Your website is vital to the success of your business or organization. It can mean lots of new customers…or many disappointed (and lost) prospects. Given its importance, do you give your website regular checkups to keep it in optimal health? Or do you wait for problems to develop before giving it some attention?
The idea behind annual (or more frequent) checkups is simple yet essential: diagnose problems, whether major or minor, and ensure accuracy of content before a website visitor—and potential customer—notices. Some problems on your website will never be reported to you, so it’s best to find them yourself rather than have them go unaddressed.
Steps you’re already taking
There are important tasks you’re probably already taking with your website on a frequent basis to help keep it in peak performance. These include checking your web analytics or statistics reports, updating time-sensitive content, and updating and rewriting content to keep it fresh. (If you’re not, now’s a great time to get started!) But we’ll go beyond that and include things you may not think of regularly in our checkup.
Read through all central content
There’s probably no simple way around this: you’ll need to read through all the central content on your website. Certainly, if you have news archives, blog entries, articles, or the like, you don’t need to worry about those since it’s understood that they were written at a certain point in time and don’t need to be updated. However, your core pages, such as home, about us, or services pages, should be current. Your website visitors expect it. So take the time to read through those pages that must remain current, and make any changes that are necessary.
Update time references and copyrights
While you’re reading through all your content, you might as well check time references, such as “last year” or “six months ago.” Chances are time has marched on, and these phrases need to be updated. Once a year, it’s also a good idea to update your copyright dates if you use them and if they don’t automatically update themselves.
Read through all legal statements
Check all links
As you’re reading your way through the various pages on your site, it’s a good idea to make sure all your various links work. Think about times you’ve been on a website and clicked a link, only to find that it takes you nowhere. You can keep your own visitors from that kind of annoyance by periodically checking your links to make sure that they still work. To help save you a little time here, you can use the W3C Link Checker for free at
http://validator.w3.org/checklink. Just enter the page you wish to check, and it will examine all the links on that page and report them to you.
Check all images
Similar to checking for broken links is looking for broken images. This is when graphics or photos don’t appear where they are supposed to, and they make a web page look unprofessional and unpolished. You can usually scan a web page quickly and determine if any images are not working. If any are broken, you’ll need to correct the filepaths to them. Your web designer can help you with that.
Check all forms and search boxes
If you use any email contact forms, search boxes, or other kinds of web-based forms on your website, it’s a good idea to check them periodically to make sure that they all work as they should. Your website visitors may not tell you if something’s gone wrong, so be sure not to skip this step. Again, your web designer can help you correct things that may have gone astray.
Look for updates to scripts and applications
Scripts and applications are “extras” on your website that add functionality beyond simple content. They could be calendars, forums, shopping carts, contact forms, and endless other possibilities. Sometimes, these are updated because of new features, to fix previous issues, or to address security vulnerabilities. So you should occasionally check that each script you use is at the most current version. Ask your web designer to help.
Verify that all email addresses work
Send a test message to each of the email addresses on your domain to be sure that they all still work. And while you’re working with emails, check to see if there are old ones that should be deleted, and if you use autoresponders, see that they are still current. Proper emails are vital in your communication network, so be sure to keep on top of them!
There you have it—an annual checkup for your website. Yes, it may take some time to complete, but you’ll reap the rewards. And consider taking a more frequent look, if you’re able, to keep your website humming along in perfect health!