Updating Your Site - A Checklist to Ensure Your Customers Are Onside
By Jerry Tarasofsky CEO, iPerceptions Inc. | January 27, 2012
In order to answer that question, you must have previously established clear, quantifiable objectives. You would be surprised to learn that there are still quite a few relatively sophisticated site development teams out there that fail to quantify their objectives into terms that can be measured and benchmarked. And as the saying goes, you can't manage what you can't measure and when it comes to the web, it is imperative that you are able to quantify your site's performance against objectives and benchmarks.
So number one on my list for ensuring your customers are onside with your site is to make sure you are onside with your own objectives. Make sure everyone on you team understands what you want the site to achieve. It really doesn't matter whether your site is to be purely informational or is driving reservations - if everyone on the team, from Marketing and IT to Customer Service is pulling in the same direction, you'll have a pretty good chance of meeting your objectives. If they are off on different tangents, you run the risk of pleasing no one but outside suppliers who will be kept busy constantly making changes to the site - changes that may or may not be what your actual users want.
If your objectives are clear and can be supported with metrics that can act as benchmarks such as conversion rates, look to book ratios, abandonment levels, site satisfaction ratings, user satisfaction ratings, pages viewed and time spent on the site, you at least, have a starting point from which to evaluate what if any changes need to be made to ensure the site is meeting your objectives and the needs and wants of your users and most valuable customers.
Understanding to what degree your site meets those wants and needs of your web site visitors is probably the single most important issue a web site owner faces when they begin to look at site updates and enhancements.
Before you begin tinkering with the content, navigation, interactivity, special tools and other features that you believe need fixing - STOP. Step back, take a deep breath and ask yourself what it is your users are telling you? What are they saying about the site, as it now exists? Are they booking reservations online or abandoning the process just before they are supposed to hit the "confirm your reservation" button? Are they leaving your site satisfied or frustrated? If you can't listen and hear what they are saying, your first challenge is to build the tools or find an organization that will help you collect the necessary business intelligence so you can truly understand what your users are saying.
This business intelligence can come in many forms. Web logs provide such data as number of page views, time spent per page, click through patterns and site exit points for example. All of this data is vital information for determining user activity to some degree, however it does not provide any information about the actual user's online experience and the frame of mind they are in when they visit your site.