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 Is Your Website a Health Check Failure
 Under the Hood of Good Web Design
 How User Friendly is Your Website ?
 User Friendly Web Page Sales
 Making a Website User-Friendly
 Recommendations After Website Audit
 Optimizing After a Website Audit
 Example Website Audit Findings
 Website Auditing Conflicts

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Example Website Audit Findings

Common website problems

During a website audit we find problems with websites that occur time after time, so we thought it might be useful to give examples of typical issues.

While every website is unique and the mix of issues varies from site to site what follows are some of the more common problems and issues we find during many website audits.

Use of Images and Graphics

A website owner should treat the top part of each web page as prime real-estate. By that I mean the part of the web page that appears before a visitor needs to scroll down the page. One common issue we find is how this prime area is wasted, often in one or two ways.

The first common issue is the header graphic at the top of the page occupying too much of the page and the second issue is frequently the images used don’t add anything to give the visitor an appropriate impression of what the site is about, or what’s on offer.

On the basis that a picture is worth a 1000 words, images should be used that convey the right impression or message to the visitor. Using fancy graphic swirls and abstract imagery is fine if you want to show off the talents of your web designer.

"As a site owner you should be concerned about what all this
imagery says to a visitor about your website and your products or services"

Image and Graphics Optimization

Having images and graphics that have NOT been optimized by the website designer for use on the web is a very common issue with the websites we audit. This means the file sizes of the imagery on the website are much larger than they need to be or should be.

This has a major impact in slowing down the loading of web pages for a visitor, something which Google is now taking account of in its crawling and ranking of websites. By applying correct image optimization we are typically able to make savings of 70%.

"Optimized images mean faster page loading for the visitor and search engine,
increased visitor retention and reduced bounce rate"

Navigation and Hyperlinks

Whether a website uses site-wide navigation on the left of the page, right of page, top of page or bottom of the page, usually we do not care. Our main concern is that it should be easily recognized by the visitor as navigation to other parts of the website.

Hyperlinks within the page content should also be easily recognized as links. What we often find is that site-wide navigation or embedded links within the page content are often disguised and appear to the visitor as normal text until the visitor hovers their mouse over the words.

While experienced web users know where to expect to find site-wide navigation, which can therefore be tolerated as being “disguised” the same is not true of links within page text content.

"Site-wide navigation should be easily recognized and
Link text within the page should be standard underlined blue whenever possible"

Page Titles and Descriptions

Many websites we audit fail to make proper use of page titles and descriptions. The page title and meta description used in the top HTML header of every page is very important to Google and other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo.

Google in particular makes frequent use of the page title and meta description of each webpage in their search listings. It is therefore extremely important to observe the correct formatting of page titles and listings for Google, which displays no more than 65 characters in the title and 156 characters in the description.

Since these are character display limits in the search results, it's also very important to make good use of this in what you say about each web page. This will be read by searchers who will then decide whether to visit your page or not based on your listing title and description.

Another common issue we find with page titles and descriptions is that the same ones are used on multiple pages. This is particularly true on ecommerce and shopping cart sites. The search engines, Google in particular, do not like duplicate page titles and descriptions.

"Page titles and descriptions should be Google compliant, unique on each web page,
meaningful and inviting for visitors to click-through to your website"

Site-wide Link Structure

Almost all websites have key web pages that are particularly important to the success of the site, for example sales or product pages and sign-up pages. A website should funnel as many site visitors to those key pages as possible.

"Key pages must have the most links pointing to them from the site's other pages"

What we frequently find in website audits is the most important pages to the site owner are not the ones that have the most incoming links. With fewer links to key pages the site visitor has less chance of finding these key pages.

The problem is generally caused by the way the web designer has designed the site-wide navigation for the website causing most links to point to non-essential pages like About us, a Contact Page, a Sitemap or a Privacy Policy.

"Avoid too many links to non-essential pages it weakens web Page Rank (PR)"

Key Page Optimization for Target Visitors

Where a site owner has identified key landing pages on their site for a website audit a common issue we find is that very little seems to have been done to optimize these key landing pages.

Typical issues are:

  • No clear attention headline or sub-headline
  • No clear or immediate indicator of what the web page is about
  • Too many links and distractions on the web page
  • No clear flow of content from top to bottom of page
  • No uniqueness in the product or service being offered
  • No content that will build trust with the visitor
  • Order or sign-up process too long
  • No split-testing done on the web page

Many site owners seem to concentrate on getting visitor traffic to their website and then don’t use it effectively when it arrives. Having key pages un-optimized means low or less than optimal conversion rates.

"Poorly optimized pages don't convert visitors very well
into actions the site owner wants"

Key Page Optimization for Search Engines

A very large proportion of the websites we evaluate during our seo audit phase of the website audit have been designed by web designers who seem to know little or nothing about designing a website for the search engines. We come to that conclusion based purely on the way the website has been designed and built.

There are about 60 seo factors we analyze on a web page to determine how well it has been optimized for search engines. In about 90% of cases we find the website to fall well short of even the basic requirements for a website to be considered optimized for search engines.

Common issues are:

  • Poor choice of target keywords and phrases
  • Poor use of relevant keywords in page titles & descriptions
  • Poor use of keywords in link text
  • Poor use and distribution of keywords in page content
  • Poor use of keywords in page URL’s
  • Poor theming in page content

"Poorly optimized pages generally get less free visitor traffic from search engines"

Website Search Engine Un-Friendly

The type of common issues we find on websites that are not search engine friendly stem from aids for the search engine that are missing from the site and obstacles the web designer makes for the search engine.

Typical issues are:

  • Missing - robots text file used by the search engine’s crawlers
  • Missing - search engine sitemap (not to be confused with a visitor sitemap)
  • Obstacle - page coding full of on-page javascript
  • Obstacle – page coding full of on-page CSS style coding
  • Obstacle – excessive use of Flash content
  • Obstacle – use of iframes in page design
  • Obstacle – use of dynamic links rather than static links
  • Obstacle – use of inappropriate page redirects
  • Obstacle – broken or missing links to web pages

"Missing aids and obstacles make for a search engine un-friendly website"

Non-Web Standards Compliant Web Pages

While modern web browsers have a very high tolerance for bad page coding and errors caused by web designers, this in our opinion is no reason for not trying to get a site’s web pages as compliant as possible with the W3C standards for web pages.

Web pages badly coded and having too many errors may not cause a problem for a site visitor’s browser, but is more likely to cause a problem for search engines. Search engines can get confused by errors and give up trying to make sense of the page, which means the page may not get indexed properly or not indexed at all.

Google has said it has a vested interest in web pages being fast to load and error free. This is because anything that causes Google’s site crawlers to take longer to crawl a web page and website ties up their resources for longer and means they get around fewer websites.

If web pages are slow to load and full of errors, Google is less likely to deep crawl your site as it just takes too long. This means site pages may either not be included or eventually dropped from their index.

Many of the errors we see occur not only on one page but repeated across all the site’s web pages where the web designer has used the same basic page template for many pages.

While the errors we find are far too many to mention, what I can say is that 80% of them would not be there if web designers took the trouble to check and validate their page designs to ensure they comply with W3C standards.

"Poor page coding is sloppy design by web designers and site owners
are paying the price for it in more ways than one"

For more information on a full website audit visit taking a website audit or for information on a scaled down web audit visit mini website audits

Website Auditor
Tony Simpson
Website Audit Expert