Building a website is no walk in the park. It takes countless hours, thousands of lines of code, and sometimes a good amount of frustration to get that site looking fresh and clean. But sometimes, even after all that hard work, things can still slip through the cracks. And we’re not just talking about bugs in the code. Maybe the UX design isn’t functional. Perhaps your website doesn’t totally line up with your brand’s identity. Whatever it is, knowing what could go wrong will help you get things right before your site goes live. So, we asked our development team what things they would recommend doing to avoid making any major 404s. Here’s what we got.
1. Test across devices
Today’s tech comes in all shapes and sizes, so it’s best to make sure your site works for every user who visits no matter what computer screen or mobile device they’re using. There are plenty of tools to help you test various screen formats. For instance, Google Chrome has a simulation tool built-in with their developer view that will let you view your content on different platforms.
2. Set up tracking
If you want to see how your site is performing, you have to collect data. To do this, you need to set up a way to track what kind of traffic your site is getting and where it’s coming from. Google Analytics can give you a simple line of code to throw on each page of your site. It will then compile all your traffic data for you and present it in a lovely and easily digestible dashboard. Welcome to the future.
3. Make sure your ‘sharing’ content is in place
When someone copies and pastes any link from your site to places like Facebook, Twitter, or other social/messaging apps, those platforms will pull thumbnails and metadata from your site to display alongside the link. You have to make sure that your code is telling those sites what to pull. Otherwise, it’s a thumbnail and description crapshoot.
4. Size for Retina
Screens are getting bigger and much clearer. This means that screens are taking small icons and blowing them up to scale. So, if your icons and images are too small, they’ll be hella blurry. As a rule of thumb, save your image files twice as large as they need to be (e.g. if the image on your site needs to be 300px x 400px, save it out as 600px x 800px).
It seems so simple but it might be the most important thing you do. Why? Because nothing makes your site lose credibility faster than typos. You expect your users to read the content you worked so hard to put on your website. They expect it to be written correctly. So, wherever there are words, they should be proofread. It really is the little things.
6. Always make sure a 404 page exists
Sometimes, people will hit a dead end. Without a 404 page, any number of things could happen. They could get taken back to the home page or a different random page. Worst of all, they could land on a generic error page. This is also bad for search engine optimization (SEO) because you don’t want the same page to be accessible from two different URLs. Google will get all confused and probably won’t put your page in the top organic results. To avoid this, you gotta make sure you create a dead end for them by creating a “404: Page does not exist” page. This is also a chance to extend your site’s voice in a fun way. So, get creative. Here’s our page as an example.
PageSpeed Insights by Google will tell you how quickly your page returns information. This handy little tool is great for catching any large image files or clunky videos that might be bogging your site down.
Well, there you have it. Six simple things to ensure your site is functioning at peak performance. Of course, there will always be little bumps even after launching your site. But with a thorough quality check, you should be able to catch most of those errors before your users do.