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Marketing Insights

The Essential Site Launch Checklist

Essential Site Launch Checklist


Launching a website is a monumental task. It's a transformation, a portrait of the new you, a better business stepping into the future. Whether you're launching a website redesign, a brand new website or building an improved site for a client, you're keeping track of a tangled web of tasks, tests, layered builds and bug repairs. It's a lot. And without a structured process it can take unimaginably longer and is susceptible to errors that could set you back or even explode your site altogether.

Like all monumental tasks — launching a rocket to space, performing brain surgery, grocery shopping for your Thanksgiving Turducken — you need a checklist to expedite your timeline and make sure that you don't skip any major or minor details that could derail your launch or cause future headaches as you parse source code to find the error that makes your div box blow up on a mobile phone.

 

If you've been following the transformative Growth-Driven Design (GDD) process, then you know that redesigning a website isn't just about pretty designs and chatbots, it's a step-by-step process aimed at building an engine setup for continuous improvement through data collection. Whether you've been planning this process during your rebuild or this is your first time hearing about it, following this checklist will get you where you need to be before you go live.

 

Website Prelaunch Checklist

Project Management

Before diving head first into making changes, you need to establish your checklist process. Start by listing out all of the action items involved in pre-launch, assigning each of these items a deadline and attach the responsible party. 

 

Everyone should be on the same page and the weight of a prelaunch checklist shouldn't be daunting to everyone on the team. Isolate all of the pieces and divide them up amongst your team. Seeing all of the parts involved will bring the launch to life and give it a much needed structure moving forward. Of course, assigning the roles will depend entirely on your team size and the goal of your website, but even if you're building a passion project by yourself, setting deadlines gives you bite size targets to reach every week.

 

At the very end of your action items you need to set a soft and a hard deadline for your website launch. Give yourself room for error and for the worst case scenarios that will inevitably happen throughout the prelaunch to set you back. Setting the launch date gives you and the rest of your team a target by which everything will hinge moving forward.

 

Content

Before diving into your content prelaunch check it's important to note that all of your edits, checks and revisions should be done on a staging site. A staging site is an exact duplicate of your website that exists on a private server so that as you proof and prepare changes, they won't affect your existing website and you can see how they will affect your code in an environment identical to what it will look like live. At launch time you will sync the staging site to your existing site through a content management system (CMS), but we'll get to that. 

 

Content is the key to a successful website. It's what people engage with, learn from and ultimately choose according to in the decision stage of their buyer's journey. When you're running the content checklist these are the items that you should look at most crucially:

 

Headings

Do your headings make sense contextually? Are they bold statements that fit in the appropriate stages of the buyer's journey? Do your pages have the correct flow of H1, H2, H3, etc?

 

Typography & Layout

Are you using a consistent font stack and font size? Is the format of your content consistent throughout pages? Is your content readable in front of images? 

 
Spelling & Grammar

Are there any typos or grammar mistakes? Could a sentence be broken down for readability? 

 

Context in the Buyer's Journey

If you step away from your intimate knowledge of your business, does the content naturally bring you down the buyer's journey? Is the content on your pricing page reading like awareness stage content? Are you using jargon that your buyer's wouldn't relate to?

 

Test Content

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Design

When you're taking the close look into your website's design you're eye should be tuned to context. The role of design in a website is to improve user experience (UX) and provide context to the content that pushes visitors through the buyer's journey. Here are the elements of design to cross off your checklist:

 

Imagery

Do any of your images look blurry or pixelated? Do your images match the content provided? Are your images on-brand with colors and tone? Are there any broken images or images that load slowly in relation to the rest of the page?

 

Spacing

Is your line space and paragraph spacing consistent throughout the text in your content? Is the space between images and text consistent? Does everything have enough negative space visually? 

 

Colors

Are all of the colors on your site on brand/consistent? Do any colors used in design make text hard to read? If you used shadows, is the direction of the light source consistent? Did you use the same blur and opacity across images? 


Logo

Is your logo consistent across the website with the most up to date version? Are there any instances where your logo is pixelated or blurry? Is your logo used appropriately across your site?

 

Favicon

(The favicon is the logo that appears in the left-most side of your website's URL, and if your website doesn't have one it will seriously impact your website's credibility. Even if you use a host like Wordpress or HubSpot, you are still able to customize your Favicon beyond the generic WP. You can find a guide on how to create a Favicon here.)

