In this website pre-launch checklist, we’ll walk you through every step you need to take in order to guarantee a smooth and successful website launch.
Table of Contents
Make Sure Your SSL Certificate Works
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates validate your website’s identity and enable you to use HTTPS for secure data transfer. It’s essential for eCommerce sites in particular, although there’s really no excuse for skipping this step regardless of your niche, particularly since you can generate an SSL certificate for free. If you do not confirm your SSL works, your website may be labelled as not secure.
Update Your Content Management System (CMS) to the Latest Version
Using a CMS can simplify your life in a lot of ways. This type of software usually provides you with a broad range of tools to create, update, and manage your pages and blog posts, even if you don’t have web development knowledge. Before you launch your website, you want to double-check that you’re using the latest version of your CMS and whether it works well with your site. This will practically ensure you won’t run into any nasty surprises on launch day and beyond.
Most CMS will let you know when you need to update the software, so staying up-to-date with the latest releases shouldn’t be an issue. Even after your website goes live, we recommend you always update your CMS whenever a new version goes live, so keep an eye out for notices.
Set Up a Backup Solution
In short, backups can be a lifesaver. You should have a recent backup of your website, which you can restore if the worst happens to your website. Consider a backup as the last resort. It doesn’t prevent anything, but becomes invaluable once something goes wrong. There are a lot of ways you can back up your site. You can copy and download files manually, use a third-party service, or do it through your web host.
Make Sure All The Pages You Need Are in Place
When visitors check out a site with unfinished pages, they’re likely going to think it’s either abandoned or incomplete. Neither is a great look for any website, and it can impact the level of user trust and the semblance of professionalism. A common problem with building websites is that we often think too ambitiously at first. Instead of thinking about the core pages your site needs from the get-go, you end up considering dozens of options in order to realize the ideal in your head. This level of ambition is great, but it can (and often does) delay your site’s launch.
Our advice is to return to the drawing board and outline which pages are critical to your website’s functionality. Stick to those for your launch and make sure they’re all ready for the public. Once your website is live, you can begin to think about expanding it.
Prepare for 404s
While 404 errors are uncommon for new websites, it’s always important to be prepared should a visitor mistype a URL. Preparing for 404s will improve your user experience and help you point users in the right direction to ensure you don’t lose a customer.
Test Your Site’s Navigation and Internal Links
Another aspect that can make a website look half-baked is the presence of broken links. We might forgive a broken outward link or two, but if we run into a buggy navigation menu, it can be a deal-breaker. However, unless your website’s page count is tiny, checking every link by hand can be incredibly time-consuming. Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools that do the link-checking for you.
Proofread Your Content and Copy
For the first element, let’s stick to the basics. No one wants to visit a website filled with typos, or with copy that reads as if a machine wrote it. Before your website goes public, you need to take a fine-toothed comb to it and make sure you catch aspects such as:
- Grammar and spelling mistakes
- Inconsistencies with your copy
- Redundant content
Your content should be easy to read. Make sure you have consistent font sizes and include bullet points and headers to make content scannable for the reader. Images and videos are a great way to break up text and explain confusing topics in a more digestible way. However, be sure your images are optimized and properly labelled with Alt text and double-check your video files are working properly.
Ensure Your Website is Accessible
A great website isn’t just about style or substance, it also has to offer a great user experience (UX). This means being easy to interact with, read, and navigate for everyone.
Check Your Website on Mobile Devices
Most of the world interacts with the web, mainly through mobile devices. However, not all websites are built with mobile devices in mind. Some issues your website might face include:
- Being hard to interact with (e.g., text that’s too large or small, difficult-to-click elements, etc.)
- Using media not optimized for small screen sizes
With Google’s focus on mobile-first indexing, you want your website to be mobile-friendly from day one. The easiest way to test this is by grabbing a mobile device of your own, checking to see if navigation is simple, and interacting with the site to root out any problems.
There’s also a wealth of tools and services you can use to test your site’s mobile readiness. For example, Google offers a Mobile-Friendly Test you can run on your site for free. The test generates a thorough report which tells you what you’re doing right, wrong, and how to fix it. It’s perfect to quickly gauge your small-screen suitability.
Test for Problems with Different Browsers
You’ve likely come across a website that works on one browser, but not another (especially if you’re a ‘90s child). Needless to say, you don’t want this to happen with your website, so it’s essential you test it using different browsers before launch.
There are hundreds of browsers you can test, but let’s be honest, most people use the big five. These are Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer/Edge, Firefox, and Opera. It’s easy enough to install all of them and test your website manually.
If you want to go the extra mile, there are also online services that provide you with many more obscure browser options to test your site — BrowserShots is a good resource for this. However, some quick in-house tests with the big five should be enough for most cases.
Double-Check all URLs are Correct
This may seem like an obvious step, but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this. Often times, when a site is moved from the staging site, URLs have to be changed. Double-check all URLs are present and correct on the live version of your site.
Ensure Your Site Design is Cohesive
To ensure a successful website launch, your web design needs to be cohesive and reflective of your original plan. You do not want some formatting and images to be inconsistent with the rest of the site. To ensure your site design is up to par with your vision, use the design review checklist below:
- Review each page for inconsistencies: Ensure layout, fonts, format, headers, and content is consistent.
- Check font styles and elements: Ensure font styles, spacing, colours, leading, and navigation are consistent throughout your site.
- Check image quality: Check that all images are optimized and compressed for the web.
It’s common for the above elements to be overlooked, so make sure you get a few sets of eyes on your new design before launch.
Make Sure Your Website is Legally Compliant
If you haven’t hired any legal counsel, we recommend doing so. Internet law can get confusing (and messy). Every industry has its own set of laws and regulations to follow, so it’s important to make sure your website complies with any necessary set of rules. Below are a few things to look out for:
- Add a ‘Terms of Service’ page that explains your services and any privacy policies in detail.
While this may seem boring, it’s a necessary step you’ll thank yourself for later.
Make Sure You Have Relevant CTAs
Every page should have clear calls to action. Calls to action (CTAs) guide users down the buyer’s funnel, getting them to the most important pages on your site. These are usually in the form of buttons, email sign-up forms, or social sharing. Make sure your calls to action are clear and enticing.
Create Social Media Profiles for Your Website
Most successful websites have a healthy presence on social media. In other words, they have active profiles that publish new content often, engage with followers, and generate some ‘buzz.’ The best time to start building your site’s social media presence is from day one. However, before you get started, you’ll want to figure out which platforms are the best fit for your content.
If you need further assistance, use the free consultation button below to book a 60-min free professional consultation or reach us out with one of our social media.