Nov 7, 2008

Keep your project moving after it goes live

It's Monday morning and you're sitting back, relieved, because your brand new website launched successfully on Friday evening. Maybe the project was smooth and effortless, but chances are there were a number of ups and downs over the last few weeks.

Now that the site is live, fight the urge to close the book on your website for 3 more years!

Hopefully your website was crafted with a log reporting system in place, something like Google Analytics or Quantcast and not a simple counter. The information that these reporting systems provide is not just for your own gratification that people visit your website; the data can help you see how effective your site is at:
  • Getting people to your site
  • Accomplishing tasks and goals
  • Tracking statistics
  • Understanding the habits of your visits
  • ... and much more
The information that your reporting system provides will tell you, quantifiably, how your site is performing, and will provide you with hints as to what can be done to improve your site. In conjunction with the audience definition and goal development that you hopefully completed before beginning your web design project you'll be able to evaluate how successful your site is performing and living up to expectations.

For example, how are people finding your website? Is it by referring sites, search engines or direct traffic? What keywords are they finding you by and are you being found by phrases that you specifically want to target? What percentage of people are coming to your site and immediately leaving after the homepage? How many pages are your visitors hitting in a session and how long are they staying on the site? Are they performing the tasks that you want them to perform such as contacting you, purchasing products, or other goals?

Call your web developer; it's time to start tweaking

Each of the statistics available to you gives you insight into how successful your website is in accomplishing its tasks, but also what you need to do to improve its performance. These should not be major changes; they should be small incremental changes to see how your statistics change based on an update performed. For instance, if you change the text on your homepage to use more key words and phrases, are you noticing better search queries and more people from search engines? If you're noticing a high bounce rate, changing some of the calls to action, or maybe the phrasing of your navigation items, can often have an immediate affect on performance.

Go to your web developer armed with your statistics. Discuss strategies to improve those statistics with by small adjustments to your website.

At each stage in the process record what you did and take a performance snapshot. See how your site performs for a 4 week period, then re-evaluate and repeat.

Do not get sucked into the "search engine optimization" bottomless hole of website support monies. Focus on making the most of your website for human beings first, search engines second, because you want to convert as many of those human visits into achieved goals for your company.