Once a website is live, it is important to keep it fresh and interesting by the addition of new content, and it is as important to ensure that any addition is consistent and in line with the rest of the site, and doesn’t compromise the overall site integrity.
As soon as you have more than one person making changes to a website, you risk siloing different areas and having them develop in different and potentially divergent directions. In order to prevent this, you should train people to follow your style guide, which should be a living document that everyone understands and supports.You should also put in place some proactive quality assurance processes, which will help you to drive continuous enhancements and engagement. By setting up a regular review with your content creators, you can share site metrics, customer feedback and expert reviews in order to drive an integrated action plan for change and improvements.
Whilst checking for quantitative errors such as broken links, mis-spelling, bad grammar and technical error messages can be to some extent automated and are mostly simple to fix if some focus is applied, more tricky to evaluate are the more qualitative issues around style, approach, presentation and sometimes common sense.
The most powerful piece of this qualitative approach is to discover what your real customers or prospects are facing when they try out particular tasks on your website, and how easily or not they are finding what you want them to find.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than sitting in a usability lab and watching the site you have lovingly designed fail with actual users, and it is a sobering reminder that you must have your customers at top of mind not only when launching a new site but also when developing and extending your web site on a regular and repeated basis.
And while state-of-the-art usability labs and programs may be beyond the reach of many smaller sites, there are other ways that you can tap into your customers – from asking new employees to feedback on your site before they become too company-branded, through to using some of the low-cost usability options such as the online service What Users Do, which supplies you with videos of people actually trying to use your website as it was intended.
If you can take on board what your real users are doing and keep them in mind every time you make a website change, there is little to beat the power of seeing a real customer trying to use your site, and being able to devise a plan of improvements based on their feedback.
Test it change it and test it again. A healthy focus on operational change and improvement will do as much or more to enhance your site as repeat redesigns or relaunches, and will mean that your site continues to develop in an integrated and customer-focused way.