Give Your Site a Tune Up with this List of Online Tools

Astronaut Using ToolsA lot of SEO “experts” will send you on your way with tools which amount to a red herring: meta data, keyword density, word-counts, etc. A plugin like Yoast SEO is good at what it sets out to do, but if you take the “green light” SEO score too seriously, it can make good content and ideas demonstrably worse through stilted, robotic language.

What people really need are tools which assist them in making sites quicker and easier to use for people, not robots. To this end, we’ve curated a list of just that. These are tools which we use regularly in our day job or have used in the past when the need arose.

Disclaimer: some of these tools may not play friendly with certain varieties of HTTPS and services such as Cloudflare, so you may need to disable/suspend them when using these tools.

“What is this website built on?”

cms-detectThese tools, along with detecting a theme, are used primarily at the beginning of a new website project. A good approach to web design and development is to identify websites you like and use elements that you think work well for it. Knowing exactly what you like is built on is even more helpful. That’s where a CMS detection tool is useful. If something you like is built on WordPress and you happen to also have a WP site, there’s a good chance you can use that plugin or theme for your own ends.

A general guideline for these tools: if one doesn’t work, the others may have better luck. WordPress Themes can also be discovered if you know how to look at the website source and view the stylesheet.

CMS Detection

Theme / Plugin Detection

“Is my site secure?”

sslImplementing HTTPS on your site isn’t as simple as typing “https://” in your browser. Any resources that your site is pulling in needs to be called in securely as well. There are plugins out there for WordPress which replaces ‘http://’ with ‘//’ meaning it will automatically adopt a secure setting when asked to. Even so, sometimes things can slip through the cracks and leave your site only partially secured, which may as well be not at all.

Sometimes the issue can be with your server / server provider not updating their encryption technology. We’ve seen high profile examples of this recently with the Heartbleed and Logjam bugs where browsers like Chrome and Firefox simply dropped support for older methods of encryption, leaving many sites in the dust.

S0 if you’re struggling to get that padlock to appear on your site, check out these tools. If the issue is determined to be with your server provider, you should contact them to receive the proper support and updates.

Securing Insecure Content

Check for Outdated Technology

 “Is my site up?”

Sometimes the issue seems black and white. “My site won’t load.” “I can’t send email.” Rarely is it so cut and dry as it appears and can be quite frustrating to troubleshoot. A good starting place would be to determine if you are the only one experiencing this issue and where exactly your domains taking you. If something is down for just you, it may be helpful to know your IP address in the event of a firewall block. Your server admin will thank you if you did your research ahead of time.

Site Status Checker

WHOIS Tool

IP Address Tool

“Is my site easy to use?”

Beyond the typical statistical analysis to determine ease of use and engagement on a page, you can also figure out if a site follows modern standards of a useable website with the following tools. Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource that does not fit in a single-use category.

Mobile Test

Broken Link Detection

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Stock Media Doesn’t Have to be Boring

A common lesson we drive home with Websitetology is how you use an tool is doubly important than the tool you’ve chosen. A hammer and box of nails are useless if you don’t have any idea what you want to build. WordPress is a fantastic, perhaps the best, tool you can use in making a website for your business, but WordPress only makes it easier to publish your web content—you ought to know how to make good content before you publish.

Stock media like photography and video is the same way. Stock photography websites are often the butt of jokes that make it out to be completely pointless and unusable. Stock footage company Dissolve sought to curb this reputation with an ad for their product, made entirely out of their own stock footage.

Dissolve – “The Association of Obscure Associations”

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Is My Site Mobile-Friendly? What can I do to make it?

Google pays its respects to Websitetology 2015.

Google pays its respects to Websitetology 2015.

In one of our most recent email newsletters, we pointed readers to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test so that people could check to make sure their sites weren’t being penalized. This link was far and away the hottest item in the email, with over 400% more clicks than any other link in the newsletter.

In spite of Google’s attempts at emphasizing the importance of mobile-friendly design, and later on their tough-love warnings that your sites will be punished after April 21st, the message seems clear to us: people, businesses, and their websites are being left behind and many are unsure what to do to catch up.

Some may breathe a sigh of relief upon receiving a passing mark from the test, but what if you’re left with a big, fat F?

Over at our agency, The Next Wave, we commonly receive requests to “add responsiveness to our existing site.” We understand that this kind of request comes from a good place: folks who are looking for an inexpensive and painless way into the mobile-friendly realm by “adding on” the mobile functionality.

The problem is that this is actually pretty difficult, in some cases impossible, to achieve from a designer and developer’s perspective.

The Grid: Love it or Leave it.

The Grid: Love it or Leave it.

Mobile-friendly designers will typically start designing a website by how it looks like on mobile devices, then expanding and scaling the design outwardly from there. The idea is that everyone will be looking at essentially the same website, and there is no inferior way to browse.

Mobile-friendly developers mostly code websites as a giant grid to complement this aforementioned approach to design. For instance, each item on a typical WordPress site: posts, sliders, headlines, forms, and etc. are placed inside various squares of a grid. This makes it very easy to scale websites. As the screen becomes larger and smaller, you can shift the grid around so that everything still fits, but the code itself stays the same underneath.

Most developers who are giving an old site true responsiveness are essentially coding a new site from scratch but still wrapping it up in your design that looked good back in 2010. It makes more sense to just go back to the drawing board and start fresh.

By now I can feel your frustration coming through. You’re likely thinking, “This is all well-and-good, but I still can’t afford the time/money to invest in a brand new website right now.” You might even be thinking that there’s nothing wrong with your site as it is, except for Google’s stupid new rule.

If you’re a WordPress user, there are a few plugins out there that can take your pages, posts, etc. and wrap it in a separate mobile site. Notably WPTouch—with a couple free themes—and the mobile theme feature in Jetpack. Desktop users will still see your same-old site, and mobile users will be served up something different.

Keep in mind, however, that your mobile users will be looking at an inferior version of your site that might not work very well. Eventually, you’ll have to move on.

It’s not as intimidating as it seems, we promise. In fact, you could do it yourself over a long weekend. That’s what our seminar can show you.

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