Like every creative process, building a website happens in stages. And while there’s a ton of material and support when it comes to designing, planning, naming, and promoting your website, lots of first-time builders have a hard time knowing what to do when it’s time to test a website.
As this is one of the most important steps of building a website (your website isn’t finished until it’s been tested) we’ve put together this simple, step-by-step guide to help you test a website as well as understand why doing so is important.
Why you need to test a website
Testing your website confirms that it works as intended. It proves (or disproves) that all of your ideas and efforts have come together in a functional, useful way. If you can’t confirm this before you launch your website, you’re accepting a huge risk.
Additionally, testing your website helps you ensure that it’ll work well for everyone. You can check its performance at different internet speeds, test your accessibility features, and create the most consistent experience on your site possible.
How to test a website in 4 steps
Step 1: Functionality testing
When you think of testing a website, you’re probably thinking of functionality testing. This is the process of making sure that all the fundamental elements of your website work as intended. You’re checking for errors, broken links, and anything that is going to fail when a user tries to use it.
This should be the first type of testing you conduct so that when in later stages of testing, you know that the problems aren’t tied to your site’s functionality.
What to test during functionality testing
The first thing you’ll want to check during functionality testing is your links. After all, links are what connect every aspect of your website to every other aspect. Check that every link on your first page leads where it’s supposed to, then check every link on your second page, and so on.
From there, you’ll want to check anything with an input or output and anything that provides feedback. Make sure that each of these also has a response for when they fail or receive incorrect data. Then check that your cookies work as expected, as well as your HTML and CSS.
Step 2: Usability testing
Usability testing is the process of evaluating how easily your demographic of users can use your website. This goes beyond simple navigation, though that is also important. You want to see how quickly users learn to use your website, how clear links and input boxes are, and that the visual narrative of your website is clear.
To make sure that the results of this test are legitimate, the testers you choose must be representative of your target audience. You aren’t going to learn much about your website’s usability if you have college students testing a website for retirees.
What to test during usability testing
During usability testing, you want to test navigation, content, and overall usability. Remember, you aren’t testing the functionality of these — you’re testing how easily your users can interact with and understand them.
For navigation, that means making sure that users can find their way to the content they want in just a few clicks and that menus are clear and organized.
For content, you’re checking for clarity, grammar mistakes, simple instructions, and readability.
For overall usability, you want to see how convenient your website is, how helpful or unhelpful navigation is, what is unnecessary, and how your users feel after using your website.
Step 3: Compatibility testing
Compatibility testing is used to test a website for compatibility on various platforms and browsers. Depending on how your website was built, this might be a tedious process. However, it’s become easier to build cross-platform and cross-browser websites.
Every browser, device, and operating system is going to display your website slightly differently. This is why compatibility testing can be so time-consuming. However, skipping this step could end up alienating users on a platform that your site isn’t compatible with.
What to test during compatibility testing
The first thing to test in compatibility testing is operating system compatibility. This refers to how your website appears and functions on each platform on which you have users: Windows, iOS, macOS, Linux, Android, and so on.
Next, you’ll want to look to cross-browser testing. This is pretty simple; you just want to make sure that your website appears the same on Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and so on.
Lastly, you’ll want to check the visual elements of your website across these platforms. Fonts, graphics, and servers should all remain responsive regardless of platform. Remember to consider how these appear both on desktop and mobile. Especially since users visit websites via both of these options; with mobile accounting for around 50% of all web sessions.
Step 4: Performance testing
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that your website performance is acceptable. Your website’s performance refers to how quickly and reliably it responds to user interactions.
For performance testing, you’ll want to evaluate your website at various levels of stress. This includes different levels of user requests on a low-bandwidth connection up to a high-bandwidth connection. You want to find your website’s breaking points and adjust accordingly.
What to test during performance testing
As mentioned, to performance test a website you need to find its breaking points. That means adding stress to your website in various ways under various conditions. This includes:
- Seeing how your website behaves as you increase its workload
- Assessing how your website responds when you go beyond its intended workload
- Analysing how it responds to an excessive data volume
- Testing how it handles being accessed by multiple users at once
- Testing how long it can handle each of these types of workloads
Testing a website is an ongoing process
One of the most important things to keep in mind when testing a website is that it’s an ongoing process. You aren’t finished just because you’ve completed these four steps. Browsers, operating systems, users, and even your website are going to continue evolving.
About Saber Feedback
Saber Feedback is an essential tool for ongoing testing. Add a Saber Feedback button to your website and your customers can report typos, mistakes, broken links, and outdated information instantly.