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I recently had the opportunity to review the work of a website designer from a fellow web firm. I was reviewing the work because we are entertaining the idea of working cooperatively on a project for a mutual client, and the client would like to know what I think of the work the other firm has done for them to-date.
I don't want to say I am an overly critical person, but that's probably true. On the brighter side, understand that I am as critical of my work as I am of others'.
That said, my review led me to think of a few rules under which we operate religiously at my own firm, Haenel Communication Technologies, when developing a website strategy. I think I'll call these rules, the Haenel Doctrine:
- Thou shalt obey the 2.5 Second Rule.
- The 2.5 Second Rule says that your website has approximately 2.5 seconds to get and keep the attention of a site visitor before they bail out and leave for good, so you'd better make sure they see what they came looking for right away. Get to the point, and do it quickly.
- The Primary Action Rule says that you must establish an internally agreed-upon goal that you expect your visitors to fulfill when visiting your website, based on your business goals. If your visitor only does one thign while visiting your website, what would you like it to be? Once you've established this goal, make sure you've laid out an easy-to-follow roadmap of sorts which leads your visitor to fulfillment of that goal as quickly as possible. This leads us to our next Rule:
- The 2-Click Rule says that statistically, your visitor will leave your site after having made 2 clicks or less within the confines of your website. So, remember your Primary Action? Better make sure your visitor can fulfill their (your) goals within 2 clicks.
- There are lots of ways to go about structuring the architecture (navigation) of your website. The most common one I see is an organization-centric method whereby we gather all of the information we'd like to have int he website about our organization, get it laid out in a way that makes sense to us, then put it in there as a side or top-menu navigation. Unless you really just want a brochure-ware website (and even a brochure should be focused on achieving business goals, right?), it's important, rather than starting out with all of your favorites historical information about your organization, start with a visitor-centric architecture, based on helping your visitor fulfill those business goals and their own needs. Lead them from step one to fulfillment, instead of throwing them into the "My Company" informational archives. And let's not confuse making it easy for the visitor to find what they're looking for with making it easy for the visitor to find information in general.
- This is not about crossing your t's and dotting your i's, although that's important, too. This is about the process of testing, evaluation, review, and revision. Once you've got it all together, do be sure to revisit your work on a regular basis to be sure it's all working out the way you planned. Using your pre-determined website project objectives (you have those, right?), along with a great web metrics package, do some testing and analysis to see if you're meeting your goals. If not, make some revisions and then test again until you get it as right as possible.
- The world of interfaces to the internet is an ever-changing one. So know ye that thy work is never done.
Follow these rules and you'll at least have a good start on an effective web property. There are lots of other things to consider, of course. The world of Web 2.0 has matured, and who knows what's next. Online video is only a few steps from being as cool as Tivo (maybe cooler now). But the basics found here in The Haenel Doctrine remain true, regardless of the technology that takes the web by storm next.