Spring Cleaning: 10 Tips to Clean Up Your Website
By Nardo Kuitert, Web-site-optimalisatie.nl
April 30, 2004
A new season, new chances; new ambitions maybe?
The Internet is finally growing up. Online purchases, especially during
holidays, show dramatic increases. Many companies see their website
as a major marketing tool for their organization, and are looking for
ways to improve the tool's effectiveness.
An October 2003 survey from Jupiter Research showed that:
- 58% of websites are planning a relaunch this year;
- 49% of website managers say that usability is their top challenge
- 41% of websites will be upgrading or deploying a new commerce platform
for their site this year.
And how about you? Do you think your website is fine, because nobody complains,
or would you like to improve the conversion rate from browser to visitor?
Are you happy with the number of visitors that your website attracts?
10 Tips to clean up your website:
Check your links:
It is one of the
frequent frustrations on the Internet: the Page Can Not Be Found
message. Unfortunately dead links are a fact of life on the Internet.
As a site owner you don't have any control over the servers of the
sites that you link to but you can control your own site.
So weed out dead links and keep your visitors happy by running a monthly
link check using the World Wide Web Consortium's Check
Links tool (nieuw venster)
Speed up download time: Do your pages
load fast, or do large image files and multiple server connections
prompt your visitors to bail out? As of March 2004 33% of Canadians
and even 46% of Americans still surf without broadband connections,
and many people won't wait more than 10 seconds on a 56k modem.
In order to present at least some elements of your site to the narrowband
users you need to put your pages on a diet: compress your image files
as much as possible, and try to reduce the number of server connections.
You can find a tool to analyze and optimize your website's download
speeds on Netmechanic.
Update old content: Is your content
up-to-date, or does your News section mention an "upcoming release
for November 2001"? Does your site pretend to be recently updated
by showing today's date on the pages but nothing else? When was the
last time you read through the content on your own website?
Take the time to re-read through your website and remove or update
old content. Clean out the cobwebs!
Re-write vague content: Does your
target audience understand what you are saying on your website? Are
your pages filled with happy talk (blah, blah)? Much content is either
too general (blah, blah), or so detailed that only the writer understands
You need to understand your target audience! Ask them if they "get"
your content. Delete the fluff and replace it with easy-to-understand,
valuable content that speaks to your reader, not to you.
Mind the details:
Nothing spells "unprofessional"
like spelling mistakes, inconsistent font-use, outdated information,
dead links, etc. It pays to pay attention to details.
You're not perfect-you can't be expected to see every detail when
you are so close to your work. Get another set of eyes to review your
site and point out the things you missed. Asking a third party to
edit your creations is not weak, it is a sign of strength!
Increase online readability: Are your
pages scannable? Do you provide your information in easily-digestible
chunks? People read 25% slower online than on paper and it takes much
more effort. As a result, people scan rather than read online, looking
for key words of interest, or hyperlinks to other presumably interesting
As you read through your website to update the content, also critically
assess its readability. Break text up into scan-able chunks. Add bolding
to key phrases. Re-write pages to use a "reverse pyramid" structure
with the conclusion at the top rather than hidden below the fold at
Improve you credibility: Does your
site increase or decrease your credibility? Does it look professional?
For instance, are you using a yourname@yourdomain email address, or
does it show firstname.lastname@example.org (ouch!). Can people find your company
through their favourite search engine? Online visibility is also an
element of credibility.
It pays to mind the details: perception is everything. Even a small
evaluation by a knowledgeable third party may increase your visitor's
trust in your website, and your organization.
Read all the way to the end for more tips on online visibility.
Make your site more accessible: Is
your website easily accessible for human visitors and search engine
spiders alike? You are not still using frames, are you? For most purposes
frames (a technique that divides your webpage into multiple separately
scrollable areas) are totally inappropriate. Is your site completely
done in Flash? Flash usually adds significant download time to your
pages; is it worth loosing impatient visitors over the "wow factor"
of animated web pages? An animated Flash image rather than whole pages
will probably establish the same level of "coolness", without sacrificing
valuable traffic to online vanity. And yes, many newer browsers come
with Flash installed, but not the latest version of it.so, people
are still being asked to download the latest version of Flash (currently:
7) if a page has been designed in it - and many people just don't
like downloading software plug-ins.
Providing ALT tags with all images and changing design techniques
may boost your site's accessibility. By adding ALT tags to all images,
visually-impaired visitors can make sense of them with their screen
readers (software that reads web content out loud). You may want to
replace frames with more accessible design techniques such as server
side includes, plain HTML or database-driven designs. Re-analyze your
use of Flash and consider changing from a Flash site to html with
Clarify your navigation: How obvious
is your navigation? Is it clear which elements in your pages are clickable?
Don't make me think! Every question mark in the mind of your visitor
gives them a reason to leave your site.
Watch someone try to find something on your site and note where they
have difficulty. At least use consistent design and navigation rules
if you decide not to go by traditional conventions, such as underlining
Ten already? I could go on and on (and on). O.k., number 10:
Help visitors find you:
Is your website
indexed by all major search engine and directories? Can they find
the majority of your pages, and do you get decent traffic from good
search engine rankings - for targeted keywords? Making your website
easy to find can dramatically impact the number of visitors you receive.
Engine Optimization (SEO)
alone is not the Holy Grail. Without
effective website strategies to convert those visitors into customers
all SEO may be in vain. Make your website Easy to Find + Easy to Use,
and you will prosper.
For online visibility getting indexed in all major search engines
and directories, as well as the regional or industry sites that your
target audience may use, is a good first step. But people will still
not be able to find you if you do not rank high enough for the keywords
they are using to find your product or service. Keyword research at
least once or twice a year will keep you ahead of your competition.
Internet tracking tools (also known as visitor analysis software)
such as U-C Stats
help you with your web site optimization
You may consider using the services of a professional Search Engine
Optimization firm such as U-C WEBS to help you attract more targeted
Spring: Time for a fresh start. New beginnings. It could prove to be
a more effective impetus for change than the traditional January 1st--this
time, commit to change by focusing on the benefits, not the Calendar!
And usually the weather is so much nicer in Spring. This gives us more
energy and resilience, and makes the changes so much easier to accept.
So go out and clean up your website! Look at it from your visitor's
perspective, and turn your web pages into online masterpieces.
Are you ready for a website tune-up?
Happy Spring cleaning.
Nardo Kuitert is een Website Optimizer van Web-site-optimalisatie.nl,
wat aangeboden wordt door het Website Optimization bedrijf U-C WEBS
uit Fergus, Ontario, Canada. Trek met uw website meer bezoekers, en
maak meer bezoekers uw klant - met complete Webite Optimization: Search
Engine Optimization en Usability
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Nardo Kuitert: Website Optimizer