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Boost Your Website for Exciting Conversions (Even Without Web Programming Experience)

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Website Management

I had clients who inquired how to improve their website's conversion rate and online visibility without needing to hire a developer due to budget constraints. Knowing they didn't have visual editing and web coding skills to handle technical aspects of web development and SEO optimization, I opted to create a list of essential website techniques that anyone can do on their own.

This list is intended for those who already owns a website and is in the process of doing quality analysis check. Whether your website was created by an expert developer or built by using a user-friendly content management system (e.g. WordPress), this list will show you website essentials from different conversion and optimization disciplines that can further enhance your website's traffic and online visibility.

Prepare Marketing and Project Planning Document

These project-related documents will serve as your references to check if all website elements adhere to the website's goals.

Your website's objectives

What was the main reason your website was built? To sell goods? To advocate? To inform web users of a specific topic? For branding purposes? Does all current website elements support the objectives?

User Persona

The user persona describes your target market. It consists of your web user's demographic information and behavior. This data will act as guide to structuring the website in a way that will best engage the user's interest.

UX/UI Specifications

User Experience (UX) connotes how a user feels about a website and how this feeling correlates with behavior engaging with the digital product. User Interface (UI) is concerned about the esthetic value of a digital product. To create a good user-friendly interface, knowing user's behavioral patterns can help plot out the most effective structure, functionality and design to answer website goals.

UX/UI documents are usually provided by UX/UI designers, who did the study on human behavior.

Competitor's List

You don't necessarily need this while doing website analysis quality check. This is a good reference though to check on your competition regularly and get a strategic idea on how you can improve your website or create marketing campaigns to stand out in the industry.

Timetable and To-Do List

The website quality analysis is not a one-time work. This should be done periodically to ensure maximum web performance and functionality.

Roles Specifications

This document is helpful for website owners who had help from others to develop the website. Should there be any fixes necessary after the quality analysis check, you will know who to contact for specific edits.

Browser Checks

Browser checks are used to determine if your website performs well in a particular browser/ operating system or software. A website may look and work perfectly in one browser but not with others. This happens because of browsers’ specification inconsistencies that the developers work on. Website developers don’t have control over these specifications and can only implement code fixes that will hopefully be consistent among browsers.

When you do a browser compatibility check, you must check your webpages with the latest version of these four major browsers. Namely Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera. By the time this article is written, Internet Explorer is finding its way into the archives of digital history. Microsoft requests IE fans to support a new browser they are working on called Project Spartan.

You also need to check your webpages among different mobile gadgets and platforms. With the majority of internet users accessing the web via mobile gadgets, it has become necessary to design websites that will be responsive to different screen sizes. If you have the resources, check your website on the following devices.

  • Apple Tablet (e.g. iPad)
  • Apple Phone (e.g. iPhone or iPod)
  • Android Tablet (e.g. Samsung Galaxy)
  • Android Phone (e.g. Samsung S4)

These four gadgets can encompass screen size differences necessary for quality control.

Whenever you find errors, bugs or inconsistencies in functionality or design, list them down for later reference on what to fix.

Usability Testing

Usability testing checks how user-friendly a website is. Here are tips to what can make users engage and appreciate your website for its user-friendly elements.

Page Elements and Design

  • Website uses Responsive Web Design (RWD)
  • Page layout and positioning of web elements are where you intended to be. There should be no overlapping of contents regardless of the screen size the page is viewed from
  • Menus and drop-downs work. No truncated data appears regardless where the page is viewed from
  • The 'Home' link is on every page
  • There should be no broken links and image, or non-working videos and audios
  • Flash components must load and function properly. Take note that mobile gadgets, especially smartphones, have problems displaying Flash elements
  • A favicon is installed. This is the icon that is associated with your website for users to easily identify your website amongst opened tabs or from their bookmarks list
  • Implement a creative 404 - Not Found page. The more creative and helpful your 404 page is, the more chance your users will stay on your website despite landing on a Not Found page

Content, Style, and Guidelines

  • Use minimal animations, advertisements and pop-up windows for advertising. Too much of it is distracting and annoying to web users
  • Use short texts for easier scannability
  • Use the inverse pyramid. Start content with a short conclusion so users can get the gist of the page immediately
  • Use fonts that will make reading easy. Studies show Sans Serif fonts are found to be much better suited for web reading
  • Don’t write in all capitals. It feels like you are shouting to your readers
  • Talk to your site visitors by using “you” in your content. It will make your content feel personal and relatable
  • If you are blogging or writing your own articles, you can use "I"
  • If writing for a corporation, use "we"
  • For questions and answers, use "I" and "you" when addressing the visitor. Use "we" when representing an organization
  • Use Capitalization on all headings
  • Fonts used should be consistent. Use only two fonts for the whole site
  • Check for incorrect punctuation marks, grammatical and spelling errors
  • Check that Privacy Policy & FAQ is clearly defined and available for users

Functional Testing

This is to test if the web product meets intended functions mentioned in the project’s development specifications. When testing for functions, you should look for "glitches" to fix in order to arrive at "near perfection".

