How and Why to Conduct a Website Audit
What’s the current state of your website?
If you’re like most of our clients in the AEC industry, chances are you’ve pondered this question, but may not have the time—or strategy in place—to effectively determine the answer.
Enter the website audit. A streamlined and actionable document with tips and ideas on how to optimize your website. At Middle of Six, we frequently use this tool as part of our discovery process with a new website project. For an efficient, effective, and organized way to evaluate the user experience and functionality of your website, the website audit is an excellent resource!
You have a business; therefore—we’re inclined to believe—you have a website. Perhaps you inherited it, or it was built a few years back, or maybe, you’re interested in making changes, but lack the technical understanding or time required to fully dive in.
The purpose of the website audit is to create a no-nonsense accounting of your website. Important details, your “must-haves” and your “wish-list” of features, areas for improvement, and recommendations are captured in one place, that will serve as a blueprint for upcoming changes and improvements. You’ll capture technical details such as log-in information and back-end functionality, as well as a list of actionable, quick fixes to prioritize.
The audit can serve as a valuable first step when considering whether a website refresh or a full design and rebuild is the next right step for your business. In our experience working with clients, the process often yields provoking questions and areas of discussion to explore as we evaluate which approach is best for you.
The purpose of the website audit is to create a no-nonsense accounting of your website. Important details, your “must-haves” and your “wish-list” of features, areas for improvement, and recommendations are captured in one place, that will serve as a blueprint for upcoming changes and improvements.
The Nuts and Bolts
You may be wondering, how exactly does this all shake out? We typically begin our audit process with a high-level overview of key information: Middle of Six team and client points of contact, an agenda outlining the audit’s findings, and recommended primary and secondary website objectives, informed by conversations with key decision-makers.
Next, we document the current technical state of your website. This includes where to log-in, username and password, and any critical updates to website theme, plug-ins, and other primary areas of functionality.
Side Bar: who within your organization has access to the back-end of your website? If you’ve made it this far and find yourself pondering the answer to this very question, our first action item will be to secure your organization access. Log-in information and access may have been managed by a previous IT consultant, web designer, or employee of your organization, and we will help you track it down!
The most substantive portion of the audit begins with high-level observations regarding five key areas:
Narrative (how is information communicated? Does it align with your brand messaging, voice, and tone?)
Design (brand presentation and aesthetics)
Photography/Graphics (the quality and utility of your creative assets)
User Experience (how do web and mobile users engage with and navigate your website? Are you capturing and maintaining the interest of the demographic you’re aiming to reach?)
Search Engine Optimization (how are Google and other search engines “reading,” or indexing the technical and organic details of your content? How might we optimize this to reach your target audience?)
We note what’s working and what’s not working, with an eye towards areas of improvement and best practices. Next, we review the entire website page-by-page, providing notes and recommendations along the way. This may comprise simple fixes (correcting typos, updating broken links, editing any outdated content), to more complex issues such as editing top-level navigation, recommendations for new design, or proposing an entirely new approach to showcasing your firm’s experience and capabilities. All content is collected, labeled by category, and provided for your team to review.
We note what’s working and what’s not working, with an eye towards areas of improvement and best practices. Next, we review the entire website page-by-page, providing notes and recommendations along the way.
With a blueprint in hand—or rather, on screen— we can prioritize tasks and dig in! At this stage, we can better assess the scope and level of effort required, with the audit serving as a baseline for deeper discussion. Is it time for sharp, new brand photography and team headshots? What about a brand video on the homepage? Perhaps, we consider modernizing your branding with a refreshed color scheme?
It’s common practice for the website audit to be reviewed by the entire client team, with time taken internally to explore some of these larger questions along with considerations to the full scope, timeline, and budget. In the meantime, our team can get started on addressing and resolving the “low hanging fruit” that the audit may have uncovered. This could include fixing typos, updating broken links, refreshing photography, or adding new project experience to enhance a portfolio page. We can also leverage this time to confirm all plug-ins are up-to-date, and that all technical Search Engine Optimization has been executed properly.
The website audit is an excellent first step in a larger branding and business development effort. With your website functionality, user experience, design, and recommendations documented, you are better equipped to review, evaluate, and prioritize next steps.
For more information on how we facilitate the website audit process, listen to Wendy and Kyle peel back the layers of the website audit in episode four of The Shortlist!