Technical audit

What is a technical audit?

Get insights on website performance, how well your checkout is set up, and how you can improve your page loading time.

Jump to: What data - How effective - Which findings - FAQ

What are the pros?

  • Relatively quick process
  • Likely to increase SEO
  • Diversity of findings
  • Often site-wide wins

What are the cons?

What data will be analyzed?

Performance

As summarized in an article by ConversionXL page loading speed matters. Not only do people expect pages to load in under 2 seconds, studies by Amazon also show that faster load times lead to more converting visitors.

Included in the website performance audit

  • Requests: As advised by Yahoo! and many others it's best to keep the number of requests to a minimum. By doing this, the browser has to fetch less content from the server, which decreases the time required to load the page.
  • Images: According to Web Performance Today the average web page currently loads on average 711 KB worth of images. In most cases, this amount can easily be reduced by changing which images are loaded, their filetypes and the compression that is applied to them.
  • Files: Referenced in the same article by Web Performance Today is the notion that more than half of all pages served to mobile contain 11+ JavaScript requests. Also, HTTP Archive Mobile shows that 50%+ of all pages served to mobile contain 3+ CSS stylesheets. All these files will increase the time needed to load the page, and should thus be evaluated for their necessity to providing an optimal experience for the visitor.
  • Caching: Saving files to the memory of a server or the visitor's computer (also called caching) cause websites to load much faster. Several external caching tactics are available, including services like CloudFlare. Web browsers are also capable of handling quite a bit of caching, assuming the headers of the website have been set up properly.
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Mobile

The market share taken by mobile devices has been steadily increasing for almost a decade now and is predicted to keep increasing for years to come (source). For instance, mobile ad spend is predicted to increase from $28.7 billion in 2015 to $65.8 billion in 2019. Also, ComScore discovered that now 57% of visitors to retail websites are using a combination of desktop, tablet and mobile devices to access websites.

Are you aware of the mix of devices on your website, and their associated conversion rates? If not, our web analytics service can help you with that.

Included in the mobile website audit

  • Checkout: As reported in a study conducted by Formisimo the completion rate for smartphone visitors who have already entered the checkout is on average 8.5%. Compared to the numbers of tablets (13.4%) and desktop computers (13.5%) this highlights the need to keep improving the mobile experience for visitors. Areas of attention high include aspects like a 'Save and Continue' option, invisible Call-To-Action buttons and reduction of the amount of form fields present.
  • Readability: We've discussed general rules of readability for websites on the ConversionReview blog in great depth already. Similar rules apply of mobile devices - such as a 16 pixels or higher font size and high contrast between background and text. However, because of the small screen and mobile nature of these devices, adhering to these rules becomes even more important.
  • Navigation: As written about by Brad Frost amongst many other authors, mobile navigation is a complex issue. Not only should the main navigation adapt to a variety of screen sizes, clickable elements should also be big enough, and clearly recognizable as buttons, to name just a few aspects.
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Forms

Forms are one of the most critical parts of a website. They are what stands in between an anonymous visitor and a new member, customer or lead. A deeper look into the importance of lead-gen, register and checkout forms is provided by Usabilla.

How good are your forms?

Do you want to learn well your forms are doing? Try our in-house online form analysis tool to get instant feedback on how you can improve your forms. Our manual analysis as part of a website review will be even more comprehensive.

Included in the web forms audit

  • Security: Forms will require people to fill in sensitive personal data. Therefore, it makes sense to provide those visitors with both a secure environment on the form itself and strong encryption of the data that they send through the form.
  • HTML5: Before input fields were all marked as 'text' types. Nowadays, with HTML5 adopted by all modern browsers, you can specify types like email and URL. By setting these correctly, mobile devices will display relevant keyboards and capable browsers will automatically inline validate these fields.
  • Help: Offerings visitors automatic or user-activated help can clarify what, how, where and why they should enter data in a field. This in turn will prevent people from being anxious about what is expected from them, and, therefore, more likely to complete the form.
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Learn how a technical audit can help to increase your revenue?

