A website is your shop window to the global marketplace. Take a second to think about that. Would you go into a shop with a window filled with dust-covered mannequins and sun-bleached clothes? Maybe you would, out of morbid curiosity. But you wouldn’t think, this is definitely the shop to buy my new outfit from. A website redesign is the equivalent of putting out a new display in the shop window. A website audit is the way you find out how to make any redesign work better for your business and vitally, its customers. Just like a shop displaying the latest season’s fashion, a website audit needs to be done regularly to ensure your business is seen as fresh and relevant to potential customers.
However, auditing your own website can be really tricky. It is hard to get an objective view on something you might be using or editing every day. That is where a handy checklist can help you get the ball rolling. A professional website audit conducted by experts will give you an in-depth analysis allowing you to create a targeted digital strategy that delivers you results.
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You could do an audit every day to keep up with the pace of technological innovation. But then you wouldn’t have any time to implement the changes. Stretching the shop window metaphor to breaking point, this is the equivalent of constantly having a ‘coming soon’ sign up but never any displays. Therefore, successful and sensible businesses usually stick to a bi-annual audit. There are several organizational reasons for this:
However, more crucially, there are also several customer based reasons why an audit needs to be undertaken every six months:
Finally, a website audit is your opportunity to examine your website through the eyes of a user. If you can create a flowing and intuitive user experience, you can get your visitors to do what you need them to do in order to achieve the targets you’ve set out. Beautiful user experience is not mind control. But it's the next best thing, making sure your customers click the shopping cart and complete the purchase or order your services.
Ok, now you are convinced that an audit might be a good idea, it’s time to put that plan into action. The first thing to learn is an audit will take a little bit of time. That’s because a good audit should thoroughly review your website from multiple angles. The more time you put in, the more precise and thorough the recommendations you produce will be. That being said, time is money, so here are some handy pointers to help you kickstart the process.
What do you want to achieve with an audit? Profit, of course. But how?
Figure out your question and then think about how you can get the answer. For instance, your mailing list. Do you have a Call To Action on every page that easily clicks through to a sign-up sheet? If you do, is it visible enough? Are there some pages that get more sign up clicks than others? Why is that? Examining your user’s experience may illuminate answers.
The question has now become a goal. Create a better path to the mailing list sign up page throughout the website.
The question about your competitor’s SEO ranking can generate new goals too. The audit will let you know how often you add content to your site and how relevant your content is for your customers. Looking at the back end of the website will ensure pages accurately titled, tagged, and filled with the correct metadata.
After you have established a concrete goal or set of auditing priorities, your first point of analysis should always be user experience. Your design dictates whether a user will hang around or click onto a new tab. Google commissioned research suggests that it takes less than a second for us, humans, to judge a website. We don’t know how long it takes animals, but they don’t have thumbs, so it's harder for them to click away.
But what this means for you, is you have less than a second to grab someone's attention. You then have another four seconds for them to grasp what the website is about. That means in five seconds you need your above the fold on any landing page to answer:
If your website is too complicated or difficult to navigate, you will lose your customers. Think carefully about how your website creates a journey for the user from the homepage to bank details or wherever you need them to go to meet your goal.
If your website has a lot of pages then you need to ensure that the multiple routes a visitor can take are thought through and considered. Examine the following:
Once you have analyzed the user experience, you should have a clear set of modifications you can make within the design to create a website that will better achieve your goal(s).
Phew, that was some hard work right. Time to put your feet up and give yourself a pat on the back (although maybe don’t do both at once, you might lose balance). Once you’ve taken that small congratulatory break it's time to dive right back in.
Ask yourself if your user experience converts visitors into leads. If you don’t have a good conversion rate, then examine your lead generation strategy.
The more you can analyze this with objective eyes, the more likely it is you will spot the flaws within the system. If you don’t have useful user data, try to ask many people to use the site to gather feedback.
Woo Hoo! The lead generation audit is complete. Time to move on to level three of the auditing process.
Your SEO Audit looks at the backend of your website to ensure that your website is discoverable. Here are a few things you should look out for during this part of the audit.
Again, use these questions and apply them to your goal. That will leave you with a set of clear deliverable action points. This time bypass the pat on the back and go get a coffee because there’s more to come.
Every website will develop a few glitches as they become more complex. Regular maintenance is about ironing out those creases. Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid.
Ok. Breathe. Almost there.
Let’s just launch straight in here with the checklist:
Social media is about engagement. If you are just a foghorn blaring out your website details every few hours people will stop listening. Think about campaigns on social media that can help you generate web content and use your web content to provoke discussion and conversation on social media. When you have this working well, you
Phew. That was a lot, right? No wonder so many people get in professional experts who can guide you through the process and also offer you in-depth objective insights. Now, remember, if any of your audits changes user experience, you should always road test it before launching it to make sure it does what you need it to do.
Freelancers and agencies can help you conduct an audit by utilizing their expertise in the field. They also offer you a fresh pair of eyes who can give you honest criticism that will help you mold your user experience. The insights they offer are invaluable if you want to come out of an audit with clear recommendations that will help you achieve your goals.
Finally, one top tip is to always conclude a piece with a call to action. So, let’s leave you with this thought: If you want to get serious about your online business, download the website audit checklist and order an expert impartial website audit today!