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SUMMER SITE CHECKUP: How Healthy is Your Website?

Remember heading to the doctor’s office every summer for your annual checkup, the one you needed before going back to school? That was the prescribed time each year to take your temperature, check your pulse, get your boosters, and have your personal “tires kicked” to ensure you were ready to play sports, join extracurriculars, study abroad, or whatever you needed to level set your physiological systems for the year ahead.

Summer’s slightly slower pace makes it the perfect time of year to check the overall health of your website, which like a well-functioning body requires ongoing inspection, maintenance, and “updates” to perform at its best. Doing this on an annual basis will help you stay on top of small issues that could turn into big problems down the road if not managed in a timely fashion.

To help you kickoff a Summer Site Checkup, our crew has assembled a list of 15 items you’ll want to review and, and if needed, address to get your site shipshape.

Your Summer Site Checkup

1. Infrastructure Updates

Think of your website’s infrastructure as its muscular-skeletal system. If the bones aren’t good, the body’s in trouble. Make sure your site is running the latest version(s) of all important software programs, including your content management system and any plugins supporting it, as well as important business software integrations, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, e-commerce platforms, email and marketing campaign software, etc. Allowing these software programs to reach end of life (meaning there is no longer technical support available from their makers), could prevent your site from functioning properly. And failing to upgrade one platform in a timely manner could have a waterfall effect on other software programs that work in tandem with it, creating security risks for your site.

It’s also worth making sure your website domain registrations are up to date. An easy way to manage this to-do is to set them up to auto renew with your domain name registrar. If you only have time to check one item off of your Summer Site Checkup list, make sure it’s this one, so you never lose control of your website domain!

Remember: Culture Foundry offers managed hosting and support programs–including Professional Level, 24/7 support for websites–that make routine infrastructure updates turnkey for you and your team

2. Information Architecture Review

How easily can customers find what they’re looking for on your website, and how intuitive is the path they take through your site’s menu system to find it?  Now is a good time to review your site’s information architecture with people inside and outside your organization who use the site frequently and who may help your customers navigate through various content areas. If you have time and opportunity, invite new and repeat customers into this vetting process to see where you might be losing or confusing people during their “user journeys.” Consider turning this exercise into a game, where you give participants an ultimate destination: a piece of information to surface or a key action to complete, using only the navigation tools offered within the site. Gauging the ease (or difficulty) required to complete the task will provide you with valuable guidance on how to adjust menus, page layouts, call-to-action buttons (language and placement), and general story flow through your site to improve the user experience and help you remove the friction or “pain points” your users encounter.

3. Content Refresh

Making sure users can find the content they seek is one thing. Making sure your content is still fresh, timely, and relevant is another. When was the last time you updated the rotating banners at the top of your home page? How many professional bios on your site have changed in the last year, as people have joined or left your organization or changed duties? Is your product, service, and pricing information still accurate? Have your hours of operations changed? Is it time to update those headshots?  Keeping your content fresh is an ongoing challenge, especially if the time and money you can devote to your site is limited.  That said, you don’t have to facilitate a complete facelift to refresh your site by swapping out header art, replacing old images with newer versions, and making sure your content—especially content relating to your core business offerings—is up to date. This is especially important for your homepage. Give your site users a reason not to skip over pages they’ve seen before by making small yet impactful updates as you go.

4. Calls to Action

They are meant to call attention to information or actions that matter to your mission (or bottom line), so make sure the calls to action (CTA) on your site are as effective as they could be. First and foremost, is the language attention-grabbing? Does the chosen color stand out (while still fitting within your established brand guidelines)? Does the person clicking on the CTA hyperlink or “button” have a reasonable expectation of the payoff they get for doing so? Does the link behind the design element take them to the right place to take action? Or will they get a “missing page” error because that campaign ended months ago? Any site check up should include a CTA once over. Because if you’re going to call someone’s attention to it, make sure that content is worth their time and effort.

5. Broken Links

Related to checklist item No. 4, double check that embedded hyperlinks still take users to the intended page, form, article to which you want to link them, whether inside or outside your site. If you often link to your site from customer email campaigns and social media posts, make sure the landing pages you send them to remain active for the duration of your campaign (and maybe, a little longer). And if the landing page had to be retired, consider a redirect from that page to get users back into the related content section of your site as easily and elegantly as possible. 

6. Form Submissions

Are your embedded web forms collecting user data as they should? Do any form fields need to be updated? Have you checked the data you’ve collected through your web forms and acted on it? Is the campaign related to your web form still running, or is it time to retire the form? All things to consider during your Summer Site Checkup.

7. Calendars / Events

When did you last update your event listings? Have you started populating calendars with your planned fall/winter activities, or events coming up in the next calendar year? Whether you use embedded calendar tools, or enter information manually, make sure your calendar and event listings are up to date, and that you have retired calendar events and activities that occurred in the past.

