Going to launch a new website or have already launched? Congratulations 🙂 Wouldn’t you like to rule the online marketplace? Of course, you do! Here’s an important website checklist for development, design and SEO, that you need to have handy before to ensure the best performance online. I have prepared this checklist to help website owners ensure that their website is ready to reach and serve its customers online.
I am breaking down the checklist into three aspects:
Let us carefully go through each one of them one by one:
- Validate the HTML and CSS of the website.
- Perform internationalization check
- Check HTML 5 compatibility
- Test your website with the tools mentioned below. I am putting screenshots of my website’s prelaunch test results.
Google Page Speed
Issues to be faced:
The main issue to be addressed is the PAGE LOAD SPEED. Let us see what are the different reasons behind slow page load speed.
- Page Size
- Server Response Time
- High Number of HTTP Requests
- Minification of CSS and JS
- Heavy Database
- Page Size – Ideally, there’s nothing like an average page size. If you know what you want, you’ll be able to create a web page having lowest possible size. Here’s what you can do to ensure have minimal page size:
- Choose a light weight theme – A light weight website theme will have clean HTML coding as well as optimized CSS.
- Optimize images – You can considerably reduce the page size by optimizing the images. Always use compressed JPEG images (If you don’t need a transparent background because JPEG images can’t have a transparent background) because PNG images have a larger size. You can use JPEG Optimizer for optimizing JPEG images. It is a free tool and works magically. Ensure to untick ‘Resize Photo’ if you want to keep the size of the image as it is.
- Be careful with the layout – Layout has to be simple. Have a user’s perspective while working on your website’s appearance. Is it really important to have the following?
- 5 sliders
- 5 recent posts
- 8-10 testimonials
- Fancy looking background image
- High-end navigation etc
My point is, who has time to go through all this? Why not keep it simple? More information confuses the users as well as result in larger page size. It is wise to keep the layout simple and show them what is suffice. Do not overload the page as it is not going to do any good. 2-3 sliders, 2 recent posts, 3-4 testimonials, a simple colored background and a decent looking navigation would rather help your website perform better.
- Server Response Time – This issue occurs when your website is hosted on poor servers. Try to switch to faster servers. You may consider Hostgator or Bluehost.
- High Number of HTTP Requests – This issue is common with WordPress websites. Reason? The plugins you use have their separate CSS and JS files which are usually placed in the header section of the page. See the below-mentioned picture for reference. The solution is to combine the different CSS and JS files by putting all of them into a single one. WordPress users can do this easily with the plugin mentioned in the next point.
- Minification of CSS and JS – Do nothing. Simply install this plugin – WP Fastest Cache. It will do everything for you. Reducing the number of HTTP requests by combining CSS and JS as well minifying them by removing redundant codes and blank spaces. It is a caching plugin. It is single solution for multiple Page Load Speed issues
- Optimization of Database – The database of a WordPress website is huge and complex, those who do know what I am talking about should not stop thinking on it right away! All you need to is install WP-Optimize. End of the story!
So yeah, that is all you need to ensure as far as the development part of the website is concerned.
Design Checklist (UI-UX)
Let me be clear. You just can’t afford to compromise with the user-interface and user-experience of your website. This should be kept on the highest priority if you want your website to perform well online. You need to make sure that your website provides the best experience on all devices and browsers. So let’s go through the checklist.
- Above the fold region – First of, what is above the fold region? It the part of the web page which appears to the user when he/she opens the website or the part of the web page which is visible without scrolling it. It is what decides the fate of your website. Your goal is to make the ‘above the fold’ impeccable. The appearance of this region should be attractive and it must contain some part of the information the user is looking for. It encourages te user to further explore the website.
- Fully responsive website – Your website should be responsive i.e. the content should adjust with the screen size automatically. There’s a simple way to check whether your website is responsive or not. Open your website in Google Chrome, press CTRL+SHIFT+I or right click the mouse and click on ‘Inspect Element’ and then you will see a panel as shown in the image below. Click on the option pointed by the arrow : After clicking on the option you will see something like this:Now all you have to do is choose the device size on which you want to check your website. Do not just rely on this, rather check on all available mobiles phones. As your friends to check the website on their mobile phones too. Sometimes, the appearance differs in the above tool and actual mobile devices. These steps will help you to ensure that your website is fully responsive.
- Schema – While most of onine marketing strategists would put schema under SEO, I am putting under the desigining part because it is all about designing the front-end of your website which is easier to understand for both the users and search engines. Schema is a vocabulary which adds information to your webpage in the form of structured data which makes it easier for the search engine to understand the content of your webpage and encourages them to show your a webpage creatively on SERP. Read Google’s article on structured data and you can know more about Schema here. You can easily add structure data markups to the HTML of your webpages for making it informative for the search engines. WordPress users can also use plugins like All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets (I use it too) for implemented schema markups.
