So you’ve got a website. Maybe it’s a few years old, maybe you just finished a contract with a professional, or maybe you built it yourself. You’ve been reading great things about SEO and page loading speed, and you want your website to be the best it can be. But how do you know where it is currently? Is it healthy and performing well, or is it in need of help and a performance boost?
Here’s how to take the pulse of any website. Listed below are extremely helpful tools that will analyze your website’s page load speed, mobile-friendliness, accessibility, and SEO performance.
Page Loading Speed
You’ve experienced it: you click on a link on your phone or laptop, and nothing happens. Blank screen. You wait, 1 second, 10 seconds maybe, then you click the back button and move on. Studies show that users expect a site to load in under 2 seconds. Let’s find out how fast your site loads.
Google has put out a browser-based page speed ranking tool that will test any URL and rank it based on the factors that affect page load speed. Google ranks your page on a scale of 0 to 100. A minimum score of above 70 is recommended by First Ascent Design. You’ll notice that it doesn’t tell you long it took to load the page. It’s difficult to know exactly how fast the site might be on a user’s internet connection because the connection speed and the user’s location isn’t necessarily known. If the user is on dialup, broadband, 3G or 4G, that makes a huge difference in actual load times. However, it’s easy to quantify and judge the known reasons that a site loads quickly or slowly, which is what Google Page Speed does.
Pingdom’s page loading tool is another option that gives some more in-depth information. The first screen will rank your site against the history of sites tested by Pingdom. It will show a list of resources fetched and how long each request took. This is extremely useful information that allows you to see if one file (most likely an oversized image) is preventing your site from loading faster. Pingdom also hosts multiple servers in different locations and gives a precise time, in seconds, that the site took to load in those locations. This is a great way of judging your sites performance for different regions.
Responsive (or Mobile-Friendly) Testing
Being mobile-friendly or not is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. This is how you can test your site’s usability on mobile.
First, run your site through Google’s Mobile-friendly Test. This will load your site, as seen by Google, and test it against rules and best practices for mobile devices. It will show a screenshot of your site’s first frame on a mobile device and offer advice on how to improve your website’s UX on mobile. The most frequent issues seen on mobile-unfriendly sites are tap targets too close together and unreadable text. Links, or tap targets, that are too close together may irritate the user if she meant to click on one thing but accidentally clicked on another. Unreadable text is common feedback on sites that didn’t resize to be mobile-friendly. Usually the whole desktop site is shrunk to fit the mobile screen, making the text too small to be legible. If your user must pinch-zoom to navigate around your site, the site is not mobile-friendly and is not performing as well as it could.
Secondly, run your site through Responsinator. Responsinator is a simple web page that loads your site in representations of the most common devices. Maybe your site looks great on a larger Android phone but not on an iPhone 4. With this tool, you can quickly test your site on multiple devices. You can navigate through your site and look at other pages more easily. You can even make your own Responsinator, if you want to!
Did you know there are standards for accessibility on the web? Did you know that some people with disabilities who have to browse the web through screen readers that literally read the screen to the person? Accessibility means that people with disabilities, such as color-blindness, full-blindness, and deafness, can still access your website. Roughly 20% of people qualify as having one some form of disability and would benefit from accessibility on the web. Don’t turn down one-fifth of your audience. Here’s how to check if your website is accessible.
AChecker is an accessibility checker similar to the other browser-based tools we’ve seen. Input your URL and it will show you the rules that your site has passed or failed. You’ll want to focus on the larger errors. Sometimes the minor errors aren’t as necessary or can be redundant. Also, some design decisions (such as low contrasting colors) will break accessibility rules. If this is the case on your site, you should at least be aware of the decision being made.
WAVE Web Checker is a more interactive accessibility checker. If your website caters to people with disabilities or you simply want to be world-class accessible, this tool will help you get there. It loads up the page and places icons representing passing or failing of rules next to the elements that are affected. This gives a quick and easy to understand visual rundown of the site.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is critical to bringing organic and free traffic to your website through search engines like Google and Bing. Search Engine Optimization is a large and complex topic, complete with experts, gurus, hacks, best practices, poor practices, and everything else in between. Mastering SEO is difficult, but implementing the factors that give you 80% of the benefit is easy. The site checkers below help you analyze your site against these necessary best practices, help make sure you didn’t miss anything, and educate you along the way.
SEO Toolbox is a professional, monthly subscription service that performs a very thorough check against known SEO good and bad practices, and it has a free trial program. The free trial allows you to run checkups on five sites, which should cover your site and your closest competitors. It checks for the site title, description, keyword density, headings, robots.txt, site map, SEO-friendly URLs, and much more while simultaneously giving a good description of what each requirement is and why it’s useful. Use it as a one stop shop to check your website’s SEO.
When your free trial of SEO Toolbox expires, it’s time to move over to SEO Centro. SEO Centro is a free alternative to other SEO checkup tools. It’s not as pretty as SEO Toolbox, but it shows essentially the same information, and it’s completely free to use. Focus on the “warnings” and “errors” section in the first half of the report. These bits of advice will give you the most benefit for the least amount of SEO effort. SEO Centro also lists statistics about your site’s social media presence and the keywords your site may rank for based on the content on your site. Both offer a small snapshot of your site’s SEO performance and potential.
Now your toolbox is full!
Go forth and take your website’s pulse! None of these tests are the end-all, be-all, written-in-stone rules. Sometimes design, development, or financial decisions have to be made that compromise some of the rules in these web checkers, and that’s okay. These tools will make sure you are aware of the current state of your website and where you might want to improve in the future.