Download an editable Web Quality Assurance (QA) checklist


Some time ago, I developed a Web Quality Assurance (QA) checklist (xlsx 18KB) and I have been meaning to share it since.

Quality Assurance is one of those web tasks that is widely ignored. I mean, who wants to check lots of old pages against a series of booorrrring checkpoints, when there is sexy new content to add?!

If Gerry McGovern is right about this—and I think he is—much, much more QA is needed to help reduce the "cult of content volume".

Website Quality Assurance (QA) checklist

QA is utterly fundamental to a good user experience—and your organisational reputation.

Recall the last time you visited a website that had lots of broken links, massive unoptimised images, documents with unintelligible filenames, bloated useless code, etc. It's shameful how it still continues.

Although much QA is now done using sophisticated tools, manual review remains common. Hence this checklist.

Where to start with QA

As well as checking new content for QA, I also recommend reviewing older content in a series of rolling sprints.

Each month, take one of the top content topics (not pages) on your website and prioritise it for attention.

Do that on an ongoing basis and you'll be amazed how things improve over the course of a year.

Download the editable QA checklist

Feel free to re-use or modify this list for your own site. Admittedly, it is somewhat tailored to the site I created it for (and I have sanitised it to remove many custom checkpoints), but it will likely prove useful to build on.

Download the editable Website Quality Assurance checklist (xlsx 18KB).

You can even have fun applying it to my own website and get points for telling me off about the many checkpoints I break myself :(


If you are interested in other useful web management resources, I published a Website Content Calculator a long time ago that you may also find helpful. Try it and other free web management resources on my 'Downloads' page.

Identify the content you need to prioritise (& ignore) using topics as your 'Standard Content Set'


We already know that ranking pages across a site based on Views is a very bad idea. But, it's much worse if you use them to decide what content to prioritise for attention.

The reason is that there is no such thing as a "standard" web page. Comparing or prioritising them based on Views just leads to bad decisions.

Web pages are far too varied in length, scope and density for such simplistic analysis.

Topics as a standard content set

You can make far better decisions by tracking activity using topics as a new 'Standard Content Set'.

Read the full article "Using topics as a new 'Standard Content Set'".

Use Content Groups to discover the content your users are *really* interested in


As you probably know, measuring aggregate web activity based on Page Views in Google Analytics is not a good idea.

For instance, imagine a site with 2 content topics: Economics and Politics. There are 5 pages about Economics and 10 about Politics.

You look at your analytics. Economics gets 500 views per month. But wow! Politics gets 1000.

Its obvious, therefore, that Politics is much more popular and should get most attention in terms of UX, optimisation, etc.

Wrong

Look deeper and you discover that each topic gets exactly the same number of visits: 100 each.

It is simply because Economics has twice as many pages that it appears twice as popular using Page Views.

(Why it has twice as many pages is a separate question. Perhaps there is much more information on that topic? Or maybe it has the same volume of information but uses a different content design approach? Or perhaps the information has been poorly planned and arbitrarily separated among too many pages?)

Content in topic groups

This shows that measuring or comparing activity using Page Views (including Unique Page Views) at an aggregate level is a bad idea. Visits are far better.

The problem is that the Google Analytics' default Behaviour report does not count total Visits at a topic level, not even in Content Drilldown. (Content Drilldown does show total Unique Views, but that is not the same as total Visits.)

This is where Content Groups step in

Content Groups flatten issues caused by varying numbers of pages and show what users are really interested in.

Read the full article "Content Groups and Google Analytics".

Funds and financing for start-ups in Ireland


Some moons ago, I ran a small company (a 'start-up' as they tend to be called). It didn't work out - but I learned a lot. 

Over its lifetime, I built a list of funds, financing and other supports available in Ireland. This includes from local government, state agencies, angel funds, seed funds, P2P, crowdfunding, debt funding, etc.

Download the list

I have been meaning to share this list for a looonnng time. Admittedly the information is a few years old now, bit may still be useful to someone starting out. So here it is - finally.

