29th January 2016 | Blog, Latest Articles

Does your website have the essential elements to succeed?

Building a website is the obvious first step towards setting up an online business. This is one of the most important aspects as the failure or success of the business depends on it. However, designing and developing a website is not a simple task. It involves a complicated process that is time consuming.

Dealing with the clients, designing templates, programming, coding, and testing – there is a lot that you need to keep track of. To make sure everything gets done efficiently and within the deadline, you need to use checklists.

A web design checklist can come in handy, and can streamlines the design and development phase. The checklist should cover multiple crucial areas such as content, accessibility, usability, standards etc. By having this list at your disposal, you can make sure that the designers and developers do not overlook any crucial aspects.

You may be in a hurry to get the website ready and live, and without a checklist you could forget a few of the smaller details when you are in a rush. Not sure which elements are essential for your web design checklist? Here are a few you should think about:

Favicon

Also known as website icon, shortcut icon, URL icon, tab icon, or bookmark icon, a favicon is an image file that consists of 16×16 pixels. These icons display in web browser tabs, in your bookmarks menus and if supported by the browser, in the address bar.

Favicons help identify websites on browser tabs

Although favicons are one of the little things that web designers usually don’t pay a lot of attention to, they are extremely significant both in terms of branding and user interface. The favicon assists with visibility when you have a lot of browser tabs open, and the descriptions get shortened. Then you only need to look at the favicons to identify which site is being viewed in which tab.

Meta data and titles

The page title is not only a crucial element for effective SEO, but it is also important in making the website user friendly. It allows the users to know what is on the page at just the first glance. Each page on the website must have a unique title, and it should also relate to the content displayed on that particular page.

While some believe keywords and meta descriptions are no longer important for SEO for the major search engines such as Google, expert marketers know better than to ignore these elements. Each page on the website should have a clear and concise meta description.

Meta titles and descriptions appear on search engines

When Google displays the website in search results, the users will read the title and description, then decide whether or not it is worth visiting that website. The description needs to be eye-catching and informative enough to grab the attention of the user.

Proofread

Proofreading the content on each page is an absolute must. After you have checked the content, have somebody else look over it – or use a spelling / grammar checker. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors do not bode well for a website.

But it’s more than just mistakes, it’s also about writing clearly for your audience. Avoid trying to sound too technical and long-winded, the best practice is to write so that your content is easily understood. Make sure the content has small paragraphs, clear headings and bullet points of important information. This way it will also be easy to scan through the page’s content. A tool like the Hemingway App rates your writing style and suggests where you can improve on your content.

Hemingway helps users improve their writing

Another good option would be to use dynamic texts such as alert boxes when appropriate.

Cross-browser checks

If you think the website looks stunning and pixel perfect, check again! When testing websites in IE, you may spot broken images and various other design flaws. It is crucial for the website to run smoothly across all browsers. It may not be flawless in all the different browsers, but it should at least function properly without a hitch.

Analyse your site performance across various browsers

Some of the popular browsers that you should check the website for include Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari and Internet Explorer. And don’t limit yourself to desktop machines, because as of May 2015 more people create Google searches on mobile than desktop. More people are transitioning to mobile devices as their preferred means of accessing the web. A tool like BrowserStack can be used to test how sites are viewed on mobile products like tablets and mobile phones (Android, iOS, Windows etc).

In terms of SEO, Google rates responsive (mobile-friendly) sites higher in search engine results than non-responsive ones. Use their mobile-friendly tool to see how well your site rates.

Functionality checks

Before making the site live, make sure you check all the features thoroughly. If there’s a contact form on the website, test it yourself and see whether it shows the desired features. You can also get others to test the website. Do not just ask your friends and family.

You should also ask users from your target market in order to get comprehensive feedback. It is important to look at the website from a user’s perspective and not just from the designer or developer’s perspective.

More common features that you need to cross-check include search functions, the contact form, any log-in areas and shopping baskets.

And as mentioned earlier, you must test all the features on different browsers and platforms.

Links

  • It can be a fatal mistake to assume that all your links work fine. Click on each link to see if they lead the correct page
  • Many times developers forget to add “http://” or “https://” to the links to external websites
  • You should also make sure that the website logo leads to the website homepage
  • If there are hyperlinked texts within the content of the page, you must highlight them either using a different color or using underline so that they stand out
  • You should also avoid underlining texts that are not linked. It will only confuse the users

RSS link

If there is a blog section or newsreel on the website, you must add an RSS feed that users will subscribe to. You should also make the RSS feed clearly visible so that users have no difficulty finding it. The common practice is to put the small RSS icon in the address bar of the browser. You can achieve this simply by putting a simple code between the head tags.

Sitemap

You need to add a sitemap.xml file to the root directory. It will allow the major search engines to index your website easily. This file will direct the web crawlers to all the different pages on your website. You can use XML-Sitemaps website to automatically create a sitemap.xml file. Once the file is created, you can upload it to the root directory, for example: “www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml”. On the other hand, if you are using WordPress, you would need to install the Google XML Sitemaps plug-in. This will automatically update the sitemap when new posts are added. You would also need to add your sitemap and website to the Google Search Console (previously known as Webmaster Tools). This will let Google know that your website has a sitemap. In turn, Google will provide useful statistics on when and how your website was indexed last.

Analytics

Analytics dashboard

Installing an analytics tool is important because you would need it to measure the statistics of your website’s performance. It would also show how successful the conversion rates are.

With an analytics tool, you will be able to track the daily unique hits, browser statistics, monthly page views, and all the necessary data needed for tracking. You can also track your users flow through the site, and you can then see what pages have the highest drop-off rates – this will allow you to try and improve on the site’s usability to help generate more business.

Most of the developers and website owners prefer Google Analytics. This tool is free and most efficient. Other options include Kissmetrics, Clicky, StatCounter, and Mint.

Defensive design

The 404 page is one of the most overlooked defensive design elements. When a user searches for a page that does not exist, the website displays a 404 page. This can happen for a number of reasons. In such situations, you need to offer your users a useful 404 page that guides them back to the home page or suggests other pages that they might find helpful.

Another smart defensive design tactic is to check the forms for validation. When testing the form, try to submit an unusual form for example, add a lot of characters, letters or numbers. If an error occurs, make sure you provide the user enough information so that they can fix that error and complete the task.

So, now that you know which aspects to focus on before making the site live, you can thoroughly inspect and test your website in order to create the best experience for your visitors.