 

Testing

Before jumping into website testing, create a spreadsheet. Whoever is responsible for UX and performance testing will use this spreadsheet to list all of the bugs and adjustments that she finds. Keeping this list allows your tester to list all of the corrections that need to be made without feeling the immediate responsibility to fix something when she sees it. That would slow the process way down. Once the test is completed and you have the list in hand, create three columns; Need, Want and Wish and start placing the bugs into each basket.

  • The NEED bucket is for the items that absolutely have to be addressed before launch.
  • The Want  bucket is for items that you'd like to have fixed before launch but that wouldn't hold you back from your launch deadline if they weren't.
  • The Wish bucket  is for the items that you know to set aside until you have the time.

The testing stage of your checklist is the most tedious and so you should give this the most time. Allow help throughout the process but don't oversaturate the testing spreadsheet with redundancies and with content writers that probably don't have as much a grasp on the backend as your dev team. Instead, divide these categories amongst team members that are most capable and let them fill in the spreadsheet without overlap. Here are the essential categories for testing that your developer should look into:

 

SEO

Apply keyword research to your page titles. Check meta fields and alt image tags for keywords. Make sure title tags are under 65 characters. Make sure keywords aren't spammed as they could negatively impact your Google ranking. Check your pillar content and organize pages by clusters

 

Speed

Test the load speed of each page (It should be under 3 seconds) using tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom. Optimize images for quick load times (images will take up 80% of your page's bandwidth) using tools like Smush.it.

 

Browser & Mobile

Your code may look great on Chrome but completely broken on Internet Explorer (for whoever still uses IE). Use tools like Browser Stack to test what your site looks like on Firefox, Chrome, IE, Safari and even on mobile devices like iPhones and Galaxies as well as browsers that haven't been updated by even the most lackadaisical internet users. Cross browser testing is a great way to trim your code and take a new look at your site design in sections that you may have take for granted in user friendly templates through Chrome.

 

404s

Test all of the links on your site and make sure they connect. While you're moving things around on your stage site, urls go bad and will redirect users to a 404 page. Fix these links and while you're at it, optimize your 404 page for a better user experience. You can read about that here.

 

User Testing

Get people that haven't been on board the redesign team to play around with your website. This can work with your team members, but it's most effective if it is an existing customer. Using tools like hotjar you can track your users interaction with your site using heat-maps and get real-time insights into how users will engage with your content.

 

QA template and checklist download

 

Marketing

Now that your site is getting close to launch ready, your marketing team needs to build a strategy around your launch. If you launch a new website and don't tell anyone, what good will it do. Here's what you need to do:

 

Press Release

Create a press release that you can push through email and social to get your audience to start engaging with your new website the day it is launched. That way you can start collecting data to further your redesign's optimization (we have that process laid out in another blog you can read here). If you are expecting a flood of visitors because you're amazon.com and you're reading this post, then you absolutely should perform a stress test on your website's hosting platform to make sure that your server can handle the traffic.

 

Lead Capture

Make sure that all of your form integrations, CRM, chatbots, and workflows are in place and functional so that as soon as you launch your site you can start collecting leads and segmenting contacts into marketing campaigns and outreach.

 

Google Crawl

Once the last changes have been made to your website, run the Google Search Console to crawl your new pages. Essentially you're telling Google that you've updated your site and would like to be reevaluated. The console will then scan your new site and give you feedback on your new SEO ranking.

Tracking

To know what works and what doesn't once your website is live, you need to implement data collecting integrations and run experiments. With this data you can continuously improve your website, discover leaks in your buyer's journey, and optimize your site's ranking on Google. 

 

Data

Build integrations into your site with Google Analytics and start collecting valuable user data. Google Analytics is the most powerful data collecting tool out there. Its capabilities are seemingly endless and its insights come from the source, the Google crawling bots that rank and organize your marketing content. That said, the learning curve is steep. We have a crash course for you to get started and learn this life changing tool.

 

Experiment

A/B testing on your site will segment your site's attributes to groups of visitors. For example, you could change your homepage tagline and test if it is more effective without making the permanent switch. Through Google Experiments or Optimizely you can create A/B tests that run on any percentage of visitors you choose.

 

Launch

It's time to launch! Before you press that "Go Live" button, make sure you back your site up onto the cloud and, if you can, an external server. Enjoy your improved website and keep collecting data so you never stop improving!