Among the sources listed are:

Money in a bucketLocal Enterprise Office

  • Priming Grant
  • Feasibility Grants
  • Business Expansion Grants
  • First Time Exporter’s Grant

Enterprise Ireland

  • Competitive Start Fund
  • Innovation voucher
  • Innovation Partnership Grant Programme
  • HPSU Feasibility Study Grant
  • Innovative HPSU Fund (Equity)

InterTrade Ireland

  • SeedCorn
  • Acumen
  • Elevate
  • Trade accelerator vouchers

Revenue

  • SURE tax back
  • R&D tax credits
  • Tax relief for StartUps
  • Exemption from VAT register
  • Use of the cash basis of accounting for VAT
  • Deferral of the Corporation Tax preliminary due date
  • EIS Scheme
  • Start Your Own Business Relief

Department of Social Protection

  • Jobs Plus
  • Wage Subsidy

As noted above, the information is a few years old. No doubt things have changed, especially in light of the pandemic. More supports may be available, so please conduct your own research and due diligence.

Ádh mór ort!

(Image credit: FoodImage on Flickr. Creative Commons.)

A web of shop keepers - web management explained


When you drill right down to it, everything to do with web management can be reduced to just 3 elements. These are:

  1. Activities: The things you do
  2. Resources: The things you need
  3. Scale: A metric that predicts how the components above take shape

A shopkeeperIt may seem surprising that 3 elements can accommodate all the detail of online operations - but as a conceptual model, it works. The first step is to quantify the magnitude of your management burden.

Scale

Scale is a measure of the size, technical complexity and levels of engagement of a site and can give an immediate estimate of your operational load.

In short, as each of these dimensions grow, your web management activities will expand in both volume and granularity. For reference the activities of online operations can categorised into 4 broad groups:

  • Leadership
  • Development
  • Maintenance
  • Infrastructure

Finally, to cope with an increase in operational activity, additional investment in common web resources is needed to keep the show on the road. Typically, these resources encompass:

  • People
  • Processes
  • Tools
  • Budget

The greater the operational load, the more costly and specialised these resources will become.

Web managers as shopkeepers

The good thing about this model is that it can be applied to any type of website or intranet. The core activities and resources stay the same—the only thing that change sis the underlying Scale of the operation.

When you think about it this model makes a lot of sense.

By way of analogy, consider management in a different domain—say, the bricks-and-mortar world of retail.

Read the full article "A web of shop keepers - web management explained".

Web governance - Ask 10 people to define it and you'll get 11 different answers


Many raised handsWeb governance. Such a flexible and malleable term.

Just like the old joke, if you ask 10 different people to describe it, you will get 11 different answers.

  • "It's how we set strategy"
  • "It's how we make decisions"
  • "It's how we manage operations"
  • "It's how we do ... you know ... stuff"

Part of the issue is that for a long time governance was simply a convenient label for just about any operational or leadership problem on a site.

If you had interpersonal issues on your team, governance was all about roles and responsibilities.

If your challenge was establishing high level direction, for you governance concerned strategy and leadership.

Thus, governance has been defined not in any unified way, but as a woolly catch-all for the many disparate elements connected with running a digital service.

Read the full article "Web governance - Ask 10 people to define it and you'll get 11 different answers".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.

In 2021, those who are best at web will be those who are best at the boring stuff


That's right. Not those who can create the slickest interface or most click-bait-y content.

Engine roomThose who are best will be those who can do all that AND everything else needed to deliver stable operations.

They'll be the ones who can react most quickly to new circumstances, in a repeatable and predictable way - and at the lowest cost.

A well-tuned engine?

Good web management is a means to an end. It puts order and control on operations so you can get on with important things, like online goals.

Good operations are like a well-tuned engine. You take it for granted that when you turn the key, it will just work.

Clunking wrecks

Rather than being graceful machines, many systems of online management are in danger of seizing up.

