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Adam Turner

Avoiding Website Decline

Index Accessibility

A question we often get asked is:

‘Why has my quarterly INDEX score gone down this quarter and why have I fallen down the benchmarking table for my sector?’

In this post we’re going to explore why, and why actively managing the quality of your website on a consistent, ongoing basis is important.

What is the INDEX?

The INDEX is Sitemorse’s unique sector-based website benchmark that ranks websites based on how they are performing against chosen categories. The INDEX tests for various categories of assessment include Accessibility, Code Quality, Function and Links, and Performance and then creates an aggregate score to form quarterly league tables, covering several sectors. These include London-listed PLCs, UK Local Government and UK Retailers, and we have an amazing data archive that stretches back for years.

The ups and the downs

Each quarter there are some digital marketing teams eagerly awaiting the INDEX results for their sector. The reason for this is usually because they are actively working on digital improvement, for example moving towards accessibility compliance, and they want to show the progress they have made. Here moving up the benchmarking table tells a great story to your stakeholders and validates the approaches being taken to driving improvement.

However, there are also times a score can go down or an organisation can move down the table. There are two main reasons for this:

  • your site has declined in content quality or performance and the score of one or more INDEX category has declined
  • your competitors are improving the quality of their website at a faster rate than you.

Why websites decline

The value of your investments can go up and can go down….

We are all used to that kind of disclaimer that accompanies advertisements relating to financial services, and the same kind of thinking also applies to the quality of your website.

However, the idea of website quality and performance going “up and down” is not necessarily the way that all marketing teams and digital agencies think, particularly if a website is reasonably new. Here there tends to be much more of an assumption that when a successful website has been created, it will continue to be successful. However, website quality can go down, when:

  • New content is added which is not optimised or compliant – most websites are continually updated with new content regularly added.
  • When you have performance issues due a technical problem, coding change or external factor such as a browser update which your website is not optimsed for.

Essentially the reason your website might decline and fall down the benchmark table is because you are not actively managing your website to mitigate for both these situations.

Slow decline vs rapid fall

When an organisation falls down the INDEX rankings for the sector, there are usually two different forms:

  • Slow and sustained, perhaps a few places a quarter
  • Sudden and rapid across a quarter, with a marked decrease in scores

A low and sustained decline suggests that you are not actively managing your site to improve accessibility or review new content coming in. You need a regular process in place to stay on top of the content that has come in. Many teams have found that automated testing is the best way to ensure new content meets required standards, is free of spelling mistakes and broken links, has the right coding, is compliant with accessibility standards and more. Then you can quickly make any fixes as you go. This is how many teams use tools like Sitemorse to ensure their site retains good performance.

A sudden and rapid fall suggests there has been a change to your site that has not been tested correctly. It may be due to a technical change, new content or even a new design or CMS. Before you launch a new site or perhaps a microsite you should use automated testing on site templates and the content to make sure there are no issues. It is also possible that there has been some an external issue beyond your control, such as a browser change, that has impacted the experience of your site or caused a technical issue. Again, automated testing should indicate whether there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

The importance of ongoing testing

The underlying cause of a website that falls down the quarterly INDEX table is usually a website management issue. If you want to ensure your website keeps on performing well, is compliant with the law, and doesn’t slide down the INDEX, then you need to actively manage the quality of your website on a consistent, ongoing basis. The best way to do this is through ongoing testing that alerts you when there is an issue and tells you what you need to do about it. Teams that take this approach invariably improve user experience, lower their risk, reduce accessibility issues, and improve their customer experience.


Automatic delivery - Just-in-time

Direct ‘just-in-time’ training materials are offered against actions, delivering immediate understanding and confidence in actioning. These videos provide help prevent the same issues being repeated.