Basic Website Testing Ideas for the Small Business Owner

Prior to having your new website made live, as a consumer, it is always a good idea to properly inspect the goods/service being delivered. This ensures the value and quality of work produced is in line with your requirements and expectations, and may be your last chance to squeeze out fixes prior to making your final payment. When dealing with a larger or more professional software developer, this is often known as Factory Acceptance, and entails numerous resources and documents prepared on your behalf; however, often smaller website firms/jobs will just provide a brief opportunity to review the work, without any test cases or specific verifications in place. In this Wild West world of web development, the onus is typically on the consumer to ensure their new website is technically sound. Aside from the obvious specific deliverables, here are some common technical concerns to consider:
 

  1. Integrity - Make sure the site remains usable when the web browser is maximized and when the window is made to a smaller size (you should be able to use the scrollbars to view the whole page).  In both cases, the site should maintain visual integrity - in particular, items which should be inline, should remain inline. Also, depending on what layout functionality was chosen, ensure that content areas collapse and expand as designed, and that a horizontal scrollbar only appears when appropriate and applicable for the content on the screen.
     
  2. Script Errors - Many modern websites have numerous effects which were created to enhance your website, however it may not always be apparent when these are not functioning. To check for these using IE9, use these steps to turn on error notifications and follow up with your website developer if any are found.
     
  3. Layout Usability - Ensure critical information and navigation is accessible to the majority of users.  This can vary based on requirements, but for most sites, you will want to ensure that any subscriptions or contact forms are visible within the most common browser sizes.
     
  4. Compatibility - More than ever, the market is saturated with different applications to view web content. In general, a well devised website will render relatively well on all of these.  One common area of oversight, however, can be adequate testing or support of MAC OSX or Windows. Specifically based on the difference in sub-pixel font rendering between these platforms, this can often result in poor line wrapping and horizontal menu bars wrapping to the next line.
     
  5. Printing - If your website contains content which visitors may wish to print out, ensure your developer has focused adequate attention to this, such that the content remains legible when printed using the built-in browser feature. Test this fully by printing to a PDF using PDFForge, a free and open source tool.
     
  6. Clean URLS - Most modern websites now use clean URLs, and it is reasonable for you to expect the same.  If you find any pages where the URL address path seems confusing, consider speaking to your developer about improving these. For example - http://example.com/products?category=2&pid=25 in the address could actually appear as http://example.com/chairs.  The benefits are great, including the way they can suddenly become much more permanent based on a well-designed name, improved SEO, and better usability.
     
  7. Inbound Links - If your site is being updated, ensure that you have let your developer know about any links that your partners or affiliates may be using on the old site.  Your developer can in most cases create simple redirection to maintain these old links.  In addition, if your old site retains any SEO of worth, consider redirecting all popular inbound search URLs on your new site, you can make a quick (non-exhaustive) check of partiular pages by typing this query in most popular search engines: link:www.example.com, where example is the name of your main website URL, for a more thorough audit, consider this free tool from Google.
     
  8. W3C Validation - From time to time, there are reasons some sites might not be fully compliant, but in general, your site should not have more than a handful of problems as indicated by the W3C Validator.
     
  9. Optimization - Google Page Speed Online is a great resource for tweaking your existing site, but will also point out sloppy development on new sites.  In particular, it is reasonable to expect images to be sized appropriately with what is displayed, and for general page performance to be within acceptable usability terms.
     
  10. Icon branding - Once more of a frill, but with bookmarking on mobile devices and general visibility, it is reasonable to expect your new website to include an appropriate Favicon. This will be used to represent your site on bookmarks and other links associated with your website.