Table of Contents
- Make sure all your bases are covered with our complete website review checklist
- Download the website review checklist now
- Website Design + First Impressions Review
- Website Navigation Review Checklist for a good UX
- Website Review Checklist: is your content amazing?
- Website Conversion Review Checklist
Make sure all your bases are covered with our complete website review checklist
Do you get the jitters when you’re about to launch a website? Do you have that nagging fear that you’ve missed out on something crucial? Forgot that one crucial step which is going to be a source of embarrassment once you’ve put your website online? Fear not – we’re here to help. We’re going to make sure you’ve covered it all with our ultimate website review checklist.
Not only when launching a site should you be performing a website review though. If I had to take a wild guess on one of the main reasons for the existence of your site – I’ll guess – is to get you more sales. Whether it’s through direct selling of products through an online store or direct downloads, or as a way of pushing your services, your platform must be serving its purpose.
Let’s start with our website review checklist.
Want to just get this checklist as a neat PDF to file with the rest of your web design checklists? Drop in your email and we’ll send it in a moment.
We do excellent jobs, in fact our website checklist article + download is proving to be very very popular!
Website Design + First Impressions Review
First impressions count. They really really count.
Many people make a snap unconscious decision whether they will work with you or not based on literally the first few seconds of encountering your site for the first time.
We have an inherent mistrust of strangers.
The design and the first impression you give your visitors are absolutely crucial to the overall success of your site. You need to build a sense of trust.
If your site must project a feeling of professionalism. It must be particularly attractive to the target demographic you want to sell to. Of course, these are somewhat vague statements – this is something which is going to vary for each and every site. But you have to make a critical, unbiased review of your website from a perspective of – “Would I trust this site if I had to land on it out of nowhere?”
That’s why this is the most critical part of your website review checklist.
What that little bit of an introduction, let’s go through a few items which you might want to look at.
- The domain and URL of the site – keep it short, simple and related to the company / product the website is serving.
- Response and loading time – your website must load really really quickly. Whether I’m on mobile, or a desktop, your site needs to be optimized for a fast loading time. Visitors typically expect a website to load within 2 seconds or less. The homepage or pages which receive your most traffic need to be particularly fast. Run your site through a website loading time test often to make sure it’s fast and stays fast.
- Look and feel – we’ve already discussed this in the introduction to this section. The look and feel of your site must project professionalism. You need to walk the walk, talk the talk. Make sure your site has been professionally designed and reviewed.
- Your tagline should make your company mission clear – finding a tagline which works is not a trivial task, but it’s essential to hook your visitor immediately. As soon as they see your tagline, they need to know that they’ve come to the right place.
- Your homepage should pass the 5-second test – A visitor should know exactly what you and your website are about in no more than 5 seconds. If you’ve got too much going on the homepage – rethink it.
- Awesome imagery – a picture speaks a thousand words. Professionally shot imagery which conveys your primary messages are an excellent way to give your site a true sense of trust.
- Readability – make sure text is very easily readable. There’s an excellent article on Smashing Magazine about web typography which should be Web Design 101.
- Font size: Use 16 pixels at least for body copy – anything less is a costly mistake. 18 pixels is better. That’s 1.00em or 1.125em This is about the same as a printed book or a magazine. It’s stood the test of time for a reason. It’s ideal. Use it.
- Color contrast: Black or gray on white (or light) backgrounds is the ideal combination for readability. Make sure you are not using colors which are hard to read if your site is text heavy. Avoid light colors on dark backgrounds. They make for a very difficult reading combination. Choose colors wisely for readability.
- Line height: the space between one line and another should be such that the text is easily scrollable, and not cause the reader to squint or have to look closely.
- Imagery and graphics: use images and graphics to break up large chunks of text. Ideally every 100 words or so, you should have an image to break up the text.
- Sentence structure: keep your sentence structure short and simple. Long sentences make for difficult reading
- Keep important stuff above the fold: a user will make a judgment whether to stay or not on whether you can catch their attention sufficiently in the above the fold content. Intrigue them with something which is important to them as the very first thing they see. Users are lazy. Don’t make them work hard to find what they came looking for.
- Immediately give them a Unique Value Proposition: continuing on the point above, you will need to give them a unique value proposition as the very first thing they see. They user must feel that what you are giving them is valuable to them.
- Ask them to do something – Call to Action: once again, make sure your users are not confused and they can immediately see what they need to do next. Guide them to their next action, and place a prominent Call to Action. Whether it’s Contact Us, Register Free, the user must immediately be able to do something. More about this later.
Here’s an example of a site which does the all of above really really nicely.
- Keep your users wanting to know more although we want our users to immediately feel that you are giving them value, you also need to be wanting more from your site. We want two things from the user, one is immediate and one is long-term. The first is that we want to user to stay around. We also want the user to come back for more.
- A quick way to reach the About You page: a very good way of building trust is by flaunting who you are. Show the team, what experience your team has, and why you are a trustworthy, reliable company. It’s also incidental that a good about us page may help you to rank higher in search engines, because you are seen as unlikely to be trying to spam the search engine result pages.
