Testing is a crucial part of maintaining a professional website. Without it, you can have a site that looks great to you – but doesn’t really work for anyone else. And the result can be lost revenue.
Many companies perform rigorous testing upon their site’s initial launch, and then never revisit it. This is a big mistake. The technology that your visitors are using to access your site is constantly changing, and if you’re making regular updates to your site (and you should be!), you can unintentionally create a problem.
Running some basic tests regularly is good practice, and you also want to run more thorough tests when you make significant changes to your site (such as adding a new section or function), when traffic analysis shows an anomaly, or if users start to complain about issues.
1. Links – This is the most basic form of testing that every site should go through. Often when going from a testing environment to a live website, some links get lost in the shuffle. And of course, you have no control of links to websites that aren’t yours. You can do your best to ensure that no broken links go up on your site by testing each page manually before you load it – just click through all the links quickly – but you should also use a link checker to run through your entire website on a regular basis.
2. Browser Compatibility – It’s not possible to make your website look perfect across all browsers, but you can ensure that it’s at least functional. There’s nothing worse than visiting a website and not being able to complete basic tasks because you’re using a different browser than they were expecting. Some websites try to “fix” this problem by telling their users what browsers to view the site with. This doesn’t work – who wants to change browsers just to view one site? Instead, you’re more likely to alienate your visitors.
3. Screen Resolution – Again, you can’t design your website with every possible screen resolution in mind – there are just too many options – but you can ensure that it looks great on the most popular ones. Unfortunately, the most popular screen resolutions are frequently changing, so you need to perform checks regularly. But don’t just look at the popularity with the general web audience, find out what your visitors are using by checking your web analytics and then basing any changes on that data.
4. eCommerce Elements – If the goal of your site is to get people to buy products or services, you need to make sure it works! If people have trouble adding items to their cart or accessing your contact form, then they won’t be making any purchases. You can have employees run regular tests, but you should also hire “strangers” to the site to run through the process to ensure that it’s seamless.
5. Overall User Experience – Of course, the eCommerce elements aren’t the only part of the user experience you should be concerned with. After all, if customers aren’t sure how to even get to your shopping cart, how can they make a purchase? The only way to do this is to hire outside help to assess the site’s ease of use. You can let users just play around on the site – but also give them specific objectives to accomplish and see how long it takes them to get things done. Find out what they thought was confusing or overwhelming.
6. Auto-Replies – The idea behind the auto-reply is to set it and forget it, but if you forget it for too long, you may be sending out-of-date information to visitors. Set a regular schedule to review the content, and also to test that the auto-replies are still working as you would expect.
7. Sign-Ups and Forms – This is especially important if you don’t offer email addresses or other ways for your customers to get a hold of you. You may be throwing away leads every day simply because people can’t get in touch with you! Don’t just check that the form works properly on the site, but also make sure that the data is ultimately ending up where it should be, whether that’s a database or someone’s inbox.
8. Load Times – The internet is all about speed. We want the information we need now! So if your site takes forever to load because it’s bogged down by poor coding or slow videos, your visitors are likely to move on to a competitor’s. This is something that is often overlooked as we add on to websites over time. You may be adding new functions to help make your customers’ lives easier only to discover that they aren’t using them because the site is simply too slow.
9. CSS – Performing regular clean-ups of your CSS coding will help speed up your site’s load time, and it can decrease the pressure put on your server, which is crucial during times of high traffic. This can include eliminating unused selectors, unwanted whitespace, tabs, and comments.
Most forms of website testing are relatively quick and inexpensive to run due to the wealth of tools available, so there’s no excuse for not creating a regular schedule to ensure that your website is working at peak performance. This small investment of your time can pay off big time in the long run.