If you’re not familiar with Captain Hindsight, the superhero parody character from South Park, you can probably surmise what his main superpower is. With the benefit of hindsight, he has the uncanny ability to point out what people should have done differently to change the outcomes of situations. While Captain Hindsight can be irritating and crass, taking his approach to evaluating work can be a great way to learn from your mistakes and improve going forward.
When evaluating websites, web and graphic design experts often take the Captain Hindsight approach to determine whether changes or a complete re-design are necessary. They can evaluate all aspects of your website and determine what they would have done differently in order to create a website that is aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly and a great marketing tool for your business.
In this post, Carly Stunder, Director of Website and Graphic Design at Miles Technologies, shares her thoughts on the top items she looks for when evaluating websites.
To start, your website has to look nice. It has to be visually appealing in order to attract visitors and get them to stay. It should also incorporate elements of your company’s branding. Does your company have a color scheme it uses in its logo or anywhere else in print? Do you have a specific style or font(s) that you always use? If so, these elements should be featured on your website. This will help make users become even more familiar with your company branding.
An aesthetically pleasing website is also important to your company’s reputation. While the common saying of “don’t judge a book by its cover” may be a great sentiment in theory, it does not happen often in practice. Many users will judge your company based on what they see when they visit your website. If your site looks outdated, plain, generic or “spammy,” it will reflect poorly on your business.
2. Functionality and User Experience
Evaluating websites for functionality can usually be boiled down to one question: Can you find everything you need? In order for your website to properly serve your users, they need to be able to navigate their way around it easily. Whether it is looking for information about your products or services, placing an order or contacting your businesses, users need to be able to quickly complete the action they want to take when visiting your website.
User experience is a vital part of a website. When evaluating websites, web and graphic designers will play the role of users trying to accomplish different tasks to help determine the intuitiveness of the design and the ease with which your site can be navigated. Concepts like wayfinding—the architecture and engineering term for how people orient themselves and navigate in space—are important to consider when gauging the type of experience users will have with your website. It is also important to test website speed to make sure users will not get impatient waiting for items to load. The ultimate goal is to create an experience that is as positive as possible. A website that is difficult to use will drive people away from your business.
3. Responsiveness and Cross-browser Compatibility
According to Search Engine Watch, in 2014, internet usage on mobile devices has surpassed usage on PCs for the first time in history. This means that potentially more than half of your website visitors will be viewing your site from their smartphones or other mobile devices. Because of this, visitors will expect your website to function properly and be easily viewable on mobile devices. Whether you choose to make your site responsive or have a separate mobile website, you need to have a mobile-friendly platform for visitors to view. Mobile users do not want to have to spend their time scrolling around and zooming in and out to try and read a full desktop site on their phone. Also, be leery of using elements with Adobe Flash on your website. These will not show up on mobile devices.
When evaluating your website, experienced designers will also test for cross-browser compatibility. Much like visitors will be viewing your site from a variety of devices, they will also be viewing it from different internet browsers. It is important to test how your website will look and perform in some of the major browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.
The content visitors will be viewing or reading is one of the most important elements of your website. Your content should be informative, helpful and up-to-date. Designers evaluating your website will look at your content and ask how new is it? If some of a website’s prominent content is old news items and blog posts or outdated service offerings, this is not a good look for a business. It is also important for content to be relevant and organized properly throughout the website. The content also needs to fit in with and be representative of your business’s overall branding and messaging.
5. Amount of Time Since Last Update
One of the final factors to consider when evaluating websites is the amount of time since it was last updated. If it has been awhile and there are many elements that need to be updated or your brand is stale, a designer may recommend a complete website redesign. If certain elements have been regularly updated or the site as a whole has been updated recently, your business could consider an evolutionary site redesign. This means that instead of a complete overall, you can change or update certain parts in incremental steps to keep up with the latest trends and web technologies. These regular updates will help give your site a better overall look and feel.
Have questions or need advice for evaluating your website? Let us know in the comments section below.