Ever wondered how to increase attention at minimal costs? Website Benchmarking enables you to improve your website and gain the attention you deserve.
Over the past years the numbers of internet users have increased dramatically. Consequently a website has become an extremely important factor and companies are faced with the challenge of reinventing and improving their website on regular basis. Changes in technology, design trends and new internal business requirements make it ineviteable for companies to find a way to remain competitive.
written by: Janina Krahn, Beatrice Otte and Jermej Jerman
The most cost-effective way to improve your website without inventing something new is website benchmarking. By this you learn constructively from the efforts of others, evaluate your website objectively against you competitors and identify areas of improvement.
The process of benchmarking
All in all website benchmarking is a process where companies compare their business within similar environments. They identify and measure the best performances and emulate them. Website benchmarking is not far from the classic benchmarking used in management where you compare the weaknesses of a company and its processes with other firms.
The strategy for website benchmarking is very simple. The first step is to compare a number of selected websites with your own and identify elements you want to compare.
At first glance the decision of selecting websites seems to be quite simple. Comparing your website with your direct competitors within the same business might appear as the most obvious to you. But to pull out the most of website benchmarking one should compare their websites with companies from outside their usual environment as well. Though you might not be able to compare every criteria on your list certain aspects might give you ideas for improvement.
Picture 1: A good example of benchmarking is stated by BP.
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This chart shows that BP has understood that on the web everybody is competing with everyone else and even unrelated businesses are setting standards that you are being measured against it – whether you want it or not. BP measures its website not only against direct competitors but also compares it sites with unrelated companies. By this they can improve their website to a maximum. When thinking of benchmarking you performances you should consider this important mindset as the benefits are too large to ignore.After collecting results relative strength and weaknesses should be identified and optimisation potentialities recognized. Learning from the best should help you to adopt measures for your website and to find solutions for improving it. But all effort of website benchmarking – as part of a website strategy – is just a waste of time and money unless you are not willing to act upon its findings and actually improve your website.
The Importance of Considering the Users
An improvement in your web appearance requires the understanding of why this medium is that important and can give you advance of your competitors. In the past years the numbers of internet users has increased and gives companies the global reach in a far less expensive way. Websites become a success factor and as for any business the key to success is repeat business from the same customers. A website can be considered as successful as the visitor is satisfied, spends longer time at it, maybe revisit it later and might even recommend it to others. Surveys have shown that online spending for retail products and services have been rising for the last few years. According to the New York Time magazine online sales were around 116 billion dollars in the USA in 2006 with estimated growth rates of 15 %. If you want to have a piece of this cake, make sure you will have a website which is easy to use, gives quality and reliable in formation. According to Forrester research 58% of visitors who experience problems on a website or are not satisfied did not return. This is a loss of money which can easily be avoided by website benchmarking.
The Internet is huge and your Competitor is just one Click away
Picture 2: Growth of the internet Click to enlarge
Taking your website visitors under consideration, identifying criteria for the benchmark will be more efficient.Every potential buyer, supplier or shareholder/stakeholder has to find the website in the infinity world wide web. As if nobody can find your webpage its effects will be useless one very important criterion could be how easy the customers can find your page in comparison with those of your competitors. Consequently search engine optimisation is necessary as having good positions in search engines is a vital part of any website and you should strive to achieve the best results you can.
Other important criteria are usability and accessibility. Usability is defined as the property or attribute of being easy to use. This is very important to websites as they are relatively complex tools and often serve multiple purposes. Building usability into a website means designing it with carefully and well understood user needs as the top priority. According to the Arthur Anderson research more than 83% of internet users are likely to leave a website if the feel they have to many click to find what they are looking for. Sadly most of the time it is treaded with utter disregard. Accessibility relates the aspect of who is using the site especially in regard of considering elderly people with vision difficulties etc. But also where the site is shown. One should consider if the site is properly presented on a PDA or other limited terminal equipment. One should always have in mind that fighting with an unfriendly website needs extra effort and takes extra time. An English study revealed that 70 % of people admitted to shouting, swearing at, or generally acting violently toward their computer. A website of high usability and accessibility is advantageous for the users as it is:
- Quick and easy to learn or navigate
- Efficient to use
- enjoyable to use
- aesthetically pleasing
- forgiving of user errors and quick to recover
Consequently an important point is the download time. Many experimental data prove that the duration of loading a website is about 100ms but also technical requirements such as working links and other supposing to handle the website play a very important role. The internet is huge, people are impatient and your competitor’s page is just one click away.
When it comes to design the company has to take care that the structure and design appeals to the visitors and fits to the corporate image that they want project. On the one hand the company should shape an exciting design to interest the visitors but on the other hand they must be careful that the site does not present uncredibility. Every online user is aware of the existence of unserious pages with different ulterior motives. According to this context companies should consider to present credebility and trust and consequently should publish general conditions of businesses, give reliable information and make a serious impression.
Don’t be afraid – appraoches are not far!
There are a number of approaches to benchmark your website which are depending on your budget, size of the company and your awareness of the importance of you website. One option is the manual benchmark where manual techniques such as questionnaires and usability studies are used. The big advantage is that the website user is involved in the progress and thus enables feedback that using software cannot obtain. Nevertheless one should consider that this method is very time consuming and expensive.
Another option is automated benchmark which contains the use of software tools to support website benchmark. These tools can show up problems you did not imagine to exist.
Picture 3: Results of the Wave 4.0 accessibility benchmarking tool
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Using software tools can be less expensive and additionally automated benchmark enables to scale to many resources though you should always consider, that software tools are restricted to certain aspects. If the company has not the capacity or knowledge to make a website benchmarking they can give the job to one of thousands professional website benchmarking service companies.
A big outcome within your reach…
Benchmarking is an important website strategy. If the company is willing to improve the revealed weaknesses, it can offer a lot of advantages. Cost reduction appears in various areas. Sales cost can be reduced as if the site is easier to use its service is easier to sell. Using usability data to identify unnecessary and inefficient processes and eliminate them can have a strong impact on production cost. But also costs related to testing and quality assurance can be reduced when problems can be caught much easier und quantifiable feedback can be given to future services. Furthermore it helps to improve relationship with companies customer’s as it satisfies the latter’s wishes.
Realise this opportunity and be a step ahead…