12 Feb 20 Important Things To Check Before Launching A Website
In this Internet-powered, marketing-propelled age, few things can match the euphoria of seeing your own website go from dream to reality. Let’s be honest – aren’t you excited about waking up to the day when the web developers you hired give you a call to tell you that the website is ready to go live?
However, even the most well-designed websites can still fall prey to good ol’ Murphy’s pesky rule: If anything can go wrong, it will. That’s why the value of checking and rechecking before launching a website simply cannot be overstated.
To make inspection much easier, you can refer to the list below, which contains what can be considered a 20-step guide to making sure that your website is ready for launch. Avoid mistakes and headaches by ensuring that these elements of your website are working perfectly (and if it helps, maybe you could print it out as a checklist):
1. Website Copy
At the top of your priority list should be checking whether your website content is correctly updated. When websites are launched, people tend to forget to remove certain test or “hidden” text on the pages, including rushed drafts of website copy. From the homepage down to the contact page, be sure to double- and triple-check everything for spelling, grammar, and capitalization errors. Don’t stop at one run, though – read everything multiple times, and if you can, ask a friend or colleague to read it, too. Add clear headings, avoid long paragraphs and gigantic text blocks, and try to write in the list format to make your copy more readable.
2. Contact Details
Since you want people to be able to reach you, it is important to set up a Contact Us page on your site, which contains your business phone number, email address, mailing address, Skype IDs, and basically everything that people can be used to contact your business. Most newly designed websites have placeholders for these, so be sure to change them to your own.
3. Meta Descriptions
The rules of the SEO game have changed slightly in the last few years; nowadays, meta descriptions and keyword tags are not as important as they used to be. However, they still provide enough benefits to your site to merit their inclusion. Remember that the meta description is what Google displays when you search for a topic and pages pop up, so change them for each of your pages and make them connect strongly to the content on the page they were drafted for.
Found in your root directory, the sitemap.xml file allows major search engines (such as Google and Yahoo) to easy find and categorize your website. Be sure to have one in place (if you’re using WordPress, for example, Google has an XML Sitemaps plugin just for that.
5. Cross-Platform Compatibility
Don’t wait for that awkward moment when, right after your beautiful site goes live, you switch from Chrome to Firefox… and suddenly catch an eyeful of misaligned text, oversized images, and an overall visual and functional nightmare of a website. If you’re going to check, base your assessment on the following browsers: Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Firefox 3, Safari 3, Chrome, Opera and the iPhone. There is a tool called Browsershots that does all of the testing automatically.
6. Optimized Images
By optimizing (read: controlling the file size, resolution, and format of) your images, you’ll see great byte savings as well as vastly improved website performance and speed. This is because when you use images that are optimized, the browser would have to download fewer bytes, leading to faster loading times and less competition for bandwidth.
7. Website Speed
There’s nothing quite as annoying as a website that loads so slow, you could swear that a snail could outrun it. Reports are also coming in that Google is giving better rankings to faster-loading sites. Check your website’s speed with tools like Pingdom. The faster your website loads, the better.
It’s important to have a favicon – not only would it make your site look more professional and unique, it would also help you with branding, creating great recall with your audience. Check if your current favicon displays the custom or personalized favicon you want.
9. External And Internal Links
A common mistake for most website owners is blindly assuming that all of their links work. It doesn’t hurt to manually check; after all, you only need to click them to verify. This is one of the most common errors web designers and developers commit when launching a website since they most likely developed every website offline and used “dummy” links. So, click everything!
10. Site Security
Ask your web developer if your website has Robot.txt, .htaccess, and if it is SQL injection proof. If you developed your own website, be sure to have these three in place, otherwise you might dip yourself in big trouble in the future when your website grows bigger.
Don’t get too caught up in the excitement – make sure your site’s features actually work! The move from a development server to a live setting sometimes affects your file structure, and may break your site’s functionality. Do some testing yourself, try to actually break your website.
12. Legal Policy
13. 404 Pages
Often overlooked, 404 pages are important because they indicate that a previously existing page may no longer be accessible, and can even point visitors in the right direction.
14. Website Validation
Run a validation test on your website to catch errors or areas for improvement. Your web designer/developer should know this, and if not, feel free to point the errors to them. You can check the errors yourself using W3C’s Validator.
15. Social Media Sharing Capabilities
A surefire way to drive more traffic to your site is to make the content shareable on social media. Simply add Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ buttons to your pages through the dashboard, and you’re all set! If you don’t know HTML and CSS, be sure to ask your developer to add these.
17. RSS Feed
For blogs, it’s highly recommended to setup an RSS feed so that users can easily subscribe to posts and follow your activities online. You can place this along with your social media icons.
18. Proper Audience Targeting
Make sure you’re capturing your audience’s attention with the right tone and use of language. Consider, for example, using full words instead of contractions if you’re addressing a more mature and technical audience.
19. A Good Analytics Tool
It’s important to have an analytics tool to gauge the performance of your website, as well as to keep track of your conversion rate. By far, the most highly recommended tool is Google Analytics – you can easily sign up for it and start using it for free. As an alternative, you can also check Piwik, a free web analytics tool.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many forget the importance of having a backup for websites. Make sure to save all your data in a separate location in case the time comes when your site crashes and you need to restore lost content. If you are using WordPress, sign up for a Dropbox account and install WordPress Backup to Dropbox to make regular and automatic backups.
Just follow this list to the letter, and your website will run with little to no trouble. Start making waves across the Internet with your new (and fully operational!) website.