- A way to Contact you: humans are social animals. We like to get in touch with other humans. Make it easy for your visitors to get in touch with you. The homepage should have a way of showing the contact information quickly. Whether it’s full details or a menu item, make sure your phone numbers, email, contact form and address are very easily reachable.
Next, on our website review checklist is the navigation of the site. We want to make sure the user gets a positive user experience from our site. The way we structure the navigation of the site is a crucial element. So on with our checklist for website navigation which you should review and fix where necessary.
- Ease of use: this a bit of a vague checklist, but really and truly it is one of the most important. Your navigation must be absolutely easy to use. If your navigation is not simple, your users will bounce – which is never a good thing. Users want it to be easy to find what they are looking for.
Our recommendation for this is to test your site on a few users who have not seen the site yet. If the user is not technical or experienced, so much the better.
Do this in their physical presence so that you gauge their actual responses. Do they look confused? Are they exclaiming or asking where the heck is something? Are they spending a lot of time investigating where they should go next? Note their reactions. Do this multiple times with different people. Speak to them and ask them for their honest reactions.
The following are general recommendations related to navigation:
- The Navigation menu should be simple and near the top of the page. Navigation on the footer is also helpful so that users who have read to the bottom of an article can navigate to the next piece of content immediately
- Breadcrumbs may help guide the users and help them understand where in the site they are and allows them to easily go back.
- Don’t go deeper than 3 levels of navigation. It starts getting confusing beyond 3 levels and hard to get to. If you can do all the navigation in one-level, excellent. Two levels is ok, as long as you keep the number of 2nd level options to not more than 7 (at the very worst).
- Keep navigation functionality simple. Don’t use fancy animations or scripts which might not render well on all browsers, or devices such as mobile and tablets. Even worse, they might break.
The above all point to keeping navigation of your site simple as can be – make it easy for visitors to use your site. Your users should not “wonder” or “think” about what they need to do next. It should come easily to them thanks to your navigation.
- Logo linked to home page: one of the fundamental and defacto standards of navigation of the web is that the logo takes you back to the home page from which you are able to navigate to any other section that you want. Make sure your site respects this established functionality.
- Internal links: one of the major ways to improve the user experience is to provide the user with internal contextual links. When a user lands on a piece of your content, you WILL be doing them a favor if you give them more context – should they need it. If you’ve got content which explains further certain concepts, link to them.
- External links: just like your own internal content can provide context, so can external content. Don’t be afraid of linking out of your site if it helps your users. Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be linking out to your competitors’ websites. Link out to somewhere neutral.
- Broken links: speaking about links, make sure that nothing is broken. It’s very very frustrating to encounter a broken link. Besides checking them often against a service which checks for broken links, make sure you log 404 errors. This makes sure that anytime something breaks, you’ll know about it (and can fix it) soon enough.
- Search function: when a user can’t find what they are looking for, they will many times resort to searching your site. Therefore, your site should have a search function enabled, which is also easily visible or accessible.
Website Review Checklist: is your content amazing?
Once you’ve passed the design and first impressions test, and the visitors of your site now trust you, you’ll need to maintain that trust.
To maintain that trust, you must be able to keep your customer hooked with awesome content.
The rise of content marketing has created serious competition and everybody is scrambling to create the most awesome content ever. Not is the content essential for a good user experience for the visitors who land on their site, Google has started to understand which content is great for users and which isn’t. To that effect, awesome content has a very good effect on search engine rankings.
Of course, that awesome content will, in turn, generate good qualified traffic, which you can then turn into leads.
Here are a few things you’ll need to tick on the website review checklist to make sure you are creating awesome content for your visitors.
Quality Content Checklist + SEO
Some people call this part of the website review checklist, a Search Engine Optimization checklist. This is because if you look at the recent trends, you’ll notice that most SEO focuses on producing content of an excellent quality. If you focus on creating quality content, 50% of your SEO work is done. The other 50% of SEO is, of course, getting links to that content, but this is, a different topic for another time.
This image by Market Snare depicts quite nicely what you should focus on:
- Create in-depth, insightful and mostly unique content. Both humans and search engines will love unique content. Visitors will love it when your content is able to teach them something they did not know before.
- Being helpful is the crux of awesome content. Think about a “problem” which your potential visitors and clients have, and create content which will help them fix that problem. You can’t just go into a full-on sales pitch.
- Look at problems from a fresh perspective. Guide users in ways which they are not already used to. Make them feel like they’ve learned something after they’ve read your content.
- Provide value – there are many ways in which you can provide value to your clients. Videos, blog posts, ebooks and may other different pieces of content. In essence, you should help create a journey which may or may not ultimately culminate in a sale of your product or service. If you work on educating your visitors, you will increase the level of trust – that by itself will make it much easier to get the sale once the buyer is ready for it.
- Write content for your visitors. This goes without saying of course, but old school techniques for search engines used to dump keywords all over the place in the content. It made for very bad reading, made the content feel robotic, and sometimes outright stupid. Search engines have matured, they can imply the meaning of the content you are writing about – no need to go overboard with the keywords. If a keyword does not fit, don’t put it there just to get 3% keyword usage or whatever metric you are aiming for.
