So much goes into getting a website up-and-running. Once the hard work is seemingly done – you’ve designed and built the website, added content, etc. – you may think the only thing left is to make it go live. However, there’s a checklist of must-dos to go through before letting the public see all your hard work. Here’s what you need to do right before your site launch so that it all goes off without a hitch.
1. Create a Launch Schedule
Preparing to launch your website is an important and much-needed part of your website strategy, and you don’t want to rush through it. By creating a launch schedule, you’ll ensure that everything gets done and that you won’t miss a step. Also, it’ll help quell your impatience – you’ll know that you’ll get to the launch date and exactly when that’ll be.
2. Map the Content
Before you validate and test the website, you need to perform a final check to make sure all of the necessary content is there. List all of your brand goals, then list the different pieces of content that work toward each goal. You’ll determine where pieces of content can be combined to simplify while making a greater impact, as well as where you need to add more content.
3. Validate the Code
While a few CSS or HTML errors shouldn’t impact Google ranking, you want everything to be as perfect as possible before launching your site. Use a tool to scan your website for errors. You’ll then get a report with the issues that need to be fixed.
4. Navigate the Website and Test Everything
Click every single button and link to ensure they do what they’re meant to. You especially want to make sure that your chat box, contact form and lead generation forms work – visitors should be able to connect with your brand however they choose to, especially if your company depends on it. Additionally, make sure that multimedia, like photos and videos, load and play correctly.
5. Read All of the Content
Your written content is a big part of your website strategy, and it’s a good idea to give everything a final proofread to make sure there aren’t any mistakes you missed. Also, this is the best time to go over your SEO strategy and ensure your content is optimized. Yes, you can tweak SEO later, but you want your website to make a splash when Google indexes it for the very first time.
6. Make Sure Every Page Can Be Indexed
In order to maximize SEO, web crawlers have to index every page of your website. To make sure none of those pages are blocked from being indexed, use a website auditing tool. You can then check settings or troubleshoot to allow those pages to be indexed.
7. Test the Website on Different Devices and Browsers
Your website should be responsive and work on all devices and browsers. Now’s the right time to make sure it’s loading properly no matter how it’s viewed. Can visitors read, click and use every component of the website when they’re on a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device?
8. Watch How Someone Navigates the Website
As the website owner, you have your own way of getting around your site, and it’s fairly easy for you because you know where everything is. To see how users will navigate it, though, watch as someone uses the website without any prior experience or direction from you. You’ll figure out what’s most enticing about your site, as well as where people get confused.
9. Check the Website Speed
Even the smallest of delays, as short as a fraction of a second, can impact user experience and negatively impact your traffic. You need to get your website to your visitors as quickly as you can. Scan your website for loading speed, then make any necessary changes to the pages that are slowing things down, like upgrading your hosting package or storing media files in a more efficient way. We typically use GTMetrix or Google Insights
10. Check the Website’s Uptime
Before launching, you need to know how much downtime your website is experiencing. To do this, you’ll have to monitor its uptime. There are tools that can help you do this by sending you an alert if content isn’t available for some reason.
11. Customize the 404 Error Page
When a visitor makes an error when typing in a URL, they may stumble upon a 404 error page. The default page is pretty ugly and won’t help the user get where they’re trying to go, which means they may just leave the site entirely without trying again. You can create a custom 404 page that kindly welcomes the user and gives them helpful links to your website’s most popular pages.
12. Ask Someone to Review the Website
You’ve already had one or more people navigate the website, but what about gathering their thoughts and feelings about it? Ask a few people to review your website. What did they like and dislike about the content, appearance and usability of the site?
13. Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics should be set up before your website is launched. The service will give you in-depth insight into how people find and navigate your website. You want Google Analytics to start gathering information from the beginning, so don’t wait until after your site is live to get this set up.
14. Install Facebook Pixel
Facebook Pixel is similar to Google Analytics, but the analytics it delivers are Facebook-specific. If you use Facebook for marketing, Pixel will tell you how your Facebook ads are converting users and whether or not they’re sending traffic to your site. You can then make changes to your ads and track the new ads to see if anything has improved.
15. Plan Your First Marketing Campaign
Whether you’re a company of one or you have a marketing team, you have to figure out how you’re going to market your brand before your website launches. What is the unique selling proposition of your brand – what makes it stand out from competitors? How can you bring this information to your audience?
16. Run a Site Backup
Before your website launch, you’ll want to back it up one final time – you can do this manually, but also set up automatic backups to run on a schedule. This way, you won’t lose any data even if something goes wrong. If the website does fail in some way, you can restore it to the most recent backup instead of having to start from scratch.
It’s tempting to just launch your website the second it’s finished. After all, so much work went into it and you want to start gaining traffic as soon as possible. However, if you launch too early, before all the testing is done, you could end up with a problematic website that turns off users before they have the chance to explore. Take time right before the website launch to thoroughly work through your checklist – you’ll be happy you did.