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What is the Value of Site Audits?

If you’re shopping for a website audit, it may surprise you to learn there are several types, methodologies and goals to consider. From a quick five-second user test to an in-depth full site audit, each one provides valuable information.

The kind of information a company is looking for helps to determine the scope of a site audit. A quick “what do you think of my website?” approach helps the ego but isn’t helpful if the goal is to understand if the user interface is rendering properly on an iPhone on a park mountain while hiking a trail at dusk. That would be a great task scenario for an app, or web page readability test for someone wearing prescription glasses that got smudged up from the drizzling rain that suddenly appeared. We all provide value as users.

We just need to be asked.

Formal Testing

Full site audit website testing is a more formal, task driven, requirements based approach used by companies that may have met their business goals and wish to find new ways to improve their web app or site to keep their positive momentum going. These are smart companies.

Digital marketing agencies offer site audits as a way of adding support to marketing strategies. If they do split testing to see what button converts better, they may want to better understand why one button performed the best.  This extra insight in human behavior and choices can be applied to marketing content, target market data and future user interface design choices.  To get this extra layer of user experience understanding, a site audit by someone with access to human behavior studies increases the value of the testing overall. For example, did the red button raise heart rates and create anxiety and in what situations might that be an issue for conversions?

Site audits are rarely performed in the same way.  An SEO performs a site audit and a usability analyst performs a site audit and a conversions specialist performs a site audit and each will not only apply different methodologies, they will limit the output by whatever skills they are best trained in. For that reason, a company can hire separate site audits or a full one that covers each area. Since it’s rare to find one person trained in all of these areas, a several person team approach is used. Some digital marketing companies outsource to put together this team. It speaks well of that company to provide site audits from a holistic approach.  In this way, they demonstrate their desire to discover the needs of the company requesting help at a much more insightful, expertly skilled and applicable level.

It’s also a good idea to choose a company that understands the value of each site audit and how they compliment each other rather than conflict. If an SEO doesn’t value usability, they shun a vital part of testing. The same happens in the reverse. In truth, a full site audit is non-partisan in scope and includes SEO, usability, accessibility, information architecture, mobile and conversions testing.

Add-Ons

From a small site review to full site audit, there is also actual site testing as an option. While some simple reviews point out where the problems are, and a full site audit may provide recommendations for solutions, actual manual site testing on computer devices adds an extra layer of proof that the site is truly test driven. This testing can be recorded and sent to the client.

Every site audit relies on software testing tools. It’s impossible not to use them, especially in cases where web properties contain thousands of pages or there was a site migration. Tools are first alerts. Accessibility testing is more expensive because so much of it has to be performed manually or with assistive software used by disabled users or cell phones switched to voice accessibility. I recommend that when it comes to accessibility, the cost of a lawsuit far outweighs the cost of accessibility testing. Every improvement towards inclusive design points to bettering your brand overall.

Functional testing is often left out of site audits. This means that a shopping cart, form or app may be broken, or it accepted bad data, and nobody is monitoring this or had functional testing performed.  When you see a formatting example provided for how a phone number is entered into a form field, that practice is directly the result of functional testing results and user experience feedback on errors that were not the users’ fault to begin with. When looking for value, look for companies that perform site audits with functional testing.

Another add on is performance testing. Despite access to tools to test site or software performance, solutions often require advanced skills or the patience to go through tutorials to make repairs.  Simply repairing the source code of WordPress can be like dismantling a jet airplane.

It’s worth paying extra for site audits that provide actionable recommendations. For starters, many of these audits include the actual code. All developers have to do is follow the recommendation. Some audits provide resources or back up details as to why something is considered a guideline.  For example, a site targeting men more than women should consider color blindness in their design choices. They need to test for this and understand how their colors look as well as how color and mood may change conversions. There is value in truly knowing who is using your web based product.

Competitive Value

It should go without saying that the better the user interface, the better conversions will be. What happens when the competition is just as good as your website?

Most SEO’s will formulate new strategies for rank and find new top keywords. In the search engine sea, battles rage on every day.  The ships off in the distance with users walking the plank are those sites where the staff ignored their needs and are literally driving visitors to jump ship.

Those unmet needs occurred when users arrived from search results where every meta description and title tag were agonized over and adjusted to nudge rank. It sounded so good in the snippet and yet once arriving, if your visitors can’t find what you promised is there, they aren’t sticking around.

This is the most coveted value of website testing. You want to stick the landing.

Site audits vary in scope and price. They all provide a bit of anxiety and a thrilling overview of your data,  but the goal isn’t to give you a joy ride in the digital amusement park. Your goal more than likely has a business attached to it with clients, customers, subscribers and readers hoping you made something they need and can use with ease.

When you receive the results of a site audit, apply every change or enhancement you can. It’s like a car inspection or oil change. Being informed helps with knowing exactly what to repair and when, which will extend the life of your web property and possibly your company.

 

 

 

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