In the agency business we tend to have very weird hours. Our work can easily carry on well into the night. Eric Hersey tends to watch television at night.
I turn to something like the NFL Network for white noise. During the off-season, it’s just the same clips filtered again and again throughout the night. I quickly realized that the commercials are nearly the same, and many seemed to be a take on a “‘how to make your own website“’ offer.
Wix, Squarespace, and Web are fighting each other for a small niche of people that need a website fast and cheap. Over the last decade, these tools have made it easy for someone with limited web skills to have a website in less than a week. Drag and drop functionality, stock photography, and customizable templates can make an amazing digital storefront, but I always wondered if these website builders were the real deal.
Making a professional looking website was a tough job in the early 2000’s. Websites were blocky and looked more like spreadsheets. Many developers found hacks in the code and utilized them so that they could get the visual look they were going for, but messing with that code made the website structurally unsound. And while current technology has made marrying form and function much easier, I started wondering if there were a lot of website owners out there buying templates, only looking at design, and forgetting about one of the most important aspects–the code itself.
Getting Seen by Google
Google and many other search engines want clean, organized code.
They recommend websites based on factors on the backend of your site, the things you can’t see (backend SEO), along with the content that you can see on the site (frontend SEO).
Often, people seem to think that when you pay monthly subscription fees, you’re paying for the upkeep of the stuff you don’t have time for or simply don’t understand with backend SEO. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the code is amazing and works like a charm, but sometimes, well, things aren’t always up to speed. Technology and web standards change frequently, and, at times, dramatically. Some templates might not update with them.
If you are not a web designer or a developer, how do you know if the site you are purchasing is good?
Over the years, I have found a few free website tools that really help you get a grasp on if your site is worth the money you are paying.
Here are 3 of my favorite free website evaluation tools.
Search engines love a nice, fast site because they know that we want fast sites.
This is a pretty nifty tool. You type in your website URL and run a test. This pulls results on how fast your page loads and many factors on what you can do to make the page load quicker.
Things like compressing a large image uploaded to the home page or using your computer cache can really pay a big part in whether you rank in those coveted top four Google search results. GTMETRIX even offers recommendations on how to fix these problems. Some are easy. Some are a bit more complex, but at least you know.
This tool breaks down what is right and wrong with your site and links to helpful information on why this is important to your site and how to fix the problems.
This tool can helps you find all sorts of problems with your website. Are you optimizing your images by using ALT tags? Can search engine spiders find your content using your sitemap? How well was your HTML written?
Powermapper does a great job breaking down and evaluating your website using different variables.
Powermapper will find the percentage of pages you have with issues in Privacy, Accessibility, Usability, Standards, etc. Issues are color-coded based on importance and how they affect performance.
Sometimes you will find issues that should be fixed right now and others might just be an issue with one specific browser, which may not be an issue if you know your audience and how they search.
Although there are other tools out there, this is really a good start to see where your site stands. A website might look beautiful with large imagery, stylized font, and custom animations, but you have to remember what search engines look for. If that large image slows your website down, maybe you need to figure out an alternative.
If you’re like me, you might want to be at 100% on all of these reports, but I’ve learned that it is very difficult to be perfect at everything. A good ebsite template understands this and you will find some ‘coding hacks’ that will trigger an error on a report, but is necessary for function. Sometimes speed has to be sacrificed for visual aesthetics. You just want to make sure you find a healthy balance.
Hopefully we are seeing lots of green in the reports. If not, drop me a line on social media and talk about the issues you’re having.
If you still can’t find a website solution with the platform you are using, turn on that NFL Network, wait a few minutes, and another solution will be coming your way shortly.