Last week I was chatting with my friends in an online web design group, talking about the online tools I use to research a website.
You know, when you’re considering taking on a new client and want to gather background information about their existing site.
The kind of information that can take a fair amount of your time researching. Website details such as:
- Who hosts the site
- Where the domain name is registered
- What technology was used to create the site
- For WordPress sites, what themes and plugins are used
- And many more
I don’t necessarily want to have all the details about the site.
But having some information can provide a better picture of the site, how it was developed, and issues you want to know about so you can make an informed decision about the client’s project.
Several colleagues and friends added resources to my original list of five free online tools and it quickly grew to 15 tools.
Two friends asked if I could compile my list of resources.
Sure, I replied. I think it’s useful for web designers and developers as well as website owners.
Here is my list of free online tools to research a website.
Anyone who has worked on the web for over 10 years has probably heard about Netcraft, one of the first online tools to provide details about a website.
Today, its site report may not be as complete as other tools, but it has been my first site to check to learn about the technologies powering a site, IP address, domain registrar, host, and hosting history (which I find useful to know).
2. Sucuri Site Check
Before I visit a site, I always run the site URL through the Sucuri Security free website malware and security scanner to check the site for known malware, blacklists, security issues, and outdated software.
Sucuri Security’s scanner works on any type of website and can quickly alert me to security issues.
You can learn what technology a site is using with BuiltWith, an online tool that provides a technology profile of the active technologies used on a site, as well as technologies that have been removed.
You’ll learn about security, web server, email services, hosting providers, frameworks, advertising, and analytics/tracking information in a BuiltWith report.
A cross-platform tool, Wappalyzer can detect content management systems, ecommerce platforms, frameworks, server software, analytics tools, and more.
Ever wondered what WordPress theme and plugin is being used on a website? With ScanWP, you can learn exactly that, along with the theme price, version, store where you can buy the theme, and what tags are associated with the theme.
ScanWP is also available as a Chrome extension.
6. WP Theme Detector
While more limited in its results than ScanWP, WP Theme Detector will also also provide details about the WordPress theme and plugins used on a site.
I’ve had mixed results with getting information about the plugins on the site, but perhaps your searches will produce better results than mine.
Described as an all-in-one marketing toolkit, I use the free version of SEMRush to get an overview of advertising information about a site.
You’ll learn about organic and paid search traffic, backlinks, display advertising, referring domains, and more with their free report.
SEMRush has a wealth of information you can easily spend hours reviewing, I don’t spend a lot of time with this site, though I knew many digital marketers who use SEMRush as their main research tool.
I discovered Nibbler last week from my friend James who recommended it as a free tool for testing websites. Nibbler will test five pages on the site (free version) and score the pages for 17 different factors based on accessibility, experience, marketing, technology, and provide an overall score for the site.
I like how quickly Nibbler provides results; their report is well-designed and easy to read. Nibbler is moving up in my list of favorite web checking resources.
One of the best known sites for testing site speed and performance, Pingdom allows you to test the load time for a website page, analyze it, and provide information about the bottlenecks causing problems for site performance.
10. Google PageSpeed Insights
What better online tool to learn about site performance than the free online Google PageSpeed Insights tool? Analyze a web page and learn about the desktop and mobile experience for users.
PageSpeed Insights analyzes a page and provides information on how you can fix the site as well as what performance rules the site has passed.
Similar to Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix offers insights on how your site loads and provides recommendations on how you can improve site performance by optimizing images and improving code.
One of the added features from GTMetrix that makes it stand out for me: specific instructions for improving WordPress site performance.
Another site performance testing tool, WebPageTest allows you to test a webpage URL performance. Their results provide information about load time, first byte, start render, speed index, and how long it takes for the page to be fully loaded.
I like that it offers options to test for different browsers from different locations around the world, based on consumer connection speeds.
For a high-level analysis of code, accessibility, SEO, and performance, Pagelocity offers basic information about HTML/CSS, on-page SEO, resources, and social media metrics.
I like getting a quick analysis of a site. Pagelocity gives me a quick “executive summary” with many of the key items I’m interested in knowing about.
Another tool that’s been around for a while, MXToolbox provides information about a website’s domain registration, host name, IP address, and will check the domain against any blacklists.
Some of the other features MX Toolbox offers is the ability to verify a URL allows secure http connections and to check DNS Servers for possible problems.
If you want to check the domain name propagation for a customer’s site, WhatsMyDNS is will let you instantly do a DNS lookup for a domain name’s IP address on name servers around the world.
Useful if a client says their customers can’t access their site in different parts of the world.
With a variety of different free online tools, you can can quickly research a URL and learn a lot of information about a website. Hopefully these tools will make your job a lot easier!
If you know of tools you’d like to add to the list, share them in the comments.