Check all bespoke/complex functionality

Leave no stones unturned. Let’s say you have a contact form. Test submitting the form with all text fields filled. Then submit the form with the missing information. Submit an empty form too. Do the notifications work? Are mandatory data verified? Does the successfully submitted message enter the correct inbox? Be very detailed with every function because you can never be too sure when an error could occur. Check that all forms and buttons work.

Form elements to check

  • All fields and buttons are properly aligned and follow the standard format and size
  • Disabled fields should be 'grayed' out
  • If an error happens after submitting, the information filled by the user should still be there
  • Error messages/notifications are correct with no spelling and grammatical errors
  • Use the minimum amount of fields as possible. If your form requires many fields, try to have the visitor fill out the form in segments so they won’t feel overwhelmed by the requirements
  • Make sure all mandatory fields are validated
  • All form submissions work

Performance Testing

This is to evaluate the compliance of a website to all its integrated technology and if it is performing at its best.

Do a website page load test

How many times have you left a website because it takes forever to load? Website optimization has become the norm in web development to ensure the website will load fast regardless of the gadget used by the web user. Ideally, a website has to load (or at least start loading the important parts) in under 2 seconds so visitors will hang around waiting for the page to fully load.

Minify/compress HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files

This is a process to compact a website’s files sizes for faster page load. For non-programmers, this might be too technical to do. For reference sake, this is still applicable if the website runs with CMS. Some CMS has plugins to do the compression job.

Integrate CSS and JavaScript codes from external files

Some developers use the inline method of placing CSS and JavaScript codes into a webpage. This is alright if it is a line or two of CSS of JavaScript codes. But if there are too much of these codes on a page, the webpage will become bloated and slow down loading time. To solve this, CSS and JavaScript codes must be placed on separate files, then have those files integrated into the webpages using special codes.

Optimize images

Image optimization refers to reducing an image in file size without visual impact to your user. Many compression tools are available online to help reduce an image’s file size.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Visibility and Metrics

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s "natural" or un-paid "organic" search results. The higher your website ranks in the search engine rankings the better.

Use <meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow"> when your website is not live yet

Search engines are gluttons. They will eat up all the information they can find even when it is still in ‘beta’ or ‘private’ mode. To make sure your website that is still in development does not show up in the search engines, use this code and place it in the webpages' HTML <head> area. Remove this code when it is time to publish the site for the public to view.

Ensure Titles and Meta Data show up in every webpage

This is the first thing the search engines see when they index a webpage. Whatever information you place here will show up in the search engines. Make sure these are creatively done to hook users into visiting your website.

Use sitemaps

There are many kinds of sitemaps. HTML, XML, Image, Video, Mobile, and News sitemap. Each has their specific type of content to showcase to the search engines. These sitemaps can be done manually or automatically via online tools.

Have Analytics installed

We are in the digital age wherein data is accessible for consumption and study. With Analytics, you will be able to gage the performance of your website, learn more of your market, gather data to formulate new marketing strategies, and track whether you are accomplishing your website goals.

Use Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Google absolutely loves RWD. Web users find it easy to share content from one URL. It helps save resources when Googlebot crawls your website. Google prioritizes websites that offer good user experience. So if your website is responsive, Google will factor that into your web ranking.

Security and Risk

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Use robots.txt

Robots.txt instruct search engines which URLS, files and folders to index and which not to. This helps to protect private files or folders that shouldn’t be accessed by the public.

If using a CMS, make sure it is up to date .

Configure backup schedule

The worst thing that could happen for a website owner is their website disappearing or numerous errors come out prohibiting access to anything. It could be the bandwidth limit was reached, a very important file was accidentally deleted, or worse, somebody hacked into the web server and manipulated the files. Recovering the most recent files that were in perfect condition can solve this dilemma but you will have to backup every time via your control panel periodically.

Set-up alerts (for server downtime)

You cannot monitor your website 24/7 in case your website experiences a downtime. Fortunately, there are tools that could notify you via email or SMS when you do. When a downtime happens, you can immediately contact your web host to fix the issue.

In Conclusion

So those are some techniques anybody, even those without web programming knowledge, can do to improve their website. A website does not become successful just because how good it looks or how awesome its codes are. It's often about common sense, how it engages well with the target user that makes all the difference.

Components for a Successful Website: (For Non Web Programmers)
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of May 21, 2015)
As they say, you don't have to be a singer to know when someone sings badly. You don't need to be a professional artist to see if there is something wrong with an image.

In this eBook, you don't need to have web programming experience to optimize your website for better conversions. Rather, you just have to know what to look for, where to find solutions, and how to implement them by yourself or with some help from others.
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