Managing and Marketing a website isn’t particularly difficult. It’s usually just a matter of knowing what to do, how to do it and having the skills and time to get it done. With that said, marketing a website isn’t particularly easy either. There are so many factors and variables in play that at any given time that the job can be quite overwhelming. It is also very important to keep up with this ever changing medium. Not every business owner wants to or has the time to learn what to do to manage their website properly, but then some do and that’s fine for them. Either way, it is important for the business owner to know about the basics and understand what is necessary to make your web site successful.

Below is our web site design and Internet marketing checklist for launching a new web site or for periodic review. These topics include things such as website development, SEO, usability, accessibility, etc. This list doesn’t cover any “how tos,” which are essential ingredients to successful Internet marketing, but sometimes you need to first know what to do so you can then discover how to do it.

We have kept each check point to its briefest form providing very little explanation. We don’t cover why any particular item is included, how important it might be, or what it even means. This is just the checklist in its rawest form to help you get started and to assist you in your research:

Domain name & URLs
The domain name is part of the identity of your business. The URL chosen can have a significant impact on brand identity and in a lesser extent, keyword ranking performance. However, how your site domain name and page URLs function can have significant impact on how search engine friendly your site is as well as overall visitor and traffic performance.

Checklist Items:

Short and memorable: Keep primary domain name short and, if possible, something easy to remember.
No: creative-widget-solution-factory.com
Yes: widgetfactory.com
Uses Keywords: Use targeted keywords in your business name, and therefore domain name.
No: degeyter-enterprises.com
Yes:: batterystuff.com
Used in email addresses: Don’t use free email accounts for business, rather use your business domain name for all business communications.
No: pimpmcfly@aol.com
Yes:: stoney@polepositionmarketing.com
Uses Favicon: Make sure your favicon shows in the address bar (create one if you must.)
Site.com redirect to www. version: Set a canonical URL and be sure the other version 301 redirects. site.com redirects to www.site.com or vice versa
Alternate Domain redirects: Make sure all alternate domain names 301 redirect to the primary domain to prevent potential duplicate site issues. batteryfreaks.com redirects to batterystuff.com
Home page redirects to root: Your Home Page should be accessible from the domain root only, not the page file name. www.site.com/index.html redirects to www.site.com
No underscores in filenames: Don’t use underscores in filenames, go with hyphens instead.
No: /web_design.html
Yes:: /web-design.html
Keywords in directory names: Use keywords in directory names wherever applicable.
No: /category1234/product5678.html
Yes:: /web-design/content-management.html
Multiple pages per directory: Don’t create directories for a single page but organize directories so multiple pages fit in a single directory.
No: honda-chargers/honda-chargers.html, yamaha-chargers/yamaha-chargers.html
Yes:: chargers/honda.html, chargers/yamaha.html
Registered for 5+ years: Keep your domain name registered for 5-10 years at a time, rather than renewing year to year.
Multiple versions: Purchase multiple versions of your domain name, including .com, .org, .net, .biz, hyphenations between words, common misspellings. Also purchase alternate domain names such as product names, brand names and any other keywords that might be typed in randomly.

Browser issues
The browser is (obviously) what we use to view websites. The goal is to give the visitor the best browsing experience possible, but we have to keep in mind that not all browsers are the same. We must make sure to accommodate different users, ensuring that they get the most value out of the site possible.

Checklist Items:

Visible address bar: Make sure the browser’s address bar is always visible to allow the visitor to know what site and page they are on.
Fully functional navigation tools: Don’t take away the users ability to maneuver the site using the browser’s navigational buttons (back, forward, view source, etc.)
Visible status bar: Don’t take away the status bar at the bottom of the browser. Information here can be valuable to the user.
Site works in multiple browsers: Make sure the site functions properly across multiple browsers and various platforms.
No browser hi-jacking: When visitors click a link, don’t hijack their browser by opening new windows that automatically resize. Let the visitor control how they want links to open.

Site logo
The logo lends directly to brand identity and site identification. It also creates a certain element of appeal and professionalism in the mind of the visitor. It holds an important role in visitor assurance and navigation.

Checklist Items:

Displays company name clearly: Your company name should not be lost in the logo. Eliminate unnecessary eye-candy so company name is proudly displayed.
Isn’t hidden among clutter: Don’t clutter up your top navigation to the point that the logo is lost in the mess. Make sure it stands out from the rest of the header info.
Links to home page: Logo should always link to the home page. Even if you have a “home” navigational link many users attempt to click the logo first.
Unique and original: Make sure your logo isn’t copied or near-duplicated from others. Create one that is original and unique to you alone.
Use tag line consistently across site: If you don’t have a tag line, make one and use it wherever your logo is displayed.

Design considerations
The site design is essentially the first impression that someone gets when they land on your site. You may have all your usability and SEO elements in place, but if the design is lacking then your visitor’s impression of you will be lacking as well. A visually appealing site can not only bolster trust and credibility, but it can make you stand out among other less-appealing sites in your industry.

