A website has so many parts so it’s easy to lose track of something. Especially if you work with a team and have people working on different parts of a website. We all get excited for finishing up a project and seeing our creations come to life, but overlooking certain things could jeopardize the success of your launch.
For others who work with a team and have people working on different parts of a website, having a checklist not only keeps you on track toward completing a project on time, but also prevents you from overlooking even the smallest details.
A pre-launch checklist contains important details that need to be addressed before launching or relaunching a website. Here are the critical, pre-launch items to check before making a new site live, including content, SEO, functionality and security.
- Check spelling on every page. Get someone else (as much as necessary) to read you website’s copy.
- Ensure that each page has clear purpose.
- Check for consistency in your copy, including capitalization, variation in words (e.g “Web Site” or “Website”), first or third person, singular or plural, etc. Ensure your tone of voice is consistent across all your pages and your audience is being addressed in the same way.
- Try to reduce the amount of text by keeping it on-point. Users don’t like to scroll, so don’t require them to reading blocks of text.
- Set up and test a print stylesheet for your website.
- Check your meta description and keyword tags for each page Ensure they are related to the page’s content.
- Make sure the each page has title tag that is descriptive and relate to that page’s content and includes your keywords.
- Include keywords in images alt text and file name.
- Contact and location information on every pages (for local search)
- Check for consistency in your website’s URL structure. If you choose colorlabsproject.com/themes over www.colorlabsproject.com/themes, then check if the links in your pages follow this convention.
- Have a sitemap.xml file to your root directory so search engines can easily index your website, then login and submit it to Google, Bing, and Yahoo. You can use Sitemap Generator to create one. Or if you are using WordPress, you can install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin, that notifies all major search engines every time you create a new post
Standards and Validation
Validating a website is the process of ensuring that the pages on the website conform to the norms or standards defined by various organizations – WordPress Codex
- Check your website’s accessibility. Accessibility means your website can be accessed by anyone. Learn what aspects you should look into here.
- HTML validation
- CSS validation
Does everything work? Test everything thoroughly. Check all yourself and get others to test your website and make sure they are your target market.
- Check all forms (e.g. contact us. blog comments, login, registration, email subscription, e-commerce cart) and see what come through.
- Check search functionality including relevance of results.
Error Pages & Messages
- Have a custom 404 Error Page. A 404 Error Page is what users see when they try to reach a non-existent or missing page. Having a good 404 Error Page is perhaps as important as having great contents. Make sure your 404 Error Page is able to communicate and direct your visitors back to the home page. Here are some example of 404 Error Page.
- If users submit unusual information in your form fields, make sure they are provided with enough feedback to be able to fix it.
Google is incorporating page speed as a factor into its page ranking system. So optimizing your website’s performance is crucial. Here are some simple things you can do:
- Reduce HTTP requests.
- Use CSS Sprites whenever possible.
- Optimize images for web.
Matt Pilott wrote a quick start guide on implementing crucial optimization techniques that will improve you website’s loading time. Our friend, Vinuraj Varma, also wrote an article on how to use Google PageSpeed service on your website.
I could never stress out enough the importance of regularly backing up a WordPress website, especially true if it makes money. You don’t want to drive a car without a spare tire, do you? Here are some back up service we recommend that will back up your entire website. Configure back up schedule and test recovery from back up.
Last but not least, don’t forget to add a Favicon. A Favicon is useful to brand your website in a subtle way. If you are using WordPress, you can learn how to add Favicon for your website here.
Dan Zamboni developed a comprehensive checklist of things that all websites should be checked against before