So you have invested a lot of time researching your audience, defining your strategy, designing and building your new website, and now its ready to go live. Nothing else left to do, except agreeing to a website maintenance package with your web agency. Sounds sensible, right?
Website maintenance is where the health of your site is looked after, keeping it technically up to date and ensuring it stays in good condition. So why would I say that website maintenance moves your website backwards?
Because if you’re only maintaining where you’re at, when your competitors take steps forward, or your audience needs change, if your website doesn’t progress to keep up, then you will be left behind and your website will appear to go backwards!
Website maintenance is a good first step, where you are keeping the website technically up to date and secure with the latest patches and updates. But you then need to have a website progression plan, to ensure your site is growing and answering your users needs.
So how do you create a website progression plan?
Step 1: Establish good foundations
You should have established good foundations already during the initial stages of your website project. We find the following gives a good basis for moving forward:
- An understanding of your audience needs
- A competitor audit
- Your brand review and your offering
- A critique of your current website and marketing
Step 2: Build on those foundations
So this step is actually before the website progression. This is where you’re designing and building a website that meets your audience needs, in a way that sets you apart from the competition and presents your offering in an engaging way. If you’ve done this well, you can then move onto the next step.
Step 3: Regularly test the foundations
So at this point many organisations are happy with their new website and then they go into maintenance mode. Then in 3 years time they realise their website isn’t working as hard as it did when it was first launched and then decide to go through the process again of making another new website. This can be quite an inefficient process. Instead of waiting 3 years to review your foundations and then redefining your approach, test your foundations more frequently. Now the frequency of testing is going to be different for every organisation in every sector. But we would suggest reviewing the foundations at least annually, but probably competitor reviews and audience needs more frequently.
- What are your competition doing online?
- What are their key messages?
- Are they answering the same needs as you’re answering?
- Are they doing it better than you?
- What is your point of difference?
- Has your product or service offering changed?
- Has your team changed?
- Are your users needs changing?
- Are there areas on your website that are increasing / decreasing in popularity?
- Are users moving through your website as expected?
- What search terms are bringing visitors to your website?
Answering these kind of questions on a regular basis will help you to understand if your foundations need updating at all.
Step 4: Establish a user feedback loop
A great way to understand your user needs is to simply ask them. Make sure you’re using polls, comment boxes or simple ways for your audience to give feedback on your website. Don’t be afraid to ask them short questions on how they are finding the website experience today. We all like to hear positive praise, but it’s the trends of negative comments that can be really insightful to improving your user experience. You can create a feedback loop using:
- Subtle overlays asking for site wide feedback
- Specific questions asking “Did you find what you were looking for today?” on pages with a high exit rate.
- Ask “What (if anything) is missing from the website?”
- Email questionnaires that contain a mixture of multiple choice questions and free text fields to allow a broader response – you’d be surprised what your audience really think!
- Focus groups (based on your user personas) to get feedback on your website and offering according to their individual needs.
Whatever techniques you choose to implement, just choose to do it regularly and review the feedback regularly. This will be a very powerful source of information that gives real clarity for website progression. If your customers are asking for a feature, then its probably worth implementing.
Step 5: Adapt and grow to the changes
Once you have all of the review information in front of you, you can then record all of these features into a backlog. The backlog can then be prioritised in terms of cost to implement vs benefit to the end user. So easy fixes that bring massive benefit to the end user will be actioned first.
Understanding the foundations your website and marketing are built upon, regular reviewing of the foundations, and then adapting accordingly will ensure that your website remains successful. Staying ahead of the curve, listening to your customers and being proactive is all part of your website progression strategy.
At Made with Maturity we create environments where your digital project will thrive. If you need help taking your website to the next level, or would like to discuss your website progression plan then please drop me a message on our contact form to see if we can help.
This article was originally published in “The Helpful Little Marketing Book”. You can download past editions of this publication and subscribe for free for the latest edition by visiting https://building-brands.co.uk/magazine/