Finally! You’re about to get there! Almost! Nearly! Just the last bits! But wait, did anybody think of…?
This is a list of 10 things you shouldn’t forget about when launching a new site.
#1. Testing... off all kinds
Testing, obviously… Who wouldn’t do testing on a site prior to launch? Everyone knows the obvious test types:
- Functionality testing
- Browser & Device compatibility testing
- Content Availability testing
- Content proofreading
But there are a number of tests we might forget or think we don’t have time for.
- Links testing: Many new sites contain migrated pieces of content with their own internal and external links. Make sure to check the site for dead links prior to launch. They make for an awful user experience and harm your search engine rankings.
- Forms: Under functionality testing, we tend to test the functionality of forms. But have you also tested what happens with the data once submitted? Is it processed correctly by your CRM? Where are the results sent? Where are they stored? Have all required fields been configured?
- Search indexing: Once all your content is available, has it been indexed for search purposes? Is new content being indexed automatically?
- Load testing: Don’t forget to perform a load test on your site, once technically ready, and full with content, on the production hosting environment.
- Search for placeholder text: It is best practice to agree on placeholder text at the start of the project. That way, prior to launch, you can search for all remaining mentions of the placeholder text to ensure all these are removed. (Ok, that tip came in too late. Maybe for your next project)
- Up to date Contact details: Does your site contain the correct contact details? Are they easy finadable
- W3C validation: Have you checked your site for W3C validation? there are plenty of free tools that allow you to do so.
Testing, the obvious Number 1
But there are a couple of simple tests you might not have thought about
#2. Training & Testing Procedures
Training, another thing we don't tend to think about. But what skills do we really need to enhance?
Training & procedures are all about people, not technology. Making your site work is more about the team involved than about its content. So have you thought about all of the below?
- CMS training: Are all editors trained on the tasks they are expected to perform?
- CMS customisation: We often forget to spend development resource on the editorial interface of our CMS. Is your user interface configured in the right way to make is more usable by your team?
- Editorial workflow: Do you have your content creation workflow in place? Does everyone know their role & responsibility? Are people familiar with the site’s style guide and expected tone? Have you gone through the content creation loop a couple of times? If you’re panicking now, we wrote about this topic in detail. So go and read more about editorial workflows and content ownership here.
- Remember we mentioned forms under testing? Have you also trained and tested the policies on how to handle the data retrieved through the forms?
#3. URL redirects & 404 page
Don’t forget to set up URL redirects & 404 page: Often new sites replace existing websites, which have already gathered a number of useful backlinks on the Web. Or some of its users might have key pages bookmarked. If the corresponding pages on your new site are now on a different address, take the time to investigate these links and set up redirects on your new site.
Personalising a 404 page can save a number of user sessions
Legal obligations: Web sites come with a number of legal obligations. Before you launch a site, make sure to double check your obligations in that field. Some examples that might affect your site:
- Cookie law
- Terms & Conditions
- Privacy statements
- Accessibility regulation
- Payment terms for an e-commerce sites
#5. Make a Launch Plan
- Make some noise: If you’re about to launch a site, make sure to make some noise. Without actual promotion of the site, you will be publishing content to nobody for the first couple of months. Maximise the audience from the start. Prepare an announcement and investigate what channels you will use to distribute the message
- Mailing list: Consider researching and compiling a mailing list of friends and business contacts that might be interested in the site.
- Content Litmus test: Take a new look at your content: Is there enough good quality content for first time users to think the site is worth a second visit? If you’re not sure, consider to include a “coming up” section to announce soon to be published content. These tactics will also form part of your launch plan.
- Marketing: Are you planning to use adwords or similar services? is your account up & running?
- Technical assistance: Who will be around at the time of launch that can help in case issues appear?
Planning ahead of launch allows to maximize impact from day 1
#6. Those small files we forget to upload
Favicon, XML Sitemap, Robots.txt file. Out of experience, we know these three items are added to a site in the last days (if not hours) prior to the launch of a site. Don’t forget about them!
#7. Hosting & Backups
We suppose that you have sorted out hosting by now. And we said in point 1, you would do load testing. But have you sorted out your backup plan? Are there automated backup scripts in place? Where are the backups stored? Have you tried restoring them to make sure they work?
Security... This topic is relevant on so many levels. Having a solid hosting solution, respecting information security principles, managing user permissions, etc. But if we're simply looking at your site, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your site contain any protected pages? If so, are all of these behind https?
- Have you tested that pages that should be restricted to logged-in users are not accessible for anonymous users?
- Have you purchased your security Certificate? Is it valid for all domains and subdomains used on your site? Often sites link to subdomains. Make sure these are covered by your security certificate if required.
#9. Prepare to Monitor!
You will want to monitor the site in a number of ways. Have this set up prior to launch, not to lose the valuable data of the first days.
- Google Analytics for usage data. It’s easy, It’s free, and complete. Consider tracking custom events. These can provide the key metrics for your site that Google doesn’t deliver out of the box. If you want to know more, my colleague Dan has explained how to set Custom Events Tracking for a Drupal Site.
- Backlink Monitoring: Is your site getting some traction? Are people referring back to you? See how your backlinks grow over time.
- Brand & site mentions. Sometimes people might mention your brand, your site or your project without including a link to the site. We therefore recommend you to set up Google Alerts or use a service like Mention to see these.
Monitoring is knowing. But take a moment of time to think what data you want to track and what date will only provide you with noise.
#10. SEO from the start
You want your site to perform well in search engines. Therefore make sure you site is ready to be read well by google's bot. Therefore we recommend that well in advance you:
- research the keywords you want to optimise your site for
- think about using these keywords in your URL structure (if respecting you IA)
- create instructions on how to make consistent use of metadata as page titles or page description
- have default values set up for metadata of automatically generated pages
- train site editors on the use of metadata and other SEO principles so they can do basic optimization themselves
And an extra free #11 to conclude
Ok, so that’s 10. Which is what we promised. But just before you go, here’s one little extra:
#11. Metrics for success. We didn’t include this point in our list of ten, because you should have had these at the very beginning of the project. But hey, this is reality… They are often forgotten. So think again what it is you are trying to accomplish with your site. When would you consider your site launch went well? Establish your metrics for success! What are your project goals, and the user needs you plan to fulfil. Now how are you going to measure if you have been successful in doing so? Document these targets and KPI’s as well as the methodology and tools you will use to track progress. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all about making the numbers, it’s about knowing where you’re headed. And you want to be able to tell from minute one if you’re going in the right direction.