Websites, like people, can benefit from annual check-ups. Sometimes, things could be wrong with your website, and you’d never know unless you’d taken some preventative care. When was the last time you performed a website check? And do you know what to look for?
Depending on the size of your website, this checkup shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to perhaps a half hour. Ultimately, you want to make sure that your website is working properly for anyone who might be visiting your site, whether for the first time or as a repeat customer.
Check each page.
Take a moment or two on each page of your website. Look to make sure all the following are displaying and working properly:
If any links are dead or broken, or any images have gone missing, make sure that they’re repaired. To help you check your links, you can try the automated Link Checker by W3C.
Also, this is a great time to check for time references; “two years ago” may now be “three years ago” or more. Better yet, save yourself that annual editing work, and name the year, e.g., “in 2012,” or use more vague language, like “over ten years.”
While you’re at it, you may find other outdated language. Perhaps you no longer offer a particular brand, product, or service. Maybe you’ve changed a process. Whatever it is, checking through your website can remind you that you might need to update a few things here or there.
Test your forms.
Many websites have some kind of user-input forms. These could include email contact forms, search boxes, newsletter sign-ups, and ecommerce shopping carts. It’s smart to test them occasionally to make sure that they are working properly. Sometimes, software updates or other issues get in the way, and the forms need to be corrected.
Scan for infections.
Your web hosting may come with virus and malware scanning that monitors your website for any kind of malicious attack, including spam attacks, hacking, and more. If so, now’s the time to take advantage of it! If you’re a WordPress user, there are plugins that can also monitor your site for you, including Wordfence and Sucuri. If you don’t have them, why not add a scanner for peace of mind in the new year?
Perform a backup.
Hopefully, your website is backed up regularly with your web host or another backup service. If not, most web hosts offer a way to take manual backups when you need them. You never know if you’ll need a backup because you’ve been hacked or some new software installation is incompatible with your site. If you’d like to automate the process, see what your host offers, or, if you use WordPress, try some backup plugins like UpdraftPlus or VaultPress.
Update your software.
Most websites are running on outdated software. Simple HTML sites may not have to worry about this as much, but if your site is more complex, using software or scripts such as WordPress, ecommerce, email contact forms, and other interactive features, you should check to make sure that all your software is up to date. As security advances and also as hackers get smarter, it’s ever more important to protect your site with the latest technology. Some scanners (see above) will alert you when you need to make an update. Before you update, always perform a backup first just in case you need to roll back your website to a previous version because you need extra customization for the update to work or there’s a bug in the new release.
If you’re unsure or don’t have the time to check these things on your website, a reputable web developer can assist. However, it’s not wise to let these regular check-ups slip through the cracks. Just like with ourselves, our websites need some preventative care once in a while. Taking some time now to care for your website will help ensure that it runs well in the new year and beyond.