8 Crucial Website Quality Assurance Factors (and how to test for them)

When we talk about “website quality assurance,” it is usually in regards to the checklists of items and steps which go into creating a functional website before it gets launched: code standards, authoring tools,  validation methods…  But what a lot of people don’t realize is that website quality assurance is NOT over after you launch. Quality assurance is something which should be happening on a constant basis. As Mike Rastiello at Business2Community points out:

QA and testing is never over. If you update a link on your site, or change content or make any changes to the site you need to test them. Click on every link. Make sure every image shows up.

Website Quality Assurance and Online Marketing

We get it. After your website is launched, you want to focus on marketing so you can get those leads and turn them into sales. But the truth is that you cannot have online marketing without regular quality assurance tests of your website.

Keeping up on website quality assurance can mean a big difference between a dazzling conversion rate and a high bounce rate.

How fast is your website responding for mobile viewers?

Are your visitors getting 404 Error messages from broken links?

Is your contact info wrong on a critical page, meaning leads can’t even get in touch?

Remember, a good online marketing strategy (whether it is SEO, SEM, PPC, email…) always factors in how real leads view and use your site.   Having tons of traffic isn’t going to do diddly squat if leads can’t sign up because of a broken link.

 

How Often Should You Test Website Quality Assurance?

Of course, this is going to vary depending on the size and nature of your website. However, a good rule of thumb is to check website quality assurance once per week. This will allow you to catch any pertinent issues, such as broken links or missing H1 tags, before they take a big toll on user experience or affect your SEO.

Which leads us to the problem of how do you check website quality assurance?

Luckily, it is getting a heck of a lot easier to check website quality assurance. There are now tools, Monsido being one of them, which automate the data collection process. With Monsido, the tool scans your website each week (or you can click “scan” at any point) and sends a report to your inbox with any QA issues which need to be fixed.   This is a heck of a lot easier than trying to go through every single page of your website and check each link and image individually. Even if you have a really tiny website, manually checking website quality assurance just isn’t possible.

 

The 8 Website Quality Assurance Factors Which Need to Be Tested

This could be a huge section, and there have been entire books written on website quality assurance factors and testing checklists.   However, for most webmasters with small to medium websites which have already launched, there are actually only 8 quality assurance factors which need to be regularly checked to ensure the website is delivering the best possible user experience.

 

1. Broken Links

One of the worst quality assurance issues you can have on your website is broken links. It might seem harmless to have a broken link here or there. After all, some broken links are bound to happen when an intern changes the URL of a page or an external page you link to disappears. But broken links are NOT harmless. Broken links destroy your website by disappointing visitors and harming your credibility. In some cases, the broken links could also harm your bottom line when the link is to a opt-in page, sales page, or other important page for conversions.

Make sure you never disappoint another visitor by using the Monsido quality assurance tool to check for broken links on your website. The tool makes it incredibly easy on you. Every week, your website will be scanned. If any broken links are found (including image links!), you will be informed of them in the weekly report.

 

2. Missing or Incorrect Content

If you have a really small website, it might be possible to keep track of what content is on each and every page of the site. But, once your website starts to grow, it becomes difficult to keep track of everything. Are you absolutely sure that your company’s old address and phone number isn’t on any pages? Or what about outdated products or services?

Customers are going to lose all confidence in your business if they find inaccurate information, or if they can’t find certain critical information at all.

An easy way to keep track of content on your website is with the Monsido tool Policies feature. You can set up policies for certain words or phrases and find out exactly which pages they are located on. You can also mark policy violations as Error Finders to find a page which doesn’t contain a word or phrase.

Another feature of the Monsido Web Governance Platform for monitoring content quality is that it will note pages with too-short content. Remember, neither Google nor users like product pages or blog posts with just a few sentences. This feature is a good way to make sure you are delivering enough content to meet users’ needs and stay on top of SEO.

 

3. Website Speed and Uptime

With the widespread integration of mobile, website speed has become more important than ever.   According to a report from Gigaom, a load time of over 1 second on mobile is enough to break a user’s flow. This is disconcerting considering that recent study by Trilibus found most responsive websites take over 4 seconds to load on mobile; 31% of the sites took 8 to 48 seconds to load! And let’s not forget that Google factors in website speed as a ranking factor in both desktop and mobile searches!

