In this last article of the series, we look at one of the most important aspects of Web Optimization – performance. Resolving performance issues are best left to the pros, but here are some things to test (after clearing your cache in your browser).
The home page or landing page should appear within two seconds of the URL being entered. If nothing happens immediately, or if one band of content appears, then another, etc., the load time is too slow to hold a potential customer’s attention. They’ll either get frustrated and leave, or label your site suspicious and leave. Check for slow loading images, tables or forms as well.
Broken links (clicks that result in no change, a 404 page, or an unexpected page) are annoying for users, and can potentially lead to offensive material. All internal and external links on your site should be checked at least once a month.
Your website needs to work well with common browsers like Internet Explorer and Chrome, but also with other popular browsers, including Firefox and Safari.
Non-Native Browser Software (or Browser Plug-ins?)
A public facing website should be easily accessible by any user in any browser. Content that requires the use of browser plug-ins or other additional software, will most likely never to be seen.
User Input Errors
As we mentioned in the last article, providing clear instructions for form completion is a great help to customers, and keeps them on the hook. If your forms are set up to reject certain input (e.g. letters in the phone number field), be sure to provide a detailed error message at the field’s location. That is, don’t wait until the entire form (or order) is completed and submitted to come back with the error message; and for heaven’s sake, do not make someone start over!
Make sure that you have a process in place to capture and review user feedback. All staff that have contact with the public should be aware of that process and understand the importance of writing it down and sending it along for analysis. You can be pretty sure that if you got one complaint about your website, there are many, many more users out there who just didn’t bother. Listening to your site users is the most effective way to keep your site in top condition.