June 20, 2001, 12:00 AM

Web site redesigns need business performance goals, says Forrester

Haphazard improvements waste resources when not linked to the bottom line—and few e-retailers have the systems that will measure the payback on site design, Forrester says.

Consumers demand usability of the web sites where they shop – but web site operators have yet to reach a true assessment of usability’s dollar value, according to new research from Forrester. Too few companies set specific objectives linked to measurable business goals when they redesign a site; nor do companies effectively measure the results of design changes.

A survey of 20 sites by Forrester found that most had made recent changes with the simple goal to update the look and feel of the site. But none, says Forrester analyst Randy Souza, had specific, measurable goals for the redesign, such as raising conversion rates by a specific number or delivering a specified number of additional leads to the sales team. Furthermore, while most companies surveyed watched overall changes in site performance such as changes in revenue, few had any data on which site tools and design changes produced which specific effect.

“Soft” goals for web site redesign can rise from fragmented decisions made within the company, Forrester says. Those charged with web site design and those charged with producing business results, for example, lose out when they don’t align their objectives. “To IT staff, design means planning systems architecture. But developing a useful site is more like product design –- it takes an understanding of how users derive value from an interface, content and function,” Souza says.

Similarly, user experience has often taken a back seat to getting the technology platform up and running, and responsibility for baseline and follow-up measurements of results for specific site enhancements can fall through the cracks when the web designers of such features move onto other projects.

Web site enhancements can deliver numbers on specific, quantifiable results, only if retailers have the systems in place to track them, Forrester says. With detailed analysis, web sites can maximize their spending on design by identifying the greatest opportunities and the biggest barriers to usability, and establishing ROI for specific redesign elements against the cost of making them.


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