Launching your website is easier than ever. We have already talked about it in our article “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Website for Free”. There, we not only showed you how to build your website, but how to do it for free. However, if you want your website to be successful, there are some things to keep in mind before your website goes live. Some of these are more obvious than others. To help you, we compiled a website launch checklist.
1. Create a Backup
The first item on our website launch checklist is to create a backup of your website data. Some web hosts offer backup solutions by default. The specifics can vary, but generally speaking, the more data that’s included in the backup, the better.
Store your backups off-site. This means that they shouldn’t be stored on the same server as your side. For example, save them on a hard drive instead. Create a schedule to backup your files regularly. This way, you will always have a recent copy of your website.
2. Take Care of the Legalities
Make sure your website complies with any applicable laws and regulations. These will vary depending on your location. Consult legal counsel to make sure you aren’t missing anything. While this step might feel like a hassle, it ensures you don’t get into legal troubles later on.
3. Confirm SSL
A Secure Sockets Layer certificate (SSL certificate) is a small data file installed on a Web server that allows for a secure connection between the server and a Web browser. A website with an SSL certificate is more secure against hackers than one without. If you run a website without SSL, users might not feel comfortable doing business with you. In fact, Google and other sites might downgrade your site or mark it as a security risk.
Luckily, it is fairly easy to get an SSL certificate. Most web hosts offer you a free certificate as part of their service. If you need to purchase an SSL certificate, it can take up to two weeks to set up, so ensure you have it ready on launch.
4. Secure Your Website
If you have a backup in place and a valid SSL certificate, you’ve already covered some of the most important steps to securing your website. However, there are more things you can do.
Practice proper password etiquette and keep your plugins and themes updated. These simple steps can help make your website more secure.
5. Review Browser Compatibility
There are five browsers most people use to access the internet: Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer/ Edge, Firefox, and Opera. Chances are, you are using one of them almost exclusively.
However, it is not enough to ensure your website works on whatever browser you have; test your website on different browsers as well. Testing your website on the previously mentioned browsers should be enough and can easily be done by downloading them yourself.
6. Run Compatibility Testing
Sometimes, plugins interfere with each other. To ensure that all plugins are running smoothly, run a compatibility test before you launch your website. For example, if you are using WordPress to host your website, you can use the PHP Compatibility Checker.
7. Set Your Permalinks
A permalink or permanent link is the address (URL) of a web page. It is called a permanent link because it’s not expected to change throughout the lifetime of a page. Permalinks control the structure of your site’s URLs. If your URLs look anything like yourwebsite.com/public/post=152277, consider changing the permalinks. Ideally, your URLs should look more like yourwebsite.com/travel/my-trip-to-italy.
Use permalinks that describe the content of each page. This makes the URLs much easier to read and remember. It will also boost your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings.
8. Check URLs
404 is a status code that tells a web user that a requested page is not available. To limit 404 errors, all your links need to work as expected. Check your URLs for any broken links and fix them if necessary. It is a fairly common problem when you move your site to the live version.
9. Set SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions
The SEO title and meta description are what usually show up when your page appears on Google or any other search engine. They are important for your site to rank in search engines. The higher your SEO score, the better.
Use an SEO plugin to help you set up title tags and meta descriptions for each piece of content on your website. Pay special attention to the SEO information for important pages, like your homepage.
10. Set up Analytics
Tracking the analytics of your website allows you to learn more about your audience. A good analytics solution lets you track traffic, behaviour, demographic data, and other information about your website’s visitors.
Integrating Google Analytics is fairly simple and offers you great insight into what does and doesn’t work for your website.
11. Submit Your Site’s XML Sitemap to Search Engines
An XML sitemap is a list of all the content on your website in a special format. It helps search engines to discover all of your content and include it in their search results.
Some web hosts generate XML sitemaps by default. Otherwise, most SEO plugins build them for you. Some of them automatically submit the XML file to search engines. If not, submit them to the Google Search Console yourself.
12. Prepare for 404s
We have already mentioned 404 errors a little higher up in our website launch checklist. If a user mistypes a URL they might encounter a “Page not found” error message. You can customise the error page and help redirect the user back to your website.
Set up email alerts to fix 404 errors as soon as they pop up so that they don’t become a recurring issue.
13. Set Your Site Icon/Favicon
Have you ever noticed the little icon that appears next to a website’s title in a browser tab? This icon is called a favicon. It helps users to quickly identify any given website in their browser tabs.
Your favicon should be square. Keep it simple, so it’s legible even at a smaller size. If your logo isn’t too detailed you can use it as your favicon
14. Create/ Test Your Forms
If your website is using any type of form, make sure they work correctly. Send a few test responses to see if everything works as expected.
Your forms need to accept new submissions. You can also create a custom confirmation message t. Set up a notification to be alerted whenever someone submits a form.
15. Set Your Timezone
If you use a web host like WordPress, you can set the timezone of your website. This affects the timestamps on posts and comments, as well as the scheduling of new posts.
16. Delete Dummy Content
Some web hosts come with dummy content. For example, they might include a sample page with placeholder text and images. Before you launch your website, delete all this dummy content. It is neither useful nor professional.
17. Delete Unwanted Plugins
While building your website, you might have installed a variety of plugins. Perhaps some of them turned out to be unhelpful or just not what you were looking for. Delete any unwanted plugins before you launch your website. This minimises the risk of plugin conflicts
18. Make Sure You Have a Contact Page
A contact page allows users to get in touch with you. It also adds another layer of credibility to your website. Ensure that your contact details are accurate throughout your website.
19. Make Sure You Have Clear Calls-to-Action
Whether you use your website as a blog or to operate a business, you probably want your users to interact with your website in some capacity. Calls-to-action (CTAs) guide users to the most important pages on your site.
CTAs usually come in the form of buttons, email sign-up forms, or social sharing links. Make sure that they are visible and enticing.
20. Test Usability and Optimization
Once you have everything set up, test the usability and optimization of your website. This doesn’t just mean technical functionality. Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and keep load times as short as possible.
21. Check Mobile-Friendliness
Testing the desktop view of your website is not enough. Before your website goes live, test its usability on mobile devices. Once again, load times are very important. Most people lose interest if a website takes more than a few seconds to load.
22. Proofread Everything
The last point on our website launch checklist is to proofread everything – and we mean everything. From titles to the navigation menu, check the spelling and grammar across your entire website.
If you haven’t yet, ask a friend or family member to take a look at your website as well. Especially if you’ve been working on something for a long time, you can get blind to the mistakes you make. A fresh set of eyes helps you find those last mistakes you missed.
Launching your website is an exciting time and with the help of our website launch checklist, you can make sure that the launch goes as smoothly as possible.
To make it easier, here is a basic template of our checklist, so you don’t forget:
- 1. Create a Backup
- 3. Confirm SSL
- 4. Secure Your Website
- 5. Review Browser Compatibility
- 6. Run Compatibility Testing
- 7. Set Your Permalinks
- 8. Check URLs
- 9. Set SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions
- 10. Set up Analytics
- 11. Submit Your Site’s XML Sitemap to Search Engines
- 12. Prepare for 404s
- 13. Set your Site icon/Favicon
- 14. Create/ Test Your Forms
- 15. Set your timezone
- 16. Delete Dummy Content
- 17. Delete Unwanted Plugins
- 18. Make Sure You Have a Contact Page
- 19. Make Sure You Have Clear Calls-to-Action
- 20. Test Usability and Optimization
- 21. Check mobile-friendliness
- 22. Proofread everything