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Avoid the “launch it and leave it” trap

Many businesses have a “launch it and leave it” attitude when it comes to getting the most from their website. This approach generally results in websites that offer no return on the initial investment and end up being a great big waste of everybody’s time. To get the most from your site you need an ongoing strategy. Here’s a few places to start:

Look at how your site performs in each of these categories and give it a score out of 10. It might be useful to get your customers or someone else outside the business to do this too.

  1. Is it clear who and what the site is for?
  2. Is the site easy to navigate?
  3. Is content up to date?
  4. Are actions on the site predictable (e.g. do buttons send me to where they should?)
  5. Are all images and graphics relevant?
  6. Is the site enjoyable to use?
  7. Is the site consistent?
  8. Is text legible and easy to read?

Do the same for your competitors. What areas do they outperform you? What areas do you need to improve? Is there something not on this list that gives your competitors the edge?

This exercise acts as a quick health check to help you gauge how well you do the simple things.

If you want to improve your website’s results, it’s a good idea to first record how your site is currently performing. That way you can judge what effect any changes have had.

If the main goal of your website is to sell products, how much of each are you selling online each month? If you are trying to build your brand through blog posts, how many views and comments are you receiving per article?

Use an analytics package like Google to help you here. If your contact page gets 100 unique visits in a month and you are getting 10 new customer enquiries, try and think about where the other 90 visitors are going. Perhaps they are existing customers just looking for your phone number, maybe the enquiry form is too long and people abandon it half way through. Think about practical things that you can do to improve this conversion rate.

Now, set a goal for what you would like to achieve over the next month. Be realistic and start small.

You can navigate your website with your eyes closed so it’s easy to assume that everyone will use your site in the same way. This just isn’t true. People have different ways of completing the same task and they will try things that you hadn’t planned for or even thought of.

This is why it’s a great idea to sit down with someone and watch them use your website. It’s best if this is someone outside your organisation – a customer or even someone who just happens to be passing your office and has 10 minutes to spare.

Make a list of common tasks that are important to the success of your website like making a booking or creating a user account. Ask your kind volounteer to complete one of these tasks on your website. Give them some background information to get them started, ask them to think out loud throughout the process and resist the urge to help. You’ll be suprised at what hidden stumbling blocks you can uncover this way.

This is a great way to find practical things – big or small that you can change to make your website more effective. Work with your web team to put these changes into practice.

So, you’ve set goals for how you want your website to perform and you’ve made some practical changes based on how people currently use your site. Job done, right? Nope!

After the changes have been live on your site for 2-4 weeks check to see if you reached your targets. Don’t worry if you haven’t but come back to your analytics package. How have the changes you made affected your web traffic? Is your conversion rate higher or lower? Are these fluxuations down solely to the alterations you made or are there other factors at work like increased offline promotions?

Now set some new targets for next month, carry out more tests to see what other changes can be made to help you reach your target and implement the changes. The point here is that a website is never really ‘finished’. If you want your site to be a consistent asset to your business then it needs care and attention on an ongoing basis.

To help you keep this advice in mind we are giving away a free poster that includes all these tips and more (email with your details). Hang the poster on the wall by your desk and take some time each month to revisit some of the steps towards improving your website.

Post by Kevin McGrath,

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5 Responses to Avoid the “launch it and leave it” trap

  1. ProfileTree June 13, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Great points – improving a website is never complete – only through constant review, finding road blocks and testing new options can it be improved. Painful but worth it.

    • Kevin McGrath June 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

      Painful indeed – getting your head around the need for this approach is often the hardest part. It’s certainly one of the less fun aspects of designing for the web, but probably the most worthwhile.

  2. Manoj June 15, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    Good points,

    Developing a website is an ongoing process and iterative.

    The more you refine and review it the better it will get

    • Kevin McGrath June 21, 2012 at 9:02 am #

      I think the secret is in the review – informed refinement is a valuable tool

  3. Ron Immink June 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    This blog has just appeared in the Irish Indepedent today. 

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