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How effective will this be?

Maturity level

Your maturity level indicates how well your organization has evolved in regards to its website and the technology that powers it. For instance, is your code currently under version control? Are you already using techniques such as HTML5, responsive design, and HTTPS? Also, are your teams already developing using SCRUM (or similar) methodologies?

While the technical audit is most effective for websites that haven't reached a high level of technical maturity yet, I have yet to find a website of any maturity level that didn't benefit in any way from an analysis of the technical aspects of their website.

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IT resources

Many of the findings that result from the audit have to be implemented by your IT people. Take for example the combining and compressing of JS and CSS files or modifications to your website template. Depending on the workload of the IT department and/or your ability to make such changes yourself, the effects of a technical audit might be limited or could take a while to be implemented. Also keep in mind that some of the findings will have to be implemented by either your systems administrator or your web host.

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Which findings will it deliver?

✓ Learn how to improve loading time

Often each of the performance optimization techniques individually reduces the loading time by no more than a couple hundred milliseconds, however combined they often lead to vastly faster loading websites (which in turn often lead to improved conversion rates). As outlined in more detail in our review of the Chevron website compressing images can often significantly reduce the loading time of a website. While the images on the Chevron website could 'only' be reduced by a couple hundred KB, it's not uncommon to find website that are loading 5+ MB of images on their front page which can easily be reduced to half of that amount.

✓ Find out how to convert more on mobile and tablet

We've already discussed the importance of mobile devices in this article. While many organizations have recently started to step up their efforts with regards to mobile devices, it's not uncommon to find glaring bugs in a website when it's submitted to a thorough technical audit on a smartphone or tablet. For example, on a website that we were asked to do a review for, we discovered that one of their high-value pages hadn't been optimized for mobile devices yet. In fact, it was entirely unusable on them (because the zoom had been locked, but the design wasn't scaled for mobile resolutions). Fixing this mistake instantly reduced the bounce rate on mobile devices for this group of pages.

✓ Discover ways to improve your SEO

While the website reviews aren't primarily aimed at improving the SEO of a website, because of the similarities between what visitors want, and what Google wants, it's a common and desired side-effect. For instance, in a recent review I discovered that a website showed an error whenever somebody entered the website without www (like example.org). Also, the HTTP version of the website wasn't properly forwarding to the HTTPS version, which caused them both to be included in the Google index. Making these changes - amongst many other recommendations - have improved this website's ranking in the search engines.

Do you need to have server access or load scripts?

No, I don't need access to your server in order to perform a technical analysis on your website. Nor do you need to share any passwords, load any scripts or have us see what's in your database or file system. I believe this to be both the safest solution and the one that respects the privacy of your users most.

How is that possible?

Most tools allow me to check the website without the need for any access to it. If, however, you do require any advanced analyses on your website (using tools like NewRelic) I can instruct you (or your team) on how to set these up.

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Any specific programming language or setup required?

No, I'm able to perform audits for websites written in any programming language or server platform, as long as it's accessible through a normal web browser.

How is that possible?

In the eyes of a web browser, it doesn't matter if a website is written in AngularJS, HTML5 or is based on AJAX. Nor does it make any difference whether it's hosted on a Windows server in ASP or a Linux server that processed PHP files. As long as the end result of this processing results in HTML, JS and CSS that can be parsed in a regular web browser.

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Does it matter if my website is a bit old?

If your hosting setup is old, and you don't intend on updating it soon, you won't be able to implement some of the findings. For instance, if your code is still dependent on bloated libraries like MooTools, reducing the page size will be more difficult. Similarly, if the software version on your server simply isn't capable of using GZIP compression, you won't be able to reap the benefits of such a technique.

Updated regularly?

However, if your platform is kept up-to-date regularly (which you should for security purposes anyway), a technical audit will very likely bring to light new findings to improve your website.

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