How to Write a Website Report

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A comprehensive website report should always be based on data. Much of this data can be obtained by using Google Analytics or similar analytics software that gathers information directly from your website and analyzes it. However, this is only one component you'll need. Because websites are used by people, you'll need to get feedback from people using the website.

In most cases, much of the feedback you get will include positive and negative remarks. Both of these are important if you want to improve a website by building on its strengths and fixing its weaknesses.

Survey of Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people who the website is designed to serve. For most businesses, this includes the customers, employees and management. For nonprofit organizations, this can include board members, sponsors and clients. The best way to begin getting feedback from these people is to send them a survey via email and to post a link to the survey on your website.

Surveys should include questions about what they like and don't like about the website and their suggestions for improvement. You can also ask them to rate their experience on a scale and ask specific questions that relate to the organization's goals, but make sure you include open-ended questions so you can receive additional feedback.

Use a service like SurveyMonkey to create the survey and send it to all stakeholders, including customers, employees, partners and suppliers. Export the data from the survey into an Excel spreadsheet and use this data to create some pie charts for your report.

Getting Personal Feedback

Surveys will give you some indication of what people like and don't like about a website. Once you begin getting the results, you'll want to sit down with people and watch them using the website for typical tasks like logging into a portal designed for employees or trying to buy something online.

Sit down and watch a user navigate the website and ask them to tell you what they're doing as they do it. This will give you information on what they want to do, compared to what they're actually doing. If you're unable to watch people in-person, you can use a service like UserTesting to observe them. When two or more people have the same positive or negative experience, this should be documented in your report.

The number of people you observe can vary depending on the size of your groups. Consider watching five or six people at the very minimum. In some cases, it's helpful to ask people who return expanded answers to the survey to let you observe them.

Using Website Analytics

Google Analytics is still the preferred tool by most developers for analyzing websites. This will provide you with most of the data you'll need for the report, including page views, lag times, the amount of time spent on specific pages and the flow of traffic from outside sources and from one page to another within the website. Google Analytics will also give you information on who your website visitors are and which devices and web browsers they use.

Which data you select should depend on what the website is for. An e-commerce website should focus on the sales process and sales funnel, including ratios on the number of visitors compared to the number of purchases from different outside sources. A content-based site should focus on types of content like blog posts, articles, reviews, videos and infographics. Page views, bounce rates, inbound links from ads and social media should also be documented.

Google Analytics can provide you with incredibly precise data. Consider making screenshots of some of the reports, including the charts, to include in your report:

Page Performance: Google Analytics will sort your pages so you can see which are visited most often and which aren't.

Website Speed Test: A speed test, sometimes called a website load test, like that offered by Google Analytics, tells you how fast your pages load before visitors can see your content and interact with it. It can also tell you how long it takes for something to happen after a visitor clicks a button or link.

Visitor Demographics: If you enable Google Analytics Advertising Reporting feature, it will show you demographics of your visitors including their age, gender, interests and geographic locations. (Note that you must notify website visitors if you activate this feature.)

Repeat Visitors: Google Analytics' Frequency and Recency Metric tells you how many times people visit your site and how many days have elapsed between visits. Its New vs. Returning report gives you an indication of how well your content draws people back to your website.

Mobile Devices: Google Analytics can tell you what devices people use to visit your website so you can determine whether or not you should create a mobile-friendly website in addition to one optimized for web browsers or use a single website for both.

Matching Data to Organizational Goals

Once you've gathered the necessary data for your report, it's time to start putting it all together. The first thing you should do is to compare it to what the organization's goals are concerning the website. Some questions to consider include:

  • Is the website supposed to raise awareness of products and services?
  • Do employees use the website for their work? (Company portals, etc.)
  • Is the aim to sell products or services online?
  • Who's the website's target audience? 
  • What strategies and tactics are in place to drive traffic to the website?
  • What are the targeted sources of inbound traffic? (Ads, organic search results, social media, etc.)

In some cases, a company may not have specified goals for the website. In this case, you can use your report to recommend goals. For example, a company website without an e-commerce option with lots of national traffic may benefit from adding some sales pages. A manufacturer may be able to reduce customer support calls by adding an FAQ section to its website or by offering an online chat option.

Create a Website Report

A website report should consist of five to six sections. Like many reports, it's usually written from the inside out, beginning with the middle sections, then the last section, with the Executive Summary being written last:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. User Survey
  3. Personal Data
  4. Website Analytics
  5. Conclusions and Recommendations

Each of the three middle sections detailing your research should be written as if they were standalone documents. Each of these sections should begin with a one-page summary of the data that was collected, highlighting the best and the worst results.

User Survey: Include the questions that were asked and the number and percentage of responses, such as 290 responses, 54% Yes, 46% No. Use quotations for any specific replies to open-ended questions that are noteworthy, whether they're positive or negative.

Personal Data: Explain how the data was collected, such as by directly observing people or using software. Again, include quotations from any relevant statements.

Website Analytics: Include screenshots whenever possible.

Once the three data sections are finished, use this data to write your conclusions and recommendations. Finally, write the executive summary, which should be a one- to two-page summary of your most important research findings, as well as a summary of your conclusions and recommendations.

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About the Author

A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.