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Auditing your Website in 2017

So we set you off with a long list of questions to ask as part of your digital audit . Did you think we were just going to abandon you? Of course, we weren’t! But a digital audit – a proper one, especially if you haven’t done one before, is a big undertaking, so in the interests of making it more manageable, we’ve broken down some of the elements into smaller chunks. This blog looks at auditing your website in more details. Get the coffee on.It could be a long one…

Are you the registered domain owner?

The domain is the ‘name’ of your website, which hopefully reflects the name of your business. It’s easier than you might think to lose control (or to never have had control) of this, by not being the registered owner, but it’s a vital component of your digital assets.

We regularly meet businesses that for one reason or another do not have control of their domain name.

What to do

Contact Nominet, the UK domain registry to find out who is the registered domain name owner. If this is your web developer, take steps to have the registration transferred to you. If the domain name you want is registered to another, completely unrelated business or individual, you may be able to negotiate the transfer, or take action to have the registration transferred to you.

Do you own your website?

There are always elements of your website that you will never be able to own – things like the web server that hosts your website, and the content management system – for example WordPress or Drupal. However, you should have ownership of the following elements:

  • HTML/CSS/javascript
  • The visual design of your website
  • The copy on your website

If you (or an employee) created the html, the design or the text of your website, you should own it. If this was put together by your web developer, it’s usual to receive a transfer of ownership on completion of the website and once it has been paid for

  • The images on your website

These will belong to you if you or an employee took them. If you are using images taken by a freelance photographer at your request, check the contract and the photographer’s terms of business. You may simply have a licence to use the images for specific purposes. The same applies to stock images.

  • The ‘finished assembled website

Perhaps the most important aspect to look out for in the contract with your web developer – this will allow you to rebuild your website on any platform in future.

What to do

Check the terms of the contract or agreement with your web developer which should specify who owns these elements of your website that are up for grabs. Remember that if you or an employee created content – text or images – this should belong to you regardless.

Where is your website ‘hosted’?

‘Hosting’ is the service which gives your website space on the internet, and allows people to access it. If everything’s running smoothly, then you may not have reason to question your hosting – but If you start to experience problems such as the website crashing, pages not loading – this may be a hosting issue.

Your website can be hosted as follows:

  • Shared server – where one server is hosting lots of websites

This is OK as long as no one programme or application starts taking up too much room

  • Virtual private server (VPS)- your website has a dedicated portion of server space

Reduces the risk of interference from the behaviour of other websites, but may cause problems if you experience a sudden spike in activity which effectively outgrows the allocated space.

  • Managed hosting – a more expensive option, usually built on a VPS or other dedicated server where the host manages things like internet performance and security.

Can limit what you can add to your website.

  • ‘Cloud’ hosting – your website is hosted on a number of servers, with the closest one to the internet user at the time providing access to the page requested.

What can I do?

Ask your web developer where and how your website is hosted. Understand the implications of the current hosting, where the limitations might be and what the benefits are. If everything is running well, there may be no need to take any action, but it gives you a benchmark to keep under review.

If there are any problems consider switching hosting companies. This is entirely possible, but you need to follow a procedure to do this – having first carried out a thorough analysis of the type of hosting your website needs and identified an appropriate host.

Is your website backed up?

Backing up your website is vital if you want to avoid the heartache, not to mention the expense, of recreating it from scratch if all goes horribly wrong. You should back up regularly, and before and after you make any changes to your website.

What can I do?

Setting up a back up schedule and a process for completing the back up isn’t hard, so invest the time to do this – or get a helpful web developer to sort this out for you. One of the most straightforward way of doing this is to use a File Transfer Protocol which links your website hosting account to your local computer network – or to a back up drive. Once this is in place, you can set up a back up schedule so the process happens automatically.

Is your website up to date?

A website can be out of date because it looks tired and old visually, in terms of design. It can also be out of date if there is content on the web pages that relate to events that have passed. Out of date course information for example. Special offers that were valid for weekends in October 2013. You may also have content that refers to events that happened ’10 years ago’ – but if that was written in 2016 to refer to events in 2006, well it’s going to be out of date very quickly.

What can I do?

Take some time to go through your website and check for anything that’s out of date within the copy on the pages. Update everything and ‘future proof’ it as far as you can. If you need to include date limited text – for example for a new special offer – make a note to go back in to your website and update it when the offer is over.

If you take a look at your website and get the feeling that it’s all just looking a bit old fashioned, you may need to give it a more general facelift. Talk to your web developer about the most cost – effective way to achieve this.

Is your website doing the job it was supposed to do when you first commissioned it?

Why do you have a website? Neither “Because everyone else has one” nor “Because a web developer told me I needed one” is the right answer. It’s true that most businesses need to have an online presence, and a website will be the foundation of that presence – but beyond that there are many more fundamental functions that your website will perform for your business. It may be your prime selling tool. It may be a way of gathering information about your customers. It may be there to provide information about your business. The purpose of your website (or the purposes – there can be more than one!) will inform what your website needs in terms of function. It follows that if you aren’t achieving those results, your website isn’t fit for purpose.

What can I do?

If you didn’t carry out this exercise when you commissioned your website, you should set aside some time to do so. You can then put some measures in place to see if it’s achieving those objectives. If you know what your website was intended to achieve, make it your business to understand how your website’s performance is being measured, and take a look at the results. If you don’t like what you see, well, perhaps you need to make some changes to your website.

Although this seems like a lot to do, it’s something you can tackle a bit at a time, and it shouldn’t take long. It will also be time well invested as you understand better how your website functions and performs, and how it benefits your business. If you’d like to discuss how we could help you with your digital audit, get in touch – it’s something we’ve been doing since 1997, and we’d love to help!