Is your corporate website effective? An assessment framework.

How do you know when it’s time to redo your corporate website? The corporate site is not usually part of your day to day thinking—it is there, supporting your communications, branding, PR and social media efforts, but is it working hard enough?

The following is an assessment framework you can use to determine whether it is time to reprogram, re-message or just plain rethink how your company is seen on the web. A thorough assessment is traditionally part of the discovery process when you redo your site. Use this framework to help judge if it is time to make changes, and focus the changes you may seek to make. To gain more perspective, ask someone who’s never used the site before, in addition to your entrenched communication and marketing teams.

1. Findability: Can I find your site?

Making a site discoverable is the first step in engaging users. If your site is hard to find or the path to get there is complicated people will look elsewhere. The quicker they can arrive at what they’re looking for, the more time they will spend engaged with that content.

  • How are your search engine results?
  • Do you have a clear keyword strategy with page descriptions in place?
  • Are you using old or opaque technologies (Flash, for example) that hide your content from the robots coming to visit?
  • Do you have social media in place? You need a holistic social media strategy (yes, even B2B firms). Your volume of activity not only engages your audiences, it makes all your content more findable.

2. Accessibility: Can I access the site and its content?

Accessibility is the measure of how many people can use the site—from various browsers, platforms and locations—and how quickly and easily they can get to relevant content.

  • Mobile computing is growing rapidly. How does your site look and work on phones and tablets?
  • Do your pages load quickly? Slow loading time contributes to users abandoning a site.
  • Are many links broken? Do you get lots of errors?

3. Desirability: Is it memorable, will I come back?

What people see profoundly influences how they feel, how they interact and what they remember. The desirability of the site, its appearance and the feelings it can stir in the user, affect the perception of your brand, the reputation of your company and the effectiveness of your communications. Desirability taps into the emotions of the site’s users, and manifests in engagement and credibility.

  • Is the home page well organized? Am I overwhelmed with information?
  • Do I know where to look first? Is there a clear hierarchy of information?
  • Are there engaging images/videos? Are they apparent?

4. Usefulness: Can I find what I need?

What good is a site if it isn’t useful? Users come to the site to get answers, and your site needs to pique their interest, and do so in a fresh and creative way. Can they actually use the site and find what they’re looking for? Good user-centered design balances the competing demands of business goals, technical limitations and user needs.

  • Are the global navigation categories parallel? Do they reflect user needs?
  • Is sub-navigation clear and intuitive?
  • Does the site tell the company story? At a glance, can I tell what you do?
  • Does your on-site search work well and return expected results?
  • If your business is global, how does it address international visitors?

So, now what?

Evaluating your site is a key opportunity to see how the web can further your business and communications goals. All companies need to meet user and stakeholder expectations as well as better engage with their audiences. If your site isn’t reflecting your company back to users in a way they can easily understand, it’s time for a constructive change.

A Note

This framework is for use with corporate sites. It is not a complete toolset for evaluating transactional sites.

IOP Wins Best Designed Website was awarded Best Designed Website in the Web Marketing Association’s annual WebAward Competition. This competition recognizes excellence in  all aspects of website development, and was juried by an independent international panel of experts.