Any website launch is challenging. The beginning of the website building process was exciting. You felt like there you made massive progress every time you went to work on it. But it’s not like that close to the end. It feels like you’re stuck at 95% complete. The structure is there, the design looks good, and you’re putting the finishing touches on it.
This is when it’s most tempting to skip steps. To put it live and announce it to the world. That would be a huge mistake!
Take a little longer, and make sure you’ve checked all the boxes you need to check. We put together a helpful guide here with technical reminders, data and analytics considerations, and suggested testing workflows.
Let’s hop into it.
Make sure you have SSL working
A SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website’s identity and enables an encrypted connection. This is necessary for most all website launches so users feel like they can trust your website.
Without SSL, your site visitors and customers are at higher risk of having their data stolen. Your site security is also at risk without encryption. SSL protects your website from phishing scams, data breaches, and many other threats.
Tool to see if yours works: SSL Check
Tool to set yours up before your website launch: SSL Certificate Setup
Setup 404 page
When users reach a 404 page, they feel frustrated and they tend to leave quickly. A creative 404 error page can make them stay on the site and increase your conversion rate and traffic, turning passers-by into leads.
Find something that is on brand that will lead them back to the right place if they find a broken link.
For more 404 page design inspiration, click here.
Data & Analytics
Both experienced and brand new web designers can forget the importance of focusing on data and analytics. When done right, these can provide a significantly improved user experience and ensure you’re getting the right results. These should be a vital part to your website launch.
Set Up Analytics
Google Analytics is free to use and helps you track and understand your customer’s behavior, user experience, online content, device functionality and more. It’s compatible with all sites, including eCommerce sites and informative sites.
Try Google Analytics. This is the most common but can sometimes feel a little clunky.
Try Simple Analytics. This tool is a simpler tool for seeing your metrics and data.
Ensure CCPA compliance
CCPA is short for California Consumer Privacy Act. It basically says you need to disclose any collection of data and honor requests to delete that data for California residents. This is honestly a best practice you should do for any of your website visitors.
Check out OneTrust for more help here.
Set Up Heat Map Software
Heat map software allows you to see what a user does on your site. Things like where they scrolled, where they clicked, and even how long they lingered in a specific place. By analyzing user behavior with a website’s heat map, you can better understand how people interact with your website and identify trends to optimize for further engagement.
Testing and Polishing
A website launch is sometimes viewed as just pushing it live. But it’s more than that.
After you set your site live, but before you push it out to the world, it’s a good idea to take it for a spin. There are no shortage of things to test and polish, so we’ve highlighted some of the most important for you.
Test Mobile Responsiveness
A mobile-friendly website is the foundation of a successful site. Your type of site and audience will determine exactly how much mobile traffic you get, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be a significant percent of your traffic.
One of the easiest mistakes to make is building the site and seeing that it looks good on your screen so it has to look good on every screen, right? Wrong.
Before your website launch, check on every device and size of your screen both in your website builder and in the real world.
Test in Various Browsers
The emergence of new browsers means more things to test when we launch. This is an easy one to forget but is a common technical mistake where using different tools.
Ensure that your website looks good in Safari and Chrome. That will cover 91% of all website traffic. Then think through any other browsers that might be specific to your audience and test those out.
PSA: less than 1% of website traffic is on Internet Explorer. So maybe don’t waste your time testing your site on there. Microsoft is retiring IE in 2022 anyways.
Test User Experience
Most users come to your website with a purpose. Hopefully you already have a good idea of what they hope to accomplish by now, but it’s still a good idea to revisit this before sharing your website with the world.
Typically you have too much context to be a non-biased participant. It’s great to have friends, family, coworkers, or even customers give it a run through to ensure the flow makes sense and it will be an intuitive experience for the user. If it’s not, it won’t matter how much top of the funnel traffic you can drive, because the visitors won’t stick around.
This type of testing works great on a video call. Here are a few basic steps.
- Ask a friend or coworker to jump on a video call to help you test it. Give them expectations for how long it should take.
- On the call, ask them to share their screen and even record the call so you have it for future reference.
- Guide them through the process by giving a scenario like “you came to buy a shirt” or “you’re just browsing to see what kind of clothes we have”.
- Then ask them to try to accomplish that task and share their thoughts or questions as they do.
Test Calls To Action and Conversions
The same way that users have a goal when they come to your site, you likely also have a goal for what you want them to do. That might be to sign up to a newsletter, create an account, or share your site.
If someone signs up for your newsletter, you better hope their submission is landing in the right place. Go through your conversion and sign up flow to ensure your email sign up hits your database or email marketing service.
For most ways to push and pull data from your site, try checking out Zapier. This tool helps a ton with automation.
Test OpenGraph Preview Image
The Open Graph protocol was originally created by Facebook to standardize the use of metadata within a webpage to represent the content of a page. In simpler terms, Facebook created Open Graph to ensure users can see a website preview when links are shared.
You will want to ensure that your website preview image works when people post on social media or send via text message.
Use this tool to see what your website looks like on different platforms when shared: OpenGraph
Test Your Page Speed
Page speed is one of the keys to getting ranked higher in Google. Or, more accurately, poor page speed can cause your rankings to plummet. Beyond SEO, you will want your site visitors to have a pleasant experience on your site.
Before your website launch and periodically thereafter, you’ll want to run a speed test on your website.
Use a tool like PageSpeed Insights to test out page speeds.
For more tips to optimize page speed, see this article.
Check for Bugs or Design Mistakes
Finally, give it one last run through to make sure there are no noticeable bugs or glaring design issues. A bug is not just an error in the code. It could be any unexpected behavior of your website. Make sure that the tech, design, and user experience all function the way you intended.
Punchlist shines here, because it allows for contextual feedback. You can provide feedback directly on the spot where there is an issue.
Proofread Your Site
Give the site one more look for any possible copy or spelling mistakes. Better yet, share the site with friends and teammates who have a fresh set of eyes. Punchlist also makes this feedback process super easy — send out one link to enable people to give feedback on their own time from wherever they are.
And if you realize your copy was way off the mark, not a problem. Tools like Copy.ai make rewriting it easy.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what to do before your website launch. But if you do these fundamental things, you should be all set to share your website far and wide!