Web Reliability

11. How do I use it?

Mitchell Kimbrough
Written June 26, 2019 by
Mitchell Kimbrough
Founder & CEO

Web Reliability begins with empathy. We start by putting ourselves into the customer’s shoes and understanding why they’ve come to the website. What does the customer most want and need to accomplish on the site? What pain are they experiencing that we have a remedy for? This is the customer's mission statement.

Every Web Reliability exercise begins with creating a quick worksheet, and it couldn’t be simpler. Find a piece of paper, a napkin, a whiteboard, whatever. Draw a tic-tac-toe grid on it – two lines down, two lines across - a big hashtag. There’s your 3x3 grid. Now, write your customer mission statement above it so you don’t forget who you're serving and why. Label the tops of the columns Team, Plan, and Action. Then label the rows Motivation, Resistance, and Management. This is your worksheet. To use the worksheet you put an X or an O in each of the 9 cells. X's represent a problem area. O's tell you everything is fine. You can score this board. Each X gets a 1. A total score of 9 is terrible. 0 is great. 0 means smooth, reliable, unencumbered flow - the sweet spot in Web Reliability.

When using the Web Reliability Framework as a troubleshooting tool, you can fill out the worksheet and immediately see where the priority problems are. It’s the cells with X's in them. Maybe you fill it all out and there’s an X in the Action/Resistance cell. A failure in the ability of the site to support the client successfully completing the desired action. Perhaps servers are crashing, or the page locks up when they click “submit”, or they stumble over defunct permalinks or multiple login barriers. Problems like this reside in the Action/Resistance cell. Customers are trying to complete an action on a live website and they are being met with resistance.

If you’re using the Web Reliability Framework to plan a new website, on the other hand, the exercise is about testing the idea rather than the reality. It’s the same process though. You work your way through each of the 9 cells, scoring your plan, your team, and other attributes. Maybe you're planning to drive traffic to the site with scheduled email blasts. This marketing effort maps to the Plan/Motivation cell. You have a plan (marketing) to motivate customers to come to the site. Now you have to score the plan by asking the right set of questions related to potential blocking or failure issues. Is your email list reliable? Does it contain recipients who will actually be receptive to the marketing messages you have planned? Are the marketing messages themselves properly tailored to the audience?

With Web Reliability, you score your site across 9 attributes. The scoring system won’t work unless you are honest and real. Look at your site metrics. Listen to your customers. Listen to your team members. And remember that your goal is reliable revenue. You won't get there until you face the facts about your website. Web Reliability breaks those facts down into smaller pieces that are clear and easy to evaluate and to translate into solutions.

As you work your way through the board, whether planning or troubleshooting a site's customer flow, you end up with a value in each cell. The sum of these creates an overall score. An overall score of fewer than 3 signals good, reliable customer flow. The closer you get to 9, the more X's you have and the more urgently broken your site is.

When done honestly and completely, Web Reliability scoring allows you to see the functional interconnections of the components of your site's flow. Suppose your server monitoring records a significant drop in traffic one day. The Action/Management cell gets an X. Low traffic equals low flow. What's the cause? Start scoring your other cells to find out. Has the marketing plan (Plan/Motivation cell) changed? Is there something new about customer desire that renders the previous plan ineffective? Is there some new form of resistance to the customer getting what they want (Action/Resistance)? Are the pages still rendering correctly? Maybe there's a new type of mobile device in use that prevents your asset library from loading, or makes your CTAs inert. Then again, as you work your way through the scoreboard, maybe you find O's everywhere except in the Action/Motivation cell. You investigate and it turns out your Google Adwords campaign got switched off because someone forgot to pay the bill. This amounts to an X is Action/Motivation, but the real problem is the X is Action/Management. Someone forgot to manage the Adwords account and make sure the lights stayed on.

The Web Reliability Framework helps you locate the causes of your problems by helping you to look in the right place. It makes sure you keep your eyes on the prize, which is ensuring reliable revenue through good customer flow over time. Most of all, it gives you a way to break down your really big website problems into smaller, discrete pieces that can more easily be addressed and resolved.