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Measure Twice, Build Once

Set up your website project for success by committing to a website audit process

Almanac – Website Assessment Worksheet

Chances are, your organization needs more from your website than ever before. With more communications...

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Welcome to 2020! As you kick off a new year (a new DECADE!), you might be thinking the time is right to embark on a website audit process. Chances are, you’ve been tallying up 4-5 years of grievances and “wouldn’t it be cool if we…” ideas sourced from your staff, board, members and/or website users. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “We need to increase applications through the website!”
  • “I feel like we should be able to better understand who is on our site and what they are looking for.”
  • “Isn’t there a way to tie the website into our CRM tool?”
  • “How come I can never find Terry’s contact information?”
  • “I’m lost. Where do I go to understand the application cycle?”

Here’s a little advice: one of the best ways to get off on the right foot is to look inward. Likewise, a little bit of measurement will gain you a better understanding of your current website and your website’s users.

To aid in your efforts, I thought I’d ask Almanac’s Technical Director Ben Gathard for his recommendations.

Don’t forget your brand!

Now before we jump into those, here’s our typical Almanac public service announcement: before you begin, make sure you understand your brand! Your website is a tool to help you create the impact your organization seeks to make. When you are clear on who you are and what you stand for, this whole process will get easier. (I wrote a post on this recently: How To Know If You Are An Impact Brand. It includes a downloadable worksheet to help you sort it out. Do it now!)

Doing a website audit

Ok, back to Ben. Here are his top three areas to take a look at:

  1. Site Health & Performance
  2. User Experience
  3. Website Goals with Google Analytics

Insites Dashboard

Site Health & Performance – Insites by Silktide.
“On of my favorite tools for measuring site health and performance is Insites by Silktide. Insights allows you to test, monitor and improve your website. They have a really cool dashboard that lays it all out and includes what you need to do to fix everything from spelling and broken links to improving SEO and accessibility. You can even track your site’s performance against other like providers, or against a model example in your industry. It’s pretty sweet.” – Ben Gathard

Hotjar Screen Recording Video Screenshot

User Experience – Hotjar
Hotjar lets you visualize user behavior on your site. Before you embark on your new website journey, install it on your current website to get a better understanding what your users care about. The tool captures click, move and scroll heatmaps, as well as screen recordings to see things in real time (I know, it’s super creepy). Here’s a real world example of it in use. One of our clients had a landing page with a form, that once submitted, allowed users to download a piece of content. There was significant traffic to the page but very few of those visitors were successfully downloading the content. Why? We installed Hotjar and got our answer! When a visitor supplied their website url in one of the fields but didn’t include the https://www along with it, the form would error out and not tell the user why. We corrected the issue and the successful submissions began rolling in!” – Ben Gathard


Measurable goals make the difference

Website Goals – Google Analytics
“It’s easy to spend most of your time looking at traffic to your website and using that metric to determine success. But the goal of your website isn’t just to get people there, it’s to make sure they do something: download your white paper, make a donation, register for your event. Goals take a little bit of effort and understanding to set up but it’s not too bad. The above video should get you started. You’ll want to look at Conversion Attribution Comparison, Funnel Visualization and Reverse Goal Path. Setting up measurable goals in Google Analytics is really the only way to determine if your users are actually doing the things you created the website for in the first place! After all, the website is not the goal. Instead, it’s a tool to help you achieve your organization’s goals.” – Ben Gathard

This January, make a pledge to learn a little bit more about your website and your users through a website audit process. You’ll supercharge your organizations impact, and we may all enjoy more intuitive navigation systems, expert content, streamlined online donation processes, and contact forms that properly submit (and notify the user of the completed submission!). Good luck!