We’re busy doing it for clients every day, so sometimes we have to stop and remind ourselves to write down for others some of the best practices we follow. Recently we came across two pieces that collectively make a pretty good checklist, so I’ve gone ahead and put them together with some of our thoughts here. If you’re planning a website redesign – or even just a re-skin – asking yourselves these questions (plus answering them properly in action, of course) should help you achieve a quality result.
- Do your changes communicate professionalism? Are the images, color scheme, design elements, etc., appropriate for your industry/market?
- Have you planned for consistency across the entire website, and with offline vehicles (brochures, booth graphics, print ads, etc.)?
- Do the changes render error-free on different browsers?…at different resolutions? …on different operating systems?
- Does your site make it immediately clear what your company does and whom it serves?
- Does it quickly communicate a clear, unique value proposition?
- Is your site optimized properly so that the search engines will find it on relevant queries? This will be an ongoing struggle, of course …but it helps if some of it is “designed-in”: e.g., bear in mind that today’s search engines can’t read/index information in your graphics, Flash(R) animations, pdfs or dynamically-built pages.
- Do the changes help users accomplish their goals on the site quickly and easily?
- Is your site organized for your visitors? Are the paths to information clear?
- Is it easy for them to find their way around?
- Does your design/layout follow best-practice principles derived from eye-tracking research?
- Does your content instill trust and credibility? Is it formatted for online readers (meaning in-a-rush, short-attention-span scanners)?
- Does your site back up the claims it makes?
- Does your writing compel visitors to take action?
- Does the site communicate the additional resources your company can bring to bear for your customers (e.g., support services, partners)?
- Does it include numerous offers designed to initiate relationships that aim toward sales?
- Does it make it easy for prospects to take the next step in their purchase process?
- Does it provide multiple ways for prospects to request assistance or further information?
Lest you think we’re harping on the obvious… consider Forrester Research’s Best and Worst of Brand Building Web Sites, 2008 report, which audited the sites of 20 top brands. The results were shocking: only 4 sites passed the question, “does the site cater to user needs?” Only 7 sites passed the question, “does the site support brand positioning?” And only one passed both tests!
According to Forrester principal analyst and report author Ron Rogowski, “Common (usability) problems included poor text legibility, confusing category names, and missing or buried content. On the (branding) side, sites were guilty of layouts, imagery, and production values that failed to support brand positioning.”