It’s the end of the year, give or take a week or two. You’re going to need to start formulating New Year’s Resolutions. Probably best if you do a quick inventory to see what needs to be resolved.

XmasIf you live somewhere in which the dominant culture celebrates the first few days of the main protagonist of the second half of the Bible by going shopping, eating and drinking in excess, anticipating the serial breaking and entering of family homes by a generous and largely fictional bearded man whose name does not appear in the original text, and spending time in the company of people you normally don’t go out of your way to socialise with — then this is a very special time of the year.

Everything’s starting to wind up. Everyone’s starting to throw Christmas parties. Nobody’s going to get any real work done till mid January. Anything you haven’t done to ensure those pre-Christmas sales by now is probably not worth the effort. Might even be time to start thinking about what those New Years’ Resolutions are likely to consist of.

And if you’re going to make resolutions, it would pay to know what needs resolving.

With that in mind, why not take a good, hard look at your website? Over the course of 2006, it may have developed some quirks. Maybe some things need updating or deleting. Maybe you’ve learned some good practices that you want toput in place. Perhaps this is the right time to think about a rework and relaunch for the new year.

Ask yourself some of the basic questions from some of the key website question categories:

1) Usability

Is it easy to navigate? Is it obvious to the new visitor? Does it meet web standards? Can it be easily read by a screen reader for the visually impaired? Does it have far too much Flash animation or a landing page that makes you wait around while things zip around the screen?
Read Jakob Nielsen’s Use It website. Yes, all of it. Start with the Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design.

2) Recency

How regularly do you update your site? I’m just talking about news and events, rather than whole sections. Sites that are not regularly updated look abandoned. Three weeks is a long time in pop music… Is it a hassle to update your website? Do you have to go through a gatekeeper who was helpful and giving to start with, but now has other things on their plate? Might be time to consider switching to a Content Management System (more on them soon).

3) Wordiness
Is there a passage of text on your site that is just too long? Do you have a tendency to verbosity? Okay, forget long passages of text — what about long sentences? Can you go through and edit? (Writing for the web tips coming in a later post)

4) Images
How are the photos? Could they be better? What about filesize? Get them down under the 30kb mark if at all possible (that’s still 10 seconds on a 28kb/s dialup computer).

5) Search Engine Optimisation
This one will take a bit of time, and it’s something that I’m going to go over in some detail in the near future. For now, maybe it might be a good idea to jot down the phrases you want people to be searching for when they find you. It’s all very well for them to find you when they’re specifically searching for your band’s name — but so much the better if they’re looking for ‘reggae’ or ‘Bristol bands’ (obviously, your key phrases will vary). What we’re going to be working towards is integrating those key phrases into important parts of your website, and encouraging others to link to you using those phrases.

Of course, I’m continuing pretty much right up to Christmas with more of these tips for you to implement in the new year. In the meantime, why not add to the Best Music of the Year list accruing in the forum?