Testing your website before launch

BETA testing a new website before launch

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Methods used to effectively test your website before going live

There are many techniques available to test your website prior to lunch. Your website is often seen as a reflection of your business, and having a website that doesn’t deliver, full of errors and bugs will reflect badly for your brand and business. Testing your website prior to launch is essential, you can collect qualitative and quantitative information about how it will perform to ensure that it delivers as expected.

There are numerous examples of well-known brands and government departments that failed to properly test their websites prior to launch. These include:

  • The US health insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov had security issues and forms that did not work.
  • Target also failed to secure its website which crashed several times and had to pay compensation just shy of US$20 million.

What areas need testing prior to launching your website?

Usability – Usability testing involves looking at clear and assessable your website is. Usually, this means how easy is it for the site visitor to achieve their objective. This may be to find out specific information relating to your business or product, obtaining contact details, or making a purchase. The main goal for usability testing is to uncover any ‘pain’ points that detract from an effortless and intuitive online experience. One of the most common mistakes businesses make with usability testing is leaving it until the end, it should start at the beginning with the wireframing process and continue throughout all of the design and development stages. It is so much less time-consuming to correct usability issues during the design process than waiting until it has been coded.

Navigation – This also falls under the category of website usability, however, due to its importance we have given navigation its own heading. Navigation allows your visitors to move around your website and find what they are looking for. Poorly setup navigation is frustrating and will cause an increase in your bounce rate (people leaving your website early).

Responsive design – Any new website should be designed with a mobile-first mentality. By having a responsive website, it will display and function correctly across a variety of devices such as laptops, mobiles, tablets and computers. In addition, Google looks favourably at websites that are mobile-friendly, helping your SEO and overall page rank. It is also important that you manually check the website yourself on as many devices as possible, using all major browsers.

Issues associated with non-responsive websites include:

  • Does not work as intended on other devices except a desktop computer
  • Poor presentation of the website
  • Poor user experience/user interface
  • Penalised by Google
  • Difficult to make updates and changes

Browser compatibility – There are many web browsers out there, the main ones are Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge. As of June 2020, Wikipedia listed Chrome as having 69.42% of the market share, Firefox with 8.48%, Safari with 8.74% and edge with 5.82%. This leaves 7.5% for all the other browsers. Each browser displays websites slightly differently, so it is vital that your website works on all the main browsers. By providing browser compatibility, you help enforce a superior UX and keep people on your website.

Readability – Readability is the gauge or ease that website visitors can read text or information on your website. There are numerous variables that contribute to website readability, these include:

  • Font type and size
  • Background colour
  • Poor spacing and layout
  • Lacking uniformity
  • Poor use of headers
  • Use of white space
  • Graphical images/photo usage
  • Use of margins

Website load speed – Load time can be summed up as the time it takes for the web page content to load for the site visitor. There is no absolutely correct answer, however, it is commonly agreed that a website should load within three seconds, Google recommends two seconds. Google states that 57% of visitors leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. You can test your website speed using the Google PageSpeed Insights test. It is also suggested that fast loading pages are looked at more favourably by Google and can help your search engine rankings.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – Not only does your website need to load quickly and be mobile-friendly, but it is also important to check the following areas:

  • Redirects are set up properly
  • URLs are named appropriately
  • All metadata is completed and optimised
  • Proper use of headings
  • Internal and external linking
  • Check for duplicate content
  • Analyse keyword usage
  • Properly name images and ensure they are optimised
  • Analytics installation

Check for broken links (internal and external) – Not only are broken links bad for your UX, but they can also harm your SEO efforts and creates a negative impression of your business. There are numerous free websites that you can use to check your website links. ScreamingFox is a handy tool.

Security – Security is not just important for the efficient running and protection of your own website, it is also your responsibility to ensure you protect site visitors from fraudulent activities. This is especially important if your website is taking personal data and online payments. Some of the areas that need to be tested might include:

  • Denial of Service attacks
  • XSS cross-site scripting
  • Create automated backup options, make sure this is carried out on a regular basis. If you are using a content management system such as WordPress, there are numerous plugins that can automate this for you.
  • Protect against potential SQL injection
  • Form validation
  • Ensure SSL certificate is sitewide
  • Ensure you use ultra-secure passwords, LastPass has a great password generator that you can customise to your needs
  • Continuously check and update your website plugins

Text – Most people visit a website for the same reason, to find out additional information or to make a purchase. One of the worse mistakes you can make is presenting text littered with spelling errors and bad grammar. Keep it simple and specific to the user’s needs. In addition, ensure that the website text is consistent, presented in a friendly UI and UX interface and design. Text must also be optimised for SEO copywriting - this includes headings, subheadings, keyword density, linking text, descriptions etc.

Hosting – This is an area that a lot of people leave until the last moment and is surprising as it is a crucial part of your website setup. If you are using an external hosting company, make sure to read up on them and check out their reviews.  Some of the areas you should investigate include:

  • Server uptime history?
  • How easily can you upgrade if your website takes off and what additional costs are involved?
  • How easy is it to move if you need to?
  • What customer support do they offer and guarantee, ideally you need around-the-clock support?
  • Do they include or offer SSL certificates?
  • What is their backup policy?

If you have any questions relating to the above or web design in general, call Michael anytime for an informal chat or complete our contact form.