Testing - never assume anything!
Whether you have a contact form or an online shop you need to test it to make sure it works.
After nearly 20 years of website building I’ve learnt to never assume anything!
We build our websites in a secure development area, never live. Building a development site means Google can’t see how the website is evolving. You don’t want people to see the site before it’s built and get the wrong impression. What’s equally important is you don’t want Google to penalise you for duplicate content so we take steps to make sure only your the live site gets registered in Google not the development site.
Testing a development site doesn’t necessarily mean it will all work smoothly once live. Some features can be domain specific, for example with contact forms; on our hosting there is a spam prevention measure that means only emails sent from the same domain name as the site will work, so firstname.lastname@example.org can send from the polyspiral.com website but not email@example.com. So that change needs to happen when the site goes live. You’re only human after all, mistakes can happen, so testing anything that has to be manually changed after going live is paramount.
Things to test
Contact form: do you get the message ok?
Online shops: purchasing and checkout
Mobile: test everything on everything
Copy: is everything spelled correctly and grammatically correct?
Does the phone number work when you tap it on a mobile?
Testing your online shop
Test the checkout process, make sure it’s user friendly enough and that all the text and instructions are clear.
Do a test purchase; Stripe and PayPal have a test mode and so you can make a test purchase without parting with any cach, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. I tend to create a hidden product for 1p and go through a live checkout process just to be sure.
Whether you’re the client or the website developer you will have been viewing and using the website a lot and could now be blind to some things that could be improved m, so get a second opinion before going live. Get them to test the functionality as well as read the copy. It will almost certainly reveal things that can be improved on and allow you to remove obstacles that may put customers off using the website.
After testing your development website on mobile devices, test when live as well. And test on an many devices as you can.
You can do much of this by using emulators like Ripple for Chrome, or Safari and Firefox Developer editions have their own built in emulators, where you can test on a range of Apple devices, make sure you test on real life devices as well, as there can be discrepancies between emulators and iPhone and android devices.
The process I go through is test on emulators then final checks on real mobile devices then make adjustments if you need to. As mentioned earlier ‘never assume anything’. Just because it works on iPhone doesn’t mean it will behave the same on an. Android phone, test there too!
Once live, carry out the same tests, go to as many pages as possible, make sure the text isn’t too small to read and it’s easy to use.
SEO set up with Google and Bing
Do you have meta tags set up?
Meta tags are hidden sections of code that hold data that tell search engines what your website is all about. They consist of Title and Description.
Title is where the title of your website shows in Google and Bing, for example:
As you can see there is a limit to what is shown, so less is definitely more.
Try and make this different for each page, so different services and products get listed individually and it’s obvious in the search results m.
Think about what you want people to search and find you under.
There are other more interesting metatags for interaction with Social Networks, called the Opengraph set of tags.
If a site is aimed at local customers or visitors, add a geographic location metatag. Google can then find it by location.
Think of this as the long version of your title. Describe a bit more about what you do and again think about what words and phrases will be good to find your website.
The meta tag keyword is no longer used by google or bing due to abuse years ago where people crammed their keywords in order to boost their search engine listings. Keywords now relate to the content of your website. So make sure there’s plenty of copy that contains words and phrases you want people to use to find your website under.
Set your website up with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools, these enable you and your website developer and marketing professionals to see who's accessing your website and when and how they are finding you online.
Bing is the lesser known search engine by MicroSoft and is used by Yahoo and many websites and apps to run web searches. Go to https://www.bing.com/webmaster to set your website up with Bing.
Make sure you have an XML sitemap setup, you’ll need this for Google WebMaster tools and Bing Webmaster. If your website is built in WordPress you can get one of these with the Yoast plugin, for Drupal it’s the XML sitemaps module
Make sure you get website site monitoring services setup from the start as there is no way to go back in time to collect this data.
Make sure you have an SSL certificate on your website hosting. We offer these for free with each website. This enables anything transmitted from the user to the website to be encryption ensuring privacy and security. Many browsers are now showing warnings if a website doesn’t have one of these, a bit like this one:
Google is also preferring websites with these to so it’s a good idea to have one.
If your website is built in WordPress or Drupal it will be taking cookies, these are potentially personally identifiable pieces of information. So have a Cookie Consent notification linked to a page letting people know all about it so they can decide if they want to use your website.
You will definitely need one of these if you’re taking online orders or any other information.
We discuss what’s the most convenient time to go live with each client. I prefer to go live at the start of the working week as opposed to a Friday night. It’s an annoying fact and Sod’s Law that a few little bugs get noticed once a website is live. It’s a lot like when you’ve been working on some writing, you notice the errors when you print it out, or when you’ve sent that email.
You want your website developer to be available to see to any issues big or small as soon as they become apparent, Which is why I prefer a Monday or Tuesday to go live, then I can be certain I’ll be available the rest of the week to see to any issues is the most practical. approach.
Sometimes a ‘soft launch’ is a good way of ironing out any bugs without the world knowing too much about it. This means going live without a grand announcement. Instead go live and give it a week to allow for any issues to be detected then once you’re confident make the grand announcement.