Before starting your next web project, take a step back and do some serious groundwork. In this article, we’ll look at how to research your next website project and why it’s so important.
Performing a proper website assessment will help you avoid scope creep and internal politics later on down the line. It will also set the tone for how you approach web related projects. If done correctly, your initial website assessment can also help you win the deal.
TIP #1: Look for the Obvious
Take a step back from “Web Pro” and pretend you’re just a normal, prospective visitor. When you go to the client’s website, click around and see what happens. You’ll probably find broken links, missing calls to action, and a host of other “non-technical” issues. Also check for things like spelling and grammar errors—this is something your competition will most likely miss, as they will typically jump straight into code and start checking for meta data, etc.
TIP #2: Know Your Software
Impress your prospect by showing them that you are a real web pro. Use a tool like www.builtwith.com to see what the site is using and what technology is being employed.
If your prospect is using a legacy system, educate them on why it’s important to look at other options going forward.
TIP #3: Check for CTA’s
A CTA is a “Call To Action.” Most of the site’s we review have absolutely no CTAs at all. Most likely, you’re going to see a lot of text like “read more,” “learn more,” or “click here,” and that does not qualify as a Call To Action at all.
A real CTA would be more of a feature / benefit combined with a request to take ACTION, like: “Download Our Guide to Higher Profits Now.” For examples, check out this survey of CTA best practices.
This is a new thing for a lot of web designers. However, if you bring this topic up, it will give you an opportunity for a business discussion, which is a great way to communicate with your prospect in their language.
TIP #4: Check the Metrics
It’s amazing what you can find out with a quick trip through Google Analytics (GA).
Ask your prospective client if they have installed GA. If so, ask them to create a user login for you, so you can look at the data. If they do not have GA installed you may want to help them install it (Tip: we charge $250 to do a basic GA install) as you’re going to need the metrics only a tool like GA can provide.
If they don’t know, you can use Google Tag Assistant to quickly find out whether or not they have tracking installed:
Check for things like:
- Are they showing visitor improvement, or decline?
- Did they set up any goals?
- Who are their top referrals?
- What is their current bounce rate?
- What percentage of their traffic is mobile?
Keep it simple. This isn’t a paid review—but this information will help you later on when you present the benefits of your company. You can use metrics to increase the price and value of your design.
Hint: It’s a lot easier to sell mobile design when you can prove that they have mobile traffic!
TIP #5: Look for Sales Tools in the Code
Look for snippets in the site’s code that would indicate the prospect has tried to improve their site in the past. Often times we find Yoast snippets in a WordPress site, this would tell me that they’ve attempted some sort of SEO, and I can use this knowledge later on during my review with the prospect.
When you find a snippet—try to find out what it goes to and/or what it does. Ask the prospect to clarify its value to them. Use this info to ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of what they were trying to accomplish. In the end, your goal is to have a “Business” discussion. This will set you apart from your competitors.
Common snippets we find in prospective client sites are:
- Google Analytics / Bing! / Webmaster Tools
- KISS Metrics
TIP #6: Deliver Like a Pro
It’s now time to show off your work and impress your prospect! One of the things that sets my company apart from others is our documentation.
Create your base Word and/or Excel files and save them. Never work backwards off of an existing client and/or prospect that you have on hand. You wouldn’t want the deliverables to include other client names. It happens… ‘CTRL+F’ is not foolproof!
Tip #7: Never Offend Your Prospect
Remember to be careful what you say and how you say it. A family member may have created the prospect’s current site, and you do not want to be offensive on your first meeting.
Even if you know that your prospect was completely ripped off, don’t ever say it that way. Bad-mouthing your competitor will only make you look cheap and childlike. Keep it professional at all times.
Follow these 7 tips on your next assessment, and you will shine during the initial interview stages of the sales cycle.
Jonathan Hinshaw has been building web solutions for clients in a variety of industries since 2006 at EBWAY Creative Solutions. He recently launched a course on uGurus teaching web professionals how to close more deals for higher prices. You can follow Jon on twitter @jonathanhinshaw