So you've asked for a yearend report on your website, and you don't like what you see. Numbers are falling off? Conversions are plummeting? Core audience is bouncing off the site? No new leads?

If you find yourself in that situation, or you're not where you need to be, chances are very good your website is sleeping. (Let's hope it's not dead...) You can take charge and turn things around by giving your creative and digital teams some productive goals.

The following site checklist, including some simple fixes, should wake your site up and give it some energy.

1. Is it usable?

Usability is a big umbrella. Everything in this article (and more) falls under usability. It sounds ridiculous to even say this... but here goes: If your site isn't usable, it won't be used!

Most experts and usability studies will suggest the following high-level best-practices for usability:

  • Use headings to mark up important topics (preferably with your keywords)
  • Use bullet points so people can scan
  • Add search to your site, and make sure it works very well
  • Make your navigation the best it can be
  • And please, please, don't use miniscule font sizes!

2. Is it responsive?

Few things are more frustrating to users of small wireless devices than scrolling every which way on a website designed for 960 pixel width. Add insult to injury by making them zoom in and out, and you've got a recipe for the back button—off your site. Responsive design is still in its infancy, but there are a few key takeaways:

  • Make some designs for different screen widths
  • Don't get hung up on specific devices; think instead about being flexible
  • Graphics should resize in a pleasing way
  • Text should reflow to be readable, with comfortable line lengths
  • Keeping the design simple and clean will allow your site to respond better

3. Is it focused?

Get rid of nonessentials that might distract your site's users. You got them to your site somehow; now give them what they came for. Be concise, be clear. Don't use industry jargon or hip, trendy talk—unless your audience does.

Can your copy be trimmed down? Do you really need all those images to illustrate your point? Chances are you can lose them and gain focus and clarity.

4. Is it sociable?

Do you make it easy for your site's users to share your content? Are you making your site friendly and approachable by adding videos and images of your customers and employees while they're using your products in genuine ways?

You may not think it's appropriate for your business, but have you tried? You might be surprised at how well friendly faces engage people.

5. Is it direct?

Do you ask your visitors to order from you, or are you too subtle and sly for that? I've found that it's almost impossible to be too obvious on a business website. Ask them for their order, their engagement, their phone call. Promote your phone number and email everywhere. Don't take my word for it, do an A/B test and find out what wording on that button works best for you! You are tracking this stuff, right?

6. Is it fast?

I left this one for last because it's arguably the most important, and will likely become more so. Attention spans are not what they used to be. We are getting more impatient. Even though our devices are getting faster and our bandwidth is increasing, so are page sizes. It's been proven over and again that people will abandon a site if it doesn't load in three seconds or less.

Implement the following can get technical, but don't let your eyes glaze over. Direct your creative and digital teams with these general guidelines, and if they have been keeping up with their learning (you do encourage their learning new skills, right?) they'll be able to implement them with little difficulty:

  • Use image sprites. No, not magical fairies. Sprites are images within a single image. This way, users load fewer images per page, and the site shows only portions of that image.
  • Compress all page assets as much as possible (images, HTML, styles, JavaScript, Video, Audio). Some of this will need to be done by Creative and some by Digital. They'll know what they're responsibilities are.
  • Minimize page asset requests. The more of the above you have on the page, the slower the site loads. This is more of a high-level decision that you'll want to talk about with your creative director, because it involves the overall site design.
  • Use a content delivery network. It will serve up your site assets faster than your server can. Your digital department can set up your images, audio, video, and other static assets on a scalable, multizone server capable of serving them up very quickly.

I know, it sounds like a lot. But you've got a great team you trust to do their jobs well, I'm sure. And of course you want to see better analytics soon. So have your team tackle the above with your guidance, and your site will be in a much better place to help your users achieve what they want to achieve—helping you to start winning as well.

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Is Your Website Dead or Just Sleeping? A Vital Six-Point Checklist for Your Site

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image of Matt Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon is an interactive developer with INK, a full-service advertising and marketing agency.

LinkedIn: Matt Gagnon