- Browser compatibility – Open your website in each and every browser and see how it looks. Google Chrome, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera. It is common that website appears perfectly fine on Google Chrome but it’s all messed up on Internet Explorer or other browsers due to incompatible CSS code.
- Check the readability – Make sure that content on your website is easy to read. The font type and size should be good. Check that on small devices, the font size is not appearing to be small and unreadable without zooming. Also, check that images which are looking good on the desktop have lost the beauty on smaller devices. You can either resize those images or simply hide that content if it is not important.
- Perform a mobile-friendly test.
- Search bar – Add a search bar if your website has a lot of information
- Chat option – Add an online chat option. I would prefer tawk.to as it is free and better than its paid counterparts.
- Contact Form – Have a sticky contact form which is easy to fill.
- Navigation – A navigation bar which can help the users to explore the website.
- Breadcrumbs – Breadcrumbs for a website with lots of sub-pages. Check the image below for reference.
All set? Well, congratulations as now your website has become user-ready. Now you need to make the website search engine friendly. Ready?
Search Engine (SEO) Checklist
I love this part!
I believe that people misunderstand SEO. A to the point definition of search engine optimization is –
It is the process of making a web page rank on the top results of SERP in order to bring traffic to it.
When I mentioned people misunderstand SEO, I was referring to their understanding about this process. So what does this process involve?
According to me –
It involves understanding your customers’ need, and from building the design of the website to creating content for it, everything should be done with a user-first approach.
Work on providing the best experience in terms of information, representation etc. For best results, you can’t afford to compromise with any aspect, be it design, functionality or information”. Let me ask you three questions –
Now, where do website owners misunderstand the process of ranking a website? Why aren’t they able to push their web page’s rankings higher on SERP? It’s because they spend their time in understanding the algorithms whereas search engines are investing time in understanding the users. In a nutshell, our focus should be on our users not algorithms. SEO is for Google and Google is for people. Provide most valuable information to your users as well as make it easy to access and consume for them, Google will automatically take you to the top of SERP. Hope you know what I mean.
I have divided user’s journey into three parts:
Let us now step by step discuss the process of availing information by a user using search engines.
- The user has a requirement. It could be information or need of a product or service.
- The user types the query and modifies it as per the suggestion by the search engine.
- He chooses to open either one or couple of links appearing on the SERP. Or in rare cases, he may go down to the 2nd or 3rd page.
- He assesses the links on the basis of their popularity, reputationon, trustability and authenticity.
- He access the information
- He consumes the information and leaves the site or further explores it.
Now, Time for another Q&A Session:
We can understand from the above Q&A that Search Engines goal is to have their users spend minimum time in accessing information. Search engines developed their technology to evaluate the relevancy and quality of content and hence rank it accordingly. Therefore, our ultimate focus is on our users/customers.
Here are the elements which matter (process wise) for a user and I have also mentioned on which phase of user journey they come into the role:
- Content i.e. Article, Image, Video, Document etc. (Requirement)
- Title (Research)
- URL (Research)
- Description (Research)
- Brand Value, reputation and trustability (Research)
- Accessibility & representation (Consumption)
Let us start!
Well well well.. ‘CONTENT‘, People ask me what matters the most in SEO, I say – Content, content, content and content. You ask this question 1000 times, each time my answer will be content. It is what a user is looking for. If you are having long-term plans then you must not compromise with the content. Read this quote 1000 times –
Content is King, but only if you treat it like one!
Also, in his recent Tweet, Gary Illyes (Google’s webmaster trends analyst) clearly mentioned that you can rank medium competition keywords without any backlink. No backlinks are required! ‘ZERO’ ‘0’. Doesn’t matter how old your website is, all you need to have is the CONTENT made for users. Meet your user’s requirement with your content and leave the rest on Google. Now you might be able to understand the importance of content and why I’m stressing over it so much.
Now you may go through the checklist below:
Remember the quote above? Before writing the content you need to know what exactly your targeted audience is looking for. What queries they need your services, products or the information you provide. This process is called Keyword Research. However, most of the people have a fair idea of keywords which are important for them, I will also share the proper way of performing keyword research.
Once you know your keywords you can start working on the content part. Your website’s content should be to-the-point, appropriate, highly informative, engaging and interesting. To write the content of such kind, the writer must have the complete understanding of the business niche or the topic. You can’t just outsource your website’s content to any freelancer. I would rather recommend you to write the content yourself if you are a good writer. Otherwise, sit with the writer and ensure that each and every information has been added wisely into the content. Consider the following tips:
- Do not write long paragraphs if possible.
