This is the fourth and final post in a series about building a better website. The first post focused on setting goals for your site, the second focused on site planning, and the third covered design. This post focuses on quality control. The series was sparked by an article that I posted on my Facebook page that advised businesses to reevaluate their e-commerce efforts, and also that they should avoid the “do it yourself” approach. While I agree with some of the advice in the column, I’m not sure that its necessary to avoid the DIY approach—especially if you’re tech savvy.
Regardless, the article did mention the necessity of setting goals, site planning, and design . . . all steps frequently overlooked by zealous business owners anxious to “get online.” I add another frequently overlooked, yet critical, function—quality control.
Once your site is live, it is important to make sure that the site’s integrity remains intact. (This post focuses on content-based quality control, we’ll leave the tech QC to the techies.) That means that you need to have a process to check new content prior to posting, as well as a routine check of the site’s content and links. When surfing the web, few things are more frustrating than searching for the answer to a specific question on a company’s product or service and finding contradictory information within the same website. Another source of frustration is broken links, especially when coupled with a captive browser (one that doesn’t allow backing up to the place you were before you clicked on the broken link)—the result is more often an abandon than a return to your site. And, both contradictory content and broken links damage your company’s credibility and give the impression that your company is not detail oriented and perhaps provides “sloppy” service or “shoddy” products.
All new content must be checked for grammatical errors, content accuracy, link integrity, brand consistency (both messaging and graphics), and also consistency with previously posted material. The best way to accomplish this pre-posting validation is to create a simple checklist. Following a checklist ensures that you will not forget a step, and as your site’s complexity grows so can your checklist. Using a checklist also allows easy training, delegation, and sharing of the pre-posting checks, which allows the process to grow with your company. Even though today you may be person that designs, writes, validates, and posts material, you may someday have marketing department and product teams that will need to be involved in the process. Starting with a checklist will make it easy to take line-items and assign them to other team members or departments as you grow.
Again, using a checklist enables you to consistently review your website for common problems (broken links, outdated content, etc.). The first thing that you’ll need to check for is broken links. If you refer to external pages for critical information or via your web activity reports you discover that certain links on your site are heavily trafficked, you’ll want to either try to capture the destination material on your site (to remove the link issues entirely) via syndication, permission from the material’s owner, etc. or routinely check to make sure that the link remains intact.
The next item that you should check for is outdated content. How many times have you accessed an “events” page only to find that it was woefully out of date or not populated at all? After you’ve finished designing your site, make a list of all of the pages with date-driven content and assign a review schedule to each item. If your site contains a monthly event calendar, make sure that you keep it updated (I suggest adding new items weekly on a routine schedule at a set time v. “when they come in” as this will ensure that you’re looking at the page on a set schedule and that postings don’t fall by the wayside when you get busy). If you have any pages with date-driven statistics or offers (annual data, monthly summaries, sales events, etc.), add them to the update schedule. Make sure that you factor in any time necessary to gather the data necessary to update the information into your schedule.
If you have an “In the News” or any other recent publications/press release type of page then you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got a plan to ensure a constant source of material to post (after all, what does it say when the most “recent” item on your “in the news” page is five years old?). If you’re not sure what you need to do to create a steady stream of content/press then consult a marketing professional for assistance creating a marketing and/or public relations campaign plan. Not only will the fresh content help bolster your image as a growing, vibrant company, constant posting of new material will help in our search-engine optimization efforts.
I hope that this series has been helpful in any efforts to create a new or refresh an existing website. In closing, always remember who your audience is and how they will use your site—for example: making sure you have a site as a measure of your legitimacy as a service provider (CPAs, attorneys, etc.) v. visiting your site to facilitate an ecommerce purchase (such as pizza parlors, online retailers, etc.). Don’t fall prey to the siren-song of technological gimmicks, make sure your site works for, and not against, your customers purposes for visiting it.