Now that your site is ready for the public eye, it’s important that you realize it’s not at all ready. Not yet. Before you publish a site, whether it’s brand new or a redo, it’s mission critical that you go through testing your new website. Broken links, browser issues, + faulty forms can cost you subscribers or clients. Thankfully this phase will help your pretty new site make a beautiful first impression. And it’s not even the last phase!
Phase Four — Testing your new website
This phase shouldn’t be very long, but I find that many site creators gloss over this phase too quickly. The goal is for there to be no mistakes or issues, and that does happen. But more often than not, this phase catches broken links or user experience issues that could cost the site owner cash money in the end.
Ask me about the time in 2010 that I launched a client’s site with a typo in my site credit link…d’oh!
At this point, the project feels like it’s seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. That excitement can translate into hurry up + make it live! Instead, focus your energy on double (or triple) checking your work + maybe getting a close friend involved as a fresh pair of eyes. The bonus about this phase is that it’s a great resource for any time you run your site updates. Because you’re running those at least 3 times a year, right?
The tests you don’t want to miss
Aside from the more obvious test of making sure everything loads correctly, there are a couple tests that should be done.
- Process testing. This is what I use to group all systems into. I make sure to test sign-up boxes*, contact forms, shopping cart features – including automated emails, and less flashy things like menu drop-downs, link hovers, etc.
- Cross browser testing. Oh other browsers, why can’t you all just get along? Seriously, have you opened your website in Chrome, Safari, Firefox + (yes, you should) Edge? What about on iOS devices or Android? Some of those are easier to do based on the technology you have, but testing your site in as many browsers as possible is HUGE.
*Pro tip for anyone testing their own site.
Instead of using your email address, add a + with a note about what you’re testing. You might use firstname.lastname@example.org to test the homepage opt-in form. The nice thing is that plus signs in email addresses are ignored, so anything from the + to the @ doesn’t mean diddly squat to your inbox. But you’ll be able to tell your tests apart based on the “to” address field.
Testing your new website with the right tools
All of my work is done on an iMac, I’m an apple fangirl — it’s no secret. But I also have a small IBM laptop so I can accurately test sites in the latest version of Edge. I try not to focus too much effort on outdated browser versions, unless clients request it. If you check your site in Chrome, Safari, Firefox, + Edge, you’ll be covering your bases well.
I also have an iPad, iPhone, + Android tablet to test how the site looks on various screen sizes. The same is true here. Check on the default browser + an optional add-on browser. For example, on my iPhone I check Safari and Chrome.
What to do with the results
While I test, process + browsers, I write notes about what is wonky + where. Sometimes the notes are “padding doesn’t match in Safari.” But more often, the notes look like “headline size is too large on mobile” or “pop-up x icon isn’t big enough to tap.” Things that are much easier to pick up by clicking around the site + seeing how it feels to use it.
I gather all of those notes together and highlight the items that are the same. It’s funny how often the same problem exists in Safari + Firefox but no other browser. With my notes color coded, I tackle each item one at a time. Then it’s time for a second round of testing. That process repeats until there are no more issues to note.
Each pass of the site pages gives me a chance to check for spelling errors, buttons that don’t actually button, and oddities that I don’t want the public seeing. The most important piece of this phase is to not turn on autopilot. Looking at the same homepage a dozen times can be boring, but I can tell you that after years of doing this stuff, I usually catch at least one bug on the 4th or 5th pass. Not because I’m not paying attention as I build, but because I’m paying attention.