Info bites. Some little known. Others blindingly obvious. But all useful.

In this blog:-

  • Does your site accommodate Mobile visitors?
  • What does position in Google search results mean to your click through rate? Does it really matter?
  • Is your site fast or slow and does it matter?
  • Do people read what you have written?
  • Does it matter if content is  ‘below the fold’?
  • Bounce Rate. What’s that and does it matter?
  • Quick tip.
  • Some useful links


Does your site accommodate Mobile visitors?

Mobile use of the web is growing faster than the initial web take up in the 90’s; accounting now for around 50% of web usage. At first that may seem surprising but when you consider the options now available for web browsing; smart phones, TV’s and tablets, it should come as no surprise at all.

Check your analytic software to see what level of mobile visitors you have. And ask yourself are you ready?

n.b. If your site is not accommodating mobile visitors, that’s a major failing.

What does your position in the Google search results mean to your click through rate? Does it really matter?

We all strive to be in the number 1 spot in search results but what if we don’t achieve it? What affect does that have on the traffic from the search results?

The difference between First at 42.13% and second at 11.9% shows just how important it is for your link to be number 1 on that topic. Other results are shown on this pie chart. (I’m not quite sure the percentages stack up with the ranking but despite this the indication is clear.)

Source. http://www.blogstorm.co.uk/google-organic-seo-click-through-rates/

Moral of the story… strive for number 1 spot.

Is your site fast or slow and does it matter?

Some would argue that for a local government site this isn’t as important as for a commercial site where there is competition. The argument being it’s better to deliver good and complete information than it is to be just ‘quick’, and to risk the possibility of inferior or incomplete information.A reasonable argument, however, fast sites are another issue to be  considered in customer service evaluations. Indeed Google downgrades sites in it’s rankings if the pages are slow i.e. over 2 seconds.

For commercial sites the faster the pages load the better the conversion.  A one second speeding up of the page load adds 7% to conversion. So speed is important to our clients.

Do people read what you have written?

My experience of dealing with internal clients showed brevity was not their strong point.

Huge amounts of pointless data, some of which is just ego massaging, is being displayed on web pages. And it goes unread by clients – and that’s who we are trying to satisfy (not the manager of a particular section who wants to tell the world how great he or his team is).

Sadly people don’t read web pages in the way the writers would believe or even hope. They scan for keywords and skim around those. Rarely if ever do they read long text, especially if it’s about you, the council.

Dross and flannel. Skim off the dross and throw out the flannel. Froth and bubble. Scrape off  the froth and prick all the bubbles. It’s just so much pointless verbiage that gets in the way. Cut to the chase and provide the data.

Put yourself in the clients place and say ”what’s in it for me”. Evaluate all your content that way and remember the average reading age for web users is 14 (maybe higher for local government pages because of the market sector but dont assume high levels of literacy for your readers) so keep it simple.

If you want to test some pages to see if you really are interested in customers,  go here… www.futurenowinc.com/wewe.htm put in a url for a page to test whether that’s so.

Does it matter if content is  ‘below the fold’?

75% of clicks occur without people scrolling down! Blimey that’s going to come of bit of a surprise to those 10 page scrollers on some local government sites.

You can test your site to see just how many people can see what parts of your site. Go to  www.foldtester.com to see how much of your page is below the fold and is therefore unseen and by what portion of visitors.

Bounce Rate. What’s that and does it matter?

Bounce rate is loosely the percentage of people who view your site, or a single page if you are set up that way, for whom the landing page is also the exit page i.e. they go nowhere else.Your site did not interest them enough to induce them to dig deeper or browse.

Now this may be entirely appropriate. e.g. you may hav e provided a link to a page with a specific piece of information for a specific set of people. They look at that page and ‘job done’ off they go somewhere else. However, generally, if your bounce rate is above 40% – that’s a sort of average in commerce – then something is wrong.

High bounce rate has been crudely likened to “I came, I saw, I puked.” Graphically cruel but accurate and we’ve all done it.

Quick tip.

Pages with forms embedded deliver better results than those with a link to a form.