So how do you know whether your website is up to speed? The Monsido Uptime Monitor can help with this too. Just open the dashboard and you will be able to see a chart showing your average response time and Uptime Report.

 

4. Spelling Mistakes

Want to make your business look disreputable? Then leave a bunch of spelling errors all over your website. Think about it. Would you hire a law firm to handle your personal injury case if they couldn’t even spell litigation correctly? Or how about trusting a dentist with your root canal when that dentist is careless enough to misspell enamel on a webpage?

Content management systems do an okay job of picking up on spelling errors, but they simply aren’t designed for that task. Monsido has a spell check feature which scans through every single word on your website for spelling errors. You can customize the dictionary to include words specific to your industry.

 

5. Missing Meta Data, H1 Tags, and Title Tags

This information usually isn’t considered part of website quality assurance, but rather a SEO factor. However, in this case, the SEO factors do affect QA. As talked about in our post about Title Tags and H1 Tags, Title Tag and Meta Description (which are shown in the search results and social media shares) tell the user they have found a relevant page which meets their needs. The H1 Tag (which appears on the webpage) then reassures the user that the page is relevant while introducing the content to them.

If you are missing any of this information, you aren’t going to be delivering the best quality experience for your users, and will also have a low CTR (which affects SEO). The Monsido tool scans your website and alerts you if you have any missing Meta Data, H1 Tags, and Title Tags. It also alerts you to duplicate Tags so you can reduce errors and confusion.

 

6. Missing Image ALT Tags

ALT tags, also called ALT text, are lines of text which describe the images on your website. If an image fails to render for some reason, then the ALT text will display instead. ALT tags are generally talked about for their importance to SEO, but they are also an important part of website quality assurance. Should your images fail to render (such as if users have images disabled or the user is vision impaired), you don’t want a line of text reading something like img2930582.jpg to show up and break the flow.

When the Monsido Web Governance Platform scans your website, it will find any images which are missing ALT tags so you can quickly fix this serious issue.

 

7. File Optimization

Depending on the nature of your website, you might have all sorts of files on it: image files, PDFs, archive files, javascript files, CSS… These files could be harming your website quality assurance if you aren’t careful.   One way they harm QA is by causing pages to load slowly, which is frustrating for users and bad for SEO. Maybe you have some old, outdated files on your website which users or employees are accidentally landing on. Or maybe you have custom CSS files which are bogging down your site and creating a poor user experience.

With the Monsido file overview tool, you can get an immediate overview of every single file on your website. The files are broken down by type and can be easily browsed through so you know what is there and can keep things clean, organized, and up-to-date.

 

8. Contact Info Is Available and Correct

The final website quality assurance factor in the checklist is that your contact info is available and correct. You’d be surprised how many small business websites forget the vital step of putting their phone number of address on their website (one study found that 60% of SMB don’t have their phone number on their home pages!). You do want leads to contact you, right?

This problem can easily be avoided and fixed by using the Monsido Policies feature to do an “Error Finder.” You simply type in your phrase (such as an email, address, or phone number). The Monsido tool will then scan all your web pages and mark each page which doesn’t contain the phrase.   Solve the website quality assurance problem by adding your contact info and never miss out on a lead again.

 

Ready to improve your website QA and increase conversions?  Sign up for a trial of the Monsido Web Governance Platform today.  It is completely free and you will immediately get a report sent to your inbox.

What is Web Accessibility and Why It Matters for Your Website

When you go to the doctor’s office or a government building, you will find wheelchair ramps at the entrance and Braille on the elevators. When you turn on the TV, you will find an option for closed captioning. These are all steps taken – and often required by law – to ensure people with disabilities have equal access and equal opportunity. Yet, when it comes to the web, accessibility is usually an afterthought or not even considered at all. There are millions of people in the world with disabilities and, as a website owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone has access to your website regardless of disability. This is known as web accessibility.

 

web accessibility logo

 

What is Web Accessibility?

If you don’t have a disability, it is hard to imagine using the web. How do you read blogs if you are visually impaired? How do you browse the web if you are physically impaired and can’t click a mouse? How do you watch a video online if you are hearing impaired?

