While most surveys focus on big business websites, small companies can benefit from the persistent warning about the importance of web analytics, usability testing, and web site optimization.

Jupiter Research reports that one in seven consumer-facing web sites has an error on their home page severe enough to cause visitor defection. Jakob Nielsen reports in his article “Ten Most Violated Homepage Design Guidelines” that about two-thirds of corporate sites violate the usable design principles they are familiar with. This is both good and bad news for small businesses’ websites. More importantly, this is a free lesson for anyone with striving for professional web presence!

The bad news is that if big companies are not able to fix their websites, we should not expect better from the web presence of smaller organizations. The good news is that on the web it is difficult to tell the difference in the size of the company just by looking at its website. It gives hope for those who do invest in web site optimization and usability improvements. A small site can be fixed easier than a large one. Postponing is not an option. By fixing your site you have a chance to stand up among the crowd of broken-linked big corporate sites.

Jupiter Research published a report based on a December 2003 survey of 239 well-known consumer-facing Web sites during which some 22,000 links were spidered and evaluated. “Managing Web Site Quality: Stanching Customer Defection” reports that one in seven consumer-facing Web sites had prominent errors on their home pages. Among the most common problems were broken links (“404” errors), server errors, nonexistent host names, and servers responding with server unavailable errors.

Further, Jupiter Research singles out improving site usability as the number one challenge faced by Web site operators. This is significant as it outweighs the challenge of budget constraints or measuring ROI.

Usability is more than fixing broken links, but fixing first things first is an important step in the right direction. These lessons are universal regardless of the size of the business — anyone presented on the web should carefully consider their priorities, and if customer satisfaction and user experience of any importance, should initiate a plan for deploying web analytics solutions, web site optimization efforts, and ultimately usability improvements.