Web101: Preparing Your Website for Launch
Monday, August 15, 2016 - Nathan Walasek
The process of building or re-designing your company’s website can be a daunting task. Part four of the five-part “Web101” series explores steps you should take in preparation of your website’s launch.
You’ve just gotten word from the developers that your shiny new website is just about finished. What can you do to ensure a successful launch?
Create a launch plan
Coordinate a “freeze date” with your developers that is at least a few days in advance of your intended launch date. A freeze date is a deadline which answers the question: when will we stop touching the site? This is the date at which all development will be done, all issues will be fixed, and all testing will be completed.
Set a date for the actual launch. It’s always best to try to launch a site in the beginning of the week, and never on a Friday. There’s always the potential hiccups or delays in the launching process and people often aren’t available to fix things over the weekend.
Consider initially doing a “soft launch”. This simply means you should hold off on announcing your new website to the world (via social media, email marketing, or word of mouth) until you’re satisfied everything is working as it should on your live server.
Double-check your site
Review your site in it’s testing environment. You’ll want to check the obvious things, like making sure your navigation links work, contact forms function properly, and that there aren’t any glaring spelling or grammar mistakes.
You should also plan to take care of the following prior to your “freeze date”:
- Validate the code. Making sure your website is validated means that the code used to create your website is following the basic rules for that code’s type. The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) provides a free validator service you can use. While most websites will not validate at a 100% success rate, fixing the most glaring issues helps to minimize potential bugs and anomalies users might experience across different browsers and devices. Speaking of that…
- Test in multiple browsers. While different browsers don’t always display websites exactly the same, they should all look and function fairly close. There’s at least 4 different mainstream browsers available, and you should check your site using each: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer (if you’re using a PC), and Safari (if you’re using a Mac). You can download and install multiple browsers on your computer to do your testing, or fire up your site on a friend’s computer to try the different options.
- Check different devices. Mobile technology is poised to overtake desktop and laptop computers as the most popular devices to access the web, so you should be sure to test your site on a variety of different devices. Be sure to test using a mobile phone (both iPhone and Android), a tablet, a laptop, and a desktop computer with a large screen. Assuming your website was developed using a “responsive” methodology, the website should “respond” nicely to the different screen formats of each. Also make sure things are accessible and user-friendly when using a touchscreen, especially your website’s navigation.
Dealing with your old site
If your brand-new site is replacing an existing one, you’ll want to have a backup of it in case you want to reference in the future (or take a trip down memory lane).
One of the most important things to consider is setting up 301 Redirects. If your new site doesn’t use the exact same URLs as the old one, you’ll want to redirect the old URLs to applicable pages on your new site. These redirects are crucial for search engines, people who may have bookmarked pages, and other websites which have linked to your site. The developers will be able to assist in setting up 301 Redirects.
Get ready to launch
Here’s a few final things you’ll want to have in order before the final countdown:
- Get your hosting ready. Your hosting company provides the physical server where your website will be living, so make sure your developers have the necessary access to log-in and upload files.
- Domain settings are accessible. If you’ll be using a new server for your website, your developers will need to make changes to your domain’s DNS (Domain Name System) settings. These settings virtually link your domain (e.g. www.yoursite.com) to your server’s IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.1).
- Install Google Analytics. This valuable service from Google allows you to get reports on your site’s traffic and analyze the behavior patterns of your users. If your old site utilized Google Analytics, you can also use it to measure the success of your new site.
Hopefully things went off without a hitch and your new site is live. In part five of the “Web101” series, we’ll talk about what you can do post-launch to spread the word and measure your site’s success.
Did you miss the last post? Get caught up: Web101: The Design & Development Process