The life cycle of every website includes a lot of phases and operations: design, PSD to HTML/CSS conversion, back-end development, testing, beta stage, official launch, regular operation, gathering of feedbacks and comments, analysis of website and marketing statistics, improvements and updates, and so forth.
Of these one of the most important actions are the “improvements and updates.” It is clear why: to a large extent the operations before them are based on assumptions and suppositions. But after the website launching, its owner can collect information on how the assumptions correspond to the real user experience and owner’s expectations. Moreover, life doesn’t stand still, and new technologies and trends are continuously becoming actual and used as a must.
Below you’ll find a checklist for those who have decided to optimize their website and those who are developing the website from scratch and want to know things that may be essential for the further site improvement.
A Checklist to Answer Before You Start Improving
The goal of this checklist is to help to analyze information collected during your website operation and understand a scope of necessary improvements or updates. Of course, the list below is incomplete. But we have tried to embrace some critical moments. Please note that some questions can be placed in several sections, so the division proposed is conditional to some extent. We assume that the reader knows in general what is behind the question and uses this questionnaire as a cheatsheet.
- Usability and User Experience
- PSD to HTML conversion and coding
- Functionality and Features
- Updates and Maintenance
- Make a Decision
- Appendix: A Little More About Rich Snippets (Infographics)
- Is your website design on modern lines or it looks like a relic of the early days of the web? (see more about web design trends 2013 here)
- Is the design professional? These points are especially crucial for business sites for which design is subconsciously projected onto the service or product quality: obsolete and/or amateur design ==> bad service / product quality.
- Is the design effective? Does the design help to convey the main ideas behind your website and to achieve its goals?
- Is there synergy between your design and content? Does the design support content (and vice versa) or they live their own and unrelated “lives”?
- Is the design pertinent? Is it too bright / dark or contrast or with bizarre fonts unsuitable for your industry and target audience? Maybe the design is associated with undesired or wrong topics / characters / events?
- Does your website make a good impression? Is it memorable (in a positive sense) and unique or you use a hackneyed theme with stock images which are published 3 million times on other websites?
- Is there a feeling of the website/brand personality? Is there a human voice in your design?
- Is your website emotive? Can full-screen / large images or video backgrounds help to make the website more exciting?
- Is the design skeuomorphic? Possibly flat design will be more suitable?
Usability and User Experience
- If the visitor scans your website, can he or she understand what is your website about and which information / options are available on the website?
- Is there a visual guideline how to use the website? Is the website navigation intuitive and consistent?
- Is placement of the website elements and their functioning understandable and similar on different pages or they require the visitor to think or guess?
- Is the website stuffed with cluttered, redundant or even irrelevant information, images or Call-to-Action buttons which confuse visitors? Or every piece of information is to the point, in the right place and for the right reason?
- Is it easy to read the content? Is contrast between fore- and background colors acceptable? Are type face, font size, line height, margins and white space reasonable? These are important in case there are large pieces of textual information on your website or the target audience is people who may have weak eyesight.
- Is your content properly formatted and easy-to-scan (paragraphs of 4-6 lines, sufficient number of sub-headers, lists, and quotes)?
- Are there appropriate images and illustrations which make visual breaks or only a solid flow of text, text and text?
- Is there an overwhelming or annoying use of bold and italic? Is there a lot of center justified text?
- Is the content correct from the point of view of spelling and grammar?
- Do you use unsolicited pop-ups or irritating banners?
- Are there audio or video files which are loaded automatically and the visitor cannot stop or mute them?
- If there are widgets or features, are they easy-to-use and useful for the website visitors?
- Is your website for humans or search engines?
- Is the website developed for the right people? Is the design and content engaging and understandable for the target audience?
- Is the website design and content about you and your company or about customers’ needs and problem solving?
- Is it easy to find out what your services or products are about and why your company is the best choice?
- Is the website copy effective? Headlines, slogans, and other texts – Are they just a bunch of words to fill the white space or every word and its position is well thought-out?
- Are your contacts visible well on the website? Are they present on each page or only on the Contact page?
- Is there clear Call-to-Action? Is Call-to-Action overdone, confusing or too blatant?
- Are the Call-to-Action buttons / links effective? For example, their shape, size, color, wording and position can increase the website conversion rate in several times.
- Are forms (for example, on ‘Contact us’ or ‘Order’ pages) easy to deal with? Do they contain a reasonable number (as few as possible) of fields with clear meanings?
- Is there the Help or FAQ section? What about consumer guides, free reports or reviews?
- Does the website provide visitors with appropriate response after important operations (for example, a confirmation message after order sending)?
- Are there testimonials? Are they true words from real people or canned?
- Is your website trustworthy? Are there elements that build trust and credibility?
- How often do you add new content? Is it stale? If so, what is the reason – maybe it is technically difficult or inconvenient to do that?
- Does the website provide necessary legal information and guarantees? (it is especially important for e-commerce, SaaS, and so on)
- Do you use one large website for all your businesses / services / products or there are a central (corporate) website plus a number of specialized websites for the most important services or products which are easily found and accessed by consumers?
PSD to HTML conversion and coding
- Which versions of HTML and CSS are used on your website? What about HTML5 and CSS3? Possibly they are more efficient and reasonable for your website now.
