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Website Checklist #4 - Developer's Checklist

Website Design and Development ChecklistsOur series on website checklists continues with a post on the items we incorporate into the development phase of our website projects.

This checklist is a little more technical than the others, but hopefully we can shed some light on the importance of these to-do items. Our developer’s checklist is especially thorough, as the work in this phase impacts the site’s performance and also helps optimize the site for search engines.

Here are some highlights from our developer checklist:
  • Use semantic page structure. Make sure all pages have a hierarchical structure that incorporates headings related to the keyword content of the page.  For example, taken from the Web Style Guide:

<h1>This is the most important headline</h1>

<p>This is ordinary paragraph text within the body of the document, where certain
words and phrases may be <em>emphasized</em> to mark them as <strong>particularly important</strong>.</p>

<h2>This is a headline of secondary importance to the headline above</h2>

<p>Any time you list related things, the items should be marked up in the form of a list:</p>

<li>A list signals that a group of items are conceptually related to each other</li>
<li>Lists may be ordered (numbered or alphabetic) or unordered (bulleted items)</li>
<li>Lists may also be menus or lists of links for navigation </li>
<li>Cascading Style Sheets can make lists look many different ways</li>

  • Use Meta tags – title, description, etc.  These tags help search engines understand the key topics covered on a site and its individual pages.
  • Use friendly URLs.  Make sure URLs are relevant and accurate so they properly describe a page’s content to visitors and search engines.
  • Incorporate the correct use of rel canonical if there’s any duplicate content on a site.  This tag tells search engines a select page should be considered a copy of another URL.  The search engine then indexes the original page rather than having to decide between the two.
  • Fully qualify all internal links to prevent any confusion by search engines.   Anchor text for a link should be related to the content to which it is linked whenever possible.
  • All images should have alt image tags, incorporating SEO keywords when it makes sense. Images should be optimized for the web to improve page load time.
  • Use CSS rather than images wherever possible.  This is another factor that will improve page load time.
  • Limit the amount of JavaScript embedded on a page.   Create a JavaScript file instead.  Again, this will improve page load time.
  • Create a robots.txt file to inform search engines how to index your content.  Search engines will crawl everything unless you indicate otherwise—prevent pages that add little value (Search Results, Privacy, Terms) from being crawled.   Here’s a related article from Google support explaining this thoroughly.
  • Create a Sitemap.xml file.  This file is automatically updated when new pages and content are created.  It helps search engines understand which sections of a site are updated most frequently, and helps new pages be indexed more quickly.
  • Incorporate the Facebook Open graph protocol.  Adding this metadata integrates a site’s pages into the social graph.
  • Validate all code to make sure it is up to W3C standards to ensure optimized site performance.
A site that’s well-optimized during its development, as outlined here, serves as a strong base for further SEO efforts and offers users a satisfying experience.  

Next time, we’ll cover the list of items we test before pushing a website live.