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Ultimate Website Optimization Checklist

Updated: Oct 12, 2021




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If you want a complete list of how to optimize the look & functionality of your website, then you will LOVE this guide!


I’ve personally implemented all 53 of these simple tactics on dozens of websites.


Feel free to filter through the content & do the easy ones first. 


If you run into any issues implementing on one of them - let me know!

First Things First

1. Pick a Purpose

What is the purpose of your website?

Take however long it takes to answer this question BEFORE moving on. 

It will affect everything you do on your site!

2. Understand Your CMS

CMS - Content Management System. 

Think Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, etc. Wherever the content of your website is managed.

Take some time & understand the capabilities of your CMS so you can work effectively on the design of your site.

(if you’re not sure, you can check your CMS here - www.whatcms.org)

3. Double Check Your Domain

You owe it to yourself to check out the new, awesome options out there!

I couldn’t get InvictaEnterprises.com (owner didn’t want to sell!). So instead I was able to get Invicta.Enterprises.

Have some fun exploring the possibilities here - www.namecheap.com.

First Impressions

4. Your Header

Potentially your most valuable real estate - so don’t let it go to waste!

This is a perfect spot for a stunning image & a call to action.

Check out this example from Backlink.io:



Right away you know what the site is about (PURPOSE - see #1:) & there’s an easy call to action.

5. Consider a Lightbox

A lightbox is technically a pop-up that activates either once someone lands on your page, when they scroll to a certain point, or when they move to click away.


If the PURPOSE of your site is subscriptions or lead gen, a lightbox can make a HUGE difference (up to 1375% according to one study!).


OptinMonster.com does it right as you can see here:



6. Or Something More Subtle

If a lightbox is too “in your face” for your taste, you can try a more subtle option - the edge pop-up.


Instead of taking up the whole page, this pop-up appears in a corner or along the top or bottom of a page and follows the viewer as they scroll.


Often they look something like this:



7. Make It Universal

Since you established the PURPOSE of your site in #1, you should have a clear idea of what you want people to do on your site. 


Make sure that your header reflects this purpose & is consistent throughout your site.

8. Feature Your Best Offer

If someone is going to bounce from your site, you have about 2 seconds to capture their attention.


Use your header to give away your best stuff or offer the best deal right up front!

A Marvelous Menu

9. Be Brief

Giving people too many options on a menu is overwhelming and works against you. 


As a rule of thumb - no more than 6 items on a menu.

10. Need More Than 6 Menu Items? Try This

If you need more than 6, cut the clutter and create a sub-menu like you see at Cabelas.com:



11. Make Sure to Have These Pages

This will vary depending on the PURPOSE of your site. But some basic pages to include would be:

  • About

  • Services and/or Products

  • Contact

  • (Or some variation of those:)

12. Throw in a CTA in Your Menu

We mentioned before offering your best stuff right up front. 


One great place to do that is in your menu.


Instead of just the normal menu pages, try an exciting, prominent call to action right in your menu (a different color will help it stand out).

13. Make Sure It’s Easy to Read

Seems like a no brainer, but a lot of times the menu gets forgotten and ends up being a bad color, too small, or a hard to read font.

14. Make Sure It’s Mobile

If the PURPOSE of your site is the most important, it is quickly followed by making your site MOBILE…


(since nearly 50% of traffic is currently (2020) mobile & projects to be upwards of 75% in just a few years!)


So make sure your menu will load beautifully on a mobile device. 

Security

15. Understand HTTP vs. HTTPS

This is basic stuff but can be a bit tricky to understand.


This video does a fantastic job of quickly explaining it in an easy way to understand.


16. Understand the Importance of a SSL Certification

A SSL Certification tells visitors your site is safe, reputable, and increases confidence (especially if you are asking them to input any data!). 

17. Get Your SSL Certification

CMSs like Wix or Squarespace have easy options for making sure your site has an SSL Certification.


It’s free, quick, & easy.


If you don’t have an SSL Certification, check out this article from GeekFlare.com.


Once you have it, you’ll see the padlock symbol & “https” in the address bar.



The Importance of Headings

18. Understand “Skim” Culture

Very few people really READ when they’re online. Therefore, make it easy to skim with plenty of headlines throughout your content.


If you check out this post or this post, you’ll see what I mean!

19. Grab Attention with Interesting Headings

(NOTE: this applies to your menu too!)


How many sites have you seen with boring headings like “About Us” or “Services”?