- Is your website W3C standards valid? (you can check that on the W3C sites validator.w3.org and jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/)
- Is the website table-based?
- Is the HTML / CSS code understandable and easy to update and modify? Is it clean, structured and commented or there are a lot of code garbage and remains of coding experiments and failed improvements?
- Does your website look and work identically in different popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE)?
- Is the website code SEO semantic?
- What about accessibility?
- Is the loading time of your website small?
- Are page URLs SEO-friendly?
- Are “title” and meta “description” tags appropriate and different for every page?
- Are there a reasonable number of relevant and right keywords and their synonyms in the content?
- Do images have relevant “alt” attributes? Are image names descriptive or look like “img12345.png”?
- Are the website pages adequately interlinked?
- Does the website have sitemaps (both an HTML version and XML one)? Are they fresh?
- Is there a large number of images? Is it possible to substitute them or their textual elements for webfonts? (webfonts are much more SEO friendly) If not, maybe a rollover “image”-“textual description” or other HTML/CSS/JS techniques which display text on clicking or mouse hover are the solution?
- Are there broken links on your website? What about ‘orphan’ pages?
- Is there duplicate content? How do you solve the pagination problems?
- Is your content unique and of high quality or a spinned, stolen or worthless garbage?
- Are there backlinks to your website from low quality resources? How many backlinks are there with your main exact keywords as an anchor text?
- Is there authorship information on your website?
- Do you use social snippets on your website? What about schema.org microdata?
- Is the website overoptimized (for example, too many keywords)?
- Do you or your SEO company use black SEO tricks?
Functionality and Features
- Does your website have sufficient functionality – search, slideshows, catalogs, online calculators or document generators, just to name a few? Is it competitive enough in comparison with websites of your rivals?
- Is your website interactive? Are there contact or feedback forms on your website? What about online chat?
- Do you use Google/Bing Maps on your website?
- Are there videos? Photo galleries?
- Do you have active accounts in the social networks? Do they have a decent (for websites in your niche) number of followers and fans?
- Is the website linked to your active accounts on Facebook or Twitter?
- Is it easy to ‘Like’ or Retweet your content or Pin images?
- Is it possible to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter(s), RSS feed(s) or follow you on Facebook, Twitter or Google+?
- Is there a blog on your website? Is it alive? Is it interesting to your website visitors?
- How well is your website displayed on mobile devices and tablets? For example, is it convenient to browse and use it on iPhone or iPad?
- Is layout of your website responsive?
- How do images on your website look on the Retina displays?
- Does your website support such mobile functionality as touch screen operations or geographic location awareness?
- Is there Flash animation? (it doesn’t work on iPhones or iPads)
- Are the design elements large enough to be easy-to-use on touch screens?
- Do you use mouse-overs (rollovers)? (they need a special treatment on touch screen devices)
Updates and Maintenance
- Is it easy to update content, for example, to add a new page or image, change a phrase or modify a page title? Can you do this job without assistance or you need to ask IT staff?
- Is your website scalable? For instance, can it cope with suddenly increased traffic?
- Is your website safe and reliable?
- Can the website be localized for the different markets?
- Does your CMS (content management system) correctly support new versions of necessary plug-ins or there are problems with their compatibility?
- Is it easy to make a backup version of the website?
Make a Decision
The next step is to understand whether the website requires comprehensive improvements (such as complete redesign and re-development or migration to another content management system) or small updates and modifications of some elements are quite enough this time.
Here are some additional tips.
Avoid SEO Losses
Note that redesign of the website structure or CMS migration can be related to some SEO losses. Always consult professionals before starting such critical tasks.
Use a CMS
Content management systems open a variety of possibilities to improve the website efficiency as well as website maintenance due to making the website more convenient for e-commerce operations, paying, blogging, data sharing, and so on. Some CMSs or plug-ins for them effectively help in search engine optimization. There are a number of free but advanced high-end open-source CMSs such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, and Magento, which are very popular now (read more about their strengths and weaknesses in this post).
Social and Communication Channels
Social channels are an effective way to attract additional target traffic and links to your website. They help to be less dependent on Google’s algorithm changes which have dramatically affected the website rankings recently. Your website availability may be improved with such social tools as Twitter widgets and Retweet buttons, Facebook plug-ins (Like button, Comments or Latest Status), or Pinterest Repin buttons. Don’t forget about such simple but still effective instruments as e-mail newsletters, RSS feeds, or online chat to communicate to you readers. Be closer to your clients and give them common possibilities to get to know and share your content and information about you.
Cut Your Website Mobile
Ensure your website can be always at hand. The modern coding technologies and techniques (HTML5, CSS3, etc.) allow developing advanced cross-platform and cross-browser responsive websites, which can adapt to the device display size and resolution, so it’s not necessarily to develop a separate mobile version of the website.
The website improvement is a task that should be done almost on a daily basis, because the web and competitive market environment are changing continuously. By keeping your website up to date you are constantly improving your business effectiveness and customers’ satisfaction. This is a long way but it leads to success.
Appendix: A Little More About Rich Snippets
Created by Infographic Design Team