The 3-Part Effectiveness Checklist to Make Sure Your Website Does Its Job

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Your website has a goal. Using an effectiveness checklist on every page can help you make your website reach that goal.

A website that doesn’t fulfill its goals is a waste of good internet space. You know that. I know that. Finding the problems with someone else’s site is almost too easy. It’s much harder to avoid this in our own websites. Maybe something about your current site is just… off and you can’t figure out why. Maybe you are afraid to build any website at all because of this.

To move forward, you need to know the crucial tasks a website must do. You should be able to identify whether and how it does them. You don’t need to be any kind of design expert to learn what this looks like. Forget about the graphics and design. Some ugly websites are easy to use, while some beautiful websites somehow achieve nothing.

It’s all about getting something done. Do you ever walk into a room and completely forget what you were doing? Be honest. I do it more often than I’m comfortable with.

That moment when you forget what you were going to do.

But imagine that every time you walked into a room, a banner unfurls. Written on the banner is exactly what it is you were trying to do, with steps on how to do it. You’d get more done and have fewer mysterious tasks wishing you’d remembered them.

A banner reminding what you were going to do.

The secret of making any website easy to use is creating that experience for your visitors. That’s why I’ve created this 3-part checklist for you to review on every page of your website.

Let me give you perspective on the importance of this checklist. You have between 3-15 seconds from the moment someone clicks on your website to convince them to stay. Most marketers talk about the 7 second rule (it’s somewhere in the middle). It makes sense: People are busy. They do not have time for shenanigans. Or at least, not shenanigans irrelevant to their interests.

Unless you’re selling water from the fountain of youth, you have to do a lot of convincing in those 7 seconds. But how?

We’re going to get like Neo in the Matrix. It’s time to get slo-mo and examine each micro-decision flying through the user’s sub-conscience. What follows here will help you build a website that does its job through the power of positive influence.

Part 1: Help Your Reader Self-Identify

No checklist or content organization techniques will save your site if you don’t know who it is for. And before you can say it, no – everyone is not a valid answer.

If you don’t have a target audience yet, bookmark this article and come back after you do.

Still with me? Let’s carry on.

The reader of your website should immediately feel in their gut, “This is for me. I belong here.”

If you go too far down this path, yes you will find the psychology of color and other advanced design arguments. But before any of that comes your messaging.

Think about who your reader is. What are their deepest fears? What is their most annoying daily struggle? What would they wish for if they met a magic genie? Where do they hang out? Who do they want to be? How do they see themselves?

Your website needs to resonate with them. Thinking about who they are and what matters to them is the only way to do that.

The messaging you choose needs to prove:

  • You know who they are
  • You understand their struggles
  • You identify with their needs

This is all done by showing, not telling. If you say it too directly, you’re like a business man trying to use slang out of context. It’s obvious he doesn’t belong here and he is trying too hard to make a sale. Nobody resonates with that guy, they tolerate him at best.

So instead, illustrate it with your choice of words. Don’t force things. The balance is identifying the struggle of your reader while showing you get it. Don’t worry about the lingo if it doesn’t come naturally. Identify their primary motivations and address them.

Show the reader of your website that you’re in their corner.

Being able to do this succinctly will define whether you make it through that first subconscious filter.

Part 2: Show Exactly How You Make Their Life Better

Okay. You Matrixed your way through the first filter. The visitor identifies themselves as belonging on your site. You have opened the door to a potential new relationship.

But this is a transaction. The reader pays with their time and attention. Next, they will ask themselves, “How does spending my time here improve my life?”

Remember, these are not conscious decisions they’re dwelling on. This all happens in a matter of seconds. They may not even be aware it is happening. That’s why it’s up to you to figure out how to address these subconscious questions.

For each page, you need to identify how you will make the visitor’s life better. Are you giving them free information on solving those daily struggles you identified? Are you giving them a discount for a service they have to buy anyways? Are you going to provide them with a product that solves a pressing problem?

If you don’t know how your page makes your visitor’s life better, neither will they.

Every single section of your site needs its own value. If you can’t find the value for the reader, you should consider not including it on the site.

Once you understand the value and purpose of your page or blog post, it’s time to make sure it is clear to the visitor.

The trick is to make it clear right away when the person glances over your website without looking hard at all. So you need to tell them in one of the big elements they’ll see first without even trying:

  • Site taglines
  • Page headlines
  • Header images

When you look over these elements, make sure your writing is clear and concise. If you handed your tagline or headline to a random stranger without any context, they should be able to have an idea of whether it was valuable for them.

Part 3: Make it Clear What to Do Next

If you’ve made it this far, the visitor feels they are in the right place and has a compelling reason to stay. But what will they do now that they’re here? How can you turn this casual visitor into a long-time reader, a fan, or a customer?

You give them something to do. In the marketing world they call this a call to action, or CTA for short.

Once more, it is on you to know what that action should be. You can’t ask someone to do something if you have no idea what it is.

Here are a few typical actions someone might take on a webpage:

  • Subscribe to email updates
  • Like a Facebook page
  • Buy a product
  • Send you an email
  • Write a comment

Choose one. Seriously. Only one. The fewer things you ask someone to do, the more likely they are to do it. Start with one. Once you have become wildly successful at having people do that one thing, then you can try to ask them to do two things. And so on. Pay attention to the results.

Next, make it obvious how to complete that task. This usually means including a form or a link to the proper action right within the request. For example, the words “send me an email” should come with an email address or a link to your contact page.

A bad call to action is asking someone to call and then not giving a number.

Again, this is show, don’t tell. Meaning you don’t need to tell them to visit your contact page, just link the request to the contact page. Don’t ask them to subscribe to your email newsletter, and then expect them to go find the form on their own. Include the form right then and there.

Make it clear and obvious 1) What you want them to do and 2) How they are able to do it.

To sum it all up:

To have an effective website, you need to define its purpose and give it the means to fulfill it.

Now It’s Your Turn

These three points should be present in every section and on every page of your website. To help you out, I’ve made up a PDF for you to check your website against. Just enter your email below and I’ll send it right over:

You have less than seven seconds to make sure your website makes the first right impression. Slowing down time and identifying what your user is looking for helps your website do its job, no matter what your design skills are.

In review, the questions you need to answer for every page of your website are:

  1. Does the page speak directly to its intended audience?
  2. Does it make the benefit of staying on the page clear?
  3. Does it lead the user to an intuitive action?

If you have any further questions about how to apply these questions to your website, let me know in the comment section below! I’ll be here to help out.


About Anne Dorko

Anne is always sharpening her web strategy skills, from design to content creation. She helps people like you succeed online by sharing insight from her 10 years of experience. Go get your 30 minute consultation while orientations are still free!

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