Posted on February 22, 2016
You’re all ready to launch. You have a new website, or a campaign microsite, or just a bunch of new, linked web pages, and you’re eager to see what they can achieve.
Hold up a second. Now’s the time to double check you’ve got everything pulling towards success, and there are no forgotten loose ends to trip you up once you press that button. Aside from obvious things like proofreading your copy, there are a worrying amount of hidden elements that could throw off your website. We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when you notice an error post-launch, or – even worse – had it pointed it out by a customer.
Use our website checklist below to make sure your website is match ready. Even if you’ve had a site up and running a while, it’s probably worth running a health check and working through these, too.
Developers can easily slip into the habit of making assumptions about what a user might find easy. When you’ve worked with a design from the beginning and know it inside out, navigation and use may start to appear more intuitive than it is. Building in a testing stage is useful. Organise some ‘guinea pig’ test users and let them loose on your website – people who weren’t involved in the build process and who ideally haven’t seen or used the website at any stage. Listening to their feedback can help uncover any potential potholes that might make things difficult for the average user.
2. Broken links
It’s important to make sure all the links on your site are correct and working before launch and don’t result in 404 errors when clicked. As an added safety net, because sometimes accidents do happen, make sure you have a proper 404 error page set up that your user will be redirected to, explaining clearly that a page is not available and/or redirecting them back to your website to continue browsing.
3. Speed optimisation
Your site should run at a good speed on both desktop and mobile. There are tools out there such as Google Page Speed that can assess your website and give you some pointers for speeding things up. Such tools are great for insight, but it’s important not to rely solely on them. Actual ‘real-world’ tests on a variety of different connections, browsers and devices are also recommended. You can’t beat the real thing.
4. Essential SEO
Even if you haven’t yet had time to fully optimise your site for search engine rankings, it’s essential that you at least pay attention to the basic stuff such as headings, titles, img alt tags, meta descriptions, etc. This will help kick-start start the ranking process and provide a solid foundation to build on later.
5. 301 redirects
This one’s especially important if your website or pages existed in a previous form at a different URL and the pages were indexed on Google and elsewhere. Setting up these 301 redirects ensures that anyone clicking an old, external link plus all search engine traffic will end up in the right place on the new site, instead of just throwing back an error message and leaving the user puzzled or annoyed.
6. Mobile responsiveness
Mobile responsiveness is something we stress over and over, and we’ll say it again here, too: don’t underestimate the importance of mobile. Google has a responsiveness webmaster tool which will analyse a URL and either pass or fail it as a mobile-friendly site. If your website doesn’t meet mobile-friendly criteria, the entire site could be being ranked less favourably in Google’s ranking and appear much lower, or not at all, in user search results. Once again, don’t just rely on a tool – carry out plenty of ‘real-world’ usability testing on different phones, tablets, etc.
7. Webmaster Tools and Analytics
We’ve mentioned a couple already, but the full range of Google webmaster tools can give you vital information and insight into the running of your website and tell you where your traffic is coming from. Make sure you’ve set them up, and any relevant tracking code is inserted into website pages before the site goes live.
Carry out at least one backup of the site files and database before the site launches. You can never rule out ghosts in the machine and those soul-crushing moments of unexplained errors and missing data do happen.
Forms are often a developer’s worst nightmare, so it’s especially important to rigorously test these out before you launch. Make sure you have the correct validation in place and, most importantly, that when someone submits information, it gets delivered where it should do.
All checked? Good news. Best of luck with your new site!