Web traffic is a delayed signal - your site is already broken

It's always a mistake to track web performance based on traffic alone. It's perfectly possible to have high traffic, whilst suffering huge difficulties elsewhere, eg high cost, risky practices, etc.

Instead, you should measure performance across 3 broad categories:
  1. Online indicators
  2. Operational indicators
  3. Organisational indicators
Together they give you a much better idea of overall performance.

For example, online indicators measure your ability to meet the minimum expectations of your target web audience. Such indicators include:
  • Responsiveness - Does the site load quickly & consistently?
  • Content  - Is text relevant, readable, understandable & actionable?
  • Accessibility - How well can the site be used by people with disabilities?
  • Portability - How well can it be used on different devices (mobile, tablet, etc)?
  • Usability - Can it be used effectively with minimum effort/errors?
  • And many more...
On many sites, few (if any) of these indicators are tracked. Only when email complaints go up & traffic goes down, do they realise something is wrong.

That's why relying solely on web traffic or feedback for assessing online performance is such a bad idea. They are delayed signals. The site is already broken.

Happily, plenty of automated tools are available (a few of which we have) to keep an eye on things. These tools provide the immediate insight needed to maintain stability & intervene before web users start to rebel.

Web content in the age of anxiety

"Nothing distorts intent like anxiety. Anxiety pulls focus from the goal and lets energy flow towards distractions and perceived threats. Anxiety flourishes in the absence of information." 

Anxiety is one of the key hidden drivers behind the web.

Our anxiety (fear of legal challenges, negative media coverage, etc) can make our content cagey, vague and stand-offish.

Our users' anxiety (lack of time, fear of error, uncertainty about next steps, etc) can make their engagements tense, their correspondence angry and their reactions dramatic.

We end up exacerbating each other.

But anxiety falls when the right content is delivered with care. Self-assurance from us can give confidence to our users.

"These guys communicate so clearly & are so precise, they are obviously on top of things."

That doesn't mean we say anything & everything online. It means the opposite. We need to be exactly clear about what we say & how we say it - so it can be best understood.

That's what content strategy is for, that is, to:

  1. Isolate the right information to deliver via web: What messages/users are best for web? Which are not? What's core? What secondary?
  2. Determine the right depth & breadth of content: How much is too much? How much is too little?
  3. Identify the right features & formats: Text? Downloads? Video? Decision aids? Interaction? User generated content?
  4. Create it to be persuasive & actionable: Compel the right people to act? Dissuade others?
  5. Publish it so it is easy to find, read & understand: Clear labelling? White space? Plain English? Instructive, descriptive or narrative style?
  6. Manage it after go-live so it remains up-to-date and accurate: Measurement? Ongoing changes? End-of-life?

It's not easy and it takes time. Distractions and excuses are everywhere.

Expect to disappoint a lot of people who think the way out of every problem is a nicer design. Expect to have to repeatedly explain why good content is a good idea.

But for service organisations (eg government, banks, utilities, etc) the pay-off in reduced anxiety (eg angry phonecalls, emails, visits, etc) is well worth it.