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The six-step checklist to your website’s continued health

The website you get out of the box tends to look quite different a few years down the line. Here's a quick check that you're still ticking the boxes of what your website should be and do.

A photo of a dog lying on its back with its paws dangling in front of it. There is a slice of cucumber over each of the dog's eyes, suggesting it is being pampered. The dog has a reddish patch on its ears and around its eyes, and is otherwise white. It looks very relaxed. The suggestion is that this is about being in good health. The choice of a dog is a reminder that our brand is Disquiet Dog, but it's also just a fun image.

A website always starts off wonderfully. You get in some developers to help you. They help map out what you need in a discovery phase. They put together those needs into functional parts of a website (‘the requirements’). They design it to look lovely. They build it. And they leave it to you to update.

And you ruin it.

Because months and years of ‘can you put that on the website?’ and ‘we need to put something new up’ and all the tinkering and fiddling will mean that what started off looking great will start to look a little frayed around the edges. It won’t quite work so well. The pictures will all start to look like they were randomly pulled together from a series of blurry weddings. Each piece of copy will read differently as if written by a wide cast list of people (which it was).

It won’t quite do what you, your clients and your customers need it to do anymore.

So it’s a good idea to put a review point in the diary and just check whether your website (which remains the single most important thing that you publish about yourself) still does what it should.

So set some time aside to take a look for yourself at your site and apply a number of criteria to it:

Does it fulfil your customer’s needs?

Do you know who your users are and what they want from your site?

A common failing of websites (and of company communications generally) is that an organisation starts to talk about itself more and more as it becomes desperate for ‘content’. And that’s not (necessarily) the right thing to do.

So review your site and remind yourself, as you do so, of your definition of your audience and your sense of what they need to know. Use the analytics on the site to understand what information they usually look for and make sure it’s coherently explained, easily findable and interesting, or even fun, to read.

Have blogs explaining what your CEO gets up to at the weekend and the company awayday, if you must. But not at the expense of the ability of your customers to understand (and buy) what you do.

Does it do what your organisation needs it to do?

Closely related to user needs are the organisation’s needs. Clearly, they overlap to an extent, but your website should come with a defined set of goals attached. These might be easily measurable (you might set audience targets), or they may be a little more intangible (brand profile), but you should know why your website exists (‘everyone else has one’ isn’t enough), and you should be able to tell whether it’s delivering on those.

And intertwined with that is a clarity over ownership - who runs the site and who has sign-off on the content and design which supports those overall goals? Clarity on that will go a long way in the day-to-day running of your digital estate.

Can your users find what they want?

It’s not surprising that many of these issues are strongly connected to each other, but each needs to be thought of separately.

The design and content need to be part of a site which has a navigable structure and is accessible to all.

Does the site have a logical navigation? Is the signposting clear? When that fails, does the search function work? Are there forms on the site and are they easy to complete? And are your calls to action easy to see and follow?

In other words, you need to think about the user journey and separate yourself from your own familiarity with the site and put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitor. Does it work for them?

Of course, the best way to do that is our UX audit...

Is it findable by search engines?

We often talk about search engine optimisation here and there’s good reason for that. It doesn’t half help people find you. Read more on how we can help with SEO, and our SEO audit too. You can see for yourself if your site is loading speedily, if there are tidy previews on content on search results pages and when shared on social media.

And you’ll know whether your sitemap has been submitted to search engines and whether you’ve done the keyword research and are using it… won’t you?

Is it secure?

You need to make sure that your site is up, at least 99.999% of the time. If the hosting is wobbly, then there’ll be too many times when users just get an error message when they try and visit the site. They won’t come back...

But you’ll want more than that - you’ll want to keep it safe from (often needless) malicious attack. You may not think that anyone would have a reason to bring your site down, but it happens anyway and you certainly don’t want anyone hacking your user data.

So make sure you update your CMS when prompted to ensure the latest security patches and plugins are installed. And ensure an https:// certificate and that you manage passwords carefully amongst a select band of editors and that you have automated checks for broken links and if the site goes offline.

Is it compliant?

If you have a website, you have legal obligations - so it’s best to stick to them. You should have clear, and published, policies for user privacy, clarity on your use of cookies and (if you collect data), good GDPR processes. You should also respect the copyright and licensing of the works of others (if you use photographs for instance).

If you get those done on an annual basis, you’ll keep your site in reasonable shape and be able to rectify the issues that crop up in the rest of the year. And you’ll see the benefit in visitor numbers, dwell time and their willingness to take up the calls to action.

And if you want help on all this, just get in touch.

We offer a neat little two-day Pre-Audit which includes a one-hour meeting, a day and a half of proper human analysis, and a short report detailing what you need to do next to fix things up. That's a great place to start.