Whether you are a web design agency or a marketing agency, auditing a website is a critical part of your business. Without a process of website audit in place, you'll find yourself in precarious positions that were avoidable.
Audits don't sound exciting, they may not be fun… but this is where the magic happens. Where opportunities arise and where future pain can be avoided.
Know, up front, what you are getting yourself into and how you can help your client.
Whether it's a direct client we engage with OR an agency we are helping with one of their clients, one of the first things we have to do is understand the project, the scope of the work, AND the website we'll be working with .. or at least as far as we need to know not to fall into any unforeseen traps.
Basic vs Deep Analysis
Every new website or project we tackle requires some sort of audit.
Often times that's an informal process. I'll get some basic access (eg, WordPress Admin and/or maybe FTP). I'll simply do a scan of the site, answer some basic questions visually and get a ‘feel' for things.
If it's a WordPress site, it's something we can almost do in our sleep at this point. There are signals and specific things we look for and it doesn't take long. We just need the access.
I might simply look at the home page source code (which you can just do in a browser) and get a pretty good understanding of how the website is built. For example, this morning I had one of our agency partners ask my opinion about a new client's site.
Just by looking at the source, I could tell they were using Divi for their theme and what other plugins I might be dealing with. So my first task will be convincing them to get off Divi. 😉
And I was able to make a quick assessment of how we might improve the site; their color scheme and choices were a mess in this case.
When I dive into a WordPress admin, I'll look at the plugin page. That can tell me a lot about how the site was built, what features they are using, and how well the site has been maintained.
How deep we have to get depends on the scope of the project and what needs to be done. These are all instances that, on average, take 20 minutes to an hour.
But of course, there are instances when the scope of the website audit is off the ‘basic' charts. That's when we will invoice ‘x' dollars to be able to do a thorough job. This might be a situation where my team has to get fully engaged to assess various features and uncover what it is we are getting ourselves into.
In these cases, we may have to get much deeper into the code and understand how things were built.
There could be other ‘asks' where we need to do a more thorough audit of the design or content.
And again, it depends on the scope of a project as to how far this goes and who we have to pull in to understand the website's structure, design, and/or features.
Minimize Risk, Identify Opportunities & Go Into a Project with Confidence
The agencies I work with especially know this is my routine. The first thing they know to get for me is ‘access'. And sometimes that can be challenging. But we need as much as we can get.
If we don't get access, then that has to be understood by all parties involved. If the scope later changes or we learn about something we couldn't assess, that issue doesn't fall on us. We did what we could and this is where ‘addons' or additional hours charged comes into play.
But you have to do this to minimize risk. You can never, ever, ever.. take the risk of not ‘knowing' what you're getting into. That will hurt both parties, right?
It will hurt the client because now they have the stress of not getting something done, or dishing out more money or?
It will hurt you, the agency or person serving the client, but causing stress, delays, and all the other challenges that come from scope creep.
Also, it can reveal opportunities!
Maybe you identify something that can be improved or the client didn't know about.
I've been in situations where the client says, “I didn't know that…”. And that can lead to new features you're building for them, fixing things.. more work. Or less! Maybe you remove some harm.
But those things are discovered through analysis and audit.
Both parties need to have confidence going into a project and relationship. Especially if it's a new relationship.
If you just say, “Yeah, we can do that!” without digging into the website, your client may question your competency. They should want to hear that you need to look at their website.
YOU also need to be confident knowing what you have signed up for.
Confidence for both parties is essential!
That Next Project
So for that next project, think about website audit – think about the above.
And if you are a marketing agency or an agency that doesn't specialize in web design or development, align yourself with an agency that does. Have someone do the audits for you or even partner with them to do that work.
I can say with confidence this is an excellent approach. Why?
Because that's what we do at Unified Web Design! We align with digital marketing agencies and other types of businesses to help them with projects and websites.
If you don't have a partner like this already, what are you waiting for? Let's talk!