The recipe to success with web sites is straightforward and common sense, yet we all too often disregard key ingredients.
Making your site Findable
There’s no point in the effort to design a beautiful, engaging web site if no one knows about it or can find it. You must create awareness and place links (both online & offline) into your site and its content to have people start coming to your site.
Making your site Accessible
If people can’t access your site, your site has a strong chance of failing. This is true especially for individuals with disabilities. Disabilities impacted by accessibility issues number far more than just blindness; anyone with any type of dexterity issue may find your site difficult to use. Also, make sure your hosting service has good uptime percentage (99% or above). Anything less than that may mean people and search engine spiders cannot access your site.
Making your site Usable
It is one of the most painful things to watch — a complete stranger unable to go from point A to point B on your site. Yet, usability testing is probably the most valuable thing you can do to ensure success. Usability tests don’t have to be performed by external experts. If money or budget are an issue, perform basic tests on just 5-6 people, which will cover 70-80% off any issues.
Testing involves scheduling individuals to come to a controlled, quite environment to perform predetermined tasks on a website. It’s a good practice to compensate the testers in some meaningful way. If you have little money or time, try what I call the poor man’s usability test. Simply grab someone heading from the restroom for a simple 3-5 mins test. Remember, usability tests are not beauty or popularity contests, they’re established to obtain information on what users actual do when on a site. For more information on usability and testing, you must read Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think.”
Making your site Convertible
If the purpose of your site is to sell something, get people to contact you, or to do something, then the only thing you care about is conversions. A conversion is when anyone completes a task. Typically, these tasks contribute to your bottom line in some way, either directly or indirectly. Examples of conversions would include making a purchase online, downloading a PDF, or simply contacting you for more information.
When you design the site, you must ensure that the desired steps to conversion are explicit and without distraction. Purchasing buttons, download & contact links must be blatant, or else people will simply move on without converting. If you have a purchase button, along with another offer of interest, the are competing with the users attention, and are likely to see up to 50% less conversions.
Making your site Measurable
How successful is your site? How do you base your answer? On what statistic? Or maybe the question is do you track anything, or simply go through live assuming. Just remember what is said about assuming.
You must track the activity on your site to know whether you are successful. Hits, page views, even visitors provide only a little value. More important are Visits (Repeat & New), paths, conversion goals (including conversion funnels and where you lose folks in the conversion process). Track and monitor these metrics on a regualr basis; weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.
Are metric limited to your web site? Heck no. If email marketing, specifically HTML emails are part of the Internet Marketing plan, make sure that you track opens, clicks, etc. And tracking of email activity is not limited to the email itself. Links from emails to your website can be tracked to determine conversions from emails also.