The weather is unseasonably warm here at CommonPlaces HQ, and Spring is on everyone's mind. With the season of renewal beginning in just two days, you may be planning a little Spring Cleaning at home or in the office. If so, consider this: When was the last time you cleaned up your website? Sometimes the little things that it takes to keep a site up-to-date get put off and tend to pile up. Here are eight tips for giving your website a Spring Cleaning.
Does you website say what you want it to say?
Take this opportunity to read through the text of your site and determine if it still says what you want it to say. Perhaps your company has changed over the past year - whether it's a new direction, new product offerings, or a new slogan. Make sure that your site copy still portrays you as accurately as it did a year ago (or the the last time you assessed it).
is your contact information correct? What about your 'Team' page?
Has your phone number changed? Are you still at the same address? Sounds obvious, but it is easy to forget that stuff way down in the site footer. What about your 'Team' page, if you have one? Are you still displaying former employees? Do you have new hires that you need to add to this page? Finally, update the copyright year in your footer. Again, it's easy to forget, but users may see "2007" and think your site is out-of-date or no longer relevant.
Are there any broken links on your site?
Broken links are never a good thing. They tend to cause frustration, and can even make you seem less credible. So take a little time to click through your site and see if everything is in order. Also, check your analytics program to see if users are hitting your 404 (Page Not Found) page. Are there external links out there pointing to pages that no longer exist? Contact the webmaster if possible, or set up a redirect from the defunct address to a relevant, current page.
Does your navigation and site hierarchy make sense?
Look at your site with an objective eye, and ask yourself if your site structure will help your visitors, or hinder them. Seek out the opinions of your friends, or ideally, people who are unfamiliar with your site. Where are they getting lost or confused? You can also search the Web (or your local bookstore) for Web Usability resources, and give your site a self-test. Are you violating any major usability rules?
Does you site display and function correctly in all browsers?
Your website may look fine in your Safari browser, but how do your IE6 users experience it? There are a couple things you can do to test this. First, download a bunch of browsers. You can get the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera for free. To test older versions and/or different operating systems, you'll have to try another approach. There are some services on the Web that will give you a snapshot of what your site looks like in different broswer/operating system environments. The best (free) one I've seen is Adobe BrowserLabs.
what about mobile browsers?
If your website is a couple years old, mobile may not have been a top concern when your site was being developed. Today, it is. People will be visiting your website from their iPhones, BlackBerries, and other mobile devices. Trust me. Is your website still functional on these platforms? How does it look? Remember, these devices cannot render Flash meda. Is your website still navigable without Flash? Testing these platforms is a little bit tougher than testing multiple browsers. Search around to see if you can find simulators online. In the case of the iPhone, however, you won't find a reliable simulator for the PC. If all else fails, enlist the help of your tech-conscious friends (or acquaintances), or consider heading to the store to try out some of these phones.
What can you learn from your analytics data?
I mentioned site analytics above as a helpful tool for identifying 404s. Hopefully you have some sort of website analytics system in place. If you do, then there are other helpful bits of information to be had. For example, where are people leaving your site? If you see, for example, that one page in particular has a high exit rate, dedicate some time to working on this - users are either getting confused, frustrated, or just plain turned off by the content of this page. Conversely, what pages lead to the most conversions? What are you doing right on these pages?
When was the last time you checked out the competition?
Since you're evaluating your own site, this might also be the perfect time to check out the competition. What are they doing on their sites? What do you like? What do you dislike? Also, investigate which websites are linking to your competition. Can you obtain a link on these sites as well?
I hope these suggestions help you become more successful in the coming year. Good luck, and happy Spring!