Launching a New Website Checklist

by Jan 17, 2020Content Strategy

Starting up a new website is an exciting endeavor. But in the rush of polishing up every page, writing your first blog posts, and getting ready for the impending deadline, it’s easy to miss some of the most important steps.

Here at DC Dev Shop, priming websites for launch day is one of our specialties. We’ve built up several successful websites and ensured that they were 100% ready to go live. Just check out Our Process to see what we do from the concept phase to launch.

That’s why, as a taste of our WordPress development services, we’ve put together this huge checklist of the most important things to remember as you’re preparing to deploy your new website. You don’t want to miss a single step here — let’s make sure that your site is shiny and ready to go for your first set of visitors.

Website Launch Checklist

Ready to get started? Before you even set your final deadline, it’s a good idea to run through this list and do every step you can. A few days before, do a final sweep to snag any leftover issues, and your site should be just about perfect.

Without further ado, here is the ultimate website launch checklist.

Proofread Everything

The first step, and yet the most often overlooked, is to proofread absolutely everything. Your page copy, blog posts, navigation elements, even your meta descriptions and image alt text — go over it all. Have an editor or even just a friend carefully scrutinize it too.

I always find myself referring back to our Website Launch Checklist, it is by far one of our best resources. #websitedesign #inboundmarking Click To Tweet

Spelling and grammar mistakes may not seem like a huge deal, but they come off as very unprofessional. Why trust that whatever you’re offering is good quality if your site completely lacks polish? That’s why you need to take a fine-toothed comb to all the text on your site and eliminate every typo you can find.

For longer blocks of text, you can use Writer’s free grammar checking tool for a grammar check. For more short-form content, services like Grammarly and GrammarCheck to identify errors your eyes might miss.

Check Every Link

Broken links are a common issue on new sites, and a huge cause of lost visitors. It’s easy to accidentally create a link that leads nowhere or to the wrong destination. You should click every link on your site — paying special attention to your navigation and call to action buttons — to ensure that they lead where they say they do.

Formatting Errors and Design Consistency

This is one of the largest steps, and it requires a careful eye for design elements. Every page on your site should have a consistent design and be free of any formatting errors or placeholder leftovers.

Often while browsing poorly tested websites you’ll stumble upon areas where the navigation is broken, the forgotten remnants of a past design change, or a leftover link to a page that was never supposed to be public. Don’t be like those sites! Look out for these common pitfalls:

  • Design consistency — Make sure every page matches your theme, with none left unbranded. Your colors, fonts, and text sizes should be consistent across your website as well.
  • Broken pages — Places where the theme isn’t working properly, the header/footer or navigation is missing, etc.
  • Leftover test content — Lorem ipsum text, copyrighted temporary images, test pages or “hello world” placeholder posts.
  • Formatting errors — Errors in the HTML/CSS leading to visible code, strange spacing, or other inconsistencies.

Test Forms and Integrations

You should test all the interactive elements on your site to make sure they actually work. File uploads, the user registration process, and all clickable widgets (audio/video players, sliders, navigation) are all areas that need testing.

Pay special attention to the forms on your site — realizing that those are broken a few months down the line would be terrible. Test them with all major email providers and every possible parameter you can think of. See if file uploads, excessive characters, or numbers and symbols break the submission process.

On that note, make sure your forms have a character submission cap and file upload size limit, since these can be exploited to take down your server if left unrestricted.

Deal with the Legal Stuff

This step is best done with a lawyer’s help, but even if you can’t afford one, it’s important to do your research and cover everything you can. Here’s some of what your site may need to be legally compliant:

  • Terms of service
  • Privacy policy
  • Contact page
  • Age verification
  • Cookie warning (GDPR compliance)

There are tools and plugins out there that can help you generate a terms of service and privacy policy, add age verification, and include cookie consent for GDPR. But remember that no one can give you sound legal advice except for an internet attorney.

Ensure Responsiveness

These days, most developers know to build their site to be responsive. But sometimes, issues can slip through the cracks. Images, videos, widgets, or even parts of the text like paragraphs and headings might not size down properly.

The easiest way to test out responsiveness is to simply resize your browser window on your computer. You should see the elements adjust themselves and even disappear to make room. If not, you might have a non-responsive widget that needs fixing. Also try tools like Responsive Design Checker.

And of course, you should test it out on actual mobile devices, which brings us to our next point.

Browser/Device Testing

All browsers and devices handle code differently. Some don’t support certain HTML/CSS elements, breaking parts of your site. Others might struggle to load it and run slowly. All sorts of issues can rise up on other systems.

