If you are in the process of redesigning your website, there are a number of things that you need to ensure are checked before you launch. If you are using a company to redesign your site, then hopefully they will be doing all of the checking and testing for you. But if you are attempting it by yourself then the list below will help you out.
Our website development team is frequently approached by existing and new clients that are redesigning their websites. Use this checklist to help you understand the challenges of redesigning your website, or use it as a checklist to grade your developer’s abilities.
This article provides a list of many of the tools we use to help in the website development process. We hope you find them just as useful.
Check Spelling and Grammar
There is nothing more distracting to your visitors than coming across spelling or grammar mistakes in your content. Many times, it causes your visitors to leave because it reflects a non-professional attitude. It shows that someone in your business did not feel that detail was important enough. This could convey a lack of care and attention to detail that your potential or existing customers require.
When you are redesigning your website, you do not want spelling mistakes or grammar to ruin your efforts.
Test in Mobile and Different Browsers
Another area often overlooked when redesigning your website is looking to see what it looks like on various devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. Many times the web developer may be working on providing updates on what the desktop site will look like.
In 2017, average mobile traffic in the United States accounted for about 63% of visits to websites. This percentage has been steadily increasing each year.
Visitors to your website also use varied web browsers. Some users prefer Macs, while others prefer a PC. You also need to account for a large number of web browsers available. Everyone has their own preference. And you want the experience to be shared regardless of the web browser being used.
The bottom line, make sure that you check what your site looks like on different devices such as desktop, mobile, and tablets. Also check it on different browsers such as Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Some of the tools we use to test across multiple browsers are:
Test all of your Links
There is nothing more frustrating than to click on a link only to be greeted with a 404 – Not Found error.
If you are redesigning your website, you probably have content you have forgotten about. Perhaps they are outdated articles, or pages created by a long since departed IT guy. The point is, most likely have links in your content that point to websites that no longer exist.
There is a great tool from Screaming frog called the SEO Spider which will scan your site and tell you if any of your links are broken. This tool does much more than just check for broken links. It is worth running it on your existing website and doing a comparative analysis of the new site to determine how the website has helped to improve your website’s SEO.
Test your Site Speed
Site speed is often confused with “page speed” which refers to page load time. Page Speed is the time it takes to begin receiving data from your website to the browser. Site Speed is a similar metric. But it is derived from a sample of multiple page views on your website.
Google has indicated site speed is one of the metrics used by its algorithm to rank pages. Page speed, or load time, is also important to user experience. This means that if your site is running slow, the search results for your site may be affected. This will also adversely affect your user’s experience.
You can use Pingdom tools which will show you how fast the site is loading and any issues which are slowing it down.
If, when redesigning your website, you find that it is slower, there are a variety of things you can do to fix these issues. But as this is beyond the scope of this post, we will address this in a future blog post.
Title and Meta Description
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. The title acts as the master heading for a web page. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages as a clickable headline and are important for SEO, user experience, and social sharing.
A Meta description provides a summary of a web page. This is usually made up of one or two sentences and usually appear in search engine results just under the clickable headline that is the title.
Google claims that titles and meta descriptions are no longer as important to ranking as they may have been in the past. But both of these items are an important factor in a visitor’s first impression of your website. Since both are displayed in search results, they should convey what your page is about. The goal is to get the visitor to click on your title and visit your website.
During the website development phase, it is common to leave this data empty. But as you approach the launch date, it is important that every page on your website has a title and a meta description.
There are many tools that you can use to check your Metadata, including SEO Spider from “Screaming frog” that we mentioned previously. You can also get add-ons for Chrome and Firefox which are very simple to use.
Image Alt Tags
Alt tags within an image let the search engines know what the image is about. Optimizing your images with keywords can also help your SEO rankings. But like the title and meta description, you should not stuff the alt tag with keywords.
Alt tags are important for accessibility. Their primary purpose is to describe images to visitors who are unable to see them. This means users who are sight-impaired or otherwise unable to visually identify an image. It also refers to screen readers and browsers that block images from being loaded.
If your new website will be using WordPress, you will be prompted to enter in additional Alt and Title tags for images when you insert them into a page.
We do not have any tools we use to assist in this area. But it is a matter to take notice of in redesigning your website.
Test all Forms
It is important that you manually check all forms on your site to ensure they are functioning properly prior to launching.
Every form should result in fulfilling its intended purpose. The best way to check this is by testing each and every form.
A Favicon is an icon associated with your website. It is typically displayed in the address bar of a browser accessing the site or next to the site name in a user’s list of bookmarks.
When a user is sifting through a massive list of bookmarked websites, the favicon is a major element that will help them associate with your website.
Make sure that your favicon is showing in the browser.
Analytics Tracking Code
Being able to track the success of your efforts when redesigning your website is critical.
But more importantly, you need to understand how your visitors are interacting with your website. Which content is getting the most visits. Where are most visitors coming from when they visit your website.
Make sure that all your tracking codes are installed and working such as Google Analytics, Adwords, Retargeting, and Facebook.
Check Your Schema
This has become increasingly important over the last few years. Schema is also referred to as “structured data”. This schema identifies your pages and the relationship it has with your company and other content on your website.
If you are using WordPress, your SEO plugin should be inserting this structured data into every page for you.
Ensure that all of your details such as name, address and contact data is all correct and formatted with schema code. Go to schema.org for further info on this.
Ensure There are no 404 Pages
This goes hand-in-hand with the broken links item. But, with some websites, it is possible to receive a 4404 error page if something is not configured properly.
If you type in a non-existing page URL from your site into the browser it will return a 404 error. These pages can be customized if need be, but it is best to check that there are no 404’s lying around the site.
You may also want to check out what your website’s 404 error pages look like. It is bad enough to be told the content is not there. But not offering options or alternatives to your visitors will frustrate them. You can make your website downtime, or users bad typing skills, a little less of a pain by having a creative error 404 message. This can do wonders to make your website visitors crack a smile in an otherwise frustrating situation.
This is very important if you are redesigning your website.
If you had to change your URL structure, you would hopefully have used 301 redirects on the old URLs. Test them by typing in the old URL’s to make sure that they redirect correctly.
Again, if you are using WordPress, the SEO plugin or another plugin can help get this set up properly.
XML Site Map
Having an XML Sitemap helps search engines understand the pages you consider to be the best quality for search results returning your website.
It’s important to do a site: search to see all the pages that Google is indexing from your site in order to discover pages that you forgot about.
Make sure that your sitemap is rendering properly. If you are using WordPress there are a number of sitemap plugins you can use to automatically generate the map.
Do a Plugin Audit
Many people decide to use plugins and then later stop using them. If there are plugins on your site that are not in use then delete them. Having too many plugins can slow down a website. Also, ensure that the ones in use are up to date with the latest versions.
Test Social Buttons
If you have Facebook, YouTube, Google+, etc. icons on your website, test them to make sure they go to the correct social pages.
If this is applicable to you then ensure that your email is set up correctly with your new host.
Point your DNS
Once you have followed this list and tested the major elements of your new site design it is now time to set it live and point the domain to your new hosting nameservers.
By following the above checklist you can be sure that you have a fully functioning site that is ready for both the search engines and your visitors.
We also found a helpful online tool in this compact web developer checklist. Feel free to check this out and let us know your thoughts in the comments.