Comprehensive 15-point checklist for creating or improving your website - Utter Digital
aine.bermingham@utterdigital.com
Website Checklist

Creating a new website, or having one built for you, can be challenging for businesses, particularly if it’s your first attempt. A good web designer should keep you right, but some may be focused on how good it looks or how their state of the art functionality works, and often there are key considerations which fall by the wayside.

Your planning is key, and communication with your web developer to ensure they know exactly what you want is critical for the success of your new site. The problem for many businesses is that they’re not quite sure what they want so it’s difficult for them to be specific when briefing a web designer. This list should help you to think about some of the different elements.

1. Objectives

Define your key objectives for each page. What is it you want to achieve? If you have more than one key objective, make sure you prioritise. Do not try to over complicate your pages by trying to achieve too much. Every page should have its own purpose, and a clear single objective. Some pages may be focused on capturing an email address, or subscribers to a blog, others may be focused on getting social shares or follows, or watching a video, whereas others will clearly have the objective of converting visitors to sales, getting a booking, requesting a quote, or filling out a contact form.

2. Layout

Does the layout of your page reflect the objectives you have set? Is the prioritisation of your page layout reflective of the prioritisation of the objectives?

This example from Conversion Rate Experts shows 3 calls to action in the page’s banner area – they’re all related, but the prioritisation is clear. They want you to watch the video first, then download the free reports, then find out how you can work with them.

Call to action example

 

3. Branding

Is every page well branded? Logo, brand colours, tagline, look & feel, imagery, tone of voice…is it all in keeping with your brand guidelines?

Consistency in your design and branding is so important – it’s how people will recognise your business. They’ll become familiar with your branding and you’ll become instantly recognisable. Inconsistency can not only cause confusion, but it can look unprofessional. It can dilute the effectiveness of your branding efforts. Every time someone sees your branding, it is reinforcing their awareness and familiarity with your brand, so changing things or being inconsistent will be less effective in achieving brand familiarity.

4. Imagery

Have you used strong imagery? Is it professional? Is it appealing and relevant? Does it show your product used in context, and highlight the key benefit of your product?

Your choice of imagery is very important – it can say a lot about your business. If you don’t use professional imagery it can give the impression that your business is unprofessional too and can put potential customers off instantly. As well as this, you want to show your products in their best light, so investing in good imagery is important.

5. Key Messages

What are your key messages? Have you prioritised your messages in line with your objectives? Have you got to the point quickly in your content?

Working out what you want to say before you start writing is key. Bullet point your key messages and prioritise the order before you start writing.

6. Content

There are so many considerations when it comes to the actual content on your page. Remember that people don’t really read web pages – they scan them instead. With this in mind, ensure you get your priority message across in the first line, and break up the content using headings and sub-headings. These will catch the reader’s eye, so use them for your other messages. The more relevant and interesting your content is the more people will actually read of it too, so go for quality content which gives the reader what they want.

Your content should be optimised for SEO (see point11), but not written just for Google. Always write for your audience first, and then just amend as appropriate for the search engines, without taking away from your user experience.

Don’t forget the basics either –

Is the content user friendly, i.e. clear & simple to read, using plain English, no jargon, and free from typos and grammar errors?

7. URL

Is your URL optimised, relevant, short, and simple? Instead of a string of letters and numbers which mean nothing to anyone, use a description of what is on the page. If you can use your primary keyword for the page in your URL it’s even better from an SEO perspective, but make sure it accurately describes what’s on the page so as not to mislead your customers.

Example:

myexample.com/ product.php?ID=53896272 becomes myexample.com/gold-handbags

Also, use hyphens to separate the words rather than underscores. The search engines recognise hyphens as spaces so they’ll be able to read the words accurately.

Have a look at this article on writing good URLs for more tips.

8. Call to Action

Have you got a clear call to action? Does it stand out on the page? Is it near the top of the page? If you have a long page, does it feature near the bottom also? Have you got the wording right? Is it clear from the wording what the user will get from clicking? Are your buttons mobile friendly?