- Refresh your content often. Content, like everything else, gets stale. Make sure you visit your old content and update with fresh content as necessary.
- Headings and sub-headings are clear and descriptive. People nowadays tend to skim through content. This is not necessarily a bad thing – if people are skimming through content, they are searching for that one thing which gets their attention. Make sure that your headings and sub-headings describe what you will be talking about in that paragraph. That way, you will be able to catch their attention.
- Post titles and page HTML page titles are descriptive. Once again, some people tend to focus more on search engines than their visitors. Today, this will hurt your rankings rather than help them, because search engines will reward articles who are able to attract clicks. Of course, a click is not enough – your visitor needs to stay on the page. The title of your content should clearly describe what that page is about. It should attract clicks, but keep them reading.
- Title or <Title> in the HTML of your page. This is the first thing which is shown on search engine results. Should be descriptive of the article and encourage a high click-through rate, without being deceptive. Remember that if you tell your users your content is something which it isn’t, they will bounce back to search results, and go to another. This will demote your search engine rankings in the long run. The keywords used in the title are a strong signal for search engines, so do keep this in mind, but keep the title for humans.
- Description or <meta name=”description”> – This is also very important for search engine rankings because here is where you can make your final pitch, and convince your user to click on your article as opposed to the other search engine results. Once again, a description which is fit for humans is much better than one which is aimed at search engines. This does not have much influence per se on the search engine rankings because in the past it has been abused.
- URL of the page – this has a strong signal for search engines, whilst also being great for humans. If your post (such as this one), is about creating a website review checklist, it would be great if you could change the URL to contain these specific keywords. If you focus the URL even more with categories and sub-categories (e.g. /web-design/checklists/website-review-checklist) , this is so much the better
In WordPress or most other CMSes, you should be able to easily change both the title and description of an article. Having Yoast SEO plugin, or another WordPress SEO plugin will help you make sure and remember to make sure these are top notch. You should make an SEO review a standard part of your checklist when you are reviewing a website.
Website Conversion Review Checklist
Of course, if you are going through this website review checklist, you also want to get results from your site. The biggest measurement of the success of a site is whether it is helping increase conversions. We’ve discussed shortly the CTA that you should have on the home page. This by itself is of course, not enough – you’ll need to have several mechanisms in place to get conversions from traffic to leads.
Review your Calls to Action
There is nothing more important than having optimized calls to action on your site if you want to improve conversions.
A call to action is something which works on human psychology. The human mind literally expects a call to action – we expect to be led to the next thing we should do. That’s why the CTA is such a powerful concept and driver for conversions.
Once you’ve read the above article, you should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do to increase conversions based on Call to Action, so on to the checklist.
- Define one or multiple Calls-to-Action – whether these are Call Now, Download, Sign Up, Try Now or whatever else you want your user to take, define them. Make sure they follow the logic of your site.
- Design the CTAs such they stand out from the rest of the content. You can use buttons or bolder and larger text. Just make sure they stand out from the rest of the content. Of course, don’t go overboard – make sure they still conform to the design of your site.
- Keep it clear. Keep it simple. The shorter and less complicated it is to read and understand the better the chances for conversion.
- Remember to offer value to your visitors with the CTA, especially if you are trying to get an email address. Giving an email address in the day and age of SPAM requires an act of courage. Hence why we’ve been building trust with everything we’ve done so far. This is the culmination of that trust, but to maintain that we need to once again offer something valuable to the user. Guides in exchange for an email address work wonders.
- Tailor the CTA to the current content. Using the same CTA across all of your content will not deliver optimal results. If you are using such things as popups, you’ll need to tailor the CTA “reward” and value to the content the user is reading at that point. Target the CTA to what the user is doing at this point in time and what you perceive they need going forward.
- Make it click – since we want an actual action, the ideal CTA should look like a button which is clickable. If not, make it a link which is also clickable.
- Use a strong command verb to start your CTA. You want your visitor to do something so make that obvious. Buy, Download, Subscribe, Find out.
- Create a sense of urgency – we want to make sure that the visitors take the action right now, so make sure your CTA provokes a sense of urgency, a sense of missing out if they don’t take an action right now. Now, Today Only, Last Chance, Limited Time Offer.
- Make it personal – use you / your “Grow your profits Now” to show them you care about them. My / me makes it feel that the visitor is getting what they need to. “Get my free ebook now”
- Perform A/B testing on which CTAs are working best – if at first you don’t succeed, try again. Even when you succeed, there is no reason why you should not aim to increase the conversation rate. So try different configurations. Different text, different colors, different placements, different rewards. Always test one thing at a time, and keep the test running long enough to have meaningful data.
Website Review Timing
Besides reviewing your website when you are launching your new site, it’s an essential task which you should be performing on a regular basis. If most of your revenue comes from the site, a monthly website review is recommended. Make sure you’ve set up your own custom dashboard which will help you evaluate the performance, against your goals.
Why not download the Website Review checklist now?
The website review checklist we provided is something which you should review every time you work on any site. Sometimes, our busy schedules distract us from what is really essential. Whether this website review is your first, or one of many, you should always have this checklist at the back of your mind.