Website guidelines

Website health check

Evaluating the health of a website is not just about assessing its look and feel or whether it is user-friendly.

The success of your website depends on the good health of every aspect of your online presence - from how it is managed to whether it is saving you as much time and money as it might.

When assessing the health of your online presence consider the status of each of the following aspects and act on what you find.

  1. strategic issues - organisation's strategic plan, the Web strategy and strategic partnerships
  2. management - governance, legal, resources, people and training, risk, budget
  3. content and features - content, products and services, features, Web 2.0
  4. marketing and promotion - search engines, branding, marketing, customer relationships, etc
  5. usability and design - graphic design, user-friendliness, navigation, information design
  6. revenue and savings - e-commerce, points of efficiency
  7. technical issues - site speed, security, reliability, accessibility
1. Strategic issues

Organisation’s strategic plan: Does the website complement the organisation’s strategic direction? Does the strategic plan take into account the Web and the opportunities and challenges posed by Web trends – eg the importance of Google and the growth in social networking online

Web strategy: Is the web strategy relevant? Is it being embraced by staff? Does it add value to the site? Does it ensure that the site complements the organisational vision and aspirations? What commercial, technical and legal trends or changes are occurring outside the organisation that might impact on the strategy?

Re-engineering: What entirely new products, services, information or functions is the site offering that the organisation could not have offered without the Web? If nothing online is unique, why not? Has any re-engineering of processes occurred in the organisation? If not, why not and what are the opportunities and challenges in doing so?

Strategic partnerships: What online partnerships should be formed? What would be the benefits to both parties? What opportunities are being lost to share resources, costs and risk?

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2. Management

Governance: Are there clear and effective processes for making decisions about the website? Are the right people making decisions about the site? Is the management methodology still appropriate – eg monthly meetings that address all aspects of the health of the website?

Legal and contractual: Are the copyright and intellectual property rights of all content cleared or paid for? Does any of the content break the law of any country? Are the disclaimers and copyright notices on the site still appropriate? Are contracts with the web developers and third parties maintaining the site in place and appropriate?

Resources: Is sufficient time and money allocated to maintaining and improving the site? What is lacking and what is needed? How many people does it take to maintain the site?

People and training: Are the right people doing the right jobs? What staff training is required to ensure appropriate skill levels for maintaining and improving the site – eg writing for the Web?

Risk assessment: What are the possible consequences (legal, image/reputation, personal harm/damage, monetary) of technical failure, security breaches, financial transaction fraud, copyright and IP violations, or provision of inaccurate or untimely information? Is there appropriate backup of the site and documentation? What are the consequences of key people leaving the organisation and how are the consequences being minimised? What are the other risks? Are there appropriate risk management strategies in place for all identified risks?

Budget: What does the site cost to maintain? Is the site operating to budget? Is the allocated budget appropriate? What is the cost of proposed improvements? Are there ways to reduce costs of the website – eg strategic partnerships or sponsorship deals that may reduce costs?

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3. Content and features of the website

Content: Is the content up-to-date, accurate, readable, of sufficient depth, appropriate and relevant to the target audiences? What content needs attention? What new mediums should be employed – video, sound, images? Is the quality control system working? What new areas of content need to be added to the site? What should be dropped?

Products and services offered: Are the products and services you are offering relevant and appropriate? Are they priced correctly? Are they packaged correctly?  Is the site creating new services or products – eg a valuable database? – If not, could it?

Features: What features of the site are not being used and why? What could be dropped? What needs to be changed or made easier to use? Are there any additional functional features that could be added to the site – eg more forms or a screen-saver? What Web 2.0 features could be added – eg blogs, podcasts? If using Web 2.0 features, are they appropriate, are they working?

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4. Marketing and promotion

Search engines: Where does the site rate in the top three search engines – Google, Yahoo and MSN?   If paying for ad placements on search engines, is the return on the investment sufficient?

Branding: Does it complement the brand?

Marketing: Is it integrated into the organisation’s marketing strategy?

Customer relationships: Is staff response to users’ emails fast enough? Does the site have sufficient personalisation features? Do you collect email addresses and other details of visitors to the site so that you can get back to them? Do you get their permission to do so? Is the appropriate level of relationship between a user and staff member being created and maintained? Is the site being used appropriately to collect customer feedback on your products, services etc?

Traffic and audience: Is the site reaching the intended audience? Is it bringing in new audiences/customers? What is the conversion rate from online visitors to online customers? Is the quantity of traffic to and through the site improving? Is there an appropriate level of re-visits by users?

Supplier relationships: How does the site impact on your relationship with suppliers? What features could be added to the site to improve supplier relationships? Does the site improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your business relationship with suppliers?

Competitor analysis: What is your competition doing online in regard to all of the above? How does your website rate against theirs? What do you need to do to keep your site up with or ahead of your competitors? Who are the new competitors in your traditional market place – virtual organisations, bricks and mortar companies that never entered our market before but can do so now online? Is there a threat to your distribution channel?

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5. Usability and design

Graphic design: Does the colour scheme aid the navigation and useability of the site or do users find it confusing? Is the font of the right size and style? Is there sufficient clarity on the pages? Have you confused the user by too much content and not enough white space? Do they like the look and feel of it?

User-friendliness: Is it easy to find information on the site?  Is it easy to use the various features and functions on the site – eg can users buy or order things easily? How easy is it to find the organisation's contact details on the site? Is it easy for people to print any part of the site?

Navigation: Is it easy to get into the site? If you have used a splash page before the home page is it beneficial or detrimental to the site? Do users find it easy to find their way around the site? Do they see and recognise the features of the site you want them to see?   Can people with a disability find their way around the site? Do users always know where they are in the site? Can they always retrace their steps and see where they have been?

Information design: Do users know the meaning of all the headings and categories of information on the home page and throughout the site? Have you avoided jargon? Will users understand the division of content in the site?

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6. Revenue and savings

E-commerce: Is the site generating the expected revenue? What else can be done on the site to generate revenues – eg increase the online product line, sell information gathered via the site?  If the site does not have an e-commerce facility, should it? Is the rate of ordering/booking/paying for products and services online what you expect? What are the popular items, what is not popular and why? What other products/services could/should be offered online – for ordering or buying? How is online delivery/pricing affecting traditional pricing models? Is fulfilment of online orders working effectively?  Is the shopping-cart solution effective?

Efficiencies: Is the site meeting the expected efficiency goals for staff and users? What else can be done on the site to generate savings – eg only publish brochures, catalogues and the annual report online? What else can be done to create efficiencies – eg expand the FAQ section, put the catalogue database online, move all forms that used to be faxed then re-entered to online forms?

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7. Technical issues

Site speed and robustness: Is the site fast enough? Can all your users, no matter what their browser, computer or screen size, access it? Is it consistently available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

Security: Is it as secure as need be? Is the web server of sufficient capacity now and will it be in the future?

Reliability: Do all features work properly and reliably online eg – hotlinks, streaming video, ?

Accessibility guidelines: Does the site currently comply with international accessibility  guidelines as published by the international authority, the World Wide Web Consortium - ?

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