So, it’s time to upgrade your website software. What’s next?
Start by opening your favorite browser and go through your website, page-by-page, making good notes about anything that may not be displaying or working correctly. You may find that the site’s graphics won’t look right or some elements of your content may overlap one another. Test all the functional elements that your website visitor would use: forms, apps, calendars, etc. for glitches and errors.
You may also be employing a content management system that should be tested for problems. If you use it regularly, you may already be aware of at least some issues. Sometimes you’ll find things like graphic buttons don’t appear, so you can’t save changes or upload website assets like photos or pdfs.
When you complete these steps, open another browser and do it all over. Keep track of your testing by browser version. Most browsers have a Help menu selection that should lead you to a link “about” the browser that will show you the version.
Web developers will generally program and test their software on the 4 most popular browsers: Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Safari (for the Mac), for the latest two or three major releases.
By documenting the issues, your notes will help in a few ways, providing a list for:
- researching the upgrade/update – website, supporting software, module, plug-in, widget, etc. may all need to be considered.
- communicating with your web developer – whoever is performing the hands-on update should know the issues.
- testing – check each page and function in multiple browsers after the upgrade or update has been completed.
I like using a spreadsheet with rows for the issues I find, organized into sections by website page, with columns for each browser. This format can be easily shared in an organization and with supporting vendors.
Like any good Boy Scout worth his merit badge, you or your web developer should always be prepared when upgrading. If things should not go as expected, you need a Plan B, which is usually to rollback the website to where it was when you started, so a good back-up to restore from is key. This is good in all cases, but especially if working on a live site.
However, if Plan A was to create a duplicate and perform the hands-on upgrade there, impact on your live website and your visitors will be zero. This can provide time to figure out what went wrong and correct it.
The nature of a website may dictate which way an update will take place. Ecommerce sites and those that have registered users need special consideration to ensure continuity for the site’s authorized users.
Upgrades and updates can range from the simple to the complex and may not immediately correct a problem or be entirely successful at first. Good preparation and patience, as well as a competent hand at the helm, will serve you well.