The reasons are twofold.

First, there has been an historic inattention to the principles of good governance.

Through no fault of their own, many teams are underfunded and left to "make do". Without senior level interest, they have to rely on informal systems of control to get things done.

Second, there has been a huge expansion in digital ambition.

A decade ago the only thing a web team had to worry about was perhaps a single corporate website.

Today even the smallest organization maintains a wide variety of digital presences (including apps, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) aimed at a growing array of devices and each with a large assortment of internal stakeholders clamouring for attention.

Strategic imbalance

The difficulty is that this growth in volume and complexity has not been balanced by a corresponding growth in resources and leadership—causing huge instability.

The scale of demands placed on many teams far outstrips their ability to deliver. There is simply too much to do and not enough to do it with.

Teams are worked so hard and have so little redundancy, that almost any problem can bring things crashing down:

  • Quarrels over online ownership
  • Shortages in skilled manpower or the right tools
  • An inability to coordinate

Yet, despite such issues, web staff remain steadfastly dedicated to the job at hand.

I continue to meet people who go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the show on the road, like working weekends or postponing holidays.

Web people want to do a great job. But just like everyone else they have a legitimate expectation that senior executives will provide the resource needed to get on with things.

The problem for many is that this expectation is ignored.

There are solutions. Explore the Web Manager’s Masterclass.

How to increase cookie consent rates on your website


Forget the virus lockdowns, the endless Brexit deadlines or the November kerfuffle in the US. The most vivid date in 2020 for many web managers was 5 October.

That was the deadline set by the powerful Data Protection Commission (DPC) in Ireland for compliance with the EU's cookie consent requirements (PDF).

No more 'Click OK to continue'.

From 5 October onwards users must be able to give informed consent for cookies—and withdraw it just as easily.

The DPC's warning was clear: 'Ignore us and we're coming to get you'.

Cue a frenzied rollout of consent management platforms—and a nice payday for OneTrust, CookieBot and others.

As the date approached, there was fear of a large scale rejection of cookies by users. This would severely impede the ability of many sites to track online activity, as well as deliver other features.

Now the dust has settled, evidence suggests that our worst fears have not been realised.

Speaking to an analytics-specialist friend of mine, 3 tiers of rejection (or acceptance, if you prefer) have emerged.

Read the full article "How to increase cookie consent on your website".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.

Off-topic ... Where to start with Philosophy?


About 10 years ago I began some tentative digging into philosophy. I have not emerged yet. It goes deep ... very deep.

Now it seems that after listening to me drone on about the trolley problem on long drives with the Dublin Caving Group, some of my caving buddies have developed an interest too.

More than a couple have asked me for recommendations for where to begin. As I tend to give them the same list each time, I thought I would also summarise it here for others starting out.

Now, be aware that this list owes much more to Google and Apple’s recommendation algorithms than any proactive research on my part.

Yet, there is some genuinely excellent (and free) content out there. The shows/channels below are those I keep going back to. Well delivered and often entertaining, they are great places to start.

Good luck!

YouTube

Crash Course Philosophy
Designed for US high schoolers, but absolutely excellent content and delivery. Covers all major themes. Very recommended.

John Searle: Lectures from UC Berkeley
A premier thinker on the mind-body problem and theory of language. Famous for his 'Chinese Room' thought experiment (highly influential in AI circles). These lectures were where I started my own journey and I have listened to all of them several times. Very informative and not overly academic.

Closer to Truth
A bad title for a long series of interesting interviews and discussion with top scientists, philosophers and thinkers. Regarding philosophy it focusses mainly on the problem of consciousness, God and philosophy of religion. Also covers science.

Brian Magee interview series
A series of TV interviews from the 1980s by Oxford philosopher Brian Magee. Some great guests, including a young John Searle and many now-dead luminaries, incl. Quine, Ayer and Bernard Williams. 

Podcasts

Philosophy Bites
Regular 15-20 minutes discussions on key issues. Excellent content. Hosted by Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds (more of both below).

