Website sustainability may sound like a complex topic but the concepts are quite straightforward and are fundamental to successful website development and growth. With any web property, sustainability issues can be identified and, with proper planning and implementation, avoided. The result is a website that will flourish and grow alongside your business.
During the initial design (or redesign) and creation of a website, time and effort are invested in ensuring that content is well organized, navigation is straightforward and, frankly, that the website is the best that it can be. As time passes, the site is at risk of becoming outdated, unwieldy and out of line with business goals and objectives.
The following scenarios are common in websites that have not undergone sustainability planning.
- Organizational growth or change has not been reflected in the website, resulting in structure and content that is not relevant or does not reflect the goals and objectives of the business.
- Stale or invalid content is not monitored and removed, resulting in a reduced level of trust in the website as a source of accurate information.
- Content management and governance principles are not properly utilized, resulting in more content than the operational team can reasonably manage.
- Insufficient testing with evolving browser technologies results in a site which is outmoded or no longer functioning.
The goal of a sustainability plan is to outline steps of action to take to eliminate the occurrence of the above issues and create a long-term foundation for success with the website.
To support sustainability, the following activities should be scheduled and performed on a regular basis.
Content should be regularly reviewed and stale or irrelevant content can be archived or removed. This activity should include testing external links to ensure they are still valid.
Information Architecture Review
Content organization and navigation may need to evolve with changes in business goals and objectives, new features or concepts, or organizational updates. The IA review process may include activities such as card sorting or tree testing.
User Feedback Collection
Engaging with users should be an ongoing activity. By engaging users to provide feedback, ideas are generated with minimal effort from the operational team, user frustrations are alleviated and satisfaction with the company and the brand is increased. Most importantly, people like to be heard and feel like their opinions are being considered.
There are many different possible methods for gathering feedback but it does present the opportunity to get creative.
- Use a video to solicit comments and suggestions. This adds an element of interactivity and a personal face to the website.
- Post an announcement or news item to advertise the feedback-gathering method. This is less intrusive than a pop-up message, which many people will appreciate.
The feedback gathering process may also include activities that involve more direct interaction with users, such as interviews or focus groups.
Possible usability testing activities may include:
- Time-on-Task Performance
- Task Success
- Contextual Inquiry
- Heuristic Evaluation
Browser Update Testing
Browser technology is constantly changing and evolving and the website should be regularly tested to ensure ongoing compatibility. The site should be tested in old and new iterations of commonly used browsers. There are free website services such as Browser Shots (http://browsershots.org/) that allow you to test your site in many browsers at once.
Site Usage Statistics and Search Logs Analysis
Site usage statistics and search logs give you a direct look at how people are using the site, which content is most commonly accessed, and how people are searching for information. The results of the analysis can identify areas of improvement in terms of featuring or highlighting content, organization and navigation, and can assist with search configuration/changes to keywords and best bets.
We're passionate about user experience and enjoy making the web a more user-friendly place. If you're interested in learning more about website sustainability, or anything related to web usability, please contact us. We'd love to hear from you!