Checklist Items:

Instant site identification: As soon as landing on any page the visitor must be able to tell what website they are on.
Crisp, clean image quality: Don’t use old or blurry images. Keep them neat, clean and sharp.
Clean, clutter-less design: Avoid trying to do too much at once. Keep navigation and content areas clear of unnecessary clutter.
Consistent colors and type: Use the same colors and font styles from page to page.
Whitespace usage: Don’t pack too much in, allow some breathing room so important areas stick out.
Minimal distractions: Be careful of images, animation and even links that pull the visitor into unwanted directions.
Targets intended audience: Make certain that your design targets your audience with appropriate colors, layout and wording.
Meets industry best practices: Design to be the best site in your industry. If there are industry-specific guidelines to be followed, be sure to do that.
Easy to navigate: Make it is easy for your visitor to find the links they need to take them to their desired pages.
Descriptive links: All links should accurately describe the destination page.
Good on-page organization: Put page information together in a logical way and keep information where it is expected to be found.
Easy to find phone number: Phone number should be easy to find regardless of page the visitor is on. The header is a great place for the phone number.
Don’t link screen captures: It’s not a good idea to link screen captures to other pages. Use text links or buttons.
Skip option for flash: If you use flash animations, have an option to skip it or turn it off all together.
Consistent page formatting: Use a consistent layout from page to page so the site feels like one cohesive unit.
No/minimal on-page styling: Use external CSS for all on-page styling. Only keep on the page what is specific for that page only.
Avoid text in images: Don’t place quality keyword rich text in images.
Font size is adequate: Don’t use excessively small fonts. Larger fonts increase readability of content.
Font type is friendly: Use fonts meant for the web, rather than fonts designed for print.
Paragraphs not too wide: Don’t allow paragraphs to get too wide. Use absolute widths if necessary.
Visual cues to important elements: Be sure important links and action items stand out visually from the rest of the content.
Good overall contrast: Make sure text can be read (black on white) and colors don’t bleed into each other.
Low usage of animated graphics: Avoid animated graphics unless absolutely essential to the user experience.
Uses obvious action objects: Calls to actions, links and subscribe buttons should be obvious at a glance.
Avoid requiring plugins: Don’t use plugins that visitors have to download before getting the full site experience.
Minimize the use of graphics: Don’t make your site graphic heavy to the point where the visitor is overwhelmed with visual eye-candy.
Understandable graphic file names: Name your images and other files in a way that makes sense if read.
No: /images/BDJ2330.jpg
Yes: /images/boys-denali-jacket.jpg
No horizontal scrolling: Make sure the design is not so wide that horizontal scrolling is required.
Non-busy background: Keep site background unobtrusive to the main content areas of the site.
Recognizable look and feel: Your site design should be distinctive to you alone. Avoid templates that are mass reproduced.
Proper image / text padding: Give enough room between images and text so they don’t bump up against each other.
Uses trust symbols: Better Business Bureau, site security and other trust symbols should be in obvious (and applicable) locations.
Works on variety of resolutions: Test site to be sure it works on a variety of different screen resolutions.
Works on variety of screen widths: Test site to be sure it functions correctly on different width screens and browser windows.

Architectural issues
Website architecture can make or break the performance of a website in the search engines. Poor architectural implementation can create numerous stumbling blocks, if not outright roadblocks, to the search engines as they attempt to crawl your website. On the other hand, a well-implemented foundation can assist both visitors and search engines as they navigate through your website, therefore increasing your site’s overall performance.

Checklist Items:

Correct robots.txt file: Make sure robots.txt file is free from errors that can otherwise block search engines from indexing important pages.
Declare doctype in HTML: Implement proper doctype declaration across all site pages and code accordingly.
Validate HTML:You don’t have to have 100% compliant code, but eliminate as many errors as possible throughout site.
Don’t use frames: Find alternate ways of displaying framed content.
Alt tag usage on images: Every visual image should use alternate text.
Custom 404 error page: Make sure broken links lead to a custom 404 page to keep visitors on the site.
Printer friendly: Print a few pages to ensure that the result is readable. Create alternate CSS if necessary.
Underlined links: Hyperlinks in body copy should always be underlined.
Differing link text color: Linked text in body copy should be a different color than standard body text.
Breadcrumb usage: Be sure breadcrumbs are used and are effective at letting visitor know where they are in the site.
Nofollow cart links: Any links pointing to shopping cart, or adding products should not be followable by the search engines. Add nofollow attribute if necessary.
Robots.txt non-user pages: Any pages that are not intended to be listed in search results should be dissallowed in robots.txt.
Nofollow non-important links Don’t send link juice to pages that you don’t want to appear in the search results.
Review noindex usage: Consider necessary usage of the robots meta tag for pages that should not be indexed.
Validate CSS: Use proper markup for CSS to ensure proper rendering.
Check broken links: Perform a broken link check and fix all broken links.
No graphics for ON/YES, etc.: When using yes/no, on/off comparisons, don’t rely solely on images to make the point.
Page size less than 50K: Keep pages small for fast loading.
Flat directory structure: Keep page/url directory structure as flat as possible while still intellectually organized.
Proper site hierarchy: Ensure navigation and directory structure adhere to a sensible hierarchy structure.
Unique titles on all pages: Each page should have its own distinct title in the tags.
Title reflects page info and heading: Title tag should reflect page content and uppermost page heading.
Unique descriptions on pages: Each page should have its own distinct meta description.
No long-tail page descriptions: Pages capturing long-tail keywords may not need a description at all.
Proper bulleted list formats: Be sure bulleted lists use proper markup
No code bloat: Check for excessive code bloat and make pages as lean as possible.
Minimal use of tables: Keep table usage to a minimum. Remove whenever possible.
Navigation uses absolute links: All global navigation should use absolute links at all times.
Good anchor text: Use keyword rich text in hyperlinks, both in navigation and in body copy.
Text can be resized: Make sure content can be resized by the visitor as necessary.
Key concepts are emphasized: Make sure each page places appropriate emphasis on it’s key information.
CSS less browsing: View pages with CSS turned off and make sure site can still be properly browsed.
Image-less browsing: Turn off images and browse site, making sure it can be properly navigated and understood.
Summarize all tables: When using tables be sure to summarize it’s contents.

