Boost Your Site Performance Using These 15 Website Grader Checks

Jonathan Stanis
Posted by Jonathan Stanis on December 22, 2021
website grader checklist

Most of us know from our years in school that grades aren’t everything, but a report card can serve as a useful tool for assessing what you do well and where you can improve.

It was true back in calculus and history classes, and it’s true today — for your company’s website, anyway.

So, what factors contribute to a website that performs well, and what aspects can interfere with site performance? For our purposes here, performance is a combination of factors that influence whether and where your website lands in search results and user experience.

A few key factors can have a lot of impact on the quality of your company’s website. These critical aspects can be broken down into four main categories that our free website grader tool runs a check on:

  1. Website speed
  2. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  3. Mobile friendliness
  4. Website security

We’ll take a closer look at each of these four foundational areas and help you address issues of quality that impact each one.

You can check your website using this free tool we offer, powered by HubSpot’s Website Grader. Use the report as a foundation as you get started on performance improvements.

website-grader-example

1. Check Your Website’s Page Speed Performance

A few major factors can have a big impact on the speed of your website’s load time and response time. Speed matters because users have grown used to fast loading and response. Our website grader performs and reports on the following checks:

  • Page size. The smaller the page, the faster your loading speed. Set a budget for each page — and try to keep it under 3MB. Where possible, remove large payloads like video, and optimize images, because these tend to have the greatest impact on page size.
  • Page requests. The number of network requests and amount of data transferred while your pages load is affected by images, fonts, and data tracking scripts. Remove what’s unnecessary to help speed loading.
  • Browser caching. Does your site use browser caching? Caching stores reused files in users’ local memory, rather than having to grab the same files every time they visit your page. If your site doesn’t use it, talk to a developer about implementing it, or use a hosting platform like HubSpot that automatically leverages caching.
  • Page redirects. Redirects are an internet fact of life. URLs can change, and you certainly don’t want your website users to end up on a 404 page! But over time, you can build up redirect chains, where the first URL leads to another, and even another before finally reaching the page. The website grader can detect and report these redirect pileups, so you can clean them up.
  • Minify JavaScript and CSS. This means removing unnecessary spaces and simplifying variable names. Minifying makes your files harder for people to read, but computers don’t mind — and it’s computers, not people, reading your files. After you develop CSS and JavaScript files, either minify them manually, or have them automatically minified by your website hosting provider.

2. Check Your Website’s SEO

You already know SEO is key to making yourself easy to find by people searching for terms relevant to your business. Since they’re using search engines to find your content, your responsibility is to make your website easy and accessible for those search engines to crawl and index what’s there.

  • Permission to index. While developing a website or page, it’s common for developers to insert a “NoIndex” tag, which tells search engines not to index the content. Make sure to remove those tags. If you don’t, Google will ignore your content, and it won’t surface in relevant searches.
  • Meta description. Every page needs a meta description. If your website check reveals empty meta descriptions, you’ll need to revisit those and populate them with relevant, keyword-friendly information.
  • Content plugins. Some plugins can make your content impossible to index. Our website grader will tell you if you have plugins affecting content indexability. For example, you definitely should not be running Flash on your website, since it hasn’t been supported since 2020.
  • Descriptive link text. Banish those links and buttons that say, “click here” or “read more.” They’re not optimal for user experience in general, and they’re not helpful for SEO. For the best performance, website links should describe where they lead the user.

3. Check Your Website’s Mobile Friendliness

We’re well past the point of most web traffic coming from mobile users, so it stands to reason to take a mobile-first approach with your website. Even if many of your users are on desktops, a mobile-first design will generally perform better — and besides, Google made the switch to mobile-first indexing of all websites in 2021 as it integrated Core Web Vitals into its search algorithm. Here’s what the website grader checks:

  • Font sizes. Your smallest font shouldn’t be smaller than 12 pixels, or your text will be difficult to read. In fact, you’re probably better off aiming for 16px at the small end. 

On the flip side, be sure your headings aren’t too large for mobile devices. If headlines break (when a long word has to wrap to a second line), have a developer adjust the font size at mobile widths to fix the issue.

  • Tap targets. Think about the last time you tried clicking on your phone on a link that was designed to be accessed by a mouse. Frustrating, right? 

Account for the fact that fingers are larger than mouse cursors. The tap targets check can tell you if your links and buttons are large enough to be easily clicked with a finger. If they aren’t, increase them to a minimum size of 48x48px, and make sure to leave ample space between them.

  • Responsiveness. By now, nearly all websites are designed to be responsive, which means the layout optimizes automatically for the device used to access it. But certain elements, like tables, can affect responsiveness. If the website grader detects issues, work with a designer or developer to convert nonresponsive elements so they’ll work on mobile devices.

4. Check Your Website’s Security

A secure website protects your users’ data, and protects your site from crashing or being slowed down by malware or other attacks. Our website grader reviews a couple of fundamentals to help ensure a secure website.

  • HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). This is a communication protocol that encrypts the data transfer between your site and your users to keep it confidential. It’s a baseline user expectation for a secure online experience. If your website’s not HTTPS, work with a developer to fix it, or switch to a website hosting provider that automatically uses HTTPS.
  • Secure JavaScript libraries. Almost all websites use a JavaScript library, such as jQuery. Many sites use more than one. Our check makes sure the libraries your site is running are up to date and have no known vulnerabilities. 

If the grading tool detects an issue, work with a developer to update your libraries, or rebuild site elements so libraries aren’t required.

Get Your Grade and Start Making Improvements

Once you receive your website grade and report, you’ll know where to get started on improvements that can have an immediate impact on your site’s performance. Some of the improvements are basic, while others may require expert help — but your first step is running the check. Head on over to our quick and easy Free Website Grader to get started. Just click the link below.

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Topics: Website Design

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