I read a great blog post on the Econsultancy website talking about
"What is the secret to a successful website?"
It highlighted the benefit for any site of having a Vision of the objectives and a Roadmap of/for development.
Makes a lot of sense but in practice a large number of websites appear to be "Orphans" i.e. set up and ignored rather than managed and refined based upon a set of "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic & Time Bound) Objectives.
Free web analytics packages such as Google's and Yahoo Analytics have enabled the reporting and distibution of a multitude of management reports enabling reporting on range of metrics. However it appears that many of these reports are produced but then are never read or actioned upon. One of the main reasons behind this is that many companies start the journey from the wrong point and do not appreciate the journey is an ongoing activity that requires effort and time.
Listed below are three steps that will hopefully stop you falling into this trap?
1. Start and keep the end objective in mind.
There is a start, middle and end to any web visit - Visitors find you, they interact and then they leave. Unless the site is driving revenue from advertising the success of the visit from the website owners view and the effectiveness of the site will be based upon the goals set e.g. purchase made, contact information provided etc.
Whilst not unimportant measures regarding traffic source & content will show the efficiency of the site in helping anonymous visitors navigate and omplete the website goals. Don't be embarrassed to write down what the website owners' objectives are! This will then enable you to determine functionality that will support your visitors to complete that task. For example I still see examples where the objecti is to provide visitors with a means of contacting a company but have home pages with no phone or email address!
2. It requires some work when it comes out the box !
Installing the code on the web is a simple job and (with some technical knowledge / help) you can be up and running quickly. However if all you do is install the initial one size fits all capability you will get lots data but limited insight !
Out of the box the dashbord will look good but can only provide "efficiency" information i.e. where people come from, how long they spend etc but not do they do what you would like them to.
To make the tools effective requires goals to be set or events to be coded. Without this its a bit like watching a football match but only knowing the statistics of which team has had more possession or the most corners.
3. Make it a habit !
Once the analytics package is installed data will be collected. However the data must be translated into actionable information. As with any habit people/companies will go through the 4 stages of becoming proficient in the same way as learning to drive a car (say) i.e. from 1st driving lesson in box 1, to aware but unable without support during driving lessons, through early post test driving to "just driving" in the 4th box
To introduce & embed this culture of Do, Review, Refine with regard to making any website smarter requires management to move forwards through the stages
So where are you on the journey ?
This is possibly best assessed by asking the following questions
1. Do you have analytics tracking on your websites - No ? Stage 1
2. Do you have tracking but don't see/read the information - Yes ? Stage 2
3. Do you look at and make enhancements based upon the information occasionally - Yes ? Stage 2-3
4. Do you have a regular formal website review process based upon the information produced that drives action i.e. changes to the website navigation, content etc - Yes ? Stage 3 - 4
Once you have done that ask the question where are your competitors ?