Tools of the Quality Assurance Trade: How to Test Your Website
Just as inferior editing can ruin a book, a website that is launched without proper quality assurance runs the risk of repelling potential users with its lack of polish. But unlike a book, which only needs to be edited once, websites require constant upkeep, analysis and improvement. Thankfully there are many tools available to help in the testing and maintenance process.
Playing by the Rules: Tools That Test Against Web Standards
When it comes to standards, stick with the experts. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, and in their efforts to enforce compatibility and concord across the web they have developed useful testing tools for developers.
To check a website against their standards, simply go to the W3C validator and enter the URL of the page you would like checked. In a matter of seconds, a list of errors and warnings will be generated. Some of the more common errors include things like missing alt tags, improper character encoding and outdated code. The validator provides line numbers so that the error can quickly be located in the code.
One of the drawbacks of the W3C Validator is that only one page can be validated at a time. Although this might work well for smaller sites, for larger sites it could become time consuming. One plugin that can simplify the task is Firefox’s HTML Validator. If this add on is installed on your computer, then as you browse through a site in Firefox, an icon displaying the number of validation errors will appear in the bottom right corner. If you click on the icon or view the page source, then the validation errors will be displayed alongside the code. Firefox’s HTML Validator will even clean the code up for you if you press their “Clean up the page” button, although the results can be unreliable.
Want an even easier way to check large sites? Use commercial software like SortSite, which is described below.
Avoiding Link Rot: Tools That Test For Broken Links
Broken links not only irritate users and leave an unprofessional impression, they also affect your search engine ranking—so regularly checking that all your links are working is a must. Checking for broken links should be done on a monthly basis, especially if your site contains a news section, since news articles are often archived and this could cause the link to break.
If you are signed up for Google Webmaster Tools, you can go to “Diagnostics” and select “Crawl Errors” then the “Not Found” category. This will give you a listing of indexed pages which are currently bringing up 404 errors.
Another alternative is SortSite, which is a commercially available software program that will scan your entire website for broken links as well as standards, browser compatibility issues and spelling errors. Although the program isn’t free, it saves time by covering so many testing issues with just one click.
For free software that will check for broken links, Xenu Link Sleuth is available.
Faster is better: Tools That Test Loading Speed
Like broken links, slow websites not only irritate users, they can also lower a site’s placement in Google search results. People are just not willing to sit around and wait for a site to load, so maximizing a page's speed is worth the effort. One of the best sites to test speed is WebSiteOptimization.com, a site that will generate a Web Page Speed Report that points out areas of weakness and strength. Another quality site is Pingdom Tools.
Ensuring Consistency: Cross Browser Testing
At Monkee-Boy we have many different computer environments available, and we rigorously test sites on Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, tablet devices, cell phones, PCs and Macs. If you don't have all these environments available to you, then there are free comprehensive testing tools available as well. Browsershots is a convenient site which will make screenshots of your web design in different operating systems and browsers. With over 200 browsers to choose from, including obscure browsers like Kazehakase and SeaMonkey, the site is beyond extensive. Testing across all their browser options can take an extremely long time, however, so users may consider only checking a few browsers.
Does all this testing just sound like too much of a hassle? Contact us, and Monkee-Boy will take care of monthly site testing for you.
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