Think you’re finished? Five final things to do before publishing your website
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
There is little doubt that website builders speed up the process of building a website. Not only do they short-cut the need to learn and write detailed code, but they also provide drag and drop functionality, highly polished templates that give you an incredible head-start, and a wide range of plug-ins to achieve things that would take considerable time investment to build from scratch.
Even still; building a website is time-consuming and takes hard work and concentration. It is only human to get to the end of the creation process and want to draw a line under it and hit ‘publish’.
However, creation fatigue and a desire to be done can mean that some important elements of web design get overlooked - even by more experienced designers. Investing just a little bit more time into the process can pay dividends if you know where to invest this time - massively improving the visitor experience.
To help; here are five things to ensure you have got right before you commit your website to the World Wide Web.
Ensure your content is visitor-focussed
‘Content’ - be that written word, imagery or video - is the most important part of any website. It’s what keeps visitors on the site when they arrive, and it’s what helps them assess how likely the site is going to be to help them achieve their goals.
There are many different disciplines that go into creating good content, but it ultimately needs to be both accessible and compelling to succeed.
Content accessibility is relatively easy to achieve through ensuring it is pitched at the same level as its audience, is concise and is visually consumable (for example by being broken up into relevant headings or by using bullets or numbered lists).
Compelling content is slightly harder to achieve, but centres around one single golden rule:
Ensure the visitor can clearly see the benefit to them
That means not simply describing the stuff that you have to offer and calling it a day. Visitors ultimately don’t care about your stuff - they only care how it’s going to benefit them - so go back through your content and make sure any benefit comes across. Try to answer the question ‘why should my visitor care’, and re-work your content if the answer isn’t clearly conveyed.
Once done, also make sure you’re communicating why the benefit to the customer in choosing your site is greater than what they’d get elsewhere. This isn’t always easy to do, but given the sheer number of websites available online, and the likely competition you face in your market, it’s incredibly important.
Try and cut back
Your content should take up as little of your visitor’s time, whilst delivering as much value as possible. Every word of text, or second of runtime, should count, and the key messages should be communicated early and clearly.
Many of your visitors are likely to be time short and will appreciate it if you can keep your content concise and focussed. What’s more, most visitors will only be skim reading your site anyway, so it’s in your interest to cut back all the superfluous words and pages to better highlight the messages you most want your audience to see.
Unfortunately, SEO guidelines encourage web designers to artificially stuff their site with keywords. Whilst this is tempting, there is no point getting a greater number of visitors to your site if they will then be faced with pages that are hard to digest and lack clarity and purpose.
Test, test and test again
It is unlikely that you will be publishing your site without any degree of testing. At the very least, website builders’ editors give a fairly representative view of how the page will look when loaded.
The bigger likelihood is that your website hasn’t been tested using the wide array of different browsers and devices that visitors might be using.
The most important test you can perform is that on your mobile website. This is because the mobile version of your website will look the most distinct and different to any other version of your site. Additionally, whilst it is a popular device to use, browsing the internet is typically more difficult and less efficient on mobile, so you need to work harder to deliver a good experience to users of those devices.
To ensure this - get hands on! Get your mobile device out and load your site - don’t just rely on the mobile preview functionality your website builder will offer. Do the same thing for your big-web site across lots of different browsers. You can easily find a list of the most used browsers to understand where to focus your testing attention.
Once this is done, you can then turn to automated testing to uncover things you haven’t found. Many of these tools are free, but spending a little bit of money could speed up the process.
Get someone else to take a look
By the time you’ve finished building your website, you will know it inside out. You will be able to consume your content just by quickly skimming it, and you’ll know the quickest way to get to any page you might be interested in accessing.
This means, whilst it is incredibly important to test your site extensively (see above), your experience with your site is no longer representative of the average visitor’s.
To combat this, find a friend, family member or colleague who is unfamiliar with your site, and ask them to take a look. Watch them as they browse the site, and note down the parts of the site they struggle with (any part where they look to be stumped for more than a few seconds). Ask them what the issue was, make the necessary changes, and re-test with someone new.
Ensure your site is accessible
When most designers talk about ‘accessibility’ they are predominantly considering people who have a disability that makes it hard for them to use websites. Data suggests that 19% of the United States population has some form of disability - and that figure is likely to be at a similar levels elsewhere in the world.
There are many reasons why you should care about accessibility - there are SEO benefits, you might have a legal obligation to ensure your site is accessible, and you should certainly feel a moral obligation to ensure its accessibility. As such, you should devote extra testing time to ensuring your site is as accessible as possible.
There are a range of manual tests you can perform here, for example:
- Viewing your site at different zoom levels, and text sizes.
- Downloading a screen reader and running your site through it.
- Trying to get around your site without a mouse.
There are also some automatic tests you can run (just Google ‘accessibility checker’), which also offer advice on how to fix any problems they find.
Regardless of the method you choose; regularly perform these tests, make improvements and re-test. Even a series of seemingly small optimisations can add up to a meaningfully improved experience for some of the visitor groups who require additional support.
If you’ve found this advice helpful, there is plenty more where that came from. See how else we can help.