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Prepare to Launch your Website with Our Essential Proofing Checklist
As a Content Editor, I know how important it is to make sure everything is perfect before launching a website – having worked in my role at gm-design for over 5 years, doing this almost comes as second nature to me now! To ensure nothing is missed, I have developed a checklist to cover every aspect of content proofing prior to launching a whole website (or even a small update).
It’s always best to allow for 2 stages of text proofing – have a check yourself, but then have someone else go through and check as well. It’s especially easy to miss an error in your own work, so a second proofer may find things that you completely overlooked. This can be anything from spell checking and correcting grammar, to making sure the formatting is consistent throughout all of the pages. You also want to make sure that you aren’t duplicating content from one page to another; duplicate content can have a negative effect on your site’s Google ranking, so it’s always best to ensure the page content is as unique as possible.
Forms and Downloads
Forms and Downloadable Resources should be checked to make sure they’re firstly appearing as they should and secondly, have no performance bugs (when used, they work correctly). With Forms, ensure the contact email address entered is working and actually receiving form requests – a simple test submission will be able to tell you this. For Downloadable Resources, it is best-practice to inform the user, before they click, of the file type and size, so they are able to make an informed decision before downloading. To reduce download times, check the resource has been optimised to minimise file size.
Images need to be checked throughout the site for many reasons, most importantly that they are appearing and are clear. You need to ensure that they’ve been optimised to provide the lowest file size to reduce page loading time, whilst displaying at the best possible quality. As well as design programmes, a great online tool to use for this is TinyPNG – aim for 10KB to 250KB per image, depending on dimensions, ensuring no image exceeds 1MB. As well as checking file sizes, try a loading-speed checker such as Pingdom, to make sure desktop pages take no longer than 3 seconds to load, and mobile pages, 5 seconds. Check every image on your site includes an ‘Alt Tag’ – this is a small piece of descriptive text that is given to each image to improve the accessibility of the site for visually impaired users. Finally, is there a favicon present? This is the small image, usually the company logo, that appears in the browser tab. This can be easily overlooked, but it is just as important as anything else as it reinforces the website’s branding and helps with recognition when the user is exploring in another browser tab.
Navigation and Links
The navigation of the site should be checked to make sure everything is leading to where it should be. A quick way to test this is to hover over navigation links to check the destination link that appears in the bottom left of the screen is accurate. The same goes for any text links included on the site – internal links (guiding users to pages within your site) should link directly to the page, whereas external links (leading users away from your site) should open in a separate tab. This is usually best practice as it allows users to stay on your site, rather than being taken away from it. Ensure text links are informative and descriptive to help guide the user, avoiding generic call-to-actions such as ‘click here’ – this is also a great opportunity to use relevant keywords in a natural way to improve SEO.
Sitemap and Legal Pages
Make sure you have an error page set up that, as well as letting the user know that there’s been an error in locating the page they have tried to access, also gives them a way to get back to the main site. You may also wish to use a more interesting, customised and branded 404 error page – check out this Creative Bloq article for some inspiration.
When proofing mobile responsiveness, the first thing is to check is that your site is actually responding to the size of the device screen! Try loading the website on a mobile device, or even more simply, drag the corner of your browser window to different sizes, and see if the website content adapts to fit. If you have opted for a separate mobile site instead, check whether users are directed to this instead of the desktop site when using a mobile device. Following this, run through the same proofing checklist as before – is the navigation working and appearing as it should be, are images showing clearly, is all content displaying correctly and consistently, and is the general speed and usability of the site still optimal?
Metadata and SEO
Being seen on search engines is vital to the success of a website, so it is important to prioritise the metadata and SEO on your site. Make sure that all pages contain a suitable meta title, description and tags, that the most relevant keyword has been chosen for each page and any blog article titles have been optimised for SEO using a checker (such as Coschedule’s Headline Analyser). Submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster, to ensure Google has the most up-to-date details of the website, which should prompt them to crawl the website. You’ll also find it helpful having an Analytics tool set up, such as Google Analytics, in order to monitor and improve the website moving forward (check out our article ‘A Simple Start to Google Analytics’ for a quick-start guide to get you going). To improve accessibility and help users familiarise themselves with the website, provide consistent navigation to your site’s ‘Power Pages’ – these are familiar points of reference that are present throughout the site – such as the Homepage, About Us and Contact Us.
While considering all of the common themes of content above, it is crucial to keep an eye on consistency, as this will be the primary factor that keeps a user engaged with your content and staying longer on your site.
Just remember, if you can get the basics mastered first, the rest will just fall into place! To help get your website ready for launch, we have prepared an easy-to-reference Essential Proofing Checklist to guide you through the process.
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