Your call to action should be aligned to your page objectives – this is what can make the difference between getting the sale, the lead, or the desired action and just having someone leave the page without taking any action, so spend time getting this right. This post gives some great tips for creating a strong call to action, thanks to Jayson DeMers and Huffington Post

9. Shareable

Have you optimised your site for social sharing? Is each page, article, and product shareable? Via all relevant platforms? Where have you positioned your social share buttons? At the top & bottom of articles, pages, and blog posts? Do they all work?!

The power of social media in spreading the word about your business, your products, your content cannot be underestimated, so make sure you make it simple for people to share, and even encourage them to do so. Remember, just because you’re not on Pinterest or Google+, doesn’t mean your audience aren’t, so include share buttons for all platforms and not just those which you have a presence on yourself. Make it difficult for people to share your content and they just won’t.

10. Contactable

Can you be contacted in multiple ways? Is this clear? Have you made it easy for the user to find your contact details?

The traditional ‘Contact’ page is not dead. If you’re having trouble on a site or have questions you can’t find the answer to, the first thing you look for is the Contact page – right? Make sure it’s there, and make sure you give your customers different options so they can contact you in the way they feel most comfortable with.

11. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

If you’re unsure what SEO even is, check out this simple explanation of SEO. It is such a broad area it’s impossible to cover everything in a few lines here, but here’s a few pointers to get you started. Start with your keyword research and defining what keywords you’re targeting for each page. These are the words you want to use throughout the page.

But there is much more to on-page optimisation than just throwing a few keywords onto the page. You’ll need to look at your Page Title tags, your URL, your H1, H2, H3 tags, your links and anchor text throughout the site, and much more. Start by optimising each of these by including your target keywords in them. Be careful not to overdo it as ‘keyword stuffing’ is frowned upon.

If you’re a complete novice when it comes to SEO, it’s an absolute must for businesses and you should prioritise learning more about it. Try an SEO course or book some SEO training for your business.

12. Functionality

Test everything, all the time. Make sure each piece of functionality does what it should. Every link should go to the right page. Use Google Webmaster Tools to identify any issues with search engines ‘reading’ the site, or with links or other page issues. If your site isn’t working properly, it’s not only going to annoy your user and potentially lose you customers, but it’ll be frowned upon by Google and Co. too, so check this regularly and fix any issues.

This also goes for the speed of your site – the slower the load time the more likely you are to frustrate site visitors and lose them. This is also a negative for the search engines so make sure it all looks good in your Webmaster Tools.

The great thing about Google Webmaster Tools is that it will actually tell you how to fix the issues too.

13. Navigation

Is it easy for the customer to find everything they need on the site? Try to map out the customer journey and make sure everything is easily accessible. Remember your user is likely a creature of habit – don’t confuse them. Follow the rule of thumb when it comes to layout. For example, they expect to see their shopping cart in the top right hand corner. Some sites like to be creative and change the layout, but when it comes to the tried and tested elements of web design, such as this one, creativity and bucking the trend can have a negative impact and can lead to higher drop off rates.

14. Device friendly

Is your site mobile responsive, or do you have a separate mobile site? Is the site touchscreen friendly and tablet friendly? If the answer is no to any of these questions, this needs to be a priority for you. The internet is going mobile, and if your site isn’t part of this trend you’ll be left behind. It’s that simple. For many businesses, it’s not necessary to pay for a separate mobile version of your site. Ensure this is one of the priorities when your site is being designed, and a good responsive design should suffice.

15. Security and Privacy

Is the site secure? Is customer data secure? Have you made this clear? This is essential for Ecommerce sites. Are you collecting any personal data? Is it clear what this will be used for? Is your data collection excessive? Have you got the right reassurance messages in the right places across the site?

Consumers are still wary of giving their details online, and rightly so. Make sure your system is tight – using trusted names such as PayPal will help to alleviate any concerns about security as people are familiar with them and comfortable using them.

 

So when it comes to creating your website, it’s not just a matter of asking, ‘does it look good?’ As you can see, there are many more considerations, and this list is not exhaustive. What else would you suggest? Leave your comments below..thanks!

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