Learn a simple method that any business owner can use to test the quality of their website, including performance, best practices, accessibility and SEO.
I am always amazed at how many websites fail even the simplest tests.
Recently, I noticed that a large local organization had created a new website and decided to take a little peek at what was involved (as someone like me usually does!). Not only was the website extremely slow (and not up to performance standards), but it also had significant accessibility issues and was not formatted correctly.
The icing on the cake was that the developer had forgotten to make the website available to search engines, so their website no longer appears on Google.
This type of mistake is likely to cost the company thousands of dollars.
The problem is that many of these errors are invisible to the naked eye and you need special tools and industry knowledge to find them. A website may look nice, but it may only be a facade.
There is no umbrella organization that ensures that websites are created according to the specifications (as in the construction industry). So it comes down to finding a developer that you trust to get things right – but it’s hard to know for sure.
In this article, I’ll introduce you to a simple method you can use to test your website to see if there are any problems.
However, there is one restriction…
The testing tool I’m about to introduce to you is completely automated – and while it does a good job of performing basic tests, it often lacks important context that needs to be analyzed by a trained person.
Running these tests is a good start, but if you find any problems, you should talk to a website developer to make sure the tests have been done correctly.
How to test your website
While there are thousands of (free and paid) testing tools on the market, the goal of this article is to simplify this process and give you an easy way to test your website – so we’ll focus on one comprehensive tool.
The tool we will use is the Page Quality Tool on the web.dev website, which tests your performance, SEO, accessibility and best practices. While it’s not a complete test that covers all aspects of your website’s quality, of all the tools out there, it gives you a good general overview.
To test your website, go to https://web.dev/measure/, enter the URL/address of your website in the empty search bar and click on the “Run Audit” button.
After about 30 seconds you will be redirected to a new page where the results of your test will be displayed.
These results are divided into 4 categories: Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices and SEO (Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices, SEO). For each of these categories, your website receives a score from 0 to 100 (100 is the best score).
If your results are 90 or higher, they will be displayed in green. 90+ points is excellent and puts your website in the top percentile of websites.
Values between 50 and 89 are yellow and mean that your website has some obvious problems that need to be fixed.
Any value below 50 is red and indicates serious defects.
Let’s take a look at each of the 4 categories to find out a little more about what they are tested for.
Performance tests are important for various reasons.
As Internet users, we have become increasingly impatient. Studies have shown that the likelihood of someone leaving your website increases exponentially if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Google (and other search engines) recognize this behavior and consider performance as part of their algorithm to determine search engine rankings. Since users prefer a fast-loading website, Google can (and will) prioritize performance in its rankings and give fast websites an advantage over slower ones.
The performance test measures 6 key areas, all of which are part of the Core Web Vitals. These include:
- First Contentful Paint (FCP), i.e. the time it takes the user to receive the first information from the website.
- Speed index that measures how quickly the content of a page is visually filled.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which measures when the largest content element in the viewport area becomes visible.
- Time to Interactive (TTI) measures how long it takes for the website to respond to user interactions.
- Total Blocking Time (TTI), which measures the time between the first contentful paint and the time to interactivity (which can be perceived by users as non-responsive).
- Cumulative layout shift, which measures the elements that change their position when loading content.
Core Web Vitals have become an extremely important metric for analyzing the quality of a website’s performance. Not only because these are things that have such a dramatic impact on the user, but also because Goolge uses these exact metrics to rank your website.
Below the performance results you will see the sections “Possibilities”, “Diagnosis” and “Existing tests”. You will find a more detailed report in these sections. While this information is important for understanding your results (and figuring out what you can do to improve them), it’s full of website developer jargon that may not make much sense to the untrained user.
Just as the physical premises of a business must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (or “ADA”), your website must also comply with accessibility standards.
This ensures that people with different abilities can use your website without excessive strain.
Accessibility measures include, among others:
- Color contrast for people who are colorblind or visually impaired.
- Alternative text for images for people with visual impairments who cannot see the images.
- Keyboard navigation for people who cannot use a mouse.
- Semantic HTML that gives context to the structure of your website.
- And much more.
Not only are you legally required to comply with accessibility standards in some cases, but it is also in your interest to do so. About a quarter of the population in the United States has some form of disability. A website that doesn’t take accessibility standards into account could alienate almost a quarter of its potential visitors and customers.
The best practices test is a little harder to define, but generally looks for common errors that impact your site’s security, bugs, outdated technologies, usability and more.
It is important that a professional investigates the problems listed in this section, as this is the category that can most often lead to false positive results. In my test results, for example, 8 points were deducted for one mistake. When I analyzed the error, I found that it is just a resource that is restricted by the test tool, but works fine for real visitors.
Cases like this illustrate the importance of having these results analyzed by a trained professional, as they are able to examine them and use the context to understand whether they are worth looking at.
The area of SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”) is extremely important for those who want to attract new visitors to their website via search (such as Google).
SEO is an extensive topic with thousands of factors to consider – so keep in mind that without the context for which you want your website to rank, the testing tool can do very little.
However, the test is good for making sure you’re following basic SEO advice, including the right structure and metadata. Both performance and accessibility play a role in your SEO rating – and many of the accessibility and performance flaws can also be reflected in your SEO rating.
Just because you get a high score in these results doesn’t mean that your website will rank high in the search engines, but it does mean that things have been structured properly so that you have a good foundation for search engine optimization.
A holistic approach
The combination of a lack of standards for building a website and a lack of technical understanding of what makes a well-built website means that many entrepreneurs end up with websites that are nothing more than a pretty facade.
It is important to check the quality of your website, not only when it is first created, but also regularly as standards and best practice change over time. Just like you need to get your car serviced once a year, it’s important to make sure your website is working properly. Routine maintenance is always more cost-effective than remediation, so a proactive review of your website is crucial.
The web.dev testing tool gives you a good overview of the quality of your website, but is not comparable to a manual check by a professional.
For example, an automated tool can tell you if the colors you’re using have enough contrast to meet accessibility standards, but it can’t tell you if it’s the best color to appeal to your target audience or if it matches your branding.
They also don’t provide much insight into which issues are minor and which could lead to major problems with your online presence. For example, in the story I told at the beginning, a website was set to not show up in search results, and they received a 77 for SEO, even though their website doesn’t even show up in search results (I’d give that a zero!).
It’s best to think of these tools as a means of measuring the quality of your website – but remember that they only tell part of the story.
If you would like me to check your website, I would be happy to do so. A full audit can be carried out for around CHF 100 to 250, depending on the size, structure and complexity of your website. The audits are delivered with a full report and a detailed guide to recommended remedial actions. Once you have our findings, we can provide you with a quote to carry out the repairs, or you can use the audit to find other developers to carry out the work.
Contact us today so we can schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns and schedule an audit.