Four Kitchens

How Site Health Checks make better sites

5 Min. ReadDigital strategy

All of us have been to a new dentist at some point. When you first visit a dentist, there is always a routine checklist of things that the dentist looks at that gives them an overall idea of your oral health. Consider this your mouth’s “health check.” Similarly, at Four Kitchens, we always strongly recommend that we perform a Site Health Check to form a baseline understanding of your site and an idea of what it is we are working with.

What is a Site Health Check?

From agency to agency, the terminology of the initial look at your site is a little different. Some call this a “site audit.” Some call it a “site status report.” We like to call it a Site Health Check. The gist of a Site Health Check is a series of scripted tests run against a local version of your site to help determine if it:

  1. Is using safe and secure technology.
  2. Is using an architecture that can be maintained.
  3. Falls into the sites architecture’s best practices. For example:
    • Drupal 7 has a set of best practices.
    • WordPress has a different set of best practices.
    • A JavaScript application or website has different needs.
  4. Has any legacy systems or obvious pitfalls.

You might ask, “How does this help us? I already know I’m six months behind on security upgrades and that I don’t have the BMW of website architecture.” This opportunity gives you a chance to get familiar with our working style, while giving us, as your new development team, a chance to get a feel of some of your potential needs while setting up the baseline for working on a copy of your site. It’s a way to break the ice together while providing results for potential next steps.

What information comes out of a Site Health Check?

Our Site Health Checks, in short, provide you with three things:

  1. A summarized account of the total health of the site.
  2. A prioritized list of actionable recommendations.
  3. A comprehensive list of the good, as well as the not so good.

The comprehensive list includes the following information points:

  • Server architecture
  • Software versions
  • Dependency versions
  • Modules
  • Themes
  • Plugins
  • Packages
  • Any pending updates for dependencies, including security releases
  • How configuration management is handled (this affects how we will work with you when you have to make changes to the site)
  • Unused and duplicate dependencies
  • How dependencies are managed in your website
  • Any undocumented modification to the dependencies
  • A list of best practices followed or not followed as determined by the communities of software used to build your site
  • Storage statistics on disk usage and database usage
  • A high-level description of the custom code that helps your site work
  • Statistics on items in your site such as content types, taxonomy, and users

Yes, this is a large list. Best of all, a personalized recommendation comes with several of these statistics.

After we gather all the information mentioned above, we will have a confident feel of how the site was put together. We also have a conversation starting point, as well as a technical starting point because you allowed us to see how a workflow is constructed with your potentially unique setup. At this point, we share our recommendations based on our statistical analysis.

We start off with a summary of the site’s current health. This is followed by a prioritized list of recommendations. We measure our prioritizations using the terms “high,” “medium,” and “low,” keyed as red, yellow, and green. This list is there as a recommendation only. We do, however, suggest working together with you to reprioritize this list with your needs in mind. It’s literally our first stab at what working with you could look like.

It’s a way to break the ice together while providing results for potential next steps.

After the recommendations, we have the list of the raw statistics with specific feedback. Every statistic is annotated, even if it’s just to say, “This is awesome.” We not only want to alert you of areas for improvement, but also where things are going great.

This report is presented to you in a virtual meeting. We talk through it and work with you to help you understand where it all is coming from and just how good things really are, using our experience as a guidepost to put the challenges, or lack of, into perspective. You obviously receive a copy of the report, but you also receive the personal perspective of one of the engineers who performed the audit.

In short, in exchange for allowing a peek under the hood, you get to start a genuine relationship with a partner.

What a Site Health Check is not

So we do our magic and we are ready to do anything on the site, right!? The Site Health Check is an ice breaker. It is not a crystal ball. Much like the deep bacteria that hide in some people’s gums, some information cannot be gleaned from looking at the surface. Some of that information includes:

  • Personnel or editorial workflow
  • Fully understanding highly technical code
  • Total comprehension of custom systems that interact with your site
  • Information flow
  • Use cases
  • Experience of past challenges

We bring to the table our ability to problem solve, explore, and collaborate. We also bring experience from many other websites, where we have solved similar problems and may have a different outlook. This is where starting and growing a genuine relationship with you yields fruitful results. We will work with you immediately to fill in the gaps informed by the Site Health Check.

Final thoughts

So if we are going to work with you and build a relationship, why start with a Site Health Check? This is the chance to break the ice and help establish a shared understanding and real relationship based on common statistics. Much like in the world of dentistry, it takes a little poking and prodding to get the initial feel for how healthy your site is, but the real benefit is the relationship and understanding that builds from that initial work, which in turn makes a better site.