The websites we build don’t always keep pace with technology. Best practices, frameworks, and other tools seem to change in the blink of an eye. And whether you manage a single site or a hundred, there always seem to be things that slip through the cracks.
Thankfully, websites don’t have to stay frozen in time, either. We can use our knowledge to help them evolve.
But too often, we only learn about any shortcomings after something has gone wrong. It could be a major falloff in performance, an incompatibility with the latest software update, or a broken feature. That makes bringing the site up to snuff a stressful experience.
One way to avoid this scenario is to conduct an annual website audit. This can help you identify any potentially problematic areas and address them before it’s too late.
Today, we’ll provide some tips for auditing the websites you manage and what you can learn along the way. Let’s get started!
Create a Website Maintenance Checklist
Each of these factors plays a role in a website audit. As such, it’s worth taking some time to think about those similarities and differences. From there, you can create a website maintenance checklist that you can use to keep things in tip-top shape.
Broadly speaking, let’s take a look at some items that will likely be on your list:
Sure, you may have built and tested your website for accessibility. But it’s easy for gaps to appear as a site ages.
New content and features might not be up to standard. This is especially relevant when clients are involved in management. How can you be sure that they’ve kept up with best practices?
Any audit should include some basic accessibility tests. A combination of automated tools and manual inspection can help you detect and fix any shortcomings.
2. Basic Security Measures
Every website is a target for malicious actors. And those using a CMS are particularly at risk. Therefore, a basic review of security measures is in order.
Check the low-hanging fruit, such as the use of secure passwords and server file permissions. Shoring up these areas can help prevent some of the more unsophisticated attacks going around.
Also, look for any signs of a malware infection. They aren’t always easily detectable and can lie dormant for long periods before becoming active. Keeping track of file changes on your server and running security scans can help nip these maladies in the bud.
3. Outdated and Abandoned Software
Using third-party themes and plugins makes our job easier. But they also require vigilance. These products are only as good as their last update.
Software that hasn’t been updated in a while can be problematic. For one, it could contain unpatched security vulnerabilities. And there’s also a chance that it won’t be compatible with new versions of PHP or other items you have installed.
Conducting a bit of research can save you headaches down the road. Identify whether the software in use is still being actively supported and developed. You can then determine whether to stick with what you have or find a suitable alternative.
4. Content and Structure
Audits are about more than functionality. This is also a great time to dive into your website’s content.
There are a few items of interest here. Making sure content is still accurate and relevant is of utmost importance. Pricing, contact information, and service listings are prime examples. Make any necessary changes to ensure that visitors are getting the best possible experience.
How that content is structured also makes a difference. The goal is to help users (and search engines) find what they need in short order.
An Untapped Opportunity for Revenue
Not only is an annual website audit a great preventative measure – but it’s also a potential source of revenue. Thus, offering this service to clients can be mutually beneficial.
If you offer yearly maintenance packages, audits can be sold as an add-on or simply included. There is plenty of opportunity for experimentation with pricing and implementation. However, much can depend on the client’s budget and attention span.
Clients that tend to lose interest may be more likely to react to the results of an audit, rather than request that you perform one. This can still be a profitable venture, as you can charge for any fixes you make.
Audits can also get clients thinking about other changes they’d like to make. It can serve as a catalyst for completing those tasks they’ve been putting off. In some cases, they may even prefer to spend money on a redesign rather than patching holes in their existing website.
For those looking to tap into the value of existing clients, this could be a viable option.
An All-Around Good Practice for Your Web Design Business
The benefits of conducting yearly website audits are plentiful. And while they require some manual labor on your part, they may well be worth every second spent.
First and foremost, they’ll help you spot any potential problems before they become nightmares. This alone will provide you and your clients with peace of mind.
Plus, they provide a path for increasing your revenue. And you can do so in a way that doesn’t require sales pitches or searching out new clients. Everything can be done in partnership with your existing client roster.
And, once you’ve established a checklist, the process is easy to repeat year after year. In all, it helps establish good practices in your business and can strengthen client relationships. It’s something for every freelancer and small agency to consider.