Measuring Web Site Performance: A 3-Step Approach

Steven Covey is famous for, among other things, encouraging us to “begin with the end in mind.”  The concept, naturally, is to think about what you hope to accomplish from an undertaking before diving in.  Deciding what you want out of a business plan, exercise program, or even a business trip helps to elevate focus on the end goal.  An activity undertaken without a focus or goal runs the risk of being aimless, wandering, or fruitless.

A Web site project should be no different, but it often is.  Many Web site managers and committees are more interested in starting the production process than they are in conceptualizing it.  It may be that the visual nature of the Web encourages premature emphasis on design–the idea of “looking good” undermines the notion of “doing well.”  Or, perhaps, some tend to avoid creating, refining, and documenting measurable goals and objectives because it introduces accountability later:  if there’s no standard of success, there is no way to fail.

Whatever the case, it is important that goals, objectives, and metrics are emphasized at the outset of a project. In order for organizations to succeed using the Web, they must clearly define success itself.  They must clearly and closely connect the organization’s Web activities with that of the organization as a whole.   The process for doing so, a simple 3-part exercise, is fairly straight-forward.

A Web project should begin with a review of the company’s overall business plan, goals, and objectives.  It is advisable that the group concentrates on those objectives, irrespective of the Web site, that the organization is seeking to achieve.  Next, within a document (research tells us that those who write goals down stand a greater chance of success), a Web committee should identify those organizational goals that the Web project will seek to support.  Consider restating the goal for the purpose of the Web project.  For example, if the organization’s goal is to increase market share by 5%, re-purpose the goal for the Web that states the portion of that growth that you hope to achieve online.

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Three Steps to Identifying Key Web Site Metrics

Once the organizational objectives are identified and the Web site goals are clarified, the third step is to determine what means will be used to quantify/measure these goals.  These distinctive, specific areas are referred to as Web site outcomes.  Web site outcomes are distinguishable Web site behaviors that can be objectively quantified using Web site analytics, inbound telephone call tracking, and Web site form submissions among others.  An online retailer, for example, may measure the number of Web products sold in a given period.  A professional services marketer, on the other hand, might track the number of position papers that are downloaded by prospects.

Once this three-step process has been completed by stakeholders, all of the information should be compiled in a simple Web site performance scorecard.  Developing a straight-forward document of this nature can be an effective tool in memorializing the process and key metrics and keeping track of progress as time goes on.

Producing a document that outlines your goal(s) for a Web project is an important step in pursuing success because it focuses attention on defining success itself.  Completing this process should set Web site projects on a course toward meaningful impact on the organization’s development.    This methodology’s Web site deliverables should not only look attractive, but perform effectively as well.