8. The Fine Print

Privacy policies, terms and conditions, disclaimers, disclosures, affiliate notices, cookie and data retention policies and the other “standard stuff” that lives at the bottom of site footers is the type of content we hope we only have to read (and load) once. But it’s worth your time to review this material regularly, and have your legal team/outside counsel do the same. You never know what may have recently changed on the regulatory front needs to be reflected in your site’s fine print.

9. Contact Information

Did your customer service team change? Is your team now 100-percent remote without a physical address or landline? Is someone still checking that generic “info@” company email account, or is there a more direct way to reach you?  In our increasingly remote and digital world, current and prospective customers still like to know they can reach out and connect with a live human being about their needs, someone who will respond in a timely fashion. Make sure your contact information is accurate and complete, so that reaching you is as easy as pulling up your website.

10. Typos

Typos are the bane of every copywriter’s existence. The best of us forget to insert articles and punctuation marks when we are writing and editing copious amounts of web copy. Sometimes, all it takes is a little distance—taking a break before coming back to your work—or having a trusted colleague look over your copy. As small as they are, uncaught typos reflect badly on your brand and credibility, so take time to proofread each page with fresh eyes, so you can catch and fix those pesky mistakes.

11. Copyright Checks

You‘ve loaded your site with insightful quotations and beautiful images. Now, do you know if you have the legal right to use that material? Copyright infringement is serious business, and it’s punishable. Media organizations and multimedia asset providers, such as “stock” photo companies often contract with third-party agencies to scan websites for unauthorized use of their content, and then go after perceived offenders. An annual site audit to confirm you do have the rights to use the multimedia content on your site–specifically, any content that your organization, employees, and contractors did not create–is always a good idea, along with making sure you have an up-to-date file of photo/video/graphic licenses with detailed terms of use and receipts for licensing fees paid. Additionally, if a creator has allowed you to use their content license-free, be sure to credit them for their contribution to avoid the appearance of unauthorized usage.

12. Underperforming Pages

Summer is a great time to review your website’s performance and use your analytics tool of choice to grade user engagement with key site pages. Are your section landing pages receiving the kind of traffic they should to drive product purchases and/or account signups? Do users stop scrolling halfway through a page with dozens of rich content elements? Are readers “bouncing” out of your blog posts? Understanding what’s causing important site pages to underperform will give you the feedback and direction you need to retool them to be more effective and drive the user engagement results you seek.

13. Mobile Friendliness

The proliferation of smartphones means users’ first interaction with your website may come through a small screen. Even if your site is optimized for mobile devices, it’s smart to check new pages you build on multiple types of technology, including Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, to confirm content displays correctly and the user experience on a small screen mirrors a desktop. If your customer base includes mature users, you should also gauge how your content displays on smartphones configured with larger font sizes. While larger fonts may be easier to read, they may also crowd out or overlap key navigation items, such as “hamburger” menus and clickable header elements. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, consider budgeting the time and financial resources necessary to facilitate those enhancements and ensure your customers can easily conduct business with you on any device.

14. Search Engine Page Indexing

If during your site content audit, you identify pages with obsolete information that can be retired, in addition to removing them from the site’s menu system and/or “un-publishing” them, you may want to take the extra step to ensure they no longer show up in search engine results. To do that, have your development team implement a “noindex” rule, using either a <meta> tag or HTTP response header on your site. Taking this step will prevent search engines from crawling pages you want to remove from public view. Google provides easy-to-follow documentation for this within its Google Search Central knowledge community.

15. Accessibility

Websites are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the U.S. Department of Justice recently issued new guidance detailing how state and local governments and businesses open to the public can bring their websites into compliance with ADA guidelines. Key areas to focus on for improvement include

  • Poor color contrast between text and backgrounds
  • Use of color alone to give information
  • Lack of text alternatives (i.e., “alt text”) on images
  • No captions on narrated video content 
  • Inaccessible online forms (e.g., lack of form field labels screen readers can scan)
  • Mouse-only navigation (i.e., lack of keyboard navigation options)

The working standard for digital accessibility in the United States and Canada is WCAG 2.1 A, AA, but more stringent requirements are expected later this year. If you do business in the European Union, you have two years, until June 28, 2025, to bring your website into compliance with The European Accessibility Act, which mandates most digital products to adhere to WCAG 2.1 level AA measures. 

Fortunately, there are a number of online accessibility tools that can help you quickly evaluate your website against ADA and WCAG benchmarks. Our crew uses Monsido to audit our current client-partner sites (as requested), along with new sites we’re designing and developing.

If you’d like assistance grading your website for ADA and WCAG accessibility, fill out the form below, and a member of our team will be in touch.

Checking boxes

So there you have it: the short list of items worth checking to ensure your website functions well as a piece of technology; a sales, marketing, and educational tool; a brand extension; and an important interface for customer outreach and engagement. If you have any difficulties checking the 15 boxes above, know that the doctor is always in at Culture Foundry, and we’re happy to see new (and existing) patients!

Interested in a website accessibility audit? Contact us!


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