Reconnaissance Mission

By Monica Pitts

If you’re like most website owners, you don’t look at your own site very often. And while you’re not looking (which is most of the time), obvious things can break, content can become outdated or incorrect. You won’t even know things are going south until a client calls to tell you something’s broken. So, while you may feel like a website is a “set it and forget it” kind of thing…it’s really a “set it and check it” thing.

Every year as you’re reviewing all the numbers in your business, you also review your website so you can see what’s working and what’s not. Give it an annual physical and make a checklist of what you can do to make it better… But how do you make this checklist? Where do you look? What do you review? There are tons of reports you can review or have your web designer pull for you. But some review is best done by you, the site owner.

Review your site’s aesthetics.
This is something you can delegate to a team member or easily do on your own. To review the aesthetics of your site, your first task is to look at your competition — companies similar to yours in that they serve the same target market or you bid against most often. You need to make sure you’re keeping up with the Joneses. You don’t want people to look at your website and think you’re behind the times.
• How do their websites look?
• Did they get new websites?
• Do they have new functionality on there?

After you get a good feel for what’s going on with those websites, hop back over to your own website. Be honest with yourself, don’t sugarcoat the truth.

• Is your website ugly?
• Does it still make you proud to call it yours?
• Is your website functional?
• How did you feel when you got to your website in comparison to when you were looking at the websites of your competition?

You may not look at your website all that often, but your target market — the people you’re selling to — look at your website all the time. So do the people looking for jobs with your company. Make sure you look at least as good as the other guys. You don’t want the first or lasting impression of your company to be a pile of crap.

Review your content.
The next thing you’re going to do is review your content. It’s not that you don’t trust your web designer by doing this. It’s that things change. Browsers change, code is continually improved. And things can break in your website and you won’t know it because you’re never out there clicking on it.

Start general.
• Click through every page of your website. Are there things that are broken?
• If there are pictures of people on your website, do those people still work for you? (If not, is that okay?)

Look at your Blog/Projects/News/other regularly (or supposed to be regularly) updated content.
• How long has it been since you updated your projects section?
• Does it even make sense to still have it on your site? I would argue yes, but if you’re never going to update it, you may just consider removing it.
• Are there things that happened this year you should add to the site?
• Are there upcoming items that could be added to the site?
• Is this still the information you want featured on the site? Especially in your projects section, if you just added any old thing up there because your business was new when you initially built the site and now you’re working on different types of projects, you may want to take some of the old ones down.

Visit your Staff/Team/About section.
• Is it accurate?
• Do all those people still work there?
• Did they get a new phone number?
• Do they have a new title?

Go through your Services section.
• Are they all accurate?
• Are there any that need to be removed or added to?
• Can you add new photos after this past year of work?
• Read the services pages to make sure they accurately represent the work you’re doing right now. A lot can change in a year, especially if your business is new.

Check out your Careers section.
• Submit your application form.
» Make sure you get a success email from your site.
» Make sure as the form submitter you also get a success email from the website.
» I may be getting ahead of myself, but try it on mobile, too…more about that later.
• If you don’t have an online application form, put it on the list of things to add to your site. Applicants need a way to apply online, even if it’s not on your site, you can link to another to give them the functionality to do so.

Test your search feature.
If you have a search form on your site, try to search your site. What happens? Do you get a nice search results page? If not, something is busted.

Start with a gut check, then click on it ALL and make sure it’s still working.
The last thing you want is somebody you’re trying to do business with to get to your website and be served some errant, irrelevant pop-up window and never return to your website because the window won’t close. Yes, that just happened to me the other day. How stupid is that, right? The end of the year is the perfect opportunity to make sure your website is completely awesome and ready to carry into the new year.

Monica Pitts is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days constructing a marriage of form and function; creating art with her design team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. Monica considers herself an artist, marketer and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.