I have been asked many times when do I decide to I turn a site over to a client. You may be in the same boat. You might have just finished designing a site for a client. You’ve finally tweaked the front end look exactly how the client wants it to appear and act. Or maybe you’ve finished importing all of the clients data and content into WordPress and you’ve polished the theme and you think you are ready. Is there anything else you should be doing?
YES!!! It can be summed up in one word… “TESTING“.
Okay, so the guys over at WebDesign.com tell me I need to do testing, what does that mean? Well its a good thing I know that this is the question going through your mind, because I’m going to answer that question for you by providing five areas you need to check off before you turn the site over to a client.
First and most important, backup the site. I know this might sound crazy, but seriously, if you are not in the habit of creating backups of the sites you develop you are just asking for trouble. Especially if your site is a dynamic site and relies on a database to feed the content, you need to make sure you not only backup the site files but also the database. There is nothing more depressing or frustrating to hear 3 or 4 days after turning the site over to a client that they “screwed” up the site and can you “reset” the site… Um… yeah… Let me just hit that “RESET” button on my computer for you sir. So, when you think you are done with the site for a client (or yourself for that matter) make sure you backup your site. Also this is a great time to implement an automatic backup system that will continue to protect you and the client in the future. A great option if you are on WordPress is the BackupBuddy from PluginBuddy.com. This great plugin is an all-in-one solution for backups, restoration, and migration.
Second, you need to check the links. Not just look and see if the links are highlighted, or if your cool little hover animations is working. I mean you should literally click on EVERY single link that is on EVERY single page. Please do not assume all the links work, because when you do you will receive that late night call from a client claiming that his website is “broken”. And if you’ve had one too many drinks, you just might be tempted to answer with some rational why you will bring a sledgehammer and wrench over to his house in just a few minutes to “fix” his problem. So, if you want to be spared from this embarrassment, remember to test and check ALL your links. Also, a good rule of thumb is never to underline text that is NOT a link because that just ends up confusing grandma and there’s nothing worse than a ranting grandma on Twitter talking smack about how your client’s site is “broken”. And while you’re checking links, make sure that the links to your RSS feeds (if the site offers them) actually work and correctly bring the feeds into a feed reader.
If you are reading this post you are probably a developer or a designer (or chasing after this title). So it is important for you to come to the realization that not everyone runs the same hacked-beta version of Firefox with a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160. So the third test you should do is a cross-browser compatibility test. You will learn quickly that it will be important for sites you create to look good and operate correctly on many different browsers and settings. Make sure your site works well in the several of the browsers like Opera, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 & 8, and one or two mobile browsers like the iPhone, Blackberry, and an Android phone. (Notice that I didn’t mention IE 6, this is on purpose. I normally include code on my sites from http://ie6update.com/ to take care of this problem.)
You’ve made it this far in the post, so I’m going to assume that you are actually interested in delivering the best possible experience for your clients. Many developers forget one area of the site where a true custom “signature” can be placed. The fourth step before handing the site over to a client is to create a useful and helpful 404 page. A majority of traffic on a website will bail on the site once they hit a 404 page. Your clients will appreciate the extra work you put into the site that keeps their customers ON their website rather than chases them away. So the simple task of supplying a helpful 404 page with links to the home page, suggestions on what might interest the client, or some other way to encourage the visitor to stay on the site rather than to run away.
Finally, something that should be common knowledge, make sure you optimize the site before the client gets their hands on it. In my previous post about using Chrome as part of your web development toolkit, I touched on the Developer Tools. The Developer Tools built into Chrome comes with the ability to track and itemize all resources on a page. The information provided can help you optimize a site. It can show you where your bottlenecks are occurring when a page is loaded. And the simple task of running your sites through this Resource tool you will find which images need to be optimized and cut down in size and which scripts and style sheets could be tweaked to get the page to load faster.
So to summarize:
- Backup the site
- Check the links
- Check the compatibility on multiple browsers
- Create a useful 404 page
These five tasks will not only lead to a happier client but will allow you to sleep through the night. Do you have a checklist of things you do before calling a site finished?