Compared to what? This is the question that you grapple with when you attempt to seed change with your Web site. You know in your gut something isn’t right, but you can’t quite put your finger on what to fix or where to begin.
My approach: start with the idea that a website is organized around the needs of your users – not the organization. You are NOT the center of the universe!
Once you have crossed this critical threshold, you are ready to start your long march toward transforming your Web site into one that embraces best practices in usability.
To start your transformation you’ll have to deliver metrics to the person who controls the purse strings and resources at your organization. In my experience, this is best accomplished through an expert review of your site. An expert review benchmarks your site against best practices in usability.
In place of opinion or random thoughts about what you like or don’t like about Web sites, you get evidence-based design theory about what’s working and where you fall short. This lets you lead with facts, not opinion, as you manage your online publishing operation…
WHAT’S IN A SCORECARD?
When we do an expert review, the deliverable is a scorecard. It is a reusable Excel spreadsheet format that lets the client continue to track their progress after the first evaluation, so they can track their improvements over time.
The scorecard includes tabs for:
- a summary dashboard view of your scores
- an itemized list of our evaluation factors with comments next to each items with our
- observations about where your site succeeded or was deficient.
- automated charts to help you demonstrate to busy executives what the current score means in a format that is easy to see at-a-glance
- the top five positives and negatives on your site
We encourage organizations to use our top five section as a place to start the discussion with your Web team about what’s next. We have found that including what we like together with what we don’t like balances the feedback and takes the edge off what can otherwise be seen as a negative critique. By bringing team members into a discussion about what should be included on the top five, you begin a healthy debate about managing continuous improvements for your site’s users.
A ROAD MAP
Your Web scorecard is a road-map to help you identify where you need to tweak, where you need to overhaul and where you are doing well.
The current scorecard instrument that we’re using is streamlined to provide you with a possible score of 100 based on 36 weighted factors. We are looking at three areas, three core processes where you need to be successful to succeed as a Web site.
- Provide valuable content
- Help people find stuff and
- Leverage the feedback loop
Together the 36 factors can be transformed into editorial guidelines or publishing rules so all your publishers are on the same page about what’s expected.
We’ve completed over 200 web site evaluations for the US House of Representatives. Here we used a custom scorecard. We’ve also done other successful expert reviews for a variety of other organizations like Voices for America’s Children, the Council on Competitiveness and the Daughters of Charity. The scorecard is also an important element in our comprehensive Web audit.
The difficulty of developing a fix-it list pales in comparison with having a system to prioritize what to work on first. One of the things that makes our scorecard stand out is we map back all of our indicators to a value ladder. These metrics you have a step-by-step list that prioritizes what to work on first.
You also gain the ability to make methodical enhancements to your site to target improvements in certain areas.
The idea that users start out at the bottom rung and they need to be aware before they are satisfied, they need to be satisfied before they are confident, they need to be confident before they trust and they need to be trusting before they are loyal.
Our scorecard helps you climb the ladder, so in step one it is all about awareness. What is the page weight like? How about accessibility and do you use native formats?
Next, it’s satisfaction. Are you delivering an experience that is free from errors? If you do make a mistake, can you recover quickly? So what is the help section like? How about those broken links? What about search and indexes?
At a higher level you are looking at issues of confidence which track back to content and graphics.
Is the site learnable? Can you find what you are looking for? Here we look for measures of navigation, link behavior, readability and the like.
If you have a baseline review you get a scorecard that shows how you are performing today along with a vision of where you want to be tomorrow. To get there you need to document the rules, so all of your content publishers know what is expected.
We have a lot of experience here and would be delighted to talk to you about helping you create publishing rules as an extra project after the scorecard is completed, and augment it with staff training to put everyone on the same page.
PROS AND CONS
Like any usability technique, an expert review has some pros and some cons.
On the plus side, this is a method that performs really well as a change agent. You have an opportunity to use it to pave the way to be a standards organization. Grades are a very familiar way to score things for executives, and you get a report that helps you track things over time.
On the downside it is very important that you have a uniform understanding of what the rules are, what the measured points are. You also have to understand that this is a plus or minus score. Do you do it, or do you not do it? There are not shades of gray in the way we do the scorecard.
Most importantly you are not involving users in this, it is an expert taking a look at your site. And you are not really looking at task performance.
Usability is an essential part of all great web sites. It is the intersection of where your content meets your technology. From a users’ perspective you are answering questions:
- Are you happy or are you frustrated?
- Are you being productive or are you wasting time?
An expert review is an excellent and affordable place to start the journey toward user-centered Web management practices.
How do you convince the person who holds the purse strings and resources in your organization to support your Web improvement initiatives? Do you think a Web scorecard would help?