Like kids, a pet, or even you, websites need consistent care to keep running and operating efficiently. At OUTC16, Jennie Salamoun, User Experience Architect at NewCity, walked us through the wellness and preventive care measures needed for a healthy website. Read on for her insight and best practices to keep your website in top shape.
What Makes a Website Healthy?
- It is easy to navigate.
- Information is clear, concise, and accurate.
- The experience of looking at the site is positive and consistent, regardless of device used.
- It leaves a good impression, not only of the website, but of the institution behind it.
- It's clear that the website is a priority of the institution.
- There are streamlined governance processes in place with plenty of resources and support.
What Makes a Website Unhealthy?
- The primary navigation has too many choices, including several that don't represent primary user goals.
- There are tens of thousands of pages, full of jargon and academic speak.
- There's content rot (redundant, outdated, trivial content).
- It is obvious that the website is managed by different groups who aren't coordinating their efforts.
- It's hard to perform basic tasks.
- There's a lack of tools or authority to do the things needed to improve and maintain the site.
How to Remedy
Salamoun likens a website redesign to a major surgery and identifies various stages leading up to and following the procedure.
The time right after launch is your post-op phase. This is a time for much excitement, relief, and probably some firefighting. For a successful post-op phase, it's imperative that pre-launch communication be effective. For instance, tell internal stakeholders that no major changes will occur for the first 3 months as the dust settles.
Preparing the pre-launch communication will help you avoid some of the negativity that might come after a redesign, as well as what Salamoun calls the "dreaded swoop and poop" - the high level administrator that comes in at the 11th hour, who hasn't been a part of the process, and has ideas and recommendations. Definitely take your time to do pre-launch communications.
Also be ready to record the behavior that's happening on your site during the post-op phase and compare the analytics to your old site. And, expect to troubleshoot. Luckily, for any problems that do arise, many can be taken care of right in OU Campus with a page check, which will find broken links, W3C compliance and accessibility issues, and spelling errors. OU Insights also can report on these key areas, in addition to SEO.
Once you've gathered information from testing and analytics, reach out for internal feedback. Based on your analytics and feedback, communicate back to your stakeholders what changes you are or are not going to be implementing and why.
Preventive Care Phase
Following post-op, there will be about 3-5 years of preventive care of your website (before your next redesign).
There are two concurrent efforts that should be going on at this time:
- Continuous improvement of your content, pages, and design
- New content creation
If you're getting a high bounce rate on any page, make changes, and then go back and see how those changes perform.
For content creation, one way to be more proactive is to create a content calendar. Consider what content is most valuable to your audience so you know what to spend your time on.
Once you decide you're ready for the next big redesign, you've entered the pre-op phase. This is the time to get your ducks in a row and do some clean up.
The most important but most tedious task you can do preparing for a redesign is to audit your site. Get a good look at how many pages you have, how many pageviews per page, and the bounce rate per page. Also take a critical look at your content for accuracy, consistent voice, and web-friendly formatting (like short paragraphs and bulleted lists).
The worst thing you can do in a redesign is to simply move all of your old content onto your brand new site. That is, unless you've been taking care of your site and it's healthy!