Over on WebDepend, we’ve posted an article asking is your website ready for Christmas? Now is the time to review your site in detail and tackle any issues so that you can be confident your users will not hit any problems when trying to make a purchase.
We’re not just talking about site performance issues here although that is part of what a thorough website audit would normally include. Functional problems and browser related bugs can creep into your website left over from updates or other development work carried out on your site. Even SEO work can sometimes cause issues that need to be identified and resolved.
A website audit is essentially a manual undertaking although there are some testing tools that can help and point the way to further investigation required.
For an automated scanning tool, I’ve found SortSite to offer good all round results and pick up issues across a range of different tests (or checkpoints as SortSite calls them) including broken links, standards compliance, browser compatibility, accessibility, usability and search engine issues.
SortSite can be a good starting point to get a feel for the overall quality of your website but I would always go through at least the main pages of the website manually to determine what issues were apparent and their relative importance.
SortSite also provide a free online version of their tool that allows you to scan up to 10 pages of your website.
There are a number of browser testing tools that allow you to check your website in a number of different web browsers.
A tool that aims to take a lot of the hassle out of browser testing is Mogotest, which checks that pages are consistent across a range of web browsers. You can also schedule tests to run automatically and get notifications of problems by email. Look out for our review of this tool coming soon.
Heading into the main Christmas selling period you need to ensure that your website is performing well and can cope with the extra traffic.
A free web tool that I’ve found very useful in quickly reviewing the performance of a website or web page is WebPagetest, which checks to see how long each element of the web page takes to download and makes a series of suggestions as to how performance can be improved.
There are many SEO tools to audit your website’s SEO friendliness and performance, generally the best web tools are produced by SEOmoz. Simple crawl tests and HTTP tests can highlight problems with search engines indexing your content and confirm whether your HTTP status codes are correct.
Google Webmaster Tools is also a source of good information allowing you to find out how Google sees your site plus what search queries you are being found for and how many people are clicking on your site.
When you find an issue or bug that needs to be dealt with make sure you use a bug tracking or issue tracking tool so you can not only keep track of everything you find but also prioritise those issues to be fixed first.
There is only a short amount of time to tackle issues before the peak Christmas sales period and so critical and important items should be resolved as a priority.
One such bug tracking tool I like is PivotalTracker, which is free and I find great for keeping up to date with bugs and issues across a number of projects. It is easy for a team to use and shows a prioritised backlog of issues for developers to work through.
Of course, even once you have used those testing tools you need to ensure you spend time reviewing the website manually and you will be surprised at what you can pick up.
Is your website ready for Christmas? Let us know what challenges you faced in the comments.