“Website audit” – It sounds like something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, much like the IRS. However, a website audit–unlike the IRS knocking on your door–is definitely a good thing. Not only will it help you define a direction, but it can also help you discover any problems the current site is having.
When and why a website audit is valuable:
- Preparing to redesign your website
- Understanding your current website’s effectiveness
- Planning your strategic growth
- Uncovering hidden issues preventing you from accomplishing your goals
Most website audits can be done by your web designer or consultant, if you have a strong marketing team. If you don’t have any of the above, however, you might want to consider a professional web intelligence analyst to take on the responsibility.
Let’s be clear: the goal of a website audit is to show a site’s strengths, weakness and changes that need to be addressed. This includes everything from content and design to SEO, structure and programming. A well thought out checklist will have these important components and establish the following, along with other bits of information:
- Needed improvements to create a superior visitor experience, such as:
- The information architecture (how the site content is laid out)
- Compliance to accessibility guidelines (whether sight/hearing challenged visitors can understand the site)
- Design layout (whether it’s visually appealing and easy to understand or confusing)
- Navigation (how clear the navigation, how easy it is to follow, whether important information is hidden)
- Web design vs. SEO strategy – Often web designers/developers are not familiar with search engine optimization, and may make mistakes that either affect your rankings or, in some instances, block your website from the search engines entirely. For instance, many web designers use code to block search engines from viewing the design on a testing site. Occasionally, a designer may forget to remove that code when the new design is uploaded to the live site, thus keeping search engines from being indexed. A website audit will quickly catch these errors and correct them.
- Browser compatibility – If it’s been awhile since your last website audit and/or redesign, newer browsers may not render (or show) your website properly. As well, common screen resolutions have changed, allowing a larger percent of the online population to see a wider site. In other words, your old site may be stuck in the 90’s, and your online business may be suffering for it.
- Content effectiveness – Your site content is well written: a shining example of the art of words. You know it is; after all, you wrote it. However, even a copywriter, whose entire business centers around words, makes mistakes. For example, a common mistake is to write content using industry terms. While you know what the words mean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your visitor does. As well, it’s often hard for the writer to know when the content has lost relevancy and gone off topic. A website audit catches these and other issues.
- Competitive intelligence – This is potentially the most crucial piece of information a website audit will contain. Comparing your website to the competition helps the auditor find your site’s strengths and weaknesses vs. the competition’s.
Other important points include how your website supports your brand, how strong your conversion tactics are and how well you participate in social media. Not how much: how well. Even in social media, quality outweighs quantity every time.
I realize this may seem like a lot of work, especially when preparing to redesign your site. Consider this, however. If you don’t know and understand what your current site is doing /not doing, how can you create a new site that doesn’t replicate the old one’s issues? How can you have any hope of having a new site that drives targeted traffic, rather than just – traffic? “Pretty” only goes so far; functionality, user interface and user experience are the things that keep visitors coming back for more. A website audit is the first step to getting you there.