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Website launch checklist

by Mike Amis

Test everything. Then test it again.

The process of getting a new website out into the wild can often be a long and arduous one, involving months of hard work from many people and the collaboration of many teams. But don’t allow your eagerness to show it off to the world lead you to launch before all of the following things have been checked and checked again. Some of the them may seem obvious or trivial, but are easy to overlook; some could have potentially disastrous consequences for your business.

Performance

Is absolutely everything working as it should? Make sure that all lead generating forms are processing properly and the data submitted is being received either by email, or added to your database. All of the ‘assets’ your website uses such as images, videos, stylesheets and javascript files need to be in a fully optimised/minified state, so the overall file size of your webpages is as small as possible. Speed is a very important ranking factor for Google and other search engines and they offer a great free testing tool to see where you can improve.

Content

It goes without saying that your content should be free from spelling and grammatical errors, and there is absolutely no excuse for your live website to be blighted by them. Make sure that all of the written content is in fact content and not placeholder text used for development. Are you using stock imagery? If so, make sure you have purchased the licenses and replaced and watermarked images.

Cross-Browser compatibility

Thankfully Internet Explorer is becoming less of a nightmare for web developers with each version, and most of the other major browsers behave largely in the same way, although they all have their foibles so thorough browser testing is an absolute must. Device testing is also crucial. Obviously it is impossible to test every device but a good range of screen sizes and resolutions need to be tested for compatibility, not just the latest iPhone.

Redirects

If you have an existing website that you are replacing with a new one, the importance of accurately setting up redirects from old URLs to their new equivalents cannot be overstated. The consequences for failing to do so are many. Your search engine page rank will almost certainly be adversely affected, which may take a long time to improve. You may lose out on visitors to your site if they are following old links to pages or resources that no longer exist. You may also ruin your carefully crafted advertising campaigns, which will incur costs and loss of revenue.

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is a hugely complex and ongoing part of your website’s success, but there are a number of things you should do to so you have a solid foundation to work from. Your content needs to be well structured and relevant to what people are searching for, not just what you think they are. Each of your pages needs unique meta information, such as title and description, that succinctly tells search engines and people what the page is about. Page URLs should be meaningful and reflect the structure of your site. A sitemap should be included and submitted to search engines to aid accurate indexing of the whole website. All of the images on the site need ‘alt’ tags that describe the image content, and it is also a good idea for the file name to be descriptive. If you want people to share your content and posts on social networking sites it is also a good idea to use Open Graph tags which are supported by Facebook and Twitter, to give you control of how your information appears when it is shared.

Measuring success

If you want to know if all of your hard work is paying off, as well as find ways to improve, you will need to include analytics tracking code on your pages. This will allow you to track visitor numbers, their behaviour and much more. Using this data you can make informed decisions about how best to improve your website, as well as set up effective advertising campaigns.

Compliance

Is your website compliant with all relevant laws and standards? If you are operating internationally be aware of differences in legal requirements. Different industries also have different rules you need to be aware of. As a minimum you will need to have a privacy policy in place if you collect user information, for example in the form of cookies and form submissions. You may also need to clearly outline terms and conditions of the usage of your website to protect yourself and users.

Have a back up plan

Even the best laid plans sometimes don’t work out quite as you hoped. If you are replacing an existing website ensure you have a full backup of all content and databases, along with a plan of how you will revert back to the old website if the launch goes wrong.

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