educational

Giving Your Website a Health Check

A.J. Hall

In addition to logging into sites run by my CMS software customers, I join a good number of websites throughout the year. Once in a while I’m impressed but usually surprised is the word that comes to mind. What’s surprising is that it’s not uncommon to see broken links, missing pages or non-working join pages. Even some very big industry brand websites have join forms that fail and require multiple attempts and reentering info via a multi-billed cascade to purchase.

On a lot of sites you find video formats and sizes that vary widely based on which video you choose. Many have formats that have not been “standard” in four to five years. One popular site I recently viewed had scene download links that instead lead to a gigantic download of a full two-hour high-def movie. Pages with missing text, missing thumbnail images and thumbnails taken from screen caps that result in a thumbnail being completely black are no rarity.

When looking at a lot of the sites it’s fairly obvious that the person in charge of them either never bothers to look at them or simply doesn’t care.

Stuff like this is really bad. The impression it gives is that the site is broken and that’s the last thing you want a customer to be thinking.

When looking at a lot of the sites it’s fairly obvious that the person in charge of them either never bothers to look at them or simply doesn’t care.

I got an automatic email recently from one heavily branded niche site asking why I cancelled and how they could improve. I wanted to reply and say, “look at your site and the reasons people are cancelling will probably be obvious.”

If you run a paysite, here’s a simple process that will keep things in check. I suggest doing this at least twice a year and if you take it seriously, your site will get better and better as time goes on.

• Join your own site. Start at the splash page. Enter the site and view the tour as a surfer would. Look at the pages, the content, the text. Click through to the join page and complete a real purchase. Is this a quick, easy, pleasant experience? If the answer is not an overwhelming yes, think of ways you might improve things and make a list.

• Spend 30 minutes looking around your site as if you just saw it for the first time. Set your ego aside and pretend you have no emotional ties to the site and are a real customer who just paid whatever your membership fee is and you’re excited to see what’s inside. Are you impressed? Would you be disappointed or satisfied? Does it seem like the site owner really cares about you as a customer and takes the time to put work into making the site great? Would you see/download everything of interest within hours or days and then cancel or is there enough ongoing value for you to keep paying past the first purchase? If a friend asked you about the site, what would you tell them … would you say it’s a great value and that they should pay to join?

• Click around. Check all the site’s primary pages — those linked to from the header, side or footer navigation. Click around and check out a dozen or a few dozen site updates. Click the play and/or download links. Check model pages if you have them, blog pages, etc. Do you see any broken or missing images? Do any of the models have missing thumbnails or empty bios? Is the last blog entry from six months ago? Make a list of everything you see that isn’t near perfect.

• Once you’ve taken inventory, it’s time to clean house. Go over the lists you’ve made and decide what’s realistic and reasonable. If you’re able to devote time to fixing things it will pay off in the long run. If you don’t have the time or resources, it’s much better to remove content or sections than to show them if they have a negative effect on customer perception.

For example, if a lot of your models are missing bios and you don’t want to fill them in, simply remove the bio from the page. If most of your updates have short text descriptions or no text descriptions you’re better off removing the description field from site pages. The same goes for content. If weak updates stand out or some models just aren’t up to par with the rest, don’t be afraid to delete them — it will increase the overall consistency and quality of the site.

• Pick the low-hanging fruit by making small, easy improvements. If your CMS software can automate conversion of old video files with minimal manual work required, it’s well worth updating them to common formats and sizes. If you have a poll feature or a blog feature and you don’t update them regularly or don’t use them at all, try to carve one hour out of your schedule each week to work on them. If your updates lack well-written text descriptions or keyword tags or other things that will add to the site, set aside 10 minutes a day and write two of them. By the time you do your next site check in six months, you’ll be surprised at how different the site feels to you when you login. Your customers will notice and appreciate it too.

AJ Hall is a 14-year adult industry veteran and the co-founder and CEO of Elevated X Inc., a provider of popular adult CMS software for the online adult entertainment industry. Elevated X powers more than 2,000 leading adult sites, has been nominated for industry awards 11 times and won the 2012 and 2014 XBIZ Award for Software Company of the Year.

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