Your Website: The Importance of Regular Checks
Today’s article is about the importance of regular checkups for your website.
If you have not paid for a specific service which includes regular checking and maintenance of your website, then it is very important that you have a person within your organization whose responsibility it is to stay on top of your website health.
There are many things that need to be managed on a website, some of which I have covered in other articles – such as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), backing up your website, using complex passwords, running updates and upgrades and adding new content, such as blogs or articles.
In this article we will be looking at more visual, and manual checking that should be done often on your website to ensure that it is working as it should be for your users.
Contact Form Checks
Website Contact Forms can be unbelievably temperamental, one day you are receiving a steady flow of messages from your users and the next, radio silence. The forms can be knocked out of sync by important updates from any number of sources dependent on your website and email setup, so it is incredibly important that you ask your original designer about troubleshooting any issues that may arise with the forms so that issues can be resolved quickly and you know when to pass it across to them. For this reason, it’s normal for a designer to exclude contact forms from their guarantee of ‘all things will continue working’ after a shorter period than other areas of the build.
How to check your forms:
Very simple – you use them, just like a visitor to the site would. Make sure that you fill in all fields (just add the word test so that you don’t confuse colleagues).
Then check your recipient email to see if the email of the form arrived in the correct place, if it isn’t there then check the junk or spam folder.
How do I know if the form is working?
If your find the email in the inbox, your form is working. If the email is in the junk or spam folder then the form is still working but is being picked up by your email security, simply move it to the inbox – you will need to continue moving all of the messages from your contact form that land in the wrong folder in to the inbox so that your email changes the behavior (see our separate article on email management). If you are receiving the emails but they are missing information, that is something to pass on to your designer. If you are not receiving the emails at all, follow any troubleshooting guidance that your designer has given to you, or report the issue as urgent to your designer.
How often should I check contact forms?
In an ideal world, I would suggest checking your forms weekly and always following a major update. If that is not possible then a form check should be scheduled at least monthly to ensure that you don’t lose any emails from clients.
Unfortunately, if your form does turn out to be broken, it’s usually not possible to retrieve the lost emails or to know how many, or from who, may be lost. Hence the importance of the health check.
Link checking on a website refers to internal and external links within content, menu systems and links in images or slideshows.
How to check your links:
The first time you do your link checks, I would recommend writing down where you found them all, this could then be made into a checklist to use each time, you can gradually build on the list if you realise any have been missed in future checks.
All that you need to do, is work your way through the website’s menu systems, linked images, sidebar links, footer links and any links within the content and click on them to ensure that they work. An internal link should always open in the same browser window, a link that is external, should always open in a new browser window, this ensures that your visitor is not led away from your website so this should be taken in to account when link checking.
What to do if a link is not working correctly:
First of all identify the issue – If you have a Content Management System (CMS) that you can access then you may be able to fix the issues yourself, if not then they should be reported to your designer.
If a link isn’t taking you anywhere, log in to your CMS access and edit the link, it is most likely just missing the destination URL.
If an internal link is incorrectly opening a new browser window, log in to your CMS and ensure that the destination URL has the ‘target blank’ or ‘open in new window/tab’ section unticked
If an external link is incorrectly opening in the same browser window or tab, log in to your CMS and ensure that ‘target blank’ or ‘open in new window/tap’ is ticked.
The difference between an internal and external link:
An internal link is a link that is from one place within your website to another place within the same website.
An external link is a link that leads to a third party website.
How often should I check links?
I would suggest checking your links quarterly and always following a major update.
Open your website in a couple of different browsers and also on a mobile device and familiarize yourself with the look. It is common that the website will look different on the mobile device eg the menu may be 3 lines rather than a list, this is to ensure that it has good usability across different sized platforms.
Now start to look in a little more detail at the important things – does the logo or business name display correctly and prominently. Can the contact form be used and are the contact details easily accessible. Does the main menu system work? Is any part of the content unreadable on a particular device?
Any issues that your find here will be more of a ‘report to your designer and discuss a resolution’ kind of situation, unless they fit in to any of the other categories that we have covered here.
How often should I do a visual check?
I would suggest a visual health check quarterly and always following a major update.
Content checking is the most basic health check but is of course, incredibly important for your users – you are simply reading the content and making notes. You are looking for spelling errors, sentences that don’t read quite right and opportunities for improvement to readability, the SEO, the information provided and the services that you could advertise.
Like with your link checking, start with a list of all the pages and posts within the website, turn this into a checklist that can be added to later as the site grows.
Go through each page and post, reading the content – don’t forget the headers and make notes about errors or improvements that can be made. If you have a CMS then you can make the changes yourself quickly. Pay particular attention to spelling and readability but do consider the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) value of the way headers and content are written (read our SEO guide here).
It’s a good idea to share this role occasionally. My recommendation would be to have 1 person responsible for the regular checks and and edits but to sometimes ask a colleague to read through for something that may have been missed or for a second opinion.
How often should I do a content check?
I would suggest a full content check quarterly and always following a newly posted article, page or post.
Whilst running all of the mentioned health checks, I would suggest making notes about any improvements that could be made.
If you find yourself with a list of items that you would like to talk about in the website, but you don’t want to make the current pages too full of info, or the menu too complicated, separating those ideas in to individual blog posts is a great way to get your message across whilst also showing the search engines and your users that you are a relevant, regularly updated website.
Read our SEO guide for tips on getting the right keywords in to your posts.