Things I learned redoing our website…
A while back I promised to post some learnings from the process of redoing the Polygon corporate website… regrettably I appeared to have lied and never posted so will endeavour to make amends now.
Here goes… Three things I learned or was reminded of when redoing our website (not necessarily the only things I learned, but 3 key ones):
Caveat: Polyhomes.com is a website for a real estate developer. I think these comments are pretty relevant across the board, but save me the agro comments if they are too basic or don’t apply to you, they may not apply to every website everywhere.
1. Don’t fixate on the homepage, chances are few people go there.
This is such a tough one as when people envision their website, they usually think of the homepage and so they spend countless hours in design and revision of it. Chances are the boss-(wo)men will fixate on this aswell and have specific ideas they want when it comes to the homepage. The reality is, in today’s search-centric times, I am willing to guess that very little of your traffic (in our case only 10%) will ever come through the front door… making the guts of your site the most important part.
That said, a few suggestions:
a) check your analytics before you start design, if your direct traffic is low and search is high, then maybe you should focus more attention on getting your inside pages right and less on your homepage. Focus specifically on the pages that most searches seem to land on.
b) consider who is coming through the front door and design specifically to them. What is the profile of the person who actually types in your url vs. searching on a keyword? It may be your bankers, competitors etc and not your customers, so how might you reconfigure things for that audience? And / or maybe you should put your aesthetic hat aside and be designing your homepage strictly as google fuel?
c) set the tone with the boss-(wo)men early. Make sure whoever is the final approval on the site is clear on what the homepage stats and strategy is before you get in to presentation. Use your influence to steer the approval process so people don’t get fixated on pages, features, formats that don’t matter.
2. Track everything.
As creepy as it is for some people to imagine, the web allows you to track everything; so, are you? At the most basic level, do you know where your traffic is coming from and how they’re navigating your site? To the more advanced, are you tracking IP addresses and linking those to your CRM system so you can monitor when prospects come and go and what they are most interested in? To the specific, are you monitoring mail-to and call-to clicks so you know if people are emailing or calling vs. just filling out your registration form? And can you compare this data to other data of your registrants, how many people called or emailed, what keywords produced the most calls vs. emails vs. registrants etc. etc.
Anyone with any web experience is rolling their eyes at me right now disgusted at what a basic “learning” this is, but the challenge is to not take it for granted and reconsider what valuable information you are not tracking and figure out a way to capture that info. As you get in to more advanced web-tech you will use this data to serve up demographic and / or customer specific content.
3. Analyze your bounces.
One of the quickest ways to pick up return visits, extend average time on site, and increase registrations, mail-tos and call-tos is to figure out where and when people are bouncing and fix it. There are a number of reasons people bounce: keyword relevance is low, forms are too long, navigation is weak and frustrating, content is thin, among other reasons. If 30 – 50% of your traffic is bouncing, by fixing these triggers you stand to make big gains quickly.
Agreeably, none of these comments are earth shattering “learnings” nor have I cracked the code and earned the title of “web guru” but it is so easy to be distracted by “shiny buttons”, widgets, social media plug-ins and sexy java functions when the answers to a better website lie in the basics first. I suspect I’ll get motivated to write about this topic again in a few weeks / months at which time I should share some more advanced insites. Hope these thoughts are of use.