After the long process of writing copy, designing, and developing, is it time to finally launch your new website? When is the "right" time? What do you need to double-check?
It's easy to get overwhelmed; after, all, there's a ton to do! Having an organized list helps a lot. Run through each step of this website launch checklist to ensure you've covered all your bases and primed your business for awesome.
Set yourself up for success.
Before launching your site, make sure you and your business is absolutely ready to go.
- Put your "coming soon" page to work. Don't have an empty page with only the word "Under Construction." Instead, have a landing page that's useful. At the very least, show your logo, use brand colors, and post a summary of what your business is about. Better still: an awesome photo or graphic and links to social media. Best of all: a newsletter sign-up form. It's never too early to build a crowd.
- Establish your brand. Even if the website isn't ready, it's never too late to explain who you are. Use social media and the e-mail newsletter base from your "coming soon" to produce content for early adopters. Build up some love for your brand.
- Communicate early on. While you have those same folk's attention, why not ask them questions? Get to know your potential customers early on. What are they struggling with? Why did they sign up for your newsletter? What are they hoping to get from your business? Use these conversations to make sure your business is attracting the right people, but also to build your website and business towards solving those struggles and questions. Read our post about how to create an irresistible brand here.
- Get some press. Reach out to blogs or industry news site and explain your business. See if you can write an article for them, or if they'd be interested in writing a piece about what your product is bringing to the world. If you schedule the post in time with your launch, you'll be well on your way to start off getting the ball rolling.
First things first: Check out your copy in action with the design.
- Does it make sense?
- Is each page's purpose obvious and clearly communicated?
- Do visuals reinforce the message, or distract?
- Will they know how to get to the page(s) they're looking for or need?
- Will customers or prospects know what to do next?
- Can they easily find answers to their questions?
- Will they know how to contact you?
Don't look like a nincompoop — check your text again!
- Get multiple fresh sets on eyes to check it first.
- Be sure to read slowly, checking word by word.
- Read the text aloud. Does it sound right? Natural?
- Are the transitions and grouping of ideas logical?
- Is any text redundant or too long?
Check "the little things."
Don't forget, the devil's in the details!
- Do all the links work?
- Are any pages missing or incomplete?
- Are forms submitting correctly?
- Do error messages display correctly?
- Are the messages easy to understand?
- Is the favicon missing?
- Are their links for social sharing, and do they work?
Responsiveness & compatibility.
Everything looks good...but does it on every browser?
- Check mobile: iphone, android, and different browsers on each
- Check tablet devices.
- Check desktop at different window sizes.
Assuming you don't own every device that needs to be checked, you can do this through setting up virtual machines. Or alternatively go the easier right and run it through a website that will do this for you. Browserstack is one of my personal favorites. You can see how everything works across the board in real-time. (Good-bye screen caps!) Oh, and did I mention it's easy-to-use and fast?
But don't just check how it displays — check the features work, too!
Don't forget to check every page for these important details!
- You have a site map XML file on your domain.
- Every page had meta tags, titles, and descriptions.
- Your titles and descriptions use important and relevant keywords.
- Your titles and descriptions aren't too long and will fit in Google's search without being cut-off. (Titles should be 50-60 characters long, and descriptions 150-160 characters.)
- Your page content uses a few keywords, but not too many, and not obtrusively. (Don't know what keywords to use? Get some solid tips here!)
Make sure customers don't leave your site before they even see it.
- Is your site loading too slow? Check out HubSpot's Website Grader or Google's PageSpeed Insights for tips on improvement. If it loads under 3 seconds, you're doing great!
- Ensure all your images are optimized. (There are WordPress plugins, like EWWW Image Optimizer, but tinypng is also great.)
- Cache your pages.
- Consider using a CDN (Content Delivery Network). These work by letting users get to your site through the closest local server and having a cache, saving tons of load time. One popular example is CloudFlare.
Have a plan.
I wish it was as simple as launching a site and waiting for customers to come, but sadly it's not.
- What is your business going to do next?
- Do you have a content calendar, and some new blog material already queued and ready to go?
- Do you have social media messages optimized for spreading the word about your products or services?
- Have you done research? Tested with potential customers?
- Have goals been put in place that can be effectively measured?
It's not enough to exist; you have to get your business out there. If you don't already have an audience, then you need to start building one by meeting people where they are. If you're launching an updated website, then anticipate how you'll announce the change and handle any customer questions or feedback.
Choose your timing.
Resist the temptation to launch as soon as your ready. Consider these tips:
- If this is a relaunch and your site is often busy, make an announcement beforehand with a solid date for launch so customers know when your site will be unavailable. This can also help build up some buzz! New business launches can likewise announce a date to build excitement.
- Go live when your traffic is lowest. This way you inconvenience the least number of people, and give your team a "calm" time to ensure everything transitioned smoothly.
- Launch the official announcement early, but on one of your top performing days. You want people to see the announcements, after all, so time accordingly. Send out an e-mail blast early in the morning so they see it at the start of the day, and then use social media throughout the day for everyone else.
- Focus on your content, not the "shiny new site." If you're doing a redesign, this is especially important. Focus your message on what the new site will be doing for your customers. Are their easier to use features? More articles to read? New blogs? Keep the highlights there, but if it is a significant change or branding change, feel free to write a formal announcement about how this new look fits in with your values and mission.
- Prepare to adapt. The last thing you want is a site that's static. Your industry and customers will change, and they'll come up with questions and needs you didn't expect. That's why it's important to be ready to evolve with them! As your business grows, your site should grow with it, changing with the new things you learn along the way. Don't let your site fall behind!
Make sure to cross your t's and dot your i's. Feeling confidant? If not, go through and check what you missed. Split up the work between the whole team, but leave some crossover so everything is double-checked.