Because it’s all too late once it’s ‘live’…

When you’ve been developing a brand-new website and the company has put a lot of money and resources on the table to do it, you need to make sure that your launch goes off without a hitch.

Especially in this time of social media where faults and failures can be broadcast to thousands (or even millions) of people in seconds.

It’s important to check that you’ve not only developed the site correctly, but that you’ve also ensured the ongoing arrangements for it are in place, before pre-launch.

Here’re 9 essential items to check when launching a new website:

1. Is there a website launch plan and have you prepared for worst-case-scenario situations?

You might think it’s ‘overkill’ when it comes to launch preparations but you still need to remember that websites are electronic, they aren’t physical and they can be ruined in minutes. So, when you’ve invested $5,000, $10,000 or even $50,000 on a new website (in both time and money), it’s important to have a plan in place for the launch to make sure it goes smoothly, and an ongoing plan for managing situations as they arise. Hacking, lost access, DDoS attacks, unexpected traffic spikes, failed backups and web server crashes are all things you need to have considered before. Ensure that you’ve got a written plan to handle these things if they occur.

2. Is your website hosted on a secure, stable cloud server platform?

Does your web server have the functionality and resources your site requires both right now and into the future? Does it have 1-click application installs? High redundancy? 24×7 technical support? Secure physical as well as electronic access? Quality providers offer seamless website hosting that’s easy to manage, and can grow with your changing needs.

3. Do we need to mention Spelling and Grammar?

All too often, websites are launched without being checked and proof-read by multiple people first. When one person writes all the content, they often suffer from the ‘tunnel vision’ that many writers get (where they can’t see the mistakes). Let multiple people look through the copy with a focus on readability, spelling, punctuation and grammar. There’s nothing worse than seeing spelling mistakes on a corporate website, and your credibility can be tarnished in an instant.

4. Check everything that’s dynamic

Check videos for correct playback, images for correct naming, referencing and rendering on the page, hyperlinks to make sure they connect to where they’re supposed to (and either in a new window or not), and lastly that things like social media links and audio files all work as they should. No one likes a broken link (it’s as bad as a spelling error).

5. Ensure the staging server version of the website works in all common browsers

This includes Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. If they don’t work in these common browsers, then there’s a development issue that needs fixing before launch. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that everyone uses Internet Explorer if you’re a Microsoft fan, or Safari if you adore Apple… Also, is it responsive and compatible with popular brands of mobiles, laptops and tablets? Will it render on a large format screen too? Check them all.

6. Have you setup Google Webmaster and Google Analytics?

You need these to see how your website is going once it’s launched. ‘Brochure’ websites that don’t create engagement and interaction are a thing of the past now – it’s important to know what pages are being looked at the most, what content is being shared and which links are being clicked on. If you don’t measure it, you can’t monitor it.

7. Do you have a full copy of the website backed up before launching?

Ensuring you have an entire copy of the website saved in a backup not only gives you an instant resource to call on if the website crashes for some reason but it also means you’ve got a starting point for automatic, incremental daily backups. Make sure you’ve got the software and secondary location storage for this (and have checked that it works).

8. What have you got to handle ‘404 Not Found’ errors?

Even the most expensive website won’t look good if a viewer clicks a link and ends up getting page-not-found.aspx in their browser. Some companies put a home page link on there to click, some automatically redirect to another page and some take the opportunity to amuse and entertain their viewers with a funny picture / comment. Whatever you do, choose an option and make sure it’s implemented.

9. Don’t rely on just one person to hold the ‘keys’ to your website

It’s vital (even for single operator businesses) for more than one person to have the webmaster URL, login and password for your company website. If the login credentials to your website are resting with just one person, what happens if they become unwell or unable to login? What happens if they lose the details? Or simply quit? Ensure that there’s a secure database where login credentials are kept, and that important staff or trusted people have access to it in the case of emergency.

There’s so much to think about when it comes to launching a website… so here’s 7 more things to check before you launch:

  1. Have ‘Alt Tags’ been added to all images?
  2. Have email auto-responders been written for all form-based enquiries and the auto-responder service setup and tested to handle them?
  3. Does your company logo link to the homepage and are all of the website pages working correctly?
  4. Have you maintained your SEO rankings by optimising the title and meta tags, set up 301 redirects from all the old                   website URL’s to the new ones?
  5. Have you submitted a dynamic XML sitemap to the search engines?
  6. Have you installed 24/7 monitoring scripts for uptime and security?
  7. Is your web host going to be fast enough to handle your website and can they give you speed increases quickly if needed?

Properly preparing for a website launch means is essential for success. So, take the time, create a plan and make sure you follow every step before pressing the ‘GO’ button.

If there’s anything you’re not sure of it’s wise to seek help before launch; a great online marketing specialist will be able to help you check everything, suggest areas you can tweak pre-launch, and help you get the best results from your new website.