Disabled people utilize a wide range of tools to help them access the web, such as screen readers, Braille keyboards, and voice commands. When a website is accessible, then it can be used as effectively by a person with a disability as a person without a disability. As Jim Thatcher points out here, this doesn’t mean that it will take the disabled person the same amount of time to complete a task, but the process must be comparable.

Don’t let the term “accessible” confuse you. Web accessibility is not just about allowing disabled people access to your website in the same way a ramp allows wheelchair access to a building. Web accessibility means that disabled people can use your website in a meaningful way. For example, part of web accessibility involves putting ALT tags on images so they can be read by visually impaired people using screen readers. If your website is accessible, then those ALT texts will actually make sense to people who can’t see the image.

 

 

How Do People with Disabilities Use the Web?

An important part of making your website accessible is understanding how people with disabilities use the web.   At the W3 Web Accessibility Initiative, you can find an overview of How People with Disabilities Use the Web, including real stories from disabled people, examples of tools they use, and some of the limitations they face in accessibility.  Computer World also has a good article with examples of devices people use to access the web.  Here is an overview:

 

Visually Impaired Web Users:

According to WHO, 285 million people in the world are visually impaired. Of these, 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. Visually impaired people can access the web with tools like screen readers and using keyboard-only navigation. People with moderate visual impairment (such as is common in elderly people) may rely on screen enlargement and require websites with good color contrast and well-labeled graphics.

Image of person using braille keyword

Braille Keyboard

 

Physically Impaired Web Users:

Depending on the type of physical (motor) disability, the person may use only a mouse, only a keyword, or only voice commands to use the web.  There are also many different devices, like mouth sticks, eye sensors, and light-operated mouse systems.  If your website can only be used with one type of command, then these physically impaired users may have accessibility issues.

 

Hearing Impaired Web Users:

Hearing impairment isn’t an issue for many websites, but it can be if your website contains video or audio content. People with hearing disabilities rely on good volume controls and deaf people rely on transcripts and Closed Captioning for videos and audio content.

 

Cognitively Impaired Web Users:

Cognitive disabilities range drastically, such as causing people to have trouble with reading, comprehending, and memory. Many people with cognitive disabilities may rely on text-to-speech software for understanding web content. Complex web designs can cause problems for people with cognitive disabilities when accessing the web.

 

Web Accessibility Standards

When talking about web accessibility standards, you will hear two terms: WCAG and Section 508.

WCAG:

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The guidelines were established by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG are the international standards to ensuring that websites and user agents (such as mobile phones and other devices) are accessible by people with disabilities. The most current version is WCAG 2.0.   There are three levels of WCAG 2.0 (A, AA, and AAA). The AAA level is the highest standard. The 4 main principles of WCAG 2.0 are that content must be:

  • Perceivable
  • Operable
  • Understandable
  • Robust

Section 508

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prevents discrimination on the basis of disability by federal agencies and agencies receiving federal money. In 1998, the Act was amended to include Section 508, which extends the law to electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled people access in a way which comparable to the access of others.

Many aspects of Section 508 and WCAG are the same. However, they are very different things. Section 508 is a legal requirement and WCAG is a set of guidelines. In general, WCAG guidelines are represent a higher level of accessibility than the Section 508 standards.

 

Steps for Improving Web Accessibility

Web accessibility is something which should be considered from a developer and a design standpoint.   We advise that you look through the resources at the bottom of this page to learn more about web accessibility standards, legal regulations, and principles.

Some very basic things you can do now to improve web accessibility (and user experience) are:

  • Correct Spelling Mistakes: These cause problems for screen readers
  • Use ALT text: This is also very important for SEO
  • Include Transcripts for Video: This is also important for hearing impaired users as well as a quality and SEO issue

Currently, you can check for both spelling errors and missing ALT text with the Monsido Webmaster and SEO Tool. The tool will scan your website on a weekly or on-demand basis to determine if there are any errors, and send a report to your inbox.

Monsido also has the ability to scan your website and check for WCAG 2.0 A, AA, and AAA standards, and Section 508 Compliance.

Please note that, while tools may help you find accessibility errors and may even be able to automatically fix them, web accessibility is still something which needs to be evaluated on a human basis.   For example, software can determine if you are missing ALT text, but software cannot determine if the ALT text is written in a way which makes sense to users.

