Before you revamp your Web site, hire a third-party consultant to evaluate the site and help determine the need for a complete overhaul. That's exactly what Home-to-Home did before committing to an upgrade.
"You should upgrade only when there will be a measured benefit to doing so," says Gary Valle, president of Valley Programming Service Inc., a Web consulting company based in Canoga Park, California.
If you don't want to use a third-party agency, however, you can try a service that offers instant performance appraisal. Keynote Systems (http://www.keynote.com), based in San Mateo, California, offers a service called Lifeline, which measures the length of time it takes to download Web pages and compares that time with an index of download times from 40 well-known Web sites. The results of these comparisons are sent as graphics and tables in real time through the Internet.
Keynote's Lifeline also includes automatic alerts by e-mail or pager when Web-page download times exceed a specified threshold or when the Web site becomes inaccessible and generates error conditions. The whole service costs $695 per URL for one year.
Though Web-site download time is just one facet of the overall package, upgrading does not necessarily mean a wholesale revamp of the site. Valle suggests focusing on one element of effectiveness--such as ease of use, content, accessibility, visibility or appearance--and moving on to others over time.
"When possible, I prefer to do incremental upgrades, since it's not as disruptive as a wholesale upgrade," says Valle. "The goal is to make upgrades evolutionary."