Boot Camp For Your Website: 8 Steps to Get Your Site into Tip-Top Shape

August 3, 2015 | Melissa McMacken

healthy foods on a table with digital devices layered on topThere are a million articles about eating well and losing weight these days. Everyone has a different perspective on how it should be done. There’s the good ole’ Atkins diet; there’s the raw food diet; The Paleo diet; and now the Whole 30 Diet, to name a few. All promise that you will see the results and be healthier too! The same goes with exercise routines. Every physical trainer will have a different perspective on what you should be doing to maintain a healthy physique. The philosophies range from Bootcamp, to CrossFit, to Bar Method, to Yoga, and even to SUP.

But have you ever thought or heard about various methods for keeping your website healthy? You might be wondering, “Why do I need to keep my website healthy?” As a Senior Web Analyst at TBG, I see a lot of out of shape, dare I say “overweight” websites when they arrive to us. And it’s my job to help them get back into shape and hopefully on a track for a much healthier lifestyle in the future.

Let’s get your website into fighting form! Below are recommendations for getting your site into top shape.

1. Trim Your Content

When was the last time you evaluated your content? Maybe you are well aware that you have news articles out there dating back to 2003? When your content is out of date, your search results get cluttered, your SEO is damaged, and worst of all, your users do not get a good impression of your organization. After all, who wants to sift through all of that old stuff or see outdated information? Start by writing up a plan to remove and potentially replace the old content. If you shed yourself of the extra weight now, you will have a jumpstart on migrating to a new platform or redesigning your site.

2. Get Mobile

If you haven’t considered a mobile plan yet, get started ASAP. According to a Pew Internet Research study, 64% of Americans own a smartphone and it’s increasingly the point of entry to the Web for many of these owners. Additionally, the presence of mobile site features (or lack thereof) affect a site’s Google page rank these days. Companies that have had mobile sites for a few years are now redesigning them to be responsive (one set of code that works well on a variety of devices and screen sizes). Users are getting used to using well-designed mobile sites and will not be so forgiving if your site reflects the fact that you haven’t thought about a mobile presence.

3. Measure Your Weight Correctly

You most likely have analytics code on your site. But are you getting the most out of it that you can be? Do you have multiple domains, sub domains and sections that are hosted by third party vendors? If you are like most, you don’t have one single set of analytics code spanning across all of those domains. This issue often can have some effect on bounce rate and therefore it needs to be considered when analyzing the data. Work to get all of your domains and externally hosted pages unified under the same analytics code. Once that is done, you will be able to track your content much easier.

Setting up goals, user segments and event tracking in analytics can also give you additional, extremely useful insight into your data. Start by identifying your major audiences and then determine what you think are the primary actions they are likely looking to do on your site. Whatever the final page or action is on the site that they would do to complete this action gets worked into your goal. It might need to be measured via event tracking if the final action is to download a file or enter an email address.

4. Set Up Workflow

If you have a large site, you likely have many content editors and publishers throughout your organization. It’s also likely that all of those people are not in sync with one another. This is a prime opportunity for content to be duplicated across the site when the right hand isn’t talking to the left. Or perhaps there is a certain person or group who is constantly updating their section of the site while others only check in once a year. Whatever the situation you are in, it’s important to be aware of what your editors are doing. You can accomplish this by setting up a workflow for content and pages to be reviewed prior to them going live. If your CMS doesn’t allow for a workflow, or you don’t have a CMS, you can set up a review process outside of it (although, this is harder to enforce). The workflow is part of a governance strategy that includes additional items like brand guidelines and Web templates. Ideally, you will get there—if you don’t already have that in place—but start with the workflow process, so that you at least know what is going on.

Another way of getting in sync with your editors, is getting everyone together for monthly or quarterly meetings. There, you can share what you are working on and find out what they have been up to. It’s a way of getting some intel about their ongoing projects, while also creating a collaborative space for knowledge and new ideas to be shared.

5. Get Strategic About New Content

Once you know what kind of content your editors are looking to publish, get strategic about it. Create a content strategy that touches as much of the site as possible. The strategy will guide you and your editors on what, how much, when and where you should be publishing. This will help squash the overzealous publisher who is not in line with the larger, central strategy of the site.

6. Speed Up Your Pages

You might already be aware that Google uses page speed as a factor in its algorithm for ranking pages. Page speed also affects user experience and slower pages are known to have higher bounce rates. There are quite a few techniques you can implement to remedy a slow page speed, such as reduce redirects, minify CSS, JavaScript and HTML, etc. You can read all about PageSpeed Insight Rules on the Google Developer forum. But first you should check how your pages are performing. You’ll need this as a baseline for which to compare any improvements.

7. Update Your Design

While you may not be able to undertake a complete overhaul of your site at this time, you probably can make some minor design updates. For example, you can go from 3 columns to 2 columns for a new look on your site without a lot of rework. How about your font size? The typical size to aim for is 14-16pt these days. Still using stock photography? Invest in some custom photos that showcase your individuality. Social media icons change constantly, so make sure you’re up to date on those by visiting Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn developer sites. It might be time to switch over all of the icons on your site to a more modern look.

8. Work In A Way to Get Feedback From Your Users

You don’t always know what kinds of issues people might have on your site until you get real feedback from your users. Anything you can do to get insight into your users’ experiences is worthwhile (as long as you do something with the information gathered). It can be as simple as having a feedback box or form on your site, with comments that you review weekly. If you want to get even more information, you could set up interviews, usability tests, or focus groups with potential users of your site. Whatever you chose, you will likely find out something new, that you weren’t expecting. If you see a trend in that information, that’s when it’s time to make some changes.

If you take on a few of these best practices, your website will be well on its way to an improved form. But don’t forget that the key to success is maintaining this new physique. In other words, this shouldn’t be a one-time shape up that you do every 2-3 years. Incorporating these techniques into your routines and turning them into a habit will provide you with everlasting results.

About the Author

Headshot of Melissa M
Melissa McMacken

I am the Manager of User Experience & Research at TBG. On the days that I’m not solving complex UX problems, you can find me baking, crafting or dancing with my two daughters.

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