nothing new has been added, chances are he’ll never visit again. And the reason for that is simple: he’s seen what you have to offer – if there’s nothing new, there’s no point in coming back.
Keep adding information that is relevant and interesting to your target market. It’s what they want, so you have to give it to them. Content is King.
If you do have plenty of content and visitors, but no sales… then it might be time to pay some attention to
Then, of course, there is the marketing of the site. It may well be the greatest web site ever developed, but if no one knows about it then you won’t get a visitor.
The big 4 of web site marketing are:
- Search Engines
- Links from other sites
- Print Media
- Word Of Mouth
It’s critical to assess visitor numbers and origin. A decent statistics package is a must for any web site – we use Advance Logger on most of our sites.
Check the statistics on a regular basis to see what’s working and what’s not.
If the site’s not being found via search engines, then do some search engine optimisation work.
If the site’s not being found via links from other sites, then get going organising reciprocal links.
If people aren’t telling others about your site – make it a more compelling site.
If people don’t see your web site when they read anything about your business – Press Release, Business Card, anything – then rectify that.
Okay, so that’s the basics on why your web site might not be working.