Some of these statements may sound familiar if you’ve discussed your website with the staff of your electric utility or telecommunications company:
“I’d love to update this page, but changes are hard to make and no one really has time right now.”
“I search for our company on Google, and our website is the sixth listing to pull up.”
“Loading this page takes forever. I don’t know why.”
“We have a complaint from a customer with vision loss. They cannot pay their bill online.”
“Our customers say that often this page won’t load at all.”
Notice that none of these complaints are about the look of your website. The most beautiful website can still suffer from all of these problems and provide a frustrating experience for both your customers and your staff.
Your website should be the company’s Employee of the Month, every single month. It should be able to answer most questions, perform basic services and be available to help your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
To do that, it needs to have more than a pretty face. While design is certainly an essential part of a great website, it’s important to know what’s going on beneath the surface of your site as well.
With today’s technology, the ability to build a beautiful website is becoming commonplace. Creating a reliable, secure website that is easily updatable, however, is far from simple. Proper data structure, version control, image compression, server architecture, maintenance script administration and other skills are not simply “nice to haves” for your website — they’re as essential as an easy-to-understand menu bar and the ability to pay a bill online.
When you’re evaluating your company’s website, do more than think about the color scheme and what photos to use. Ask questions about the foundations of the site: How fast will the pages load? What can be done to make them load faster? How will my website comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act? What kind of up-time can I expect with my website? How often will my website be backed up, and what is the plan if there’s a disaster and files are compromised?
These questions go beneath the surface and help the committee or individual responsible for your company’s website ensure they are creating a site built on a solid foundation with optimum performance in mind. If your utility is dealing with a third-party web developer, be sure to talk with them about more than design — ask them about the important things that lie below the tip of the iceberg.