Painless Web - Webmastering and Design in Charlottesville, VA
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Web Site Review & Evaluation

Your web site may be a prospect's first impression of your firm. Research shows that your site has about 20 seconds to give a visitor a reason to stay. Once that's accomplished, your site must connect them with the information they want simply and quickly.

If your site fails in either of these tasks, you're losing prospective customers, and irritating existing ones. A formal web site review of technical, design, and usability issues can give you insight into your site, showing you what needs to be done to improve results from your investment.

 

Options

If you have a few hours, you can do this yourself; See "DIY review" below. If you have questions as you go along, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Alternately, Painless Web can provide a web site review for $45 per site. (This fee is applied as a credit toward any work you might have us do for you.) These reviews are 3 to 5 pages long, and include consultation on any corrective action needed. Call or email now to get yours.

 

DIY review

You will be checking items in 15 categories. Some will require you to examine your site, while others will link to review tools on other sites (all such links open in a new window). You may want to print the outline on this page to take notes on.

  1. Domain name record
    Enter your domain name at http://www.whois.sc. This should generate a page with a wealth of information. Items to check:
    1. Are you listed as the Registrant? If not, you do not own your domain name, and this must be rectified ASAP.
    2. Is the address and email correct? This can be problematic for making certain changes to your domain name record.
    3. Are Admin, Billing, and Tech entries anyone other than yourself or your webmaster? These are less of an issue, but should be corrected.
    4. Has the expiration date passed? If so, take care of this immediately!
    5. Is there some indication that transfer of the domain is restricted? (E.g., the phrase, "CLIENT-TRANSFER-PROHIBITED." Depending on the registrar, "REGISTRAR-LOCK" may perform the same function.) Transfer should be blocked to prevent theft of your name.
    6. What is the "Blacklist Status?" Anything besides "Clear" is a problem that prevents some visitors from getting to your site, or receiving your domain name-based email.
  2. Server & connections
    Most of this information comes from your hosting company (where your web site files are served from). Note that this is often not your ISP or your web designer. If need be, we can usually discover this for you. Once identified, contact them directly if the information is not listed on their site.
    1. Are there two or more direct internet backbone connections with dynamic failover? That is, if one connection dies, does another automatically kick in?
    2. Is the server backed up to an off-site location? What fees are there, if any, to recover files from backup?
    3. Is bandwidth allocated by server, or by domain? By domain is better.
    4. Are processes on the server throttled individually? "Yes" is ideal.
    5. Ping your site at Centralops.com. Do not use the ping program on your own computer. Try this several times, at different times of day over at least two days. Regular ping times significantly over 50ms means your site is not being seen by visitors as quickly as possible. Widely varying times may mean server management issues, and you should consult your hosting company.
  1. DNS record
    Loosely speaking, this is the information that internet routers use to find your site. Enter your domain name at http://www.dnsreport.com/. for a very thorough review. Results marked in yellow are seldom an issue for small sites. Results marked in red may be an issue, and should be brought to the attention of your webmaster (who may not control your DNS, but should know who to contact).
  2. Low resolution
    Visually impaired web surfers often have their monitors set to the lowest resolution. Your site should be usable at 640x480 without requiring horizontal scrolling to navigate or read text. Reset the resolution on your monitor to test this (warning: this will probably rearrange your desktop icons).
  3. Color depth
    Graphics and pictures saved at high color depths may result in them appearing very oddly at 256 colors or lower. This is pretty much a non-issue with modern monitors. However, if you expect your web site to be viewed by users of older computers, or on small screen devices (PDA's, cell phones), then you need to investigate this. You'll need to find a monitor (probably a CRT) that supports 256 color depth, and switch to that mode to see how your site looks.
  4. Browser compatibility
    While this is becoming less of an issue, it's still necessary to test at least the major browsers, Internet Explorer and Firefox. It's OK if your site looks a bit different in each, but just make sure it doesn't completely fall apart. Test on both Mac and WinTel platforms, if possible.
  5. JavaScript & Flash
    Does your site work with JavaScript turned off? There are indications that as many as 10% of your web site visitors may have it turned off, so they must be able to see and navigate your site without it. Here's instructions for enabling/disabling it in IE. (It's relatively easy to find in Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox.)
