A Website IQ Test: Just exactly how intelligent is that website of yours?

Probably the single question we get asked most often is “Can you take a look at my website and tell me what I’m doing wrong from a direct marketing perspective”? In response, we’ve developed a simple and easy test you can take in the privacy of your own office to determine how much direct marketing intelligence is built into your site.

All that is required to take the test is a sharp pencil and brutal honesty. When you’re finished evaluating your site, add the resulting scores together. The higher the result, the more intelligence is built into your website. If you find that your website is missing a few marbles, don’t panic. You can “reverse engineer” your site to bump up your score on this test and up the resulting “intelligence quotient.”

INTELLIGENCE TEST FOR WEBSITES
Give yourself 1 point for each question you answer “yes” to:

MAKE YOUR SITE EASY TO FIND
URL (5 points):

Your URL is like an 800#. Consider it with care and change it only when you absolutely must.

  • Is your URL one that is readily associated with your product or company?
  • Is your URL easy to remember?
  • Is your URL easy to spell and memorize?
  • Is your URL fewer than 10 characters in length?
  • Is your URL in a standard format? (www.___________.com)

Meta tag (6 points):

The meta tag is hidden text inserted as part of the HTML code that can be read by search engines, spiders, and crawlers for indexing purposes.

  • Does your site include a meta tag?
  • Does the meta tag include all the keywords and phrases your prospect associates with your product or company?
  • Are popular misspellings of keywords also included in your meta tag?
  • Did you review your meta tag before your site went live?
  • Do you refresh your meta tag at least once a quarter to stay abreast of changes in site content? Have you searched for your site with success?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
Background color/graphics (4 points):

The WWW is primarily a text-based medium, so it is important that you design your site for readability. The human eye is most comfortable when reading dark text off of a light background. To maximize the contrast between the background and the text, you’ll want to avoid any graphics that mimic “watermarks.”

  • Did you choose a background color that is easy on the eye (light background and dark text)?
  • Does the background load within 10 seconds using a 14.4 modem?
  • Are the graphics used simple and non-distracting?
  • Is a single background style used consistently throughout your site, no matter how deep you click?

Frames (4 points):

Frames are either good or evil depending on how they are used. A good use of frames is to draw attention to certain content, to provide a table of contents in the margin of every page, or to provide feedback on where you are within the site. Used poorly, frames cut the page up into many small areas, which is confusing to the reader and doesn’t give the marketer much real estate to work with.

  • Are frames used sparingly to split pages into separate windows? (three at most)
  • Does the site still look and work great even when viewed with the frames turned off?
  • Is only one window scrollable at any given time? (When more than one window is scrollable, it can get very confusing and frustrates visitors at your site.)
  • Does the site use frames for one (or more) of the good reasons mentioned above? (Frames are hot right now, which means many programmers include them to show off their prowess. Since frames by their nature are somewhat puzzling, gratuitous frames have no place on your site. )

Graphics (6 points):

Like frames, graphics are best used in small doses, as “eye candy to add visual interest and excitement and keep the reader engaged and involved. Keep in mind that not everyone has access to an ISDN or T-1 line or to a Java-enabled browser.

  • Are your graphics interlaced so that your prospect can start reading before all of your graphics download completely?
  • Are 75% or more of navigational graphics reused (cached) within your site?
  • Are your graphics smaller than 30K? (Download time equals approximately 30 seconds on a 14.4 modem for each 30K of graphics.)
  • Is navigation still possible with the graphics turned off?
  • Are animations implemented using GIF 89s versus Java applets?
  • Does each page have a central point of focus? (Is there a main graphic that draws the viewer’s attention?)

ENCOURAGE INTERACTION
Home page (6 points):

Your home page is the place to start directing people to the content most of interest to them.

  • Is your site supported with a table of contents on the home page?
  • Is any search engine you implement supported with pop-up menus? (Forcing visitors to guess at the right keywords within your site is a drag.)
  • Is it clear where first-time visitors should go versus repeat visitors?
  • Are the areas of your site that are “new” marked as such?
  • Do you tell customers when they should bookmark a particular page on your site?
  • Do you consistently ask for the behavior you need? (“Click here if you are a first-time visitor.”)

NAVIGATION(10 points):

A good navigation scheme is essential to ensure that visitors get the content they need at your site and are exposed to the depth and breadth of your message.

  • Have you divided your website into sections?
  • Is there a site map or other visuals that help prospects understand how the various content areas within your site interrelate? Are the sections within your site named in such a way that your visitors can readily tell what content is located where? (Obscure icons that look great but don’t telescope their content should be avoided.)
  • Is the navigation scheme you use introduced on your home page?
  • Do you end each page by giving the visitor navigation options?
  • Is navigation still possible with graphics turned off? (20-30% of people surf with graphics turned off.)
  • Is one navigation scheme used consistently within your site? (Changes in navigation scheme like changes in the UI of software are to be avoided, in that repeat visitors get accustomed to how your site is laid out.)
  • Is copy presented in independent blocks, each of which can stand on its own? (Remember, your prospect can jump in anywhere due to the non-linear way readers navigate through your site.)
  • Are links to other sites located at least 3 clicks down from your home page? (Three clicks per site is average for most visitors surfing the Web. Don’t give visitors an opportunity to link to anyone else’s site before you’ve gotten your fair share.)
  • Are you maximizing your opportunity by interlinking within your site?

EVALUATING TEST RESULTS

  • If you scored between 30 and 41, congratulations! Your website is as intelligent as Einstein.
  • A score between 20 and 29 indicates your site is bright as a 100-watt light bulb.
  • A score between 10 and 19 tells us your site is just somewhat lackluster with room for improvement.
  • A score below 10 tells us that your site is dumber than wood when it comes to direct marketing; our best advice: burn it and start over.

First published in Marketing Computers magazine in December 1996 and updated November 2000; reprinted here with permission.