Monday, December 17, 2007

Does Your Website Measure Up?

Website Series Introduction

This series of blog entries will relay some suggestions for improving website usability and performance. It is not intended for the technical web practitioner: instead, the intended audience is the business leader who relies upon the web to deliver sales messages to customers and prospects. The idea is to provide some information to help the business leader communicate with the techies and to evaluate the results achieved.

The visitor experience at your site is influenced by three primary factors: 1) relevance of the site content; 2) ease of finding what they are looking for; and 3) the speed and reliability of content delivery. Thus, content, UI and systems all influence the visitor experience. Said another way, the content relevance, ease of accessing content, and content delivery are the reasons your site will be judged as good or mediocre by visitors and determine whether they stay or come back to buy or get your sales messages. This series will help you understand what to look for to be sure your site is up to the task.

I plan to publish it in four parts over the next month or two:

Part 1: Is Your GUI Sticky?
The User Interface (UI) is what contributes to most to the visitor experience. The objective is to make the experience as positive as possible so visitors will buy and/or come back to buy. Making your site simple to navigate, error free and comfortable is essential to keeping visitors on the site and getting them back to buy again.

Part 2: Do Search Engines Like You?
Most web site owners find a majority of their traffic comes from the major search engines: Yahoo, Google, MSN, AOL, etc. In simple terms, a web site that is set up to appeal to the nuances of search engines is likely to get more traffic than a web site that is not. There are some basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that you want to be sure your developers include routinely in the pages they build for you.

Part 3: Is Your Technology Tuned?
In referring to underlying technology, I do not generally mean the hardware and software choices. Several hardware/software vendor solutions are up to the task of delivering web content. The critical issues are the configuration and the environment the systems operate within. These two factors must both be right to reliably perform the required tasks with speed and almost 100% uptime.

Part 4: Is Your Content King?
Visitors primarily find your web site based upon content (and some SEO techniques) and decide to stay and buy your product or proposition based upon content. Clear, professional copy, “community” information, and complete product information are essential to a truly effective web site.