- Write short sentences.
- Use heading tags for hierarchy, not for SEO.
- Highlight the important information using bold/strong.
- Make use of listicles.
- Make the information easy to accessible.
- Get your content reviewed by as many industry experts as possible. It could be your senior or anyone with good knowledge of the industry. You can also take reviews of your potential customers. Perform tweaks and edits based on the feedback.
- If your content contains any typical terms then link them with a source where it has been explained. It could be a Wikipedia page, renowned blog or forum etc.
- Keyword density! Do you think it is not possible to write 300 words on a topic without using its name in the content? As per me, that is the ideal keyword density. But still, if it happens that a 300-word content contains they keyword only once or twice (in rare cases), you may go ahead and increase the count to 4-5 while not ending up making the content insensible.
- If you are using information from another online source, use the crux of the information and provide the source link, so that the user could get the complete information if he wishes to.
A title is most obviously the title of the web page. It concisely defines the content of the web page. The title should be creating in order to help a user understand the content of web page. While doing so you have to keep in mind a small search engine standard.
Check the picture below to see where the title appears on the website and search engine.
Let us discuss the small search engines standard I mentioned above. First of all, those standards are actually to make it easier for the user to judge which web page could provide better information.
The situation is, the width of search results on the desktop can not be more than 600 px. Therefore, the title of the web page has to be written while keeping this limitation in mind. Here are few tips:
- Make the title concise
- Writing title smartly in a way that important information is visible on SERP.
- Lastly, write a title which can convince the user to try your web page.
That is all you need to take care of while creating titles for your web pages.
URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is just another element that describes your web page. Sometimes you will find that a URL is readable whereas sometimes you cannot make sense out of it.
See this pic –
- That is the tip no. 1 for creating URLs i.e. making them readable and understandable.
- Avoid using prepositions in the URL
- Use URLs to represent the hierarchy of your website. For an instance, if you are having an e-commerce or a blog with lots of categories then you can use URLs to help your users better explore your website. See this URL to understand what I mean –xyz.com/home-kitchen/home-appliances/washing-machines/fully-automatic-front-load~function
The user can assume its location on the website by seeing the URL.
The user can also navigate the website through the URL e.g. Taking reference of the URL mentioned above if you open the following –
will have all types of washing machines.
Will have all types of home appliances
Will have all types of Home Kitchen items.
And you really need to make sure that none of the sub-pages are rerturning ‘404 Not Found‘.
As the name suggests, it is the description of a web page. Here you are allowed to make use of 160 characters. Use it wisely to make the user open your web page. You these 160 characters to impress the user. Your description should be as effective as a powerful roadside advertisement because users don’t spend much time in deciding which web page to open,
Brand Value, Reputation and Trustability
It’s simple logic. To compete in the market either you need to have reputation and trustability or your offering should be out of the box. Moreover, the last resort is offering products/services/information free of cost. Nobody wants to pick the last option, having a unique offering is also challenging, so actually, the last option is to improving brand value by increasing your website’s reputation and trustability.
Here’s how to do that –
Create social network accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Googe Plus, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. IT based websites may skip Pinterest and Instagram whereas fashion bloggers need not be active on LinkedIn. However, Facebook and Twitter are versatile and for that matter all mentioned social networks can be used for majorly all types of business. It is just that for different business types the targeted audience spends more time on different social networks.
So create profiles on all social networks, link them with your website and keep them alive with regular posts. When the users will see you active everywhere, they will be able to trust you.
There are more different ways to build the brand value which I will discuss soon in another article.
Accessibility and Representation
It is nothing but perfecting your website’s UI and UX which I have discussed in the Design Checklist. since it was part of a user’s journey, I had to mention it again.
Finally, when the user have got the information or bought your service/product, he will leave the website. Now it is up to you how you make the user explore your website more or make him visit again.
Tips for improving user engagement on website
- If a user visited your website for information (article, press release etc), you can put related content at the end of the content.
- You can also try to make them subscribe to receive updates on new relevant publications.
- If a user bought a product/service, you can redirect them to a ‘Thank you’ page which either shows other relevant products or link of testimonial/about/blog.
This is a concrete checklist for all website owners regardless of their line of business or type of website. If you are able to successfully implement what I have discussed in the article, nobody can stop your website from ruling the online marketplace. Good luck! If you have suggestions, doubts or question then comment below. I would be more than happy to help answer them.