 

Further Resources for Web Accessibility:

 

Image credit: “Braille Terminal / Display” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by  karola riegler photography 

Are You Using These Web Governance Principles?

Web governance is all of the policies and procedures which go into maintaining and managing a website. All websites have a system of web governance in place.  When done right, your web governance system can catalyze business growth.  In order to make your web governance work, you need a clear model which outlines how activities will be completed and with what resources.  But, just as importantly, you need clearly-defined web governance principles.

Difference between Web Governance Principles and Rules

We probably shouldn’t need to differentiate between principles and rules.  However, in a lot of discussions about web governance, the term “principle” gets thrown around a lot when the person is really talking about rules.

A principle is an internal motivator.  It drives you to do what seems good or right for the organization or business.

A rule is an external motivator.  It compels you, through threat or punishment, to do the things that someone else has deemed good or right.

There has been a lot of talk about the principles vs. rules debate in the world of accounting.  Proponents of the principle-based approach site benefits like:

  • Principles provide guidance that can be applied to the many variations in circumstance that arise in everyday practice.
  • Principles are flexible and can quickly adapt to the rapid changes that modern businesses experience.
  • Principles prevent the development of the mechanistic “box ticking” approach to decision making
  • Principles focus on guidance and encourage responsibility in the exercise of professional judgment.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t set clear web governance rules which apply to certain tasks or procedures.  Rules are guidance on principles!  But don’t make the mistake of setting web governance rules without first setting the underlying principles.

With this in mind, here are 7 web governance principles to adopt in your business.

1. Confidence in the Website is Necessary for It to Reach Its Potential as a Driver of Business Growth

When NETmundial met in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2014 to identify a set of universal principles to be promoted worldwide, one European Commission contribution discussed problems with confidence in the internet.  Problems like identify theft, fraud, and other cybercrime have caused users to lose confidence in the internet.  Without confidence, the internet will not be able realize its potential for growth.  Thus, clear governance is needed to address issues so users can regain confidence in the internet.  For example, no one would buy things online if they didn’t feel confident that rules about online payment processing are effective.

The same applies to your website.  If users don’t feel they can trust the content on your website, your website will not be able to help your business growth.  An extreme example would be if you have downloadable content with malware in it.  If users download what seems like a useful PDF but really get a virus, they aren’t likely to download anything from you again.

A more common example of lack of confidence would be if you have broken links in your content.  Users click the link thinking they will be taken to something useful or relevant and instead get a 404 error message.  The effect isn’t as severe as the malware example, but it still deteriorates the users’ confidence in your website.

2. Websites Must Be Underpinned by a Website Business Plan

Unfortunately, many websites are built as an afterthought to the main business. This is unfortunate because, to be successful, a website must have its own business plan.

Use your website business plan to define success. Once you have defined success, you will find that the other areas fall into place more easily – like the steps which need to be taken to manage the website and measure and evaluate its efficacy.

Most importantly, when you have a website business plan, you will provide direction to everyone working on the website (content creators, designers, developers, etc.).  As Edward Baldwin says in his article about content governance principles at Gather Content,

“You, or anyone creating content, should always be able to answer one question: why am I making this? This not only ensures you’re not contradicting other content being produced, it creates opportunity to cross-pollinate and draw from the full breadth of expertise across your company.”

3. All Websites Need a System of Accountability and Monitoring

As content strategy expert David Poteet of Inside New City says, “Everyone needs an editor.” No matter how good of a writer you are, you still need someone to review your work and help you make it better.  And any large institution needs a “central managing editor” who can establish a content strategy and override lower-level decisions if they are counter to the institution’s goals.

We can take this further.  It isn’t just the content creators who need an editor. Anyone who works on the website – whether their job is blogging, SEO, or design – needs someone who oversees their work.  Even the managers need a central manager.

This can be achieved by mapping out your website governance structure so roles are clearly defined. As we talk about in our article about What Is Web Governance, web management is not the same as web governance. However, having this structure in place ensures a clear system of accountability.  At the top of the structure is one manager or committee which ensures all of the objectives of the website are being met.