Partially Examined Life (PEL)
Long-format discussion on major themes, publications and philosophers. The occasional interview too. Entertaining and erudite. Good for long drives/walks. Some episodes require several listens.

The Panpsycast
Play on words (geddit?) Similar to PEL, though a bit more hit-and-miss. Again long-format discussion on major themes, but with better interviews than PEL.

The Philosopher’s Arms
A BBC radio programme converted to podcast form. Very well produced (Dave Edmonds of Philosophy Bites). Each episode tackles a key theme in an entertaining and revealing way.

And lastly...

A few others that are either tangential to philosophy or have less frequent uploads.

  • Lex Fridman Podcast: Core theme is AI, so very interesting if you are into hard problem.
  • Examining Ethics: I rarely listen to this now but found one or two episodes interesting.
  • Philosophy 24/7: Dave Edmonds again. Philosophy applied to issues in news or public debate.

Reading

Most of my consumption of philosophy has been via podcasts and YouTube whilst walking or doing housework. I would like to read more but can’t seem to find the time. Those that I have read are below.

Philosophy: The Basics
By Nigel Warburton. A great introduction to all major themes. Very readable.

Philosophy, Basic Readings
Again by Nigel Warburton. A collection of most influential papers through time. Dense at times, but very good.

Philosophy: the essential study guide

Warburton again! I doubt many students actually read this but I found it surprisingly useful. Very short and I read it in an afternoon. Good scene-setting for how to approach this domain.

People!

So those are my main ‘go-to’ sources. However, I will tune in to any media if it covers themes I am interested in (consciousness, free will, ethics, epistemology, truth) or has interviews with my favourite philosophers ... such as:

  • David Chalmers – He of 'hard problem' fame. Plus, I am quite sympathetic to panpsychism (where else is there to go?)
  • John Searle – He has been in trouble recently, but his lectures and talks manage to make things so clear!
  • Roger Penrose / Stuart Hammerof – Philosophers? Probably not, but in the same space.
  • Giulio Tinoni – Creator of ITT (Integrated Information Theory) which I love as an approach.
  • Susan Blackmore – A great interviewee and interesting journey.
  • Simon Blackburn – His PEL interview about truth is one I go back to a lot.
  • Donald Hoffman – A crazy idea that just might be true. (Probably not.)
  • Rebecca Goldstein – Only 36 arguments for God?
  • Max Tegmark - Again not a philosopher, but so many cosmologists and particle theorists can't help but tackle consciousness.
  • Alain de Botton - Where as the School of Life when I needed it! Very amusing books too.
  • Colin McGinn - Being called an 'Ontic Mysterian' is enough for me.

Great websites have content that is easy to Find, Read, Understand and Action

It's nice for a website to look nice. But it's not that important.

What's important is whether your users can find, read and understand your content and complete actions easily.

That's it. Everything else is secondary.

Find, Read, Understand, Action

FIND
Can your users locate information and services or is it a constant guessing game? Good findability includes SEO, clear labelling, high scent-of-information, usable navigation, etc.

READ
Can visitors engage with ease or is information shovelled online in dense clumps? Good readability includes clear information flow, good layout and white space, suitable fonts, etc.

UNDERSTAND
Can readers absorb your messages first-time or are they full of obscure verbiage. Good understandability relies on plain language, no jargon or legalese, etc.

ACTION
Can users complete tasks easily or are they faced with awkward interactions and errors. Good actionability has clear controls, clear trajectory, clear micro-content, etc.

Read the full article "Great websites have content that is easy to Find, Read, Understand and Action".


Web Manager's Masterclass: 8 lessons + 5 videos + editable templates

  • Discover the structures, processes & roles a successful web team needs.
  • Learn to build senior managment support for investing in digital capability.
  • Includes bestselling Web Manager's Handbook, plus editable templates.
  • Try a free lesson now or get all-in-one for just $29.99.