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Chapter 10. Publishing the Web Site > Develop a checklist

Develop a checklist

If you have a checklist you can refer to before you launch the site, you can be sure you won't forget to double‐check anything. And you can use the list for all the sites you launch. Write it once; use it countless times. Your list should include the following items:

  • Check each and every link. There's nothing more embarrassing than creating a Web site with links that work on some pages but not on others. You can safeguard against this happening if you create a template that includes the navigation links and then use this for each page you create.

    If you're using Dreamweaver to create your pages, choose Site⇨Check Links Sitewide, and Dreamweaver lists any broken links in the Results Panel.

  • Does your fancy code work? If any of the pages in your site are PHP, ASP, or DHTML, make sure each script works as expected.

  • Does the site load quickly? Savvy Web surfers are an impatient lot and won't wait for a site to download. If you've done your homework and optimized all of your images and other interactive content, the site should download in less than 12 seconds.

  • Does the site include a call to action? If your client is selling merchandise or services, Marketing 101 dictates that the site should ask the visitor to do something. At the very least, the site should include some type of special offer that tempts the visitor into clicking the checkout button. Another call to action might be a form that requests contact information for a mailing list or newsletter.

  • Is the site easy to navigate? Make sure that site visitors don't need a PhD to figure out the navigation menu. Try to avoid being cute and designing an avant‐garde menu that uses only icons. Some people will get it, but the ones that don't will be visiting the site of your client's competitor. Make sure you have redundant text‐only links at the bottom of each page.

  • Is the content relevant and easy to understand? Chances are your client created most of the text for the site and provided images as well. It's your job to put it in a palatable format that visitors can easily digest. Scan each page and make sure the headlines and links provide a message to visitors. This is especially important if the site has a lot of text.

    You can break up a lot of content using headlines, bullet points, bold text, white space, hyperlinks, or images. Savvy Internet surfers use these visual clues to quickly find the information they want.

  • Read each page. The information provided by your client should pique visitor curiosity and inform them. The home page should pique the visitor's curiosity and make him want to click through to other pages on the site.

  • Make sure that each page has a balance of text and images. Unless you're doing a portfolio page for a photographer, the images on each page should complement and balance the text. Too much of one or the other presents a confusing message.

  • Is the text easy to read? Make sure the target audience can easily read the text. If your client is a techie, and the visitors aren't, make sure the text doesn't include technical terms. Write the text for the least‐common denominator — in other words, the person who knows nothing about your client's product or service. If the content doesn't meet this standard, tell your client she needs to dummy it down before the site goes live. Also, make sure that the text font is easy to read and the font color contrasts well with the background so that visitors can easily read the text.

  • Are the paragraphs short? If not, visitors might shy away from the site as it might look like too much work. If the paragraphs are long, send the text back to your client and ask him to cut out anything that isn't relevant.

  • Are the pages consistent? Each page should have a common look and feel. The navigation menu needs to be consistent on all pages. If it's not, the visitor might think he's clicked out of the site.

  • Is the site complete? In other words, do all or most of the pages have content? It's bad practice to leave a bunch of Coming Soon or Under Construction messages throughout the site. Missing content frustrates both visitors and your client. If you're under a deadline to launch the site by a certain date and the client hasn't given you all the information, tell her it's in her best interest not to launch the site until all of the pages are complete.

  • Make sure every image loads. If you end up with a place holder with no image, this indicates you might have changed the image file name or inadvertently moved the image to another folder.

  • What's above the fold? The most important (must‐see) information on every page should appear above the fold. This is the top portion of a Web page that's visible when the page first loads, without scrolling. This is the most important part of the entire page — use it wisely. At the same time, make sure that no images are cut off by the fold, and that no part of a paragraph is cut off by the fold. When performing this test, make sure to resize your desktop to that of the intended audience.

  • How much of the information is below the fold? If each page of the site has a lot of information that appears below the fold, visitors have to scroll down to access all of the information. If this is the case, consider splitting a lengthy page into two or more pages. Alternatively, have your client edit the content.

  • Test all forms and other interactive content. When you submit a form, make sure the data goes to the intended destination or is added to the applicable database.

  • Check the spelling. Most HTML editors come with a spell checker. There's nothing more unprofessional than having a site with typos or bad grammar. If you're in doubt of the correct spelling of a technical term, ask your client or find the correct spelling at a reputable online dictionary.

  • If the site has options to order merchandise, make sure that transactions can be completed.


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