How does the central manager or committee ensure that all objectives are being met?  This is where reporting comes in.  Information must be available, and it must be regularly analyzed in order to make decisions about improving the website.  One example (shameless plug here ;) ) is the graphs in the Monsido web governance tool.   The graphs show the health of the website over time.  These graphs make it easy to see how team members are doing in terms of maintaining the quality of the website and SEO.

web governance reporting

4. All Websites Should Adhere to the Latest Standards and Legislation

This web governance principle specifically applies to Accessibility.  Approximately 15% to 20% of the world’s population has some form of disability, yet only a small percentage of websites are designed to be accessible to disabled people.

Many nations have now stepped in and made it a legal requirement for certain types of websites to be accessible.  Aside from legal compliance, there are many reasons to improve web accessibility, particularly because it increases your audience and also improves website quality.

Learn more about what is web accessibility and why it matters for your website.

5. Web Governance Is an Ongoing Process

Web governance isn’t something that you only think about during a once-yearly cleanup of the website or during a redesign.  While your principles, procedures, and policies may not change (often), the governance should actively continue.

If a city was having a problem with crime, you wouldn’t expect the mayor to hire some more police officers and then forget about the issue, right?  You’d expect the mayor to monitor crime levels to see whether the increase in the police force was having any effect.  Likewise, your website needs to be carefully monitored.

Rather than trying to fix everything at once, content strategist and marketer Josh Tong suggests using the small content strategy.

“Small content strategy asks, “What is a minimum viable approach for making important changes happen right now?” The idea is to identify a minimum viable approach, execute the approach within a relatively short period of time, evaluate your progress, and then repeat the cycle. Instead of attempting to develop a comprehensive content strategy through one waterfall process, you could perform a subset of these tasks to make short-term progress while keeping your eye on a long-term goal.”

In order to do this, you will need to identify your resources (people, tools, processes, budget) and work on strengthening one or all of them.

6. Training is Essential to Web Governance

This goes with the previous principle.  Since governance is an ongoing process, you should also expect to invest in ongoing training to improve outcomes.  Everyone involved on your website should not only understand the principles guiding the website, but feel empowered to work on it effectively.

7. A CMS is Not Web Governance

A CMS is one tool which can help you carry out your web governance model.  However, your CMS cannot enforce policies, review effectiveness, or drive your website in the right direction.

This applies to other tools too.  At Monsido, we make a web governance tool which can do wonders in helping you helping you improve website quality and SEO, manage users, and assess results.  Our tool can also help you free up resources, such as by saving your staff valuable time.  However, we are ultimately a tool. It is up to you to establish a web governance model and determine how the tool will be used as part of the ultimate goal.

 

Want to learn more about how the Monsido tool suite can help you with web governance?

See Monsido’s features here.

Monsido Keeps Growing, So We’re Moving to a New Data Center

Here at Monsido web governance software, we are pleased to announce that things are going great.  So great, in fact, that we are moving to a new and larger data center!

The new data center means we will be able handle all of the new customers we are adding every week and help even more businesses and organizations improve website SEO, Quality Assurance, and  Accessibility. It also means that we will be able to run our services more smoothly, develop new web governance features, and continue to deliver excellent services.

As a Monsido customer, you can rest assured that we’ve planned this data center move carefully and it will be completed without a hitch.  However, there are two aspects which may affect you:

  1. Monsido will be unavailable during the data center move
  2. Our IP address will change

 

1. Availability During the Data Center Move

The data center move will take place next weekend, April 30th and May 1st, 2016.  Monsido web governance tool will not be available during this time!  Don’t worry – we will run your regularly scheduled scans as soon as the migration is complete!

 

2. Monsido IP Address Change

Because of the move, our IP’s crawler will change from 148.251.19.198 to 130.211.65.55.  This will take effect May 31st, 2016.

For many of our customers, the IP address change doesn’t matter.  However, if you are using our IP for whitelisting or for automatic login to restricted content, then you will need to update the IP address in your system!

If you have any questions about whether the IP address change affects you, feel free to contact us.  The Monsido team is always here to help and make sure you get the most out of our web governance tool.

We apologize for any inconvenience the data center move may cause you.  We hope you understand that this move is done so we can serve you better now and in the future. Here’s to our mutual success!