So make sure to test your website on all major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, and Opera) and on as many mobile devices as you can — at minimum a smartphone and iPad.

Accessibility and SEO Optimization

There’s a lot that goes into accessibility and SEO optimization, but this quick list should cover the basics. Make sure you check out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines; good accessibility has a positive impact on SEO.

  • Optimize images using online tools like ImageOptim or WordPress plugins like Smush.
  • Ensure every page has a title tag with a target keyword, and a meta description.
  • Keep title tags under 60 characters and meta descriptions under 150 characters.
  • Download anti-spam plugins if you use forms or post comments.
  • Set up a 404 page.
  • Ensure that your site colors have enough contrast.
  • Add alt text to all non-decorative images.
  • Make link anchor text descriptive (not “click here”).
  • Secure your site with an SSL certificate.

Run a Speed and Stress Test

Speed is another important factor, not just to SEO, but to your visitor retention rate. No one will stick around long if your site that takes forever to load. Use speed testing tools to check your load time, and take action to speed up your website.

If you anticipate a lot of visitors, you may also want to run a stress test to see how your server performs under load. Just make sure to check with your web host first.

Set up Google Analytics

You’ll want to have user tracking tools in place so you’re ready to collect those valuable statistics in your first few weeks, and use them to improve your site. Google Analytics is free to start, and it provides a wealth of information on users, from how long they stayed to what pages they visited and in what order. This helpful guide can help you get started.

Schedule Backups

You want this step done sooner rather than later. Something can go wrong at any time — you get hacked and have your site deleted, the server crashes and the database corrupts.

Don’t wait for that to happen. Find a backup service, preferably one that’s automated, and let yourself have peace of mind. UpdraftPlus, BackWPup, and VaultPress are a few of many free backup tools.

Subscribe to Uptime Monitoring

When your server goes down, you need to know immediately. Sites like Pingdom, Service Uptime, and Uptime Robot monitor your site every few minutes, and when they detect downtime, instantly email or text you so you can take action to get online again.

Start Blogging Now

Think you can wait until launch to get some blog posts out? Think again. You want to have a few quality posts ready to go the moment your site goes live. They’re a huge draw for new visitors, and can help convince them to stick around and subscribe to your newsletter. An empty site won’t do much for your conversions.

Plus, it makes your business feel less new and potentially unreliable, and more well-established and worth trusting. Have at least one blog post up before you go public.

Run User Testing

Before and after launch, you should be running user tests. These are a lot more personal than analytics; they give you the chance to see exactly what your users are doing and solicit active feedback. They can point out errors and inconsistencies, strange behavior, and broken parts of your site too.

Also consider running A/B tests on elements of your site like colors, call to action buttons, forms, and other important areas. A/B tests let you gather data to see which of two options is the most effective.

Have a Marketing Plan in Place

It’s not a good idea to put your site online and just hope your visitors find you. You need to market yourself. Create social media accounts to pitch yourself on (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), and perhaps hold an event there to draw in new followers and clicks. Start advertising on Google Ads too if you can.

You can’t just wait for the traffic to come to you — you have to make the traffic.

Unblock Search Engine Indexing

Once it’s time for launch day, you’ll need to get your site indexed by Google to start pulling in traffic.

If you’re using WordPress, you probably have the Search Engine Visibility setting disabled to stay hidden. Go to Settings > Reading in your dashboard and untick it.

You might also be using “noindex” in your robots.txt file. You’ll need to remove that, or search engines won’t be able to crawl your website.

Once you’re no longer discouraging search engines from indexing your website, it should begin to appear in search results. But there’s one last step you can take: submitting your site map to Google Search Console.

For that you’ll need an XML sitemap. Use this sitemap generator or Google XML Sitemaps plugin, and follow these instructions to submit it to Google.

With that done, your site has been optimized, and it’s totally ready for the influx of new visitors!

Additional Website Checklist Resources

Our checklist has quite a bit in it, but we’ve far from covered every possible angle. There’s a near infinite number of things you can do to touch up your site. The list above just mentions some of the most important.

But if you want to optimize things even more, there are plenty of resources out there. Here are some other great launch checklists you should definitely take a look at.

Get Ready for Launch

This can be a pretty stressful period, but having a clear checklist to follow will take away a lot of the anxiety. Once you’ve ticked off everything on this list, you can sit back and relax, knowing your site is ready to go.

Don’t get complacent, though — your job isn’t done once you go live. If you want to succeed, you’ll also need to put a lot of work into your email marketing and social media strategy. As always, we have plenty of resources on our blog to help you grow, or you can check out our services if you need our help getting ready. Good luck with your site launch!

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