Ecommerce websites are the sum of many moving parts with complex features to manage content, product information, customers, and order processing. There’s no shortage of potential pitfalls to get in the way of the success of these websites, but with proper hosting platform testing, we can help to avoid most common ecommerce website failures. So what should you be scanning, testing, auditing, and assessing? Here’s our shortlist of beneficial checks and tests:
No one wants to shop on a slow ecommerce website, websites should be blazing fast. The best way to identify what’s holding back your website is to separately test the promotional and product sections. There are a variety of types of tests that you can run to look for opportunities to compress and minify files and otherwise serve up clean and efficient code. We recommend starting with a time to first byte (TTFB) test which will help you to identify the server-side bottlenecks between your web host and the web browser.
If your site suffers from security breaches, you’ll quickly wish that you could turn back time. While a proactive ecommerce security strategy is your best bet, it’s always a good time to run an ecommerce security scan.
PCI Compliance Scan
If your website accepts credit cards, you should be reconfirming on a regular basis that you’re adhering to standards and regulations set by the payment card industry (PCI DSS). This includes scanning your site for particular security issues that are related to compliance. This is a relatively easy process if you start with PCI compliant web hosting.
Is your website ready for Black Friday and other ecommerce traffic spikes? Are you wondering how you can be sure? Then, you should be arranging for an ecommerce load test which will test your site and hosting environment for bottlenecks. Even with an autoscaling hosting environment, you need to know that your hosting configurations and your website theme files, extensions, apps, integrations, and other components are ready to perform during a traffic surge.
A variety of SEO tools can help your ecommerce site to perform better and rank better. In fact, many of the principles that we’ve written about in this article, such as speeding up your website, can impact your SEO. Search engines like Google have a vested interest in promoting websites that shoppers will be happy with – otherwise, shoppers may eventually stop using Google.
However, there’s more to SEO than contributing factors like speed. For instance, you can use more specific tests to check for properly-optimized header tags, title tags, and meta descriptions for each page on your website.
Is your ecommerce site easy for shoppers with disabilities to navigate and use? Not only can making your site more ADA compliant help you to support all of your shoppers in an equitable way, but it can also help your marketing, such as by improving your search engine rankings. For instance, properly filling out Alt Tags for images helps visually impaired shoppers who use software to read your Alt Tags to them. Those same Alt Tags are read by search engines and can help your SEO rankings for your target keyword phrases.
User Acceptance Test
Does the website work the way that you intend it to? Are you sure? The way to find out is to test. User acceptance testing includes placing test orders on your site and must be conducted whenever code changes are being pushed out, whether those are site patches or updates, changes to theme files, the addition of new extensions or features, as well as during any changes to your website hosting environment. If contact forms, checkout features, and other functionality don’t work for you, they certainly won’t work for your customers.
Quality Assurance Test
While user acceptance testing is important from a shopper’s point of view, there can be deeper problems lurking beneath the surface. This includes errors that may not cause issues for customers in the short term, but that could lead to security, maintenance, or performance issues in the long run. Your development team should be adhering to coding best practices and should put their work through a quality assurance review. Ideally, this should include a QA testing software to help automate some of the processes.
Mobile & Cross-Browser Testing
Does your site load well and work well on the latest iPhone iOS release? What about Android devices? How about in desktop or mobile Firefox? Or Safari? Just because your site looks good and is easy to navigate on some devices and with some web browsers, does not mean that it’s a universal truth. The best course of action is to check your site using your choice tests.
Broken Link Checker
Your site is full of web pages and links between those pages (internal links). It’s also likely that you link to outside websites (outbound links), such as to your corporate pages on social media sites like Facebook and Linkedin. Additionally, other websites link to web pages within your ecommerce store (inbound links). You should be using software to test for any broken internal links that lead shoppers to 404 or other error messages instead of the intended webpages. You should also keep an eye out for inbound links that go to pages that no longer exist – these should be redirected to active pages.
Is your SSL certificate installed properly, is it up-to-date, and when does it expire? You should check to make sure that your encryption of important data, like credit card information, is indeed meeting current standards.
Search engines need to be able to find all of the pages in your website if you want those pages to rank. That includes all of your products, categories, blog posts, and so forth. You can submit your sitemaps to major search engines, such as through Google’s Search Console, and test your sitemaps to make sure that they aren’t generating errors.
While you’re verifying your sitemaps, make sure that your Robots.txt file can be properly read by search engines like Google, and that it’s allowing (and blocking) resources as-needed.
A/B or Multivariate Tests
So your site is operating properly, but you wish it was doing better. It could be, couldn’t it? You can use software to display different text, images, banners, discounts, buttons, and other “treatments” to subsets of users, and see which generate the best results for your website. Some software will even stack tests together to see how different site changes perform when used together.
Duplicate Content Audit
Do pages within your website use the same content as other pages on your website or pages on other websites? Whether an honest mistake or malicious plagiarism of your work, duplicate content can negatively impact your search engine rankings. It can also be a sign of stale content that’s not going to help you stand out from the crowd. Consider testing your site using services that work much like the software that colleges use to see if you found your term paper content online without citing the authors.
Structured Data Assessment
Search engines can display more than the titles and descriptions of your pages in search engine results. In the case of ecommerce stores, they can feed vital information like product pricing to search engines and aggregators. You can test to make sure that your structured data, often referred to as rich snippets, are available and not generating errors when search engines try to read them.
Do you really need to run ALL of these tests? If you want to ensure that your ecommerce website is healthy and meeting its potential, probably. However, you can be selective. For instance, if you’re not particularly focused on your search engine rankings, you may not want to invest as much time on SEO testing. On the other hand, you might uncover valuable information along the way. Sometimes, it’s better to know where you stand.