Do you need a new website?
A simple question. Do you like your website? If the answer is no, then read on. If the answer is yes… ask yourself another - does your website work for you?
Website design has evolved over the last few years in response to the mobile revolution and changing marketing trends and opportunities. 2015 saw many websites almost disappear overnight as Google’s mobile algorithm updates took effect. Flat design is the must-have look in the modern webspace, so maybe your site is looking a little out of date?
If the last time you updated or rebuilt your site was circa 2013, then it’s pretty likely you’re missing out on a wealth of functionality, visibility and visitors.
So how do you evaluate your website and ensure quality? In our shiny new Client Guide series, we share the key aspects of good website design, what to look for, how to measure performance and when to make a change.
Good website design is backed by strategy. A good looking website doesn’t necessarily mean that it is delivering what your customers want or achieving the returns you need.
There are many options of site out there depending on what business you’re in - blogs, ecommerce platforms, portfolios and more. A website is one of the largest marketing investments most companies make. The first step in any website build is to create an informed marketing strategy, so that your website fits into that and can provide longevity on ROI.
We receive a lot of enquiries about how to increase traffic, or increase sales, by ‘doing SEO’ or updating a site to include a new function. We explain to these clients that getting more traffic is not necessarily what they really want - the key is often to improve the quality of that traffic, and increase conversions. A new function might help, but it needs to be packaged and marketed in the right way, just like any product.
The way to achieve your targets is to put an agile and dedicated marketing strategy in place that doesn’t just focus on getting good SERPs, but on engaging the right audiences and encouraging them back time and time again.
How do you achieve this? First, define your brand. Set goals for your website and align with your design. When your website is informed by clear strategy, it will work harder. Enlist the services of a creative agency with a solid background in digital marketing.
Evaluate the effectiveness of strategy in your website design by asking yourself:
- What is my business or brand - where am I positioned and is that obvious on my website?
- Who is my target audience, and how does the design work for them?
- Do new visitors get a clear impression of who you are and what you offer when they arrive at your site?
- What is the purpose of my website, and does it perform that function seamlessly
- What is my website asking my audience to do and what do I actually want them to do?
Usability is about practical considerations. It’s about making sure you are web standards compliant and also serving your users the best interface. Thinking about the user journey as they navigate your site, including those touch points at which you make that all important call to action, and how the site performs throughout that journey makes the difference between a usable website and an excellent UX.
Issues such as mobile compliance, page speed, browser compatibility, security (http vs https), technical points like sitemaps, and ease of navigation all have an effect on visitors and the search engines that crawl your site. Older sites tend to use heavier code, which slows your site down and lends itself to easily broken pages, makes them an easy target for hacks and depletes the functionality you could otherwise provide.
While many of these factors are subtle adjustments, and some aren’t even visible, they make a big impact. When evaluating your website, think about the following:
- Is my website mobile compliant?
- What is my page speed performance - use Google Page Speed Insights or Google Search Console.
- How easy is your site to navigate - think depth of links, depth of content from the homepage, easy navigation bars and clear page names.
- Can users search my site easily?
- Are all your links happy and healthy? Do they work? Are you redirecting correctly?
- How does the site work in different browsers - think about your target audience and their typical use.
- Security for users - especially when asking for personal information or on ecommerce sites.
Advertising and marketing are about seduction. Your website should give the best first impression - beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but everyone can apply aesthetic principles to guide their design.
The best design follows three Cs - clear, complementary and current. Get rid of any stylistic choices that contradict your brand message. Make sure your logo and website design align. Consider your target audience and let that inform your style:
- Does my site create a positive impression - align your website with your brand. Updating the logo at each rebrand isn’t enough to communicate your brand identity.
- Is my navigation clear and are my pages clean - keeping the site current with a consistent style supports good UX and helps to keep customers on your site
- Does the style suit my target audience - will it appeal to them?
- Is there something my competitors are doing better?
4. Search Engine Optimisation
The best way to evaluate your website’s performance is to use Google Analytics, a source of robust, rational data. The information available provides all sorts of insight - in terms of both visibility and customer acquisition - helping you to benchmark your performance and see what elements of your design are working and where you can improve.
The wealth of info available in Google Analytics can be overwhelming. Set up custom segments to look at specific site activity. Review it regularly - for example if you are active on social media, Google Analytics helps you to look at the effectiveness of the balance of your marketing mix. If you are selling a product, do you have ecommerce tracking set up? GA helps you to make informed decisions about your marketing strategy, so make yourself familiar with it.
On site SEO is an ongoing process, and staying on top of this ensures optimum website performance. For example, if you use a large volume of visual content on your site, are you ensuring that Google can see them, by using ALT tags?
Search engine optimisation and web design are symbiotic. Don’t separate them, if something isn’t working you need to look at how the two are working together. Review the following to make informed design decisions:
- Is my coding efficient, or are there extraneous lines that could be eliminated?
- Are all my images optimized with ALT tags?
- Am I using Google Tag Manager to measure engagement?
- Have I used relevant keywords in title tags, meta descriptions, heading tags, etc.?
- Do I have a sitemap?
Content is the reason people visit your website. End of. Its purpose is simple. You can have the most beautiful website in the world - but without great content, no-one will visit. And crucially, no-one will return! Without it - or with a lack of quality - you’re simply an island in ocean of content competition.
On the other hand, what if you have the content but you’re limiting its effectiveness by using out of date styling, inaccessible page structure or are you producing content of ‘noone cares’ irrelevance? Look at how pages are ranking, what content has worked and where you could repurpose. Getting to grips with understanding how individual pages perform in search can help with decision making on which could benefit from additional content and where a simple edit could give a quick-win.
Evaluate all the text on your website - if it doesn’t comply with the following, make a change:
- Is my style complementing my brand?
- Are my colours and fonts compatible?
- Is all the text big enough - is it clear and readable - and am I using the right font for my business style?
- Is my content relevant, interesting and serving a purpose?
Ultimately, the big question to ask yourself is: Does your website seduce and does it ‘change’ behaviour?
Marketing is about behaviour change. Does your website influence your audience enough, at an individual level, to make them purchase your product, or convince them to take an action?
If you’re in the process of evaluating your site for a refresh or rebuild, or thinking about a new website for your business, talk to us about a free website review.