What does this mean? Say you had a page where you wanted clients to register to a newsletter. Don’t link out to a complex form requiring a large to medium number of fields to be completed. Put a small form in the top right of the request page with something like…

Register here to receive hot news.

And construct a small form in that box to do just that.

BTW incentives to register i.e. free swim at the local baths etc really lift the percentage of registrations.

Some useful links

This site provides really useful information.

http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/clickstream/

Browser testing

http://browsershots.org/ Tests you site on a number of browsers

Uptime and link testing.

http://www.pingdom.com/   Tests web uptime and performance for your site.

http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html Xenu Link Sleuth. Tests the links on your site.

A/B & Multivariate Testing

http://unbounce.com/ constructs alternative landing pages and provides stats too.

www.google.com/websiteoptimizer does what it says.

Visitor tracking

http://www.clicktale.com/ constructs heat maps of visitor interactions with your site.

http://www.crazyegg.com/ visualise where your visitors are going.

Usability testing

http://www.usertesting.com/ Does what it says.

http://whatusersdo.com/  Usability and user experience testing.

User surveys and feedback

http://www.surveymonkey.com/  Carry out surveys. I’ve used this in the past and found it to be excellent.

http://kissinsights.com/  Feedback from your site.

http://www.4qsurvey.com/ on line survey tool. Free for 15 days.

About the author.

Peter Barton was the Head of Service for “Web and Information Governance” at Lincolnshire County Council until December 2010.

Peter introduced many innovative elements into Local Government Web sites many of which have since become commonplace. Advertising for instance.

Peter’s background, prior to Local Government web site production  was in commerce where he started and ran a successful design business for many years. Peter has been involved in web site production since 1992 building the first sites in hand written code.

Peter’s business is a commercial venture  in on-line retail. Quite a departure form local government but a departure which has involved learning about the otherwise hidden intricacies of the web again. This time with a commercial eye. What he now has is a commercially augmented experience of local government web production.  And that’s refreshing and useful.

Peter also provides consultancy to Local Government organisations on all things web.


Contact details:


Peter Barton

T:  +44 (0) 1522-878135

M: +44 (0) 7712-578596

E: peterdbarton@gmail.com

Skype: V70PDB

Twitter: @lgwebman – Tweets about local government web stuff

Baby and bath-water comes to mind.

Recently we had some stats produced by our very excellent stats system* . On top of the stuff we normally get, we set the system up so as determine information on our search; we have recently moved search engines you see and we  were just curious.
Perhaps, well not perhaps, definitely, we should have looked at this area before but there is only so much you can do. Anyway the upshot was that it showed the percentage of visitors who used our search is around the 10% mark with a very low percentage of failed searches.
Blimey we thought that’s a small amount of people who use the search. Especially given the search results  page is in our top five pages by number.  We thought the percentage of users who found their information that way would be high, much higher in fact, than was shown.
We contacted Nedstat so as to ensure the code is right and to ask their opinion on the percentage. “Oh no” they said, “that percentage would be considered slightly on the high end of the 7-10% average”.
We were shocked. Here we were believing our navigation is pants and people could not get to stuff they were looking for at all. We’ve had the odd comment on this of course but the odd comment amongst millions of users is no indication. And the facts disprove our assumption.
We, like many of you, will have realised providing a navigation system for content as widely varying as that provided by local government is never going to be easy – but did any of you realise we (local government) are seemingly quite good at doing it?
A while back, well 6 years or more, I threatened to produce a site with no navigation just a giant search box, like Westminster in fact. I was pilloried by my internal colleagues. Unbeknown to them, and indeed me, they were right. I would have seriously annoyed 90% of our customers who get to their data by navigation, or direct link of course.!
Back to those that do search… vast amounts of pages are discovered this way. So there are, relatively,  not many people who do search, but the amount of pages viewed that way  is vast.
So what’s the moral of this story?
  1. Navigation probably works better than you think, it seems.
  2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when re-designing your page navigation.
  3. Make your search as good as it can be.
Both work for different people and both are of major importance.
*we use Nedstat to provide our statistical information.