Critique Your Site

If you already have your website up and running, and are working on a redesign, take the time to do an objective critique of your site.

Don’t just say, “This site is not working. I need to redesign it.” Without having a clear idea in your mind of what is wrong with the current site, the next release will end up being just as bad. Maybe for different reasons (which you still haven’t defined), but bad nonetheless. You need to take the time to do this step.

Keep in mind that “critique” is not a negative word. I once took writing workshop led by Nancy Kress (who writes a column for Writer’s Digest, along with numerous novels, short stories and books about writing) and she made it very clear that a critique contains three parts: What’s working, What needs work, and a Conclusion. Nothing is all bad or all good. So look at your website and determine what it’s strengths and weaknesses are.

Here’s a condensed version of the critique I wrote for my website.

What Works
We use our home page to highlight special programs or services. The basic site is the same, but the main screen on the home page changes frequently to point out upcoming events and to keep people coming back to see what’s new. Pages are uncluttered — white background, lots of white space — making reading and navigating easy. Hours, location (complete address) and phone number are all included in the heading, so it’s at the top of every page. Also, I’ve put a “freshness date” at the bottom of each page. Some of our links provide clear identification of the content: My Library Account, Catalog, Ask a Librarian, etc.

What Needs Work
Vague links: Friends (does this mean anything to anyone who doesn’t work in a library?), Kids, Teens, Adults (what do these labels mean to the public?), Resources (what is underneath this link? Could be anything.) Our subdirectory structure is confusing. I have no help pages, privacy statement or site map.

Age-specific link headings need to be changed. It may make sense to separate out a section for kids or for teens, but not for adults. Navigation needs to be clarified. Resources page needs a complete overhaul.

Without going into the nitty-gritty details of my site’s critique, this should serve as a base from which to start your own site critique. Be specific and put it in writing. Sometimes it helps to set it aside for a day or two and then look at it again.