Website launches are such exciting events. There’s a lot of anticipation and expectation in the air as you prepare for one.
However, even seemingly small mistakes in the launch process can be devastating. Overlooking a single task or element can ruin what would otherwise be a great success.
That’s why you should make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
We’ll help you do so with our website launch checklist, where we go over the thirteen most important things to do and check for before your website goes live.
Choose the Right Domain and Hosting Options
This first step sets the foundation for your website. Choosing an inadequate domain name or an unreliable hosting service can hurt you down the road.
First, it’s essential to choose the right domain.
By this stage in the process, you may have already chosen one, or you might have a few options in mind.
Here are a few pointers to make sure you’ve got a good one:
- Aim for a .com extension if possible. Other TLDs are certainly gaining traction, but .com is always a safe bet.
- Keep it short. Shorter domain names tend to garner more web traffic overall.
- Avoid hyphens and numbers. Hyphens and numbers can make your domain difficult to remember and potentially hurt credibility.
Once you have your domain, make sure you host it in the right place.
For starters, ensure that the provider has a good reputation.
Hosting providers are among the most reviewed products on the web, so there’s plenty of content to research. You don’t have to be an expert yourself to make a sound decision.
Then, once you’ve narrowed down your choices, consider the pricing.
Make sure you don’t lock yourself into any additional services and features you don’t need, such as web design, email marketing, SEO, and other business services.
Lastly, read the terms and conditions before making any long-term commitments. Look for shorter-term contracts when possible.
Implement the Best UX Practices
On today’s web, you can’t afford missteps when it comes to user experience (UX).
While you’ve already considered UX during the web design process, there are certain areas that deserve particular attention as you prepare for the launch of your website.
Here are three of those areas.
Navigation is the heart and soul of your website’s UX, so it should be intuitive.
The failure to implement easy navigation will result in a high bounce rate, low conversion rate, and a poor experience with your brand.
Work your way through the site and verify that:
- Your navigation is consistent throughout the site
- Anchor texts are descriptive and let the user know what to expect before clicking
- All key pages are accessible from any page on the site
- No important page is more than 3 or 4 clicks away from the homepage
- Breadcrumbs are utilized to let users know where they are on the site
If you’ve been involved in the design process, you may be in too deep to properly assess whether the navigation makes sense, so it’s well worth having a third party browse through the site too.
Check For Broken Links
Broken links are a quick way to get users to exit your website without accomplishing any tasks. They interrupt the UX and frustrate visitors.
You must check your website for broken links.
Unless your website is just a few pages, the design process has probably been long and grueling with a few rounds of changes. This means it’s very likely some broken links have found their way into the site.
To eliminate them on time, you have to conduct an audit of your website.
Rather than going page by page and clicking each link (which could take weeks), you can utilize a tool like Serptimizer’s SEO Audit Tool.
Simply input your URL, let the tool crawl your site, and identify all your broken links to fix ahead of the launch.
One key aspect of great UX is website performance. Pages that load fast keep users engaged, while slow ones result in bounces and exits.
The biggest culprit of slow load times is unoptimized images.
Typically, the file size is far too large, which increases the overall size of the page. Then on top of that, resources are used to resize the image and fit the space.
Run your site through a tool like Google’s Pagespeed Insights to see if images are causing poor performance. It will let you know which pages are the issue.
If using WordPress, check out this list of top compression plugins.
However, if you’re not using WordPress, see if your environment has any native tools to help, or try using a free tool like TinyPNG.
Ensure User Safety
These days, user safety and security are more important than ever. All it takes is one security breach to ruin your reputation.
The first and most obvious thing to check for is an SSL certificate.
It displays key information for verifying the owner of a website and encrypting web traffic. Every website should have one, but if you’re processing information or accepting payments—it’s an absolute must.
Once you have the SSL certificate installed, make sure your site loads in https.
In addition to your SSL, make sure:
- Software and plugins are up-to-date. Outdated software can lead to vulnerabilities and hacks.
- Your site is backed up. Your host or CMS likely has an option for regular site backups.
- Your host and CMS passwords are secure. An easy-to-guess password is too risky in today’s day and age.
- User and admin access is controlled. Don’t grant anyone admin access unless they absolutely need it.
