Does your website need a second opinion?

Paul Boag

When we become too close to something we can miss the obvious. Web design is no exception. That is why your website may well need a second opinion.

It never hurts to get an outside perspective, especially when it comes to your website. You may have the best team working on your site. But, no team is going to spot everything. Even if they do, a fresh pair of eyes will bring a new perspective and new thinking.

I spend a lot of my time doing exactly that. At Headscape we work alongside internal teams, helping them look at their website with new eyes. We even work with organisations who already use a web design agency they are completely happy with. They just want a fresh perspective.

The advantages of a second opinion

The problem is that when you are working on any project for a long time you lose the ability to see the wood for the trees. You are so entrenched in the details that the bigger picture becomes harder to perceive.

It is easy for internal teams to have their view blinkered by organisational culture. Even external agencies who have worked with the same client for a while suffer from this problem. They find it hard to look beyond their client’s internal structures.

Getting an outside perspective also helps organisations look beyond their own sector. We do a lot of work with the charity and higher education sector. Both look to others within their own sector for inspiration. This means that their sites often look the same. What we bring to the table is the fact that we work for many, many different sectors. This means we can draw on lessons learnt from these sectors too. Sure, two charities might have a lot in common and having a knowledge of the charity sector is useful. But throwing in tricks used in the commercial sector can help too.

Finally, getting an outside opinion can help from an organisational perspective. Internal teams are often limited in what they can say. Even if they do say all they wish to, management won’t always listen because they undervalue the team.

Even external agencies feel they have to be careful when working with a client over the long term. They don’t want to risk alienating that client and losing their business.

The huge advantage we have when providing reviews is that there is an expectation for us to challenge the status quo. Management will listen to us because we have been hire to provide constructive criticism.

So what does getting an outside perspective involve?

What does a second opinion involve?

Bringing in an outside perspective varies based on what (if any) concerns you have about your site. For example if you have concerns about the accessibility of your site, then an accessibility audit is a good place to start.

But, sometimes you are less sure about what you want. All you know is you need a fresh pair of eyes. In such cases you need to pick the best option for your budget.

Sometimes a simple chat with an outside expert can be enough to help you look at things differently. This doesn’t need to be much and can be a discussion on Skype. My consultancy clinics are an example of that.

That said, a clinic can’t go into any detail. If you want that, a site review is more appropriate. This involves an outside expert spending a couple of days looking through the website and then writing you a report. This allows them enough time to dig into the site and identify any issues.

Of course these expert reviews look at the site in isolation. To understand how effective a site is we need to consider it within the light of the competition. This is where a competitor review comes in. This ranks your site and those of your competition based on certain criteria. This enables you to see how well your site is performing within the marketplace.

Then there are usability reviews. Based on analytics and usability testing, we no longer need to rely on the consultants judgement. Instead we gather real data about how the site is performing.

Finally, there are business reviews. This is where your outside consultant examines the website in the context of your business. A website may look great and even be easy to use, but still fail to benefit the organisation. A business review will look at the organisations business objectives and measure the website in the light of those. It also looks at the sites management, to learn whether the organisation is getting the best return on investment.

Where to start?

All these different options can feel overwhelming. That is why I suggest starting with a straightforward site review. This will give you a sense of whether there are deeper problems that need addressing. Best of all it only takes a couple of days so isn’t too expensive.

It is also worth saying that now is a great time for this kind of fresh perspective. As the year is drawing to a close, many organisations are beginning to think about budgets for 2015. Now is a great time to take stock and look at the future. If you are apart of an in-house team that would like to take your site to the next level, then now is the time to act.

But if you run an agency, I would encourage you to think about getting an outside perspective for your clients too. You shouldn’t feel threatened by another perspective. You cannot hope to spot everything. It shows great confidence to your clients suggesting they get another opinion. In the end it can only serve to strengthen the relationship with your clients and provide them with a better service.

If this post has resonated with you and you would like a fresh perspective, get in touch. I would love to help.