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New Year, New Website

31st December 2014

If you own or are responsible for a business website, it makes good sense to perform an audit at least every 6-12 months to ensure that your web pages are still alluring and your content is still up to date. A lot of advances have been made online, so even if your website has been revamped in the last couple of years, your good intentions already look dated.

Tend to your website like you would tend a garden: Sure you don’t have to be in it every single day, but regular tending to keep it fit for purpose. For example, remove the weeds and the plants that didn’t take. Maybe once a month add something fresh.

So many times I have seen unattended websites that are the garden equivalent of overgrown grass, thriving weeds and the rusting remains of an old car!
But before contacting any web designer, with a long list of what needs to be done, have a look at what you currently have online and perform an audit on your website. Here’s a quick how to guide:

Feedback

You know something is amiss with your website when you (or your sales team) stop referring people to the website for further details. You may instead be using Twitter or Facebook to keep your client base updated on the latest buzz. That is fair enough, but don’t forget they will out of curiosity look at your website as well. And what’s to say you cannot include social media updates on your actual website? You can.

Identify your quiet period

Every business has a quiet time: For business to business companies, this could be in the time between after Christmas and before new year; around March and before the financial year or during the 6 week Summer holidays. For online shops, this could be after both Christmas and the January sales. Whenever your quiet period where there are few distractions, this is when you should focus on this task and take the time to assess your website.

What needs to be changed

This is where you need to roll your sleeves up and look at your website objectively. Start at the home page: Does this still look stunning? More importantly does it still reflect your business?
From here, go through the other pages of your website: Do you still offer these products/services? Is the content still persuasive?

Also is your news page, portfolio and/or blog updated on a regular basis? How long ago was it updated? If they are not already, your social networks can be set to automatically update every time you post on your blog.

If your website performs an online function, (for example, completing a form, making a purchase, etc), does this still work ok?

In general, is your website easy to navigate? What is the general feel of the site? Is it still good? Try to put yourself in your customer’s position when going through your website: Would they be impressed or disappointed?

Check your stats

Any serious website owner should be set up on Google Analytics, as this can reveal a lot more about your website, how visitors find your website and how they behave on your website.

NB: If you are not on Google Analytics yet, then every hosting provider does provide basic analysis data from the control panel (but take this quiet time instead to get registered and setup on Google Analytics).

I could dedicate an entire article (even a few) to the various functions and filters of Google Analytics, but for now, The main areas to focus on should be:

  • Bounce rate this is where people click onto your website and then come off it within a short period of time. If this figure is high, then you definitely need to revise your website.
  • Time spent on website: There are two functions for this: The average duration that each visitor spends on your website or more usefully, a breakdown of the tally of people spending a fixed amount of time on your website (for example x% spending less than 10 seconds, x% less than 1 minute, etc) again the less time spent, the less engaging your pages and content are.
  • Number of pages on website Again provided as an average per visitor or a breakdown. Is your content compelling enough that people want to read more, or are your visitors visiting one pages and then leaving. Or have they found what they wanted on that one page?
  • Popular pages This section can be used to answer that question. There are 3 various breakdowns: Top content pages, which show the most visited pages on your website, Top Landing page (the first page one visits on your website) and Top Exit page (the last page visited on your website). This gives an indication of the path people are using throughout your website. The exit page may be your contact page, indicating that they are ringing or sending you an email.
  • Goal Analysis. Depending on the main focus of your website (for example, download a guide or make a purchase), take the time to set up each goal on your website, making sure to record every page in the process. This is the most worthwhile tool on Analytics because you can monitor the success of the whole process and see how many people are abandoning the process halfway. For example are people giving up on page 2 of your 4 page checkout process? if so why?
The WordPress version

The WordPress version as seen from the control panel (circled)

Responsive layout

Another area you should analyse on Google Analytics, is how people are viewing your website. There may only be about 30 people per month viewing your website using a tablet or smart phone, but this figure is anticipated to get bigger. Also these could be the visitors that want to buy from you or find out more information, so make sure that your website can accommodate the mobile user.
View your website on both a tablet and a mobile: How does your site look? Is it still easy to read and to navigate? Can you perform everything on a handheld device that you can from a desktop?  You should.

Security

If your website is set up using sophisticated software (for example WordPress, Joomla, etc), one final word about security: 2014 has been known for online security breaches from vulnerabilities in software to brute force attacks (link to 2014 hack list). Brute force attacks are automated but target your administration panel using simple passwords, and have been rife since the start of 2014 (ask your hosting provider, they may already have security measure in place to eliminate this).

So can your login be easily guessed? Now might be the time to create a more secure password.

Joomla Version

The Joomla Version as seen at the bottom of each page and the update notification (both circled)

Even better is your website software up to date? Software companies regularly revise the software to include all the latest security patches which keeps the nasties out. You can check the latest version of software by logging into your admin panel. Most software providers post a message on your admin panel when there is a new revision available.

These points alone should give you a clear idea on what needs to be improved on your website. Updates to the pages could easily be made by you or a members of staff, but the more involved areas, such as updating the software or re-development to accommodate mobile devices can simply be handed to your web developer or IT department.

This is a brief guide to get you started. DVH Design will shortly be compiling a more in-depth step by step analysis checklist for you to use on your website every year. Please contact or comment below if you would like this document when it goes live.


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