Navigation

Located top or top-left
Consistent throughout site
Links to Home page
Links to Contact Us page
Links to About Us page
Simple to use
Indicates current page
Links to all main sections
Proper categorical divisions
Non-clickable is obvious
Accurate description text

Links to Login
Provides Logout link
Uses Alt attribute in images
No pop-up windows
No new window links
Do not rely on rollovers
Avoid cascading menus
Keep scent from page to page
Targets expert and novice users
Absolute links

Content

Grabs visitor attention
Exposes need
Demonstrates importance
Ties need to benefits
Justifies and calls to action
Gets to best stuff quickly
Reading level is appropriate
Customer focused
Benefits and features
Targets personas
Provides re-assurances
Answers WIIFM

Consistent voice
Eliminate superfluous text
Reduce /explain industry jargon
No typo, spelling or grammar errors
Contains internal contextual links
Links out to authoritative sources
Enhancing keyword usage (SEO)
Date published on articles/news
Web version of PDF docs available
Consistent use of phrasing
No unsubstantiated statements

Content Appearance

Short paragraphs
Uses sub-headings
Uses bulleted lists
Calls to action on all pages
Good contrast

No overly small text for body
No overly small text for headings
Skimmable and scannable
Keep link options in close proximity

Links and buttons

Limit the number of links on a page
Avoid small buttons and tiny text for links
Leave space between links and buttons
Avoid using images as the only link

Link important commands
Underline all links
Accurately reflects the page it refers

Home page

No splash page
Instant page identification
Provides overview of site

Site purpose is clear
Robot meta: NOODP,NOYDIR

About Us page

Adequately describes company
Shows team biographies
Shows mission statement
Up to date information
Links to support pages:
Contact page

Investor relations
Company news
Registration info
Job opportunities
Newsletters

Contact Us page

Easy to find
Multiple contact options:
Phone
Fax
Email
Form
Chat
Customer feedback
Street map
Hours of operation

Multiple points of contact:
Customer service
Tech support
Inquiries
General info
Job applications
Billing
Management team
Ad-free
Form requires only essential info

Help and FAQ pages

Avoid marketing hype
Allow Help search
Provide printable text
Link to additional resources:

User guides
Product support
Customer support
Downloads

Forms and errors

Flexible entry requirements
Allow for tabbing between fields
Proper tab order
Clear field labels
Text label above field box
Only require necessary information
Minimal instructions
Instructions above field
Friendly error output
Errors obviously indicated
Errors describe remedy
Errors provide contact / help option
Preserved data with errors
Provide pre-selected choices
Don’t overdo choices

Note required fields
Progress indicator
Progress navigation
Remove navigation
Link to privacy information
Final info verification check
Confirmation/thank you page
Stack fields vertically
Proper use of radio buttons
Keep “submit” close to fields
Field boxes adequately wide
No “reset” or “cancel” buttons
Autocomplete=off as necessary
Buttons denote action

Site search

Located in top-right corner
Search not case sensitive
Properly labeled as “search”
Link to “advanced search”
Forgiving of misspellings
Shows similar products
Shows related items in results
No “no products found”
Provide refinement options
Provide alternate spellings

Provide links to relevant pages
Show search string in results
Don’t place results in tables
Display exact matches first
Display close matches second
Bold query words in results
Display titles with descriptions
No more than 20 results p/ page
Option to increase result p/ page
Link to additional results pages

Privacy and Security pages

Present info in easy to read format
Make information easily scannable
Provide section summaries
Identify information types collected
Explain how cookies are used

Explain how user information will be used
Explain how info will be protected
Provide additional protection tutorials
Link to these pages in footer
Provide links to contact info

Site map

Present info in easy to read format
Make information easily scannable
Provide section summaries
Identify information types collected
Explain how cookies are used
Keep information current
Link to site map in footer

Linked from help and 404 pages
Provide overview paragraph
Provide intro to main sections
Visible site hierarchy
Descriptive text and links
Link to xml sitemap in robots.txt file