4 Essential Tests Before Beginning a New Website

Thinking of embarking on a website redesign? The smartest place to start is by asking the people who use the site what they want. Now is a perfect time to embark on a new project, while you’ve got spring cleaning on the brain. Check out our series on how to spring clean your website for a fresh start.

Here are four tests and surveys you should conduct before you launch new project.

User Needs Survey

Set up a questionnaire survey to find out what your audience thinks is most important about your website. Take their comments into consideration for your needs assessment process. What those survey questions will be largely depend on your own organization’s directives. But a question like this might help you get started.

Please rate the value of each of these features, with 1 being extremely important and 4 being extremely unimportant.

  • Ability to log on to access premium material
  • A blog
  • Video clips that demonstrate how we work

You can request a free quick and easy survey template if you don’t feel like writing your own. Make sure to leave a comments space so people can add features they think might be valuable. This is also a good time to evaluate some of your current processes, like asking people how long it took them to receive feedback or how easy it is to make a donation or pay for an item.

Web Content Test

Having an appealing design is one thing, but having readable copy is another. (Be honest: how much jargon are you using?). The web design industry magazine A List Apart puts it this way:

Whether the purpose of your site is to convince people to do something, to buy something, or simply to inform, testing only whether they can find information or complete transactions is a missed opportunity: Is the content appropriate for the audience? Can they read and understand what you’ve written?

ALA gives helpful instructions on how to test the effectiveness of your content. Examples: try some readability software like Added Bytes, Juicy Studio, and Edit Central (or even Microsoft Word’s built-in Flesch Reading Ease check), or host a moderated reading test.

Accessibility Review

A website is only useful if everyone can use it. Paying attention to accessibility is good practice for all organizations–especially since good accessibility equals good SEO–and it’s a must if you’re a government agency. You can start with these Essential Tips for Making Websites Accessible, and then you might begin a “preliminary review.”

The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative provides instructions for conducting a preliminary review of your website’s accessibility. In short, they recommend selecting a representative sampling of high profile pages (e.g., the welcome page) and those with different layouts and functionality, and testing just a few of those to see how well you’re measuring up.

SEO Audit

Making your website more friendly to search engines is a large but critical undertaking. The good news is any improvement you make is a good one. Schedule a search engine optimization (SEO) audit of your website with a few key goals in mind:

  • Are you using heading tags correctly?
  • Do you have a sitemap?
  • Is your content skimpy?

Check out the 9-Point SEO Checklist for more tips.

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