One of the first steps when optimizing a website includes ensuring the website purpose is clear. Another early and important step for all webmasters (including professionals as well as any individual or business with responsibility for a website) should be to focus on and understand the visitors who will use the website and ensure the web site is optimized to meet user needs.

Visitor Journeys Through the Website

Consider the visitor journey through the website and how each visitor experiences the website as part of the overall marketing effort. Work out the most likely journeys visitors will take by asking questions such as:

  • What pages will visitors land on?
  • Where will visitors go next?
  • What information will be presented?
  • At what points along the journey will this information be presented?
  • What is the best action for a visitor to take?

Plan out the preferred visitor journeys and implement a website to match. This will ensure the best possible experience for the visitor and provide a better performing and more effective website.

Optimize Websites Taking Account of Visitor Hardware and Software

It’s impossible to predict what hardware (e.g. desktop computer, laptop, phone) and what software (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, whether JavaScript is enabled) every visitor will use when arriving on a web site.

Some visitors will be using a desktop computer with a high quality screen. Some users will be arriving at the website via laptop (with smaller or wider screens) or via mobile devices such as Blackberry, iPhone, mobile and cell phones, that have much smaller screens and may have limitations on the software installed to display the web pages. For example, not all Blackberry devices show all email attachments (such as PowerPoint slides) and Apple iPhones do not currently display Adobe Flash.

Not all visitors will allow applications such as JavaScript to be run on their computers, some visitors will have the ability to turn off adverts and sometimes images will not be displayed, so it is important to check what the site looks like under a variety of conditions.

Some visitors will have additional requirements. For example visitors who are blind will not be able to see the screen, although it is likely that their computers will include software to read out the text and also image descriptions (but only if they’ve been included in the website).

Webmasters should ensure that websites and new web pages are tested on a variety of platforms (hardware and software combinations and are mobile optimized,  especially the ones visitors are most likely to use.

Optimize for Search Engines

It may seem that obvious that websites should be accessible by search engines, but there are a large number of web sites that the search engines cannot read and so they cannot be indexed and ranked. Optimizing for search engines is clear on the requirements – for example, adding a site map can make a difference as well as having links that search engines can follow when they visit. It is important to ensure that relevant pages are being found by the search engines.

Once pages are being indexed by the search engines it can be frustrating when the wrong page is ranked more highly and monitoring this is another task which the webmaster should undertake.

A focus on website visitors will help to optimize websites performance as user needs are met.