    Also note that 1 in 50 visitors will not have the Flash plugin necessary for displaying Flash content. To test, right-click on each vital graphic on your page. If the last item on the context menu says "About Macromedia..." it's a flash object.
  6. Architecture
    On most small sites, users should not have to click more than two times to get to any bit of information on your site. This can vary widely depending on the type and volume of information you have, so take this rule of thumb with a big grain of salt. E.g., users are willing to do more clicking if pages load quickly, and navigation is obvious.
  7. Navigation
    There should never be an "under construction" page, but the rest is somewhat subjective.
    1. The information on your site should be logically arranged, but more importantly, the links should uniquely and obviously identify the associated info. Most people are just annoyed by cutesy or "clever" link titles that leave them wondering what they really mean.
    2. Picture links should almost always have text links as well. General site navigation should appear near the top and the bottom of the page.
    3. Navigation links should not be in tiny type, no matter how much space it saves.
    4. Links on every page should allow you to return to at least the page that got you there, and the home page.
    5. If you must have a navigation-free page, it should open in a new window. Ditto for links that take users away from you site.
  8. Key information redundancy
    Whatever information visitors need to contact or physically visit you should appear on every page. This could be as little as a phone number, or as much as a mini-map, address, phone, and email address. Don't make visitors work to get in touch with you!
  9. Superfluous elements
    Unless you're peddling something weather related, your site should not have a weather gizmo on it. Similarly, most sites do not need puzzles, news headlines, guest books, link-buddy lists, etc. Think about what the primary mission of your site is, and evaluate each item for it's contribution to that mission.
  10. Graphics
    1. Size
      Not the dimensions of the graphics, necessarily, but the file size. For reasons we won't go into here, two pictures that have wildly different files sizes can appear identical on the screen. To get a summary of all the elements on your web pages, use the analyzer at Websiteoptimization.com.
    2. Appropriateness
      If you're an electrical designer, then pictures of your pet goat do not belong on your web site.
    3. Format
      Note that all crucial graphics should be either .gif or .jpg format. (And if it's not crucial, should it be there at all?) Only IE and the newest browsers support any other formats without a plugin.
  11. Page design
    There are as many ideas about "good" page design as there are designers. For better or worse, "wildly creative" usually excludes "easy to use." Even if "wildly creative" is a big part of what you do, "easy to use" must come first. That said, here are a few things to think about.
    1. Does the design obscure or overwhelm the text?
    2. Is it at least thematically the same across all pages? If it does change, is there a reason?
    3. Is there light text on a dark background, or light text on a light background? (Generally, people dislike these combinations.)
  12. Writing
    Writing for web sites is a whole subject in itself, but these are the basics:
    1. Most visitors tend to skim text. To support this, you need to avoid large blocks of text, and use lots of headings and sub-heads.
    2. In most cases, visitors are looking for information when they search the web, not hype. Your site should talk to your visitor, not at him.
    3. Think about your typical customer. If they're all Ph.D.'s, then by all means, have fun with witty obfuscations, and literary allusions. Otherwise, you may want to stick with the KISS approach. Keep in mind that the average American reads on about a third grade level. Microsoft Word includes a grade level analyzer.
    4. If you've written it, get somebody else to read it! Preferable several somebody's. It's amazing how often something that's crystal clear to the writer is clear as mud to the reader.
    5. If your site is a sales site, then include calls to action at least at the end of every page. If you're not sure what that is, feel free to give us at call; 434 242-1841. (That last sentence was an example ;-)
  13. Search engine results
    At the moment, there are dozens (hundreds?) of search engines, but only two search engine systems. That is, if you're in both search engines systems, you will appear in all major search engines. While search engines are often not very useful for small businesses and practices, people should be able to search on your name or business name, field, and city, (e.g., "smythe dentist, atlanta) and find your site. Search for your name, field, city at Yahoo and Google to check both systems.
    If you have a national or larger market, plan to either hire a professional, or invest several months in learning curve and implementation in order to be found with relavant search terms. For example, if you want people to find your pacifier supply company, you'll want your site to show up when they search for "pacifier," " teething ring," or "binky."

 

NOTE: New clients are no longer being accepted.

Got Questions? Contact us now!

Painless Web - Webmastering and Design in Charlottesville, VA
Professional, Painless, Guaranteed.
     Email form    434 242-1841 in Central VA    866 234-9922 toll free

1003 Rayon St, Charlottesville Va, 22902

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