Is Your Website Ready to Go Live? Make a Punch List First! | Virtual Stacks Systems
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Is Your Website Ready to Go Live? Make a Punch List First!

Is Your Website Ready to Go Live? Make a Punch List First!

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If you know anything about home construction – even if only from watching cable TV home remodeling shows – you’ve heard about a punch list. This is a list of items that need to be addressed before a project can be deemed complete. It usually consists of minor details that were missed during construction – such as leaving off light switch plates, scuff marks on walls, etc. Although individually the imperfections may seem to be no big deal, collectively, they reflect sloppy workmanship and diminish the overall quality of the home.

However, the same holds true for your business’s website. If you’re in the process – or soon plan to be – of getting a new website or a website redesign, you need to do a “walkthrough” of it before it goes live and make note of errors, inconsistencies and performance issues. In short, a punch list to give your web developer.

But first, we need to establish the distinction between a website designer and a website developer. These terms are often used interchangeably by those not familiar with the industry, but there are significant differences. Geeks for Geeks and Upwork break it down as follows.

Website designer – Web design refers to how the website looks and “feels” on the outside. Web designers are creative in nature, and are the aesthetic element that transforms ideas into visually appealing designs. Experienced web designers follow best practices in page layout, site navigation and other areas to ensure a great user experience in order to drive sales.

Website developer – Web development governs all the code that makes a website tick. It can be split into two categories – front-end and back-end. The front-end or client-side of an application is the code responsible for determining how the website will actually display the designs mocked up by a designer. The back-end or server-side of an application is responsible for managing data within the database and serving that data to the front-end to be displayed.

Depending upon the size of the agency or expertise of the contractor, the responsibilities of designer and developer may be held by two people, or only one. During your consultation, be sure to ask who will be working on the project, and their experience in producing the type of website you need.

The Awful Truth About Some Web Agencies

We don’t make it a practice to trash-talk our competitors, but the awful truth is that there are some agencies and individual contractors out there that don’t place a high priority on quality control. We’ve seen new and newly redesigned websites with errors that are sure to be obvious to visitors. For example, lorem ipsum – or “dummy text” on pages instead of the actual text – and answers to questions on an FAQ page that don’t stay open when clicked. Just imagine the frustration a potential customer experiences when they want more information, but the answer pops into view for a fraction of a second, then goes back into hiding! That visitor will more likely go to another website and its FAQ page – which presumably functions as intended.

In short, you can’t assume that just because a website professional is doing the job, you don’t need to follow behind and make sure all the “I’s” are dotted and all the “T’s” are crossed, so to speak! For the purpose of simplification, we’ll refer to website agencies to include individual or freelance contractors who offer this service. However, even conscientious agencies that follow best practices and perform a complete walkthrough of the website before going live encourage clients to do their own check – as we do!

What to Check Your Website for Before it Goes Live

Starting with the home page, review each page as if you were a visitor. Look at four main categories: design, content, functionality and security. We thank Maggie Aland of GrowMap for much of the following advice.

Design:

  • Confirm that page layout is consistent page-to-page.
  • Be sure that headlines, subheads, etc., are consistent size – ditto for body text size.
  • Look closely at buttons, boxes, etc.; make sure design elements that aren’t intended to overlap don’t.
  • Confirm that the website is compatible across all browsers.
  • The website is responsive, i.e., compatible on all kinds of devices and screen resolutions. If a significant amount of your traffic comes from mobile, you need to make sure that your site works well and looks good on smartphones.
  • Your website’s favicon is clearly and correctly displayed. The favicon is the small image that represents your website in the URL bar of the web browser.
  • The logo is located on the upper left of all pages with a link to your homepage, and the search box (if applicable) is located at the right.
  • The footer contains the copyright symbol, along with the current year and the company name. Make sure to list your company contact information, privacy policy and terms and conditions. You should also include distance seller regulations (for e-commerce sites), the link for your company’s social media profile and quick links to major areas of your website.
  • Navigation is simple and functioning properly.
  • You have optimized videos and images for the web, checked for pixelation and assigned alt tags. Alt tags describe your image and help your site rank well in the search engines.
  • CSS and HTMLs are clean and validated.

