What is a website audit? Many web design companies offer an audit as a means to evaluate your website with the intent to get your redesign business. Not a bad idea but do you really need an audit, after all you probably have a good idea of what is not working so you really want more.
Let’s look at the fundamentals of an audit and then maybe you can decide not only whether you need one but what kind of audit you need.
Fundamental # 1 An audit requires a standard or benchmark
An audit is an evaluation against a known (and preferably best in class) standard. So far there are very few recognized standards for website redesign, unless you consider accessibility standards or government Common Look and Feel (CLF2) standards. These however address only the basic technical and accessibility requirements for accessing and viewing a website – usually the lowest common denominator for technology and browsers.
We are all familiar with an income tax audit either as a fear factor or having barely survived one. Your tax returns are assessed against the tax act, a well established but flawed (in my opinion of course) standard. A website audit should be performed against a known benchmark and be seen as an opportunity to improve your website, not something to be feared.
Fundamental # 2 Audits should be comprehensive
A website is just part of your organization strategy, so logically one would assume that if you haven’t already done so, you should evaluate your website against your organizational objectives. This is where you need to start the process. Understanding the objectives of the website as they relate to the objectives of your organization in effect establishes the benchmark for your website audit. Your audit then needs to address three basic components:
- Organizational context
- User goals
- Website Performance
The first two elements will establish your benchmark. The website performance audit is what is more commonly seen and can be a combination of best practice assessment, against performance standards ( accessibility, usability, CLF2) and performance measures.
In addition the organizational context should also look at the Return on Investment (ROI), resource allocation,
Fundamental # 3 Audits are structured
Having a well established process to perform your audit is essential. It has to start with the organization, then the user goals and finally the actual website. This approach has been discussed in previous entries in this blog.
Fundamental # 4 Performance must be measured
Lastly your website should be measured against organizational performance metrics so that the success can be monitored. This is the best and most dynamic method of knowing how well your website is in meeting your user’s goals and your organizations ROI objectives.
A lot can be learned from an audit or an assessment, take the opportunity to evaluate your website through the audit process and you will see significant benefits to your users and to your bottom line.
Peter de Gosztonyi is a quality practitioner and has been certified as a Quality Auditor by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and is a senior consultant for Zanka Consulting an Advanced Internet Training and Consulting company.