Answer - too many!


Spice things up. Instead of “About Us” (boring!) try something like “Our Story” or “How Did This Happen?”. 


Instead of “Services” try something like “Ready to Change Your Life?” or “How We Make Your Life Easier”.


This is what I tried to do on my own Contact Page.

20. Leave Them Hanging

Since you know they’re just skimming, use your headlines to rope them in.


Best ways to do that:


1) Ask Questions

The human brain hates NOT KNOWING!


2) Use Attention Grabbing Statistics or Facts

“75% of People Judge a Site Based on Its Website”


3) Combine 1 & 2

21. Don’t Be Afraid of Your English Teacher

We all learned “proper” formatting in school.


However, the internet has changed that. 


So go with it!

Boring People to Death:

Text/Paragraphs

22. Shorter is ALWAYS Better

The topic of headings flows right into the rest of your text.


The classic advice holds up - SHOW don’t TELL.


More pictures & videos, less text.

23. Break It Up

Your site should NEVER have a big block of text.


People take one look and are exhausted.


Embrace the white space!

24. Don’t Merely Say Things to Say Things

Remember #1? PURPOSE. If text on your page is not aligned with your site’s purpose - DELETE IT.


For instance, DON’T do this:



25. Make Sure Your Text is the Right Size

Perhaps this is just a pet peeve, but many websites have their font set to tiny.


And that’s not helpful at all.


Your headings should stand out, but then your text should not require zoom to read.

26. Make Sure Your Text is the Right Color

It may be tempting to go fancy and do white text on a colored background.


Sometimes this can work & look great.


However, most of the time is just makes it harder to read.


Black text on a white (or extremely light) background is still the best option.

27. Pick Your Fonts & STAY WITH THEM

If you came to the dance with a certain font, you’d better be willing to dance with them across your entire site. 


3 fonts is the MAX (2 is better) & you need to know which goes where.


A lot of CMSs have built in settings for this.

Unity:

A Beautiful Thing

28. Unify Your Calls to Action

Make sure your calls to action throughout the site are the same. 


There are some exceptions to this rule, but that’s for more advanced marketing based on analytics.

29. Unify Fonts, Styles, Images

Unify these things and your visitors will feel like they are seamlessly ice skating from one page to the next.


If you’re using certain fonts, paragraph styles, or image filters, maintain that throughout the site.

30. Unify Your Color Palette

It’s very jarring to go from pastels to primary colors.


Your site should be on one color palette throughout.



How to Have a Modern Looking Website

31. Understand Modern Trends

Keeping up with modern trends can be a chore.


However, it is essential!


For ideas on modern trends, I love www.behance.net.

32. Know the Difference Between Old & New Styles

This can be hard to put into words, so I’m going to take my own advice and SHOW instead of TELL.


Old, outdated style:



(I could go on, but you get the idea)

New, modern style:



Again, I could go on, but you get the idea!


In order to really appreciate the new modern site, you should really go check it out - it’s awesome - taotajima.jp.

33. Compare Your Current Site to That of Web Design Companies

Most web design companies (though not all!) keep up with modern trends. 


Compare your site to some of these & note differences and ways to improve your own.


https://www.bigdropinc.com/


https://www.thenewyorkwebsitedesigner.com/


https://www.digitechwebdesignaustin.com/ (a personal favorite)

​​

The Art of Animation

34. Add Animations

If you currently don’t have any animations on your site, it’s time to add some!


A lot of CMSs will have plenty of animation options. 

35. Keep Animations Subtle

Nothing screams “UNPROFESSIONAL” like loud, obnoxious animations on a website. 


It’s distracting and defeats your PURPOSE.


Keep them subtle and purposeful. A soft fade, a nice slide in. Be creative, but don’t go overboard!

36. Use Animations to Bring Attention

Our eyes are naturally drawn to movement. However, if EVERYTHING is moving, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.


Animate (subtly) the things you want to draw your visitor’s eyes to.

Website Speed

37. Test Your Speed

You need to know where you are before you can find out where to go!


Use a site like tools.pingdom.com to test your site’s speed and write that number down.


For reference:


Site Load Times:


  • Below 1 second = Perfect

  • 1-3 seconds = Above Average

  • 3-7 seconds = Average

  • 7+ seconds = Very Poor

38. Use the Recommendations

Pingdom is awesome because it shows you how your site is doing in a host of specific areas.