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A thorough audit of any website covers numerous aspects. In this blog series we will take a look at each in turn and to start us off let's audit some functionality.

Website Functionality

The functionality of a website is how it works or how it functions. A website's functionality can be straightforward and simple, you click on a link and view a page, which leads to another page containing a form where you can submit an enquiry to the organisation whose site you are on.

From there websites can get a whole lot more complicated, containing hundreds or even thousands of pages, incorporating a site search, ecommerce with payment integration, full content management systems and specific functionality that may not be readily apparent when viewing the website as a normal user.

Users Hate Errors

Recent research earlier this month carried out by Tealeaf and covered by Econsultancy found that 45% of those who shopped online encountered website problems while doing their Christmas shopping, and 32% abandoned purchases as a result.

So if 1 in 3 users are prepared to forget purchasing from your website if they encounter a problem with your website then it is vitally important to iron as many out as possible.

Start by browsing the website, think about how the website appears to someone new to it that has never seen the site or visited it before. Keep this in mind at all times when testing or auditing your website, we will cover usability and user testing later in this series but it is important to always have the user in mind, you will pick up a lot more issues and the website will be better for it.

Just by generally browsing the website you will start to put a list of items together but go into more detail, check each page or at least section page thoroughly to look for errors and other issues. When you do your second page, concentrate on the home page first, then each main page or perhaps go through each page in order of most visited. If the website is large then think about the different types of pages or templates there are and check one of each type of template thoroughly to look for bugs. Remember, it is functionality we are auditing and so it is not so vital to check the text, images or carry out any browser checking at this stage.

For any specific functionality, such as a shopping system, site search or any custom functionality then spend extra time on these aspects to thoroughly test for problems.

Most of this work involves manually browsing the website, clicking on each link, moving from page to page, trying every combination depending on what functionality you are auditing.

Automated Tools

Automated tools can help such as broken link checkers and other scanning tools. However, understanding of how the website should work and where pages should link needs to be applied by a real person. In this way, automated tools can point the way to a problem but then further investigation and detailed testing needs to be carried out in order to follow up on what the scanning tool or link checker found.

Usually, the best way is to start by manually checking through the website and then use a link checker or scanning software to scan each page or link and find any further issues.

Finding Errors

Errors found can range from simple problems such as an image not loading in or a link not taking you to the correct page to serious issues such as a shopping basket not adding up the total correctly or integration with payment providers not working.

Basic errors affect site quality and can negatively impact user's perception of the website and therefore your organisation. If you only find basic functionality errors when carrying out a website audit then the process has been successful and you can gain peace of mind that the website is working as intended.

More serious issues can directly impact revenue obtained from the website either in product purchases or sales enquiries as well as affect how the user perceives your organisation. A detailed website audit will find these issues so that they can be put right.

Audit Functionality Regularly

A regular review of your website will make sure it continues to operate as it should. Ongoing developer or site updates can affect previously tested functionality and have an impact that does not get picked up at the time. Regularly checking your website and carrying out a similar website audit will help to keep the site working correctly for each user that views it.

If your website is undergoing site developments on a frequent basis then an audit every 3 or 6 months, in addition to the site updates being fully tested, would be suitable.

Key Points

  • Start by browsing the website - think from the point of view of the user
  • Then go into more detail - spend time testing the home page and main pages
  • Extra time should be spent checking custom or more complicated functionality
  • Don't rely on automated tools
  • Perform an audit regularly

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, let me know what you think about auditing website functionality in the comments.

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