This is a brief look at the website yourbusinessva.co.uk which was built by a "web designer" in early 2020.
Please note the date of this review, and that things may have (hopefully) changed since that date.
Links to various report pages are included, so you can see for yourself, and/or test other websites.
This is more of a publicity drive for some freely-available tools, to better arm yourself when deciding on your next web-designer, rather than an in-depth critique of this individual website.
You could apply the majority of what's below to lots of WordPress/Wix/Shopify/Magento websites. It can be quite an eye-opener testing the portfolio websites created by a web-designer to see the sort of standard you might receive.
To compare this with a website that was built by an expert (not relying on tools like WordPress), see the review for www.rachaeldalton.com.
Firstly it is a very good domain name, it's always nice to have the "keywords" in the domain name.
e.g. "business" and "va" in YourBusinessVa.co.uk
This used to have a lot more influence in search ranking than it does today, but it's still a benefit, just not something to lose sleep over when choosing your next domain name.
This website was put together using a piece of software WordPress, a freely available website "builder", which makes building a website very easy. As you might imagine, with that convenience comes some significant down-sides.
The first down-side of someone using WordPress, is that they're probably not traditionally trained in computer science or software engineering, meaning they can be naive to the issues that WordPress inherently brings.
What's more, they'll probably be unable to deal with the problems that it creates. They may also believe what follows is irrelevant to the success of a website, or even worse, try to convince the client of that.
For this website, a WordPress plugin called Elementor was also used, to make building the pages even easier. This drag-and-drop approach to building a website requires no technical knowledge or experience.
The issue with tools such as these is that you have little control over the important aspects of a website.
The template (think "design", or theme) used for the site was "Phlox", a bargain at just $39 for literally hundreds of pre-designed pages, which all look pretty good.
Using a pre-designed template to make a website "look" good is easy, but a site built in this way will usually have limited success in actually growing a business.
It's worth mentioning that Phlox show their Google PageSpeed score as 96/100 on their website. This is incredibly misleading since every website has it's own individual PageSpeed score. Let's see how this one did...
Google provides free access to its own PageSpeed Insights tool, which produces 2 detailed reports, one specifically for desktop, and one for mobile.
Acheiving a score above 75 should be relatively straight forward on desktop - on mobile it is significantly more challenging.
See the review for www.rachaeldalton.com as an example of what's possible when an expert builds a bespoke website.
As more and more users are browsing the web on their phones, Google is now more concerned with the speed of a website as a mobile user.
This score for mobile experience is obviously way below average. A score above 90 for both desktop and mobile is critical these days, and anything less really shouldn't be acceptable.
See the review for www.rachaeldalton.com as an example of what's possible when a website is built by an expert.
Here's the detail report for the mobile experience.
This may not be the experience you have when visiting the site, but is how Google tests the site, based on a specific model of mobile phone, and a typical mobile connection.
It's very easy to fall into a false sense of security by testing your site manually on a nice fast broadband connection.
The importance of these results can not be over-stated. It is Google who determines how well a website ranks in search results, and how many visitors come to the website, speed is now a very important factor.
If a web designer ever tries to tell you these reports aren't important, it's worth thinking about their agenda. Typically they either can't improve things, or won't because it would take them too long.
Let's look at where the website has been physically hosted.
The major concern is that this website is sat on a server with over 14,000 other websites.
This is what the industry calls "Shared Hosting", it's cheap, and unfortunately squeezing on this many websites is standard practice.
If any of those other websites get busy or attacked, every other website on that server will suffer with even slower response times.
This is bad enough for users, but if this occurs when Google is checking your site, it may negatively affect your Google ranking.
We'll skip the German location, which might be a concern for a UK-based website. The hosting company is 1&1, which is a German company.
Finally, we crack open the big-guns. The website was monitored closely for 24 hours to see if it had any consistent problems.
This is professional server monitoring in action, which periodically checks a website (or server) to see how quickly the page loads, or if it's offline.
This only covers the initial request for the website (not the entire page), response times should be well under 0.1 seconds.
Your browser actually makes between 50 - 100 individual requests to display a whole page - which is why they need to be super-fast.
This server can't even handle response times under 0.5 seconds - by Internet standards this is horrendous.
For the following test we allowed some slack in response times of these initial requests.
Less than 1 second is deemed "OK", at least it's online.
Between 1 and 2 seconds is "Warning".
More than 2 seconds is Danger/Alert time.
The full report is available to view here and you'll probably need to zoom in. You'll see the average response time is 0.5 seconds at best.
Several times every hour the response time is in excess of 1 second (see in yellow).
Red indicates times when it took longer than 2 seconds to respond.
To re-iterate the seriousness of the situation, we're not talking about the total time to load a page, this is simply the first request your browser makes. A browser needs between 50 and 100 of these individual requests to display a page on this website.
The majority of web-designers simply won't have tools like this in place, and will be completely oblivious to how a website is performing 24/7/365.
This means they are also unable to take steps to improve the situation.
It's a sad situation when websites are built in this way and thrown onto some "Shared Hosting" for £10 a month, and left alone.
Picking a web-designer is very tricky these days, because you may not understand what they're doing, or rather what they should be doing for you.
It's very easy (and quick) for a "web-designer" to grab a professional looking template, and use that as a basis for your website, with no real effort.
This example probably took around 2-3 hours to complete, and unfortunately means everyone gets used to cheap websites.
The big problem is that cheap websites won't grow your business as much as a professionally built one, so whatever you pay for a website is usually money down the drain.
It's not uncommon for a business to then pay for a re-design after a year because the first one doesn't work, then to pay for an "SEO expert" to try and fix it, which is usually just more money down the drain.
For an example of how a website should be built, see the review for www.rachaeldalton.com.
I would highly recommend Rob, from on-going website updates to swift replies to my questions, Rob has been fantastic. I have received so many amazing comments about my web site.