Most website owners are never happy with their sites. It could be doubts from a design or content perspective, or merely not seeing the metric results that were anticipated. Whatever the issue, site stress is becoming a common ailment among the Web fraternity.
Our research has shown that many site owners are actually some six months behind where they want it to be. Some react by throwing time and effort at the site without considering the underlying causes, leading to wasted effort and yet more stress.
Others look for new ideas and features to add, which can just over-complicate the site and further exacerbate the problem. If any of this sounds familiar, there are some easy ways to fix your site. They are not instant solutions, but can make for a quick turn around and a lot less stress.
1. Opinions are like tummy buttons, everybody has one, but they’re full of fluff!
Many sites draw influence from a range of sources. This may be from rival sites, well known ones, input from designers, design agencies, even colleagues and peers. Designing a site based on opinion is a recipe for disaster, the design for your site should be pure, simple and achieve the tasks behind your business plan. If you have a live site that came to life through opinions without speaking to users, it is critical to validate them with research rather than assuming everything is fine. More on how to deal with opinions about your website
2. His vital stats are dropping, get the crash cart!
Following the metrics religiously in the early stages of a site’s life is a sure way to get a headache. Consider the first few months as the creation of a baseline which you will compare against in the future. As your site finds its feet, you might get a spike of interest that will tail off, or you might see cyclical peaks and troughs (beyond the usual weekly rhythm). Use this data to gradually better your site and not induce a panic attack.
3. You don’t need a crash test dummy, but a crash test smarty
Using website testing is the best way to find out what is wrong with a site that is not performing as expected. Usability testing can methodically go through the site and point out where real users will have trouble, find a problem or get frustrated. Fixing those problems found in testing is the only way to ensure that your users get the best experience and keep them coming back.
4. Innovation can save the day
If you start to worry that your site is stagnating then throwing bells and whistles at the problem will not solve it. Instead get creative with what you offer your customers or clients. Make your content more valuable, insightful or add unique elements. Reward loyalty from repeat customers and create offers that add value for customers rather than just slashing prices which will only serve to reduce your own income.
5. Check what’s going on around you
Watching competitors is always a good plan. The trick is not to just blindly follow what they do (we’re staggered at the number of designers who are asked to build a clone of a successful site from people who think that’s all that is needed). Do what they do better, or with your own unique twist, or just do something that makes you look different to build up your own customer base. If you’re always following your competitors lead, you’ll always be one step behind.
Keeping it together
When your site is struggling, the first thing is step outside the problem(s) and look at your site as a whole. Often, getting an independent voice is the best solution and this is where usability testing can play the most beneficial role.
Have you had website anxiety? how have you dealt with it?
Related services: Usability testing
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About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees