Putting sites to ‘The Test’
The following page is due for review and update. While the general concepts present remain valid, many of the details continue to evolve.
ere's a simple, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, ten-point examination to put your site through. The point to be made here is that there are objective criteria by which a Site can be judged.
Professional or Amateurish?
What first impression does your site give? Is the impression one of polish and flair, refinement and finish? Remember, people pay thousands for professionally produced brochures, marketing materials, display stands and promotional videos. Your site has to present as a professional product, just as anything which goes out with your business name on it.
Make an objective assessment of your site's appearance (or ask someone who can). Check your links, your graphics, your downloads, your wording, your spelling, your layout. Otherwise first impressions may be the only ones you'll ever get to make!
Fast or Fat?
Dream: Everyone has an Broadband (ISDN, ADSL or Cable modem) connected to a high speed server bringing into their home megabytes of data. Reality: Slow dial-up modems (remember them?), slow and intermittent phone lines, not-so-fast Broadband, overloaded servers, and old hardware.
Find someone with only average hardware and actually time how long your pages take to load. You may be in for a surprise!
On Target or Near Miss?
Getting on the Web causes some to forget the basics of business and marketing. Fundamentals like asking; Who is your audience? What's their age? Their style? Their level of technical knowledge? And what is the aim of your site?
Do you have any performance measures in place to assess the effectiveness of your investment? On what basis do you decide if it has met your aims?
A web or a labyrinth?
How would you describe the structure* of your site? Are there clear demarcations between main pages and sub pages? Does each and every page have clear sign posts to move on, move back, and move out? * Site structure refers to the arrangement or grouping of the pages within a site.
What indication is given as to where in the site you now are? Do your icons have clear meaning, and your button labels meaningful?
Unstructured sites confuse, disorient and frustrate (not to mention undermining trust). Well structured sites remain effective even as they expand and evolve.
User Friendly or Cryptic?
Again, be honest: How would the average first-time visitor; Find your content? Would they understand your terminology? How comfortable would they be in finding what they need from your pages?
Put another way; too many sites are a reflection of their designer, not their viewer's interests, knowledge and language.
All Ears or Deaf?
Whilst on your site, how do people tell you what they think, what they want, or what they'd like? Requiring them to phone or fax you for information that could well be online defeats the whole purpose of using the Web. Using a 'mailto' link in place of a contact form is simple but it can be unfriendly, unreliable [It presumes that the user has access to an email application, and that it is correctly configured], and distracting [leaving the web site to send the email]. A better solution can be an enquiry or submission page which allows visitors to submit their message whilst browsing.
Memorable or Forgettable?
Take a look at your Web address, at what's called your URL (Uniform Resource Locator). If it's something like my_provider.com.au/~fred_smith/index.htm then, sorry, but you're clearly not serious.
Increasingly people, and some of the major search engines dismiss, such URLs as mere personal home pages. It costs money, but a company Domain Name is now a must for a commercial site. Besides, many people can't be bothered entering long URLs, and don't know how to correctly enter the uncommon characters.
Found or Floundering?
How “search engine friendly” is your site? When your site makes it onto the vast archives of similar sites in the world, will it shine in the top one hundred, or be left buried amongst the thousands? You'll need some professional assistance for this one. Each search engine takes a different approach to indexing and rating a site. The grounds rules changes constantly. Search Engine Optimisation can be more art than science! One inescapable truth here is that Search Engines consume text content to build their search results. Feed them well and you'll be rewarded.
Outspoken or Shy?
What investment have you made in your Web presence? What proportion of that amount have you spent on advertising the site through other media? The Web alone will not promote your site.
With few exceptions, the masses will not coming looking for your site. It's a product, or a service which you must sell, sell, sell. On every piece of paper which leaves your office, on every item of marketing, must be your web site address (URL).
Current or Languishing?
Studies have shown that the average commercial site dies a slow death after just 180 days. How long has your site been up?
The web is driven by a desire for novelty and innovation. Yesterday's news is… well …
Have your site professionally reviewed every six months and reworked every twelve, and budget for it. As a bonus, Search Engines take notice the regularity of meaningful site updates.
How many out of ten does your site rate?
In the midst of the inconceivable number of accessible pages on the World Wide Web, your site needs to be a 'Ten'! If it's not, then it may be time to go back to the web foundry.
If you need someone to put your site through its paces, suggesting improvements, then contact us.