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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 count.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 section?
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:

 


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 works:


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.