Website Optimisation – Why you need it and why it is so important!

Mark | Sep 16, 2010

Quite often I will hear clients say ‘once we get this website launched we can take a break from it for a while’. I don’t blame them in their logic; you can understand why. The branding is strong, the code base is clean and the content feels fresh. Who wouldn’t want to sit back and watch success roll in? Chances are however that despite recommendations, there was no or very minimal end user testing (and no client acceptance testing does not count) or there was no beta site launch and the website is having its first real sink or swim test. This is never the ideal way to launch a new website, but is often the reality.

If there is no feedback loop to gauge opinion, then post launch reporting becomes more critical. It will give you analytical evidence to understand how the site is performing and help feed your strategically grounded plan of action (or evolution). The thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Even if you are using a self-reliant content management system, your marketing budget should (and must) have a line item for data-driven Website Optimisation.

So what is it?
Despite being inter-related, Website Optimisation is not to be mistaken with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO is essentially the process of improving visibility of a web page in search engines to ensure higher rankings for relevant and targeted keywords. While SEO is a part of Website Optimisation, Website Optimisation deals with so much of a user’s decision making factors. If SEO is about getting people to your website, Website Optimisation is about getting them to convert. Website Optimisation deals with the entire user journey, from search to goal completion, covering off other important decision making influences, including:

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Web Usability
  • Information Architecture
  • Branding & Design
  • Download Speeds

These decision making influences are posts unto themselves, but I will touch on why each one of these listed above are so important.

Web Usability
As Jakob put it, ‘Usability is the measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a product or system’. In its simplest form, without good usability, the website, application or interaction fails. I don’t need to outline the repercussions of that.

Information Architecture
Information Architecture (IA) is the art or science of organising and categorising information and logical flow for applications (including websites) to aid overall usability. Basically, you can have a very clear interface, but if the logical grouping of related content is not intuitive or relevant than a user will fail to complete their task. Minor changes in IA can go a long way in helping improve performance.

Branding & Design
Branding is important because it is your customers’ definition of you. It is the value in their experiences and dealings with you. Real success comes when your brand matches the experiences of your consumer, helping you to become top of mind. Good branding can build trust; reinforce your credibility; help define and deliver your message; connect you with your audience; motivate your audience; and cement loyalty. Good branding is more than the visuals a user sees; it is the emotion; the tone; the personality; the copy; the voice.

Good design is where you move away from the brand and into page specifics. Would a bigger button have more impact; should we change the colour of this element, etc. A/B or Multi-Variant testing are your friends here, and their importance cannot be understated.

Download Speeds
Download Speeds are important for two main reasons, (1) Google includes site speed into its algorithm for determining rankings; and importantly (2)  A quick loading website will help keep a users attention in a time-poor world (3-5 seconds) and will help empower users, improving their overall satisfaction and thus improving your chance of conversion.

What If my website is already optimised?
It isn’t. Your site will never ever be 100% optimised. It is never ending – there is always room for improvement. As I said in the beginning, the thought of optimising is not something to fear, but something to embrace constantly. Remember, good optimisation ensures you are always moving forward.

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