Testing: Does Your Web Site Work?

Testing your website is making certain it works as you've planned it. Will it work for most of your viewers given a diversity of environments? Will it work at your remote server location as well it does at your PC? Does it convey the intended message to your audience?

Here's a checklist of some things to look for.

 

Does the website seem to work the same on the server as it did for you at the PC? Answering 'Yes' here will ensure that the upload was faithful and that all the necessary components were available to the server.
 

Have you thoroughly tested all server-supported features which you couldn't test at your PC? This would be things like CGI scripts, 'mailto:' links, feedback forms, guestbooks, discussion boards .......
 

Are your links all valid? This, of course, could not be tested at your PC. If you don't have too many, just try them yourself as though you were one of your viewers. If you have a large number, you would do well to use an HTML editor which has the ability to 'verify external hyperkinks'. All the good ones will.
 
Do the links come up in the window you've intended? That might be in a new window, in a frame of your frameset, or perhaps even to replace your window.
 

Have you solicited feedback from friends and associates? This will help you understand whether your site:
 
Is intuitive and easy to navigate ...

Is technically accurate ...
 
Emits a tone or 'aura' consistent with its theme.
 
If your audience is children, are you playful enough and use bright colors, and perhaps some music. If your audience is the business professional, do you ever overexplain the subject matter, is your grammar impeccable?
 
Here's your chance to find out if you have any really good friends. If you can find at least 6 or more people whose opinions you respect and who will be honest with you, ask them what they like and what they don't like. Here's your chance for objective opinion on your use of colors, pictures, sounds, navigation aids, and all the things which will make your site appealing to the 'world'. This may be also be your best opportunity to have your spelling, punctuation, grammar and sense of organization scrutinized.
 

How is the performance of your site? Do the pages load quickly, especially the first page (say 20 seconds or sooner). If things appear slow, is it your server, the time of day or night you're logged on, the size of your pages, the weight of your  graphics or sound files?
 
The people who are giving you their feedback can tell you if your performance 'seemed' OK. This is meaningful feedback because you'll probably have variances in the time of day they use the internet, the speed of their computers and modems, the Internet providers they use, telephone line quality and other factors.
 
If your pages are slow to load, there are some techniques which help. You can place links to other pages high up on your page or in a contents frame, so that people can click a link prior to the page being fully loaded. Also, if you have a lot of graphics, specify their height and width so that the browser can pre-format the page for quicker loading. Along with this, give names to these graphics (in HTML it is the ALT= parameter) so that your viewers will know what the graphics are before they are actually loaded. Make your larger graphic images 'interlaced' GIF files or 'progressive' JPG files. These are the ones which paint and repaint until they're completely filled in.

Anything which catches the viewer's eye and shows progress has a calming effect and will make them just a bit more patient.  Avoid really large pictures and sound files or make them optional if you can. If you must have large graphics, consider making thumbnail links for people to select at their option. They have to be a bit more patient if they've made the decision to download it. If they know that the link is going to bring them an 8 by 10 picture of your prize winning oil painting or a large sound bite of your two year old belting out the National Anthem, they'll be content to wait a bit.
 
Psychology can play a large role in satisfying your viewers. If you can't have really quick loading pages, give them a reason to wait or divert their attention, or perhaps place a short page before a really large one.
 
My topic on Publishing Your Web [Uploading] was very long, so I laced it with clip-art and animations to distract you a bit from the text. (Did it work?)
 

Does your site play well with different browsers? This is a most important consideration, especially if are using techniques that not all browsers support, like java, javascript, stylesheets, exotic sound files, and richly colored photographs. Were you conservative in your selection of color depth and screen resolution (see PC Considerations, 'Displays' for some thoughts on this). Unfortunately not everyone has a screaming 800 MHz Pentium or a Mac from Steve Jobs' private collection.
 
You probably cannot produce a web design that will satisfy all browsers and still be somewhat 'hi-tech' and attractive. But, that is becoming significantly easier as technology races along.
 
My own current goal is to have  my web site work with Netscape Navigator versions 3 thru 5, Internet Explorer 4 and 5, America Online 4 and 5 and,  to a degree, WebTV, as much as is reasonably possible given its screen limitations. I don't consider it unreasonable to have people turn on java and javascript, but I will still allow that they have not.

A primary reason I included the Contact Sam topic is to find out from some viewers whether I 'missed the boat' in some areas. If my site has problems I want to know about it. I'm sure I didn't test for everything. My nightmare is getting hate mail from 22,000,000 AOL members , and I try hard to avoid that.