Last month we looked at a tool that the SBDC uses to evaluate a Web site’s effectiveness. These days having a Web site isn’t good enough. Just like your product lines and your marketing strategies, your web site needs to be regularly evaluated for its effectiveness. Last month we learned about first impressions, navigation and content. Now we learn about the other six areas of an effective Web site. Whether you are new to the Web or seasoned, the following 10 criteria are quick and easy ways to evaluate your company’s Web site (some of the criteria may not be applicable to your business). These criteria are best used as comparables against other sites that your business competes with or emulates. A downloadable Excel spreadsheet of the Web site effectiveness review tool is available to BBJ online subscribers or by stopping by the SBDC for a hardcopy. After conducting a review, areas of differentiation and areas of improvement are identified that can lead to increased effectiveness of your site and ideally increased profits for your company.
Attractors draw individuals and business to your site. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of a website with six examples of website attractors. This checklist helps you to specify alternative forms of attractors which may be of importance to your site.
• Special Offers
• Breaking News
• Providing External links
• Other (Specify)
Findability – These issues make it easy to find your Web site in the first place. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of a Web site using 8 key issues with regards to Findability.
• Intuitive URL – It is estimated that only 47% of all Web site referrals come from direct navigation (the URL typed directly into the navigation bar). Therefore the site’s URL should be intuitive or as close to the company’s name or brand as possible.
Designed for search engine performance:
• Intuitive keywords – Internet surfers usually search for Web sites by typing keywords into the search box in search engines. The words that you imagine users entering to search for your site are your strategic keywords.
• Use of Meta tags – Meta tags can improve a site’s ranking with a number of search engines and therefore are invaluable to making a site more findable. By definition Meta tags are machine understandable information for the Web. Generally it is information used to define and document the content of a site. They do not appear when the page is viewed through a browser but sit hidden in the HEAD element of a page.
• Use of frames – Search engines often have difficulty indexing framed pages. When frames are used, URLs often cease to work. This is due to the URL in the address box no longer being a complete specification for the information shown in the window.
• On-line advertising – On-line banner advertising is a useful promotional tool and there are many services that charge per number of users directed to the site (valueclick.com).
• On-line recommend a friend – A recommend a friend promotion is essential to promoting a Web site. A user that finds a site interesting and useful is likely to have friends or associates that will also have an interest in the site.
• Partner and affiliate sites – Negotiating reciprocal links with other sites can increase the findability of your site in two different ways. Getting other Web sites to link to your site can substantially increase the flow of traffic to your site. Another benefit of other sites linking to your site is that it can boost your ranking with many search engines.
• Off-line advertising – The Web site address should be printed on all business literature such as business cards, letterheads, brochures, catalogs and invoices. Mention the Web site in all existing advertising methods such as television, billboards, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising.
Making Contact – Many business transactions require some level of contact between the parties concerned. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of a Web site using the following key issues with regard to Making Contact.
• E-mail and other details visible
• Response time to inquiries
* Automatic e-mail response
* Personal e-mail response (if any)
• Use of online forms
• Telephone contact numbers provided
• Telephone call back offered
Browser Compatibility – Make the Web site visit a much more useful and pleasant experience. There are many variations of browsers and monitors in use today and it is important that your Web site be as accessible to as many Internet users as possible. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of a Web site using the following key issues with regards to compatibility:
• Internet Explorer – versions (1-5)
• Netscape Navigator – versions (1-4)
• Monitor Compatibility
Knowledge of Users – The more a Web site knows about the surfing and buying habits its visitors, the more ability it has to fulfill the users’ needs. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of your Web site using the following key issues with regards to knowledge of users:
• Adaptive Web site – An adaptive Web site will remember the buying preferences of the customers.
• Offers based on buying history
• Availability of utilization statistics
User Satisfaction- Satisfying users is essential to bringing e-shoppers and e-buyers back to your Web site. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of your website using the following five key issues with regards to User Satisfaction:
• Robustness/reliability of the site, i.e., is the site frequently crashing or off-line.
• Clicks to completion
• Acknowledge order/request
• Order/request tracking online
• Does the cookie fill the form?
Other Useful Information- Supplying additional useful information will help build confidence in the e-shopper. The checklist offers an approach to evaluating the effectiveness of your Web site in supplying the following additional information.
• Supplier terms and conditions
• List of products previously bought by your company
• Contact details for person in charge of suppliers
• List of current career opportunities with the company
• Contact details for HR department
• Financial results
• Up-to-date financial news
• The Company stock price performance
• History of the company
• Management and geographical structure of company
• Mission statement
How does your site measure up?
Tom Dorr is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Western Washington University.