Successful website reviews can be invaluable in increasing conversion and improving the user experience. In this post, I teach you how to ensure success.
Commissioning a website review makes a lot of sense every once in a while. It brings:
- a fresh, outside perspective,
- provides a chance to step back from business as usual,
- and helps you plan the future direction for your site.
However, many website reviews fail to deliver on their potential. So before you commission an agency or consultant to review your website, I would encourage you to read this guide.
Make Sure Context is Considered
There is a lot of information that somebody reviewing your website should want to know, so it is important to be prepared to provide it. If they do not ask about these areas, it is probably an indicator that their review will prove relatively superficial.
In particular, to create a truly useful website review, whoever is reviewing the website should be considering:
- User groups. Who is using the website, what are they trying to achieve, and what questions or objections should the site address?
- Key performance indicators. How are you judging the success of the website? What are your calls to action, and how do you measure success?
- Other channels. Where does the website sit in the sales funnel and what other digital channels are a part of that funnel?
- Competition. Who else is operating in the sector, and how does your website perform against competitors?
Ideally, you should conduct a discovery phase before a website review to answer these and other questions. However, I recognize that budgetary constraints might not allow for an investigation of context. That is fine, as it is important to be pragmatic. That said, it is essential to provide as much context to anybody reviewing as possible.
The budget does not just define any discovery work. It also will contribute to the scope of the review.
Decide on Scope
A website review can take many forms and focus on many different areas, and your budget may limit how your reviewer can realistically investigate many of those areas. With that in mind, you should guide your reviewer about areas you wish them to pay particular attention to.
For example, some of the more common areas that provide useful feedback include.
- Conversion. What improvements could be made that would have a positive impact on conversion? What barriers to conversion can be found on the existing website?
- Engagement. What changes could be made to keep users coming back to make repeat purchases or to continue interacting with your content? Is greater engagement even an aspiration you should be pursuing?
- Usability. What challenges are users facing when using the website? How can these be addressed and how can the experience be more frictionless?
- Findability. How well does the site perform on search engine ranking and once people reach the website can they find the information they require? Is the site easy to navigate?
- Accessibility. Can the website be accessed by everybody no matter their physical, cognitive or technical limitations? Does the site support people with permanent, temporary, or situation or disabilities?
- Performance. How fast is the website download and what improvements could be made to ensure that it downloads as fast as possible?
As you can see, there are a lot of potential areas to investigate. Time and available investment will dictate the scope and depth of any review. With limited resources, you can either opt for a relatively superficial but broader view, or you could dive deeper into a single area. Both are valid choices, but the person undertaking the review will need to know your preference.
The scope of the review will also influence the approach that your reviewer chooses to adopt. However, you may have your own preferences here too.
Formulate an Approach
Many different methodologies can be adopted when reviewing a website, and if you do not discuss this upfront, you may end up with a review that does not meet your expectations.
For example, are you expecting a review primarily built around research or something that draws more heavily on the person’s experience doing the review? If you expect the reviewer to carry out a lot of research and they instead provide their personal opinion, you will be disappointed.
If they do undertake research, do you have expectations about the research methodologies they use? For example, do you favor data-driven analysis, or are you looking for qualitative feedback based on speaking directly to users?
It is absolutely fine not to have a preference and leave that decision to the reviewer. However, if you have an opinion, make sure you express that clearly when commissioning the work.
Finally, you may wish to put some consideration into reporting. Do you have preferences over how the results are communicated? Are you looking for an executive summary or an in-depth review based on scored heuristics?
Are you seeking recommendations for how issues are addressed or to have problems identified? Do you also want recommendations about the order in which you should address issues?
Finally, if you want recommended solutions, are there some approaches that are off-limits due to technical or political constraints? In this final case, I would encourage you to give the reviewer as much latitude as possible. That is because exploring the reasons behind issues on the website is crucial.
Explore the Reasons Behind Issues
No doubt, your expectations for a website review will be a series of improvements that you can make to that site. However, a good website review digs deeper and identifies barriers that prevented these issues from already being fixed.
In truth, you will probably be aware of many of the issues that the website review identifies. However, the barrier preventing them from already being fixed is the real issue that needs addressing.
Often the problems with the website are representative of organizational issues such as:
- internal politics,
- legacy technology,
- compliance issues,
- or under-resourcing.
Unfortunately, addressing these underlying organizational issues can be challenging, especially from within the organization.
Therefore, it can be a good idea to actively encourage the agency or consultancy undertaking the review to flag these issues and tie them back to problems with the website. That is because (to be entirely frank) an outside party can make suggestions that would be seen as unacceptable coming from an internal voice.
Often, the most value in a website review comes from its ability to highlight deep-rooted organizational problems that prevent digital from fulfilling its potential.
Of course, that kind of feedback may be inappropriate in your situation, so it is important to communicate your expectations from any potential supplier.
Ultimately, this communication will ensure you get the most value from any website review that you commission.