A Simple System to Decide What to Fix Next.
Most website administrators balance managing content, monitoring site health, improving user experience, and resolving software issues. Most websites don’t have an unlimited budget, and work needs to be weighed against ROI (return on investment). A simplified version of the system product designers developed for evaluating heuristic violations makes it easy to prioritize website issues.
Here are a system and spreadsheet template for prioritizing tasks to keep your website thriving.
Catastrophes and Cosmetics
When product development teams review prototypes, they categorize heuristic violations by severity. We can do the same for website issues.
1= Cosmetic visual-only and doesn’t affect interaction/site function
2=Minor the visitor can still do what they need to do on the site with minimal disruption
3=Major the visitor can complete tasks on the site but with difficulty, or the flow of the experience is disrupted
4=Catastrophic the visitor cannot complete the task
Do the Easy Stuff First
There is a cost in time and/or money for fixing an issue. So the next task is to decide how easy or hard it will be to correct the problem.
After making your best guess about the difficulty of the fix, it is time to set priorities. The best return on investment (ROI) is had when fixing a Catastrophic issue that is quick and Easy, the worst ROI and last priority would be a Cosmetic Problem that is Difficult to fix.
Fudge the System
If the Vice President of Marketing points out something I would consider Cosmetic or Minor, I will mark it as Major or Catastrophic.
I will put an issue on the back burner if another, more efficient solution is on the horizon. Recently, one of my sites slowed down because of a conflict between the site’s host and a plugin. Ordinarily, I would categorize this as a Major problem. However, the plugin developer is aware of the issue and a fix is expected. There is a snippet of code to use as a workaround in the meantime, but several comments I’ve seen indicate this can cause the site to go down. Spending hours perfecting a temporary fix for this problem is inefficient. So I’ve downgraded the caching conflict issue and set a reminder to check it after the next plugin update. You might categorize this error differently and that’s OK.
How to Use the Spreadsheet
You can find the Google Sheet Template Here. It will prompt you to use the template to make your own issues tracklist.
Problem: Give each issue a unique name, it may be tempting to start them all with “What the… ?” but the more succinct and descriptive the better.
Location: Usually the URL of the page with the issue, the name of a plugin or setting, or in some cases, simply “site-wide.”
Description: You may not prioritize this issue right away, put in any information that you will need to get started when it is time to address the problem.
Raised By: This can be a person’s initials, GA for Google Analytics, SF for Screaming Frog, etc.
Date: This first one is for the date the issue was raised.
Priority: Here is a dropdown menu with the Catastrophic/Easy to Cosmetic/Difficult matrix given a letter code, so you can sort the issues by priority.
Notes: How you solved it. Because a similar issue may come up in the future.
Resolved Date: The date you fixed the problem.
When you’ve resolved the issue, select “X-Done” from the Priority column dropdown, and when you sort the data by priority, the finished items will end up at the bottom.
And give yourself some credit for another problem solved.
Any questions or suggestions? Hit me up on Twitter @neustudio.