Content:

  • Proofread for typos, spelling and grammar consistency. Have another pair of eyes look over the copy, as well.
  • In the case of a website redesign, read all copy on every page to make sure it’s up-to-date. Your web agency will transfer existing content to the updated site, so there’s the possibility that some information is outdated. Of course, it was outdated before, but its presence on a website with a brand-new look and improved functionality will make it stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Related advice: Depending upon your industry or type of business, be especially aware of profound changes that have occurred since your website was first designed. For example, the ongoing ways in which COVID-19 has shaped buying habits. If your business involves dealing with vendors or partners in other countries, wars and international conflicts may have an impact. Following current events to determine their effect on your business – and thereby your website messaging and/or product offerings – should be ongoing, not just when you update your site.

  • As mentioned earlier, check to ensure that all dummy placeholder copy has been replaced with real copy. Nothing makes a website look not-ready-for-prime-time more than lines of “Lorem ipsum …” where information should be.

Functionality:

  • Test the functionality of all clickable actions. As our blog post – “Seven Ways to Improve Your Website Right Now” – recommends, go through your website as if you were a customer, or prospective customer. Click on every link, fill out every online form, and sign up for your email list and/or newsletter. Subscribe to your blog, and confirm that its comments field works. If your website is e-commerce, go through the ordering and checkout process. Visitors who try to perform any of these actions and fail due to some glitch probably won’t bother to let you know. They’ll just move on to another website – most likely one of your competitors!
  • Test the functionality of your website’s navigation. Writing for DZone, content specialist Veethee Dixit recommends checking each navigation step from the home page to the checkout page (if applicable) while going through other areas of your website. Also, the on-site search field (if applicable) should work accurately. Again, navigate through your site as a visitor would, and make note if you land on a page different from the one you intended, or you get a 404 page.
  • Check your website’s loading speed. This is critical, because a delay of even 0.1 seconds can cost you to lose up to 40% of traffic on your site. Page loading speed is also a Google ranking factor, which means if your site loads immediately, it will help improve your rank on search engines. Our blog post – “Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed” – covers this issue in detail.

Security:

Make sure that all security and backup measures you’ve discussed with your website agency are in place and functioning. Aland recommends the following:

  • Regularly schedule manual or automatic backups.
  • All computers with access to the administrator account should be free of malware.
  • Administrator passwords need to be strong and changed regularly.
  • A site monitor and an automatic protocol should be in place to notify your administrator of any unusual event on the website.
  • Confidential information needs to be in a secure database.
  • You need to conduct a load test and make sure the website passes a heavy traffic scenario.
  • Your website should be running on secure HTTPS protocol if you have an e-commerce store or if you store sensitive information, such as customer emails.
  • Make sure you have installed an SSL certificate.

The Take-Home Message and Our Blatant Self-Promotion

Keep in mind that these are just the basic checks to make in each category. Depending upon the size and nature of your business, your website may have more items to review and test.

The real take-home message is this. You’re paying good money for your website to be designed and developed by professionals. While technical glitches can occur, glaring errors and poor-functioning features should be caught by the website agency before it goes live. However, you still need to do a final walkthrough – just as you would if your place of business were being renovated. If anything needs to be corrected or tweaked, it will be done so your visitors will have a great experience and start their journey to become customers!

And now, for the blatant self-promotion part. Our dedicated Virtual Stacks Systems team provides comprehensive digital marketing services that include website design, website redesign, SEO services, content writing, social media marketing, pay-per-click marketing and so much more! We take pride in producing high-quality work that represents your business at its best, engages members of your target market and drives traffic to your website – and keeps it there! We are ready to be your partner in success.

Contact us to learn more and get started!



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