10 Point Website Launch Checklist
It’s 2018, and this year is already flying by. You might be a fellow web designer or web developer – or you may be someone looking to launch a website yourself. Either way, I’ve compiled a list of essential pre-launch tasks you really should undertake.
If you have employed a web designer to work with, make sure you ask him or her about this list and ensure everything is done – you don’t want your site to let you down within weeks of launch.
1. Make sure all of the links work
It can be easy if you’re not careful, to hardcode links – especially within a CMS (Content Management System) page editor. So make sure that all of your links are able to be switched easily to point at your new and live URL.
2. Check your site speed
There is nothing worse for your users than finding your site, and it takes 6, 7, 8 seconds to fully load. You’ll lose users before you even begin. Site speed is such an important factor in launching a new site. Did you know that Google experienced a 20% drop in traffic a few years back down to a 0.5s delay? That’s crazy, but there is no reason your site should be slow.
Site speed can be check via Google’s own Insights tool (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/) – and you should be aiming for 75 and above on the scale. Mobile is usually more important for a high score, due to people browsing on 3G or 4G connections, but don’t ignore your desktop rating. Your server can play a massive part in your site speed, so make sure you host your site with a reputable host. It’s easy to get swayed by price. But remember, you do get what you pay for! You wouldn’t launch a new shop, and run it out of a rickety old wooden hut, so don’t do the same with your hosting. Your site speed and security depend on great hosting – my personal recommendation is Nimbus Hosting – but I don’t make a penny from recommendations, so do make your own mind up!
3. Ensure your 404 page is set up properly
A quick fire way to lose users is to have a dead page on your site – a 404 page should be instructive and helpful in getting you back to where you wanted to be. It happens, sometimes content gets moved – and if you’re launching a replacement website, then your URL structure may have changed. You need to make sure if someone lands on your site and can’t find the page they’re looking for, they have options. Ask your developer to show you the design for the 404 error page in advance of launch.
4. Set up any 301 redirects you might need
Similar to above – if you launch a new site, your URL structure might have changed. It’s a good idea to get a list of your old URLs and ensure you set up a 301 redirect to the new URL where that page content now lives.
For example, you may have had a site where your structure was mysite.com/about-me.html and your new site is mysite.com/about/ – you don’t want to lose users this way – so a 301 redirect takes them to the new page on your site.
5. Check your site works on all browsers and devices
It sounds odd, in this day and age to have to think twice about making sure your site works on mobile. But it’s important to ask the question. Does the site work on my desktop, how about in Safari – and what about on a PC in Edge? How about on an iPad in landscape mode – you need to be sure your site doesn’t fall over in any viewport.
Google take a very dim view on sites not being mobile optimised, so it’s worth doing your checks nice and early.
6. Install Google Analytics
You want to know what traffic you’re getting, where it’s coming from and what they’re doing on your site when they get there. Analytics will give you all of that information. Getting the script in place is the first port of call, but then actually use it too. You can take courses on how to get the most out of your data, or watch a few YouTube videos on the subject.
7. Optimise your Meta Data
Page titles and meta descriptions are very important to your SEO. If you get those right, and there’s substantial content on your page, then you have a good chance of ranking highly. If you’re not sure about these, get your web developer to talk them through with you. I recommend Yoast as a plugin for WordPress sites, which allows you to easily manage the meta data of each page or post within the editor.
8. Create social media accounts for your brand
Pick the channels that best suit your needs. There’s nothing worse than a twitter account with 2 tweets from a year ago. It stinks of a company that isn’t active. You should only pick channels that you can keep up to date regularly. Tweet daily, Post on Instagram a few times a week – know the subscribers and make sure you keep them up to date, with relevant content and posts.
9. Create and Schedule Backups
Good hosts will sort this out – but your web developer might be able to help too. You need backups of your site. What if you make loads of edits and 3 days later you get hacked, or the server dies – you lose all of that data. You need daily backups and the importance of these cannot be overstated. Get your host or web designed to sort backups before you go live. It’s a life saver!
10. Monitor Up-Time
You need to know if your site ever goes down. The last thing you want is a customer calling to tell you your site is down. There are loads of great tools, one of which is Uptime Robot, that can help track if your site goes down. But you need to be on top of it – your site goes down, your business goes down.
Good luck with your new site!