By Matt McGee
The time of year when we make resolutions is fast approaching. I’m not much of a resolution-maker myself, but I’m going to suggest that small business owners make one. Namely, it’s a suggestion that you resolve to fix up your web site and pay attention to things you might’ve ignored for too long. I know you’re busy and time is at a premium, so chances are good that you’ve missed a few minor issues that are making your web site look old and outdated.
Think about this way: Your car needs a tune-up every 15,000 miles or so to keep it running at its best. Your teeth need a checkup at least once or twice a year. I bet your doctor would also like to see you regularly, too. Well, a regular checkup will also keep your web site running in peak condition.
With that in mind, here’s a small business web site checkup that you should tackle at least once a year.
1. Review your company information
If you have a staff listing or directory, is it up-to-date with correct names, titles, and other contact information? If you have an “About Us” page or something similar that discusses company history, make sure it’s updated—especially references such as “We’ve been in business for eight years.”
2. Review your contact information
Are the phone and fax numbers, mailing and email addresses listed on your site all current? You’re obviously losing customers if the phone number has changed.
3. Review your email routing
If you list firstname.lastname@example.org as the main contact address on your site, is it being routed to the correct person? If your shopping cart sends order information to email@example.com, is that going where it needs to go? Make sure your email routing reflects any organizational changes you’ve had.
4. Review and test your contact forms
If you have contact forms on your site, review them to make sure they work, they’re easy to use, and to see if they need to be updated. You might want to start asking people how they found your site or something else that your contact form doesn’t ask now. Also, be sure to “break” the form—submit it without the required information and see how understandable the resulting error message is.
5. Review your automated outgoing messages
Do you send an automated confirmation message or receipt after someone orders a product or uses your contact form? If so, review that outgoing automated message to make sure it says what you want it to say, and that it has the right contact information, etc.
7. Test all outgoing links on your web site
Outdated or broken links make your site look stale. It’s also a source of frustration for your customers who click on links that don’t work. Check all links on your site to make they’re accurate and up-to-date. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) offers an online link checker that makes this easy to do.
8. Review the hidden sections of your web site
If you have any password-protected areas, do the passwords need to be changed? If you had staff changes during the year, this might be a good idea. It might be a good idea even if you didn’t!
9. Review your domain record
Make sure your domain registrar has current contact information for you. If they don’t, you might miss renewal notices and other important announcements about your domain. You might also want to read How to Protect Your Domain, which has some additional things to look for on your domain record.
10. Do an overall review of your web site
This is something you should really be thinking about on a regular basis, but web sites often get ignored in the daily grind of running a small business. Ask yourself: How fresh is the content on my site? Do any pages need to be updated? How does my site look? Is it time for a more professional or modern design? Does my site offer the kind of features or tools that let my customers get what they want when they visit?
Some of these suggestions will only take minutes to complete, while others will be more time-consuming. But no matter how busy you are, checking your web site at least once a year is a resolution worth making … and keeping.