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Website testing and optimization tools that will improve your site

Written by Russell Cragun on June 23, 2016 in Ecommerce Tools, Strategies & Tips
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One of the more important responsibilities of owning a store is ensuring that you’re constantly delivering the best shopping experience possible. You can do this through sales, great customer service, and an easy checkout process. Overtime your store will improve these processes and will become more popular as you test and implement additional features to your site. In order to get to that point you’ll need to develop and hone the skill of testing. Just as an engineer tests their work, you should be testing your site on a regular basis to make sure everything is functioning properly and to discover what works best for the customer. If you get lazy in testing, your site could fall behind competitors and you could lose out on potential sales and return customers.

There are a lot of different components to look for while testings your site. Lucky for you, there are a ton of great resources that will help you keep a constant eye on your site. These optimization tools will help automate a lot of the processes, but there will probably be a few website features you will need to check manually. By running these test you will be able to optimize your site overtime.

We’ll cover some of the basic website features that you’ll need to test on a regular basis. Please remember that it’s even more important to run these test after a major update to your store, or other tools that you use. You’ll never know when your site might get a new bug.

Browser Testing

Different website browsers display web pages differently. For example, if you view your store through Google Chrome, it may look different in browsers like Firefox, or Safari.  When you build your website, there are testing services out there like Litmus that can run your website through all variations of browsers. An alternative to using Litmus is downloading all the browsers on your computer and manually checking your site yourself on each search engine. You might be able to save some money doing it this way.

It’s important to test the views of your site on various search engines like this once every two weeks. Browsers are constantly going through updates, which could change the way they display your website. By running a quick visual and function test, you can catch any glitches early on and reduce the chance losing customers.

Website speed

Have you ever been to a website that takes forever to load? It’s awful. You easily get frustrated, and the odds of staying on that site diminish quickly. The same rule applies to everyone else as well when they visit your site. Most people are in a constant rush and are not going to wait around for your homepage to load. If your pages take longer than 4 seconds to load, you’ll see a huge jump in site abandonment, and your Google ranking will go down. Yes, pagespeed is a factor for ranking.

To counter this you’ll want to run your site through testing sites like PageSpeed from Google. Not only will it tell you how fast your site is, it will tell you what improvements you need to make to your site. It will also compare you to other sites and let you know how quick, or slow your site is compared to your competitors and it will tell you what images to compress. PageSpeed is a great resource to making your site be fast as possible.

It’s also important that you set a monitor system on your page like monitor.us. You don’t have the time, and nor do you want to be constantly checking on your website to make sure it’s still alive and running. By having a monitoring system on your page you can be notified the moment your site goes down, or page loading is exceptionally slow.

You should run a manual speed test once a week. If you set up a monitoring system it will send you hourly, daily, or weekly reports on your site, but it’s still important to manually test things yourself to make sure everything is indeed working. If you are constantly running into downtime on your site then you may need to look into upgrading your hosting services. Sometimes the cheapest hosting packages are not the best way to go.

User functionality 

Odds are that if you do most of the work on your website you’ll know where all the buttons are and where they lead. However, that doesn’t mean other people know how to navigate through your site. Some services like Usertesting will allow you to hire out a small group (or large) of people to experience and test your site. They will then give you feedback on what things they really enjoyed and what things could be improved.

While you’re testing functionality it’s a good idea to get feedback on your designs, color schemes, and styles from people that will give you an honest assessment. They probably give you insights that you didn’t think about before, like if your site can’t be see by customers with color blindness.  

The last thing you want to do is make a mistake like the NFL did when they tried a new color scheme for a primetime game. They ended up dressing both teams completely red and green, the two most common colors that colorblind people can’t see. Complaints started to pile up that many people couldn’t watch the game. You can see the big mistake they made here.

These generally are not the cheapest updates so it’s not critical that you do this on a weekly, or monthly basis. You will want to run these test whenever your site is brand new, or you make a major overhaul to your website design.

SEO

SEO is something that you’ll want to keep an eye on for ranking purposes. A tool like Open Site Explorer will tell you what kind of authority your site has. It can also track new links that point to your site. This will give you an idea of how much SEO work you’ll have to put into your site.

Another helpful tool that you can use is called Screaming Frog. This tool will run reports on your site and will show you what meta tags and descriptions you are using. By doing this you will be able to find the product pages that don’t have any descriptions, or pages that are pulling error reports.

If your site is new, and you’re not sure what kind of SEO changes you need to make (or start with), Hubspot has a great Website Grader that you can use for free. This will give you an idea of what you need to do.

Since SEO doesn’t change overnight, or even weeks or months for some people, I recommend running your site through some of these tools once a month, unless you see a serious issue arise with ranking or visibility. I also recommend that you make a spreadsheet so you can track SEO changes overtime. There are a lot of services that offer to do this for a small fee, but if your site is newer, then you can probably manage yourself.

Spelling, grammar, punctuation

This can be one of the more embarrassing things to avoid. Whenever you upload a new product page, blog, or new website content, make sure everything is perfect. We’re not all grammar champions, and some of us are just not that good at it. That’s perfectly fine, but you need to make sure you run all your content through someone who is. There are plenty of services out there that are affordable, and will help you avoid any typos or misspellings.

This is something you’ll want to keep up on constantly as you add new content to your site. If you have never had someone proofread your site, now’s a great time to do so.

Remember that your website is always going to need testing. None of these test are a one time thing, and that there is nothing where you can “set it and forget it”. If you care about the quality of your website and user experience, you’ll be running these test on a regular basis.  

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Best of luck out there and don’t forget to subscribe to the Doba blog for all the latest and greatest on ecommerce and dropshipping.

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