First off, congrats on getting to this point where you’re about ready to launch!
For us designer types, sharing our portfolios can feel like a sky-diving jump out of a plane. We know we won’t die but doing it will scare the living bajesus out of us!
But before you do roll out the site to the public, do a few tests and tweaks.
Here are seven things I do for my sites and client sites:
1. Run it by some friends with a design eye and be open to criticism.
The power of many (ie the power of getting out of your own head) is a very good move. While it would be nice to be in our own little world clicking away, tapping into the wisdom of others takes us to places we can’t get alone.
Your site will be better if you ask for feedback.
Accept that it might be a little uncomfy to get criticized. The criticism of others can hurt, especially of others don’t have tact. If you have strong negative reactions to feedback, just let yourself cool off. Do NOT respond to bad comments the same day. Give it a day. You’ll thank me.
So, the main point, is to share it with others. Five to ten people is good. Wait until you get the responses from all of them before deciding which ideas to pursue.
2. Run it by some past clients or people who are in your market. Ask for their feedback.
It’s not you nor is it your design buddies that you need to impress – it’s your CLIENTS. Your clients (and prospects) are the ones you need to really impress because they are shelling out the dough. Get their feedback and value their opinions the most.
3. Be sure your site easily answers the basic questions.
What is it? Who is it for? What’s being offered?
You should sit with five different people, show it to them, don’t tell them anything about the site, and ask them to take a look it. Show it to them, then pull your laptop away after 10 seconds and then ask them, “What was that?”, “What’s being offered there?”, and “Who is that site for?”
You’d be surprised. I often am.
4. Have someone ELSE test out the functionality.
Test out your contact form, click through the various pages, and try out any interactive items like posting to your blog.
It’s an absolutely MUST that SOMEONE ELSE does this. This is because they will do things differently than you will. They will be better at breaking your site than you.
Bonus points: get three people to test it out.
5. Have a copy editor or copy-conscious friend run through it.
Spelling mistakes are bad. I’m super guilty of bad spelling and grammar and have paid the price in lost opportunities. At one point I was only getting international clients who weren’t as keen on my mistakes because English was their second language.
If funds are tight, offer another freelancer to review your site and in return, review theirs for obvious spelling and grammar errors.
6. Did you check it out on top browsers? Devices?
You can setup a free account at http://www.browsercam.com to do some testing. At the time of this writing, you get 24 hours or 200 captures for free. More than enough.
At least test the latest browser versions, computer types, and devices to cover 95% or more of users.
7. Do a loading speed test at host-tracker.
You’ll want to make sure your site loads fast in your major target client regions. For web designers seeking clients in English speaking countries, you’re aiming for fast-loading times in North America, Australia, UK and South Africa (much less though).
But basically, a site should load fast around the world, less than 3 seconds per page. One second ideally for clients in your own country.
Test your speed at three different times. Once right now, once in an hour, and once in a day to account for random fluctuations. If things aren’t up to snuff, you’ll need to talk to your host and/or change hosts in the future.
Once you’ve done the above, launch it! Tell everyone you know.
Remember also, that your site is constantly a “work in progress”. So save all the great ideas for expanding it for the future and launch it now!
Congrats on getting your site together and out there.