You should always make security your priority.
Test Browser and Mobile Compatibility
There was a time when everyone who used the internet operated on a desktop—but those days are long gone.
Your website will garner visits from laptops, tablets, phones, watches, and who knows what else by the time you read this article.
In addition to different screens, there are also a host of different browsers being used today, with new options coming out on a regular basis.
It’s crucial that your website performs optimally and provides great UX on every device and browser.
To test for optimal performance on mobile devices, try Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
To test your site across different browsers, you can utilize free tools like NetRenderer.
All of these tools allow you to see how your site looks and functions across a range of devices and browsers to ensure optimal performance no matter how your visitors are navigating the web.
Ensure Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory compliance is one of the hottest topics in the world right now. The EU rolled out GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) back in 2016, and it changed the way businesses operate online forever.
Similar regulations were adopted in different countries and regions, but GDPR has been the most notable.
Failure to comply with the GDPR and similar regulations may result in a loss of trust from your users, but it could also mean dealing with serious fines and lawsuits.
Build trust with your audience and avoid legal issues by doing a few things.
Have users actively opt-in to marketing communications. This means you can’t have checkboxes pre-selected for opt-ins.
Enable users to granularly opt-in to marketing communications. This means you can’t bundle retargeting ads, email communications, and phone calls into the same checkbox.
Learn more about how to ensure your site is compliant with GDPR.
Set Up Channels for Error Monitoring
Website errors can be detrimental to your website and your brand. When visitors run into page errors while trying to navigate your site, there’s a good chance they won’t return.
It’s crucial that you set up error monitoring prior to launching your site, so that you can catch and fix these types of errors in a timely manner.
Here are some common errors to look out for:
- 404 Errors: Broken links and dead pages
- 408 Errors: Page timeout due to slow load times
- 500, 502, and 503 Errors: Issues with your server connection
So how can you set up monitoring for these kinds of errors?
You have a few options. One is to use a service like Pingdom to check for uptime and errors like those listed above.
Another great option is to check out Serptimizer’s Website Performance Analysis tool.
It checks for page load times, broken resources, and many other factors that contribute to unwanted website errors.
Whatever monitoring tool you use, make sure you have email notifications set up so you can quickly fix issues.
Remove Unwanted Plugins
Plugins are super helpful tools that allow you to add valuable pieces to your website without being an expert developer.
While they can be beneficial, they also add a lot of unnecessary bloat to a website, resulting in slow load times, huge file sizes, and greater security risks.
So before launching your website, give your list of plugins a good audit.
If you’re redesigning an existing site, there’s a good chance you now have a long list of plugins you no longer need.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you audit your plugins:
- Is the plugin actively in use?
- Is the plugin outdated? Has it been updated in the past year?
- Do you know exactly what the plugin does / how it helps your site?
- Does the plugin accomplish a task another existing plugin offers?
- Did you download the plugin for future use, but never activated it?
Once you’ve identified some plugins to remove, be sure to both “Deactivate” and “Remove” the plugin. Deactivated plugins can still take up unnecessary space.
And while you’re at it, give yourself a recurring task to audit the plugins on a regular basis and keep things nice and tidy.
Perform a Website SEO Audit
Even if you’ve considered SEO throughout the design and build process, it’s certainly worth another look ahead of the launch. An SEO and digital marketing audit can help you identify areas of your site to improve.
And if you haven’t considered SEO yet, now is the time.
Here is an SEO checklist you can follow to make sure you’re optimized for search engines and not missing out on any ranking potential:
- Does each page have a title tag with a focus keyword included?
- Does each page have a set meta description?
- Does each page have an H1 with a relevant keyword included?
- Do your images all have helpful ALT text?
- Does your website have a sitemap? Has it been submitted to Google Search Console?
- Does your site have a robots.txt file that’s not blocking any key pages?
- Is Google Analytics set up for your site?
- Is the content of each page valuable for visitors?
- Have canonicals been set up for each page?
- Do you have any duplicate content that needs to be addressed?
Take your site through this list before you launch and fix any SEO issues you may have.
If you don’t want to go through this list manually, you can check out Serptimizer’s SEO Audit Tool.
