Why should I audit my website?
Actually, this is one of those questions nobody ever asks, but we can tell
from the look on their faces that it's what they're thinking. Of all the things
you could invest your IR dollars in, what's the business case for investing
in a website audit? Below are eight reasons we think it's a good investment.
- It gets used. People use your website more than any other IR tool
to get information about your company. More than your printed reports, more
than your conference calls, more than securities filings and more than presentations.
Analysts, institutional investors, individual investors, researchers, activists
and, yes, regulators will most likely use your website at some point.
- It can influence perceptions. The experience people have on your
website influences the way they think about your company. A poor website will
make a negative impression on people. A good experience can change neutral
or negative perceptions and reinforce positive ones. For smaller, lesser-known
companies, their websites may be the only "encounter" investors
have with the company, so it's critical to make sure that first impressions
- You can save your company money. In general, a well-designed, complete
and well-managed website can make your overall IR program more efficient.
It can cut down on administrative inquiries, reduce your print and travel
bill, and give you more time for proactive IR activities.
- Technology changes. Unless you've taken a hard look at your site
in the past year or so, chances are you're not taking advantage of several
new products, services or technologies that regularly come on the market.
We stay abreast of the latest developments through extensive ongoing research.
- Regulations are changing. The Web is increasingly being recognized
by regulators and lawmakers as an important way to ensure investors get the
information they need. Recent U.S. SEC rules make specific provisions for
Web postings. The Web has also recognized as an important disclosure medium
in the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.
- The Web is more challenging. Compared to traditional mediums, the
Web is still new to most companies. It's also an interactive medium, which
complicates the communication process. It's very easy for small details to
become problems for your online investors and analysts.
- It gives you greater reach. As a network, the Internet connects you
with investors in every country in the world. As a communication medium, however,
it still requires you to know how to speak the language of your international
audience, literally and figuratively. Aside from expensive localized sites
and translations, there are a number of things you can do to make your site
friendlier to foreign investors. The audit makes sure you're doing them.
- The ROI on website audits is good. When you
calculate the cost over the useful life of your website, the expenditure for
a website audit more than makes sense. You can easily spend the same or more
on a communications review of your annual report with its a much shorter useful
life and limited audience.
What will I get from you that I can't do myself or get elsewhere?
There are three reasons to use us for your Audit:
1. We offer better value. It would take someone several months to put
together an appropriate checklist and conduct an audit to the same quality and
detail as you get from us in just a few weeks.
2. We are not biased. As an independent firm, we provide an impartial
perspective unhindered by a financial interest in any design, data or hosting
services you have purchased. This gives greater credibility and veracity to
our findings and recommendations.
3. We provide perspective. Our consultants have years of experience
and conduct extensive research of online investor relations practices all year
round. We review sites of companies from many different countries, in all industries
and of different sizes. This breadth of knowledge can't easily be duplicated
without significant time and cost.
Do you audit other parts of the site in addition to the IR
We have a good perspective on other site sections, including about
us, news, social responsibility and careers sections.
Some companies ask us to review their entire corporate websites at the same
time we Audit their IR sections.
Do you audit sites of non-North American companies?
Yes, we do. International companies listed on U.S. exchanges can particularly
benefit from our audits and reviews. We have a lot of experience with U.S.-listed
foreign issuers. Of course, even if your company isn't one of these, you probably
shouldn't ignore the world's biggest capital market, so having us review your
site provides a valuable perspective on whether it lives up to the requirements
of U.S. investors.
What is usability?
It's one of the most important factors behind the effectiveness of a website.
Usability, or ease of use, helps investors and other visitors quickly fulfill
their reasons for visiting a site. That might be to get a phone number for the
IR department, to double check something your CFO said on a conference call,
or to check the accounting treatment of a line item.
When sites are easy to use, people are more likely to leave the site with a
favorable impression of the company. They will also be more likely to want to
come back and use the site again in the future. In that sense, usability is
important to the return your company earns on its investment in the website.
Some of the questions we ask when inspecting the usability of your site include:
- Does the overall structure, layout and completeness of your site address
the needs and motives of investors?
- Is content on the site organized and optimized for the constraints of online
- Do the formats and file types allow easy access to all users?
- How useful and easy to use is the navigation scheme?
- Does the site meet the requirements of special needs users?
- Are there formatting, design or technical issues that should be addressed
to improve the experience of users on the site?
How do you choose which sites to benchmark my site against?
We help you choose the best peer group for your Audit. It depends on
the objectives and resources of your company. This is usually how the process
- After getting your input, we do a quick review of a wider group of companies
in your industry to identify companies with good and bad sites.
- We talk to you about what mix of sites will give you the best measure of
how your site measures up.
- Sometimes we include only companies with above-average sites, while other
times we have more of a balance between good and mediocre sites.
- For Level 3 Audits, we often include two excellent sites from outside of
your industry. This prevents "industry clumping" -- a term we use
describe the cookie-cutter look that can result from companies in the same
industry group copying each other's practices.
How often should I audit my site?
Since we have a vested interest in seeing you do frequent audits, we'll
do our best to be unbiased in our answer to this question. The answer, based
on the pace of technology and practice changes, is that you should do a detailed
audit every 12 to 18 months.
Of course, you should always audit your site before a scheduled upgrade and/or
conduct a Pre-launch Review before the new site goes live.