Over the years I have seen a pattern emerge. A website would launch looking fresh and clean. It was well-researched, looked beautiful, and catered to the right audience. It was crafted to convert visitors into buyers.
And then what would happen? After launch, everyone is happy to have the project done. The agency carries on with new clients, and the client is relieved to get back to their regular day to day jobs.
In short, they launch and forget.
And so over time the beautiful, finely crafted user experience (UX) turns bad. You might think that the experience would stay the same if you launched and did nothing.
Absolutely not. Just like driving a new car off the lot, the UX depreciates.
Technology and customers evolve
Technology is ever-changing. You built the site to look good on popular browsers and devices at the time. But new browser versions, the latest smartphone, updates to your content management systems keep coming. And your customers are now using the latest – and so things look a little different.
Do you remember when smartphones were first introduced and every website looked crappy? Organizations certainly didn’t plan for that.
Maybe your customer has changed too. Maybe they use your product or service differently and you don’t know about it. And due to technology, or maybe the improved user experience they are having on other websites, their expectations for your site increased. When there are better alternatives, suddenly your site doesn’t look so good anymore.
While some organizations launch and forget, the opposite is also true. We give companies these powerful content management tools so they have the ability to maintain their own sites.
The site launches and suddenly everyone in your organization has claimed their little corner of the site – it’s a free-for-all. They’re adding pages, editing content, adding images and more pages, creating sections, changing the styles. But it’s ad hoc and reactive.
The problem that I see repeated time and again, is that left on their own, the decisions about what content to add or edit were no longer about what the audience needed. The website was just someplace to put stuff.
And over time the website starts to look like your garage or your attic – a dumping ground. Because everybody likes to add and no one likes to take anything away.
From good to bad UX
So fast forward 3 years and people complain they can’t find anything on the website. And some companies are even embarrassed to send their customers there.
The website that started off fresh has become a liability.
What happens next? The company goes back to the digital agency and says, “We need to redesign.”
And so the website gets redesigned. And despite best efforts at the agency to train and advise clients that launching a site is not the end of the work, the cycle would continue. At the agency I worked for we had a name for it.
We called it the “good – sucks cycle”.
Mismanaging your website
It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s look at 6 of the reasons why this mismanagement happens, so that your website has a chance of staying out of the “sucks” trough and continuing to provide a great user experience.
1. You say “yes” to every request
Every request to add a piece of content to the site is agreed to. There is no consideration as to whether it’s needed. As a result the site becomes bloated and disorganized.
Often these content requests are ego driven. The company won an award, or the CEO spoke at an event, or perhaps your competitor is doing something different and you’ve got to catch up!
Internal agendas often don’t have your audience’s best interests at heart. And your website analytics reports will tell you – people don’t read that kind of content.
So, the next time someone wants to add something you need to ask, ‘Is this new content or functionality addressing or enhancing the needs of your audience?’ And if it isn’t, you’ve got to politely, respectfully say, ‘‘no’.
2. Your website is a puppy, not a microwave
Basically, you didn’t understand the commitment you were getting into. You treat your website like a microwave – something you sit on a shelf and use daily, clean rarely when someone complains loud enough, and only really think about when it doesn’t work.
In reality a website is like a puppy. It needs daily care and exercise, proactive hygiene and grooming, and regular check-ups.
Seldom do clients allocate any resources or budget for the ongoing maintenance of their websites. And when the microwave stops working you throw it out and you buy a new one.
3. Shiny object syndrome
This is the opposite of thinking you bought a microwave — your site changes too quickly. You’re chasing the shiny object for the sake of trying to be on the cutting edge, to be perceived as ahead of the curve.
Shiny object syndrome is also often ego-driven and doesn’t have your customers’ best interests at heart. They often don’t appreciate these revolutionary changes. They become familiar with where things are and what you call them.
4. Trying to be all things to all people
As the saying goes, when you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one. In this scenario, you try to address every little user request, giving them all the same priority.
Your site loses focus because you’ve lost sight of your goals and your audience. And as you try to make everyone happy the message gets broader and blander and finally ineffective.
5. Lack of website governance
Content management systems are powerful tools, giving you the ability to make all kinds of changes without having to contact the IT department or hire someone else. That’s a blessing and a curse. To quote Spiderman’s uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
So what does lack of governance mean? I once had a client that had given 300+ of their staff publishing rights on the website – and no editorial oversight.
You need to establish defined roles and permissions, and a workflow for how website updates get made. And you need an editor-in-chief role who is accountable for the whole thing, and willing to enforce consequences for bad behaviour.
6. Not understanding your audience
If you don’t have a thorough understanding of who your audience is – and keep them front and center, you can forget them. You’re bound to make choices not in their best interests because you don’t know what the right choices are. Everyone in your company should know who you are trying to do business with, and how and why they choose you.
Things like customer empathy maps and journey maps are helpful guides to keep your audience front and center when making website decisions.
Get your website UX back on track
How many of these 6 reasons is your organization guilty of? Maybe more than 1? The good news is they are all fixable. The first step is to realign your website content with your audience’s decision making journey, so it’s as fresh as the day it launched.
This may or may not require a redesign (depends how far in the trough you are). If you’re unsure, take a look at my free webinar: Do you really need to redesign your website? It recaps some of the points here and lists all the good and bad reasons to redesign your site. And there is a free website redesign audit checklist to download after you watch.
Be an advocate for you audience
Above all, you need to keep focused on – and keep pace with – your customers’ needs and expectations if you want to maintain a good user experience on your website over time.