It checks for all of the above, along with some more technical issues.
Create a Content Promotion Strategy
Launching a website is great, but do you have a plan for creating and promoting your content?
It’s easy to design a new site and say, “We’ll get our content strategy put together after launch,” but never get around to it.
Don’t make that mistake. Put together a content promotion strategy ahead of the launch.
Your first step should be topic and audience research. What is your audience interested in? And what kinds of topics do you want to tackle?
Next, you should perform keyword research on your chosen topics. Try to identify the keywords that are frequently searched for and not too competitive.
After that, put together a content calendar based on your research. Consider creating a spreadsheet that includes dates for publishing, post title, and the assigned writer.
Lastly, make a plan for content promotion. How will you get your content into the hands of your audience? You might utilize SEO, email marketing, or social media marketing.
Track Your Rankings
If you’ve invested any time at all into optimizing your website for search engines, you need to monitor your rankings upon launch.
Otherwise, you’ll have no idea how effective your SEO implementations were, not to mention no clue how your site will be performing.
You should continue to invest in high-ranking pages and consider adjustments to underperforming ones.
There are plenty of keyword rank tracking tools on the market, but one of the most effective is SERPtimizer’s Keyword Rank Tracker.
It provides you with daily updates on keyword performance—not only on Google, but other search engines like Bing and Yahoo as well.
In addition to daily updates, it shows position distributions, SERP features, and titles and descriptions of all keywords.
Make sure you have a plan in place to track your keyword rankings before your website goes live.
Proofread Your Content
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many websites make it onto the internet with basic proofreading mistakes and grammatical errors.
First, check your grammar and spelling across the site.
You can go page by page—which might be worth it if you have a smaller site—or you can utilize a tool that will scan the site for you and save a lot of time.
Consider checking out:
These tools will flag such errors, which means you can fix them quickly.
Next, proofread your content for relevance and comprehension.
There are some tools out there that can derive context and readability—but it is usually better to do this manually. It will be worth your time.
If you wrote a lot of the content yourself, have a third party take a look.
It is really easy to overlook your own mistakes and become blind to the poorly worded sections of the site.
However you do it, make sure to proofread your site immediately before you launch. It can be tedious, but it’s worth avoiding the embarrassment and loss of credibility with your audience.
Have Clear CTAs
A new, live website is great—but an effective website that helps you grow as a business is even better.
Calls-to-action (CTAs) help funnel your site visitors to the most important pages and tasks they can perform on your site.
Your CTAs might be to sign up for your email list, get a quote, start a free trial, or buy a product.
Go through each page and ensure your CTAs are:
- Actionable: Good and compelling CTAs use actionable directives. “Join,” “Sign Up,” and “Buy Now” are all good options.
- Compelling: Use microcopy around your CTAs to let your audience know why they should take action. What are they getting in return?
- Obvious: Use colors that stand out against the rest of your page. Your CTAs should be obvious right upon landing on the page.
- Simple: Don’t try to do too much with your CTAs. If using a form, don’t ask for too much. Make it easy and simple for someone to take action.
Audit your CTAs before launching to make sure your site is leading visitors to take the actions that matter most for your business.
Have a Contact Page
While simple, your contact page is one of the most important pages on your site. Not having one is a major mistake.
As important it is to have one, it’s just as important to make sure it’s optimized for lead acquisition. Here are some tips for optimization:
- Provide context for the form. Explain the purpose of your contact form. What should your visitor use it for? To inquire about a project, to ask for a quote, or just to touch base about a general question?
- Ask the right questions. Get all the information you need to take the next step with the visitor. If they’re a potential client, make sure to get relevant contact information.
- Add some social proof. The visitor is already on your page, so they’re at least considering reaching out. Solidify their decision with testimonials, links to case studies, or current client logos.
A properly optimized contact page, like the one from Shopify seen below, sets you up for success.
Ensure your contact page is easy to find and effective before you launch your website.
It can be tempting to rush and push an almost-ready website live. You want the world to see it!
However, it pays to take your site through a checklist prior to launching.
It might seem tedious, but waiting an extra day or two is better than publishing an ineffective website.
Go through the thirteen steps of this website launch checklist to make sure you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s. Your future site visitors will thank you.