Regardless of the size of your online store or your organization, there are questions that you can ask of your site as a potential influencer of site design and customer experience. A website self-evaluation shows opportunities to improve site usability. Comparing your competitors‘ sites against the same criteria and analyzing the results reveals areas of focus to remain at a competitive advantage or to catch up.
a) Evaluating Your Website
Here are some things you can do on your own to determine which in-depth methods to pursue, should you identify “show-stoppers”:
- Step into the customer‘s shoes, and understand the shopping experience for top products in your assortment.
- Complete the simple 10-step checklist below, checking yes or no.
- Conduct the self-test on three of your competitors‘ websites.
- Rate how each of the sites did, and compare with your results.
- Repeat in six months. There is no room for complacency in the online marketplace.
- Products change, customer attitudes and behaviors change, and your competition can change.
Your evaluation will help you answer questions such as the following:
- Does your site help customers quickly and easily locate key products?
- Does it provide accurate product or other purchase decision information?
- Is it optimized to offer cross-selling suggestions and value-added ideas to improve customer experience with products purchased?
- Are all functions integrated such as sales and support?
b) Stepping Into The Customer’s Shoes
First, it’s important for you to step into the shoes of your target customer and perform a task analysis test on three key products in your website. Ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to accomplish? Can I get the information to decide whether or not to buy this product? How would buying from this seller be different from buying from someone else?
- Identify your most profitable and strategic product in a key> category.
- Starting in a retail store that carries this product, enter the store and navigate through the aisles while noting the words you associate as you look for the product. These maybe the words that customers use on your website as they type into the search box or look for familiar names in of categories listed on your website.
- Conduct the same task on your website using the self-test below.
- Viewing the home page, ask yourself whether the category names reflect the words that you noted as you looked for the product in retail. Compare with category names and try the search box to see what results you get. As you perform the task, time it and make a list of trouble spots.
c) The Self-Test and Ten- Question Checklist
The following checklist can give you a perspective on how you’re doing. Have a stop-watch ready. This task starts on the home page on which you started shopping for your key product from the prior section.
- Does it take you less than 30 seconds to know what you needed to click first?
- Can you accurately assume which products would be found in each category link?
- Type variations of the product name and/or model number into the search box. Is your product served up as a choice each time?
- When you find the product page, does it clearly communicate what it is and why someone would want to buy it?
- Does it have a photo and provide complete information, such as size, color, weight usage’s, or what’s in the box?
- Does it offer complementary products and cross-sells?
- Evaluating the website in general, can you make multiple purchases from a page?
- Does a customer know at all times what’s in the shopping cart, see totals, and have the ability to calculate shipping and taxes? Be sure to let the customer print out the order page.
- Are you able to shop the site without needing to register or provide personal information?
- Are a toll-free number, e-mail address, and other company contact information clearly presented on all pages?
Al the end of the checklist totals up the yes‘s and no’s. If you struggled with link names or paused to interpret them, your customers will too so give the question a no. The goal of this self test is to give you a baseline for improvement. The scoring follows:
- 9-10 yes answers: Congratulations! It was great for that product. Now try the other top nine products on your website to see if results are consistent. Randomly take ten recent customer orders and walk through finding and purchasing those items in the same combination.
- 5-8 yes answers: Needs work. Further testing is warranted to understand major issues ant obstacles.
- 0-4 yes answers: You’ve got problems. If you are experiencing challenges, you can be assured that your customers are also. Conduct deeper usability evaluations to understand hey problems.
If you’re having trouble shopping for your number one product, this likely reflects the overall shopping for all products. The goal is to turn no’s into yes‘s over time. Reassess your website after you make modifications.
Improving your scores over time is important. However, while you’re improving your site, your competitors are improving theirs and may be including responses to new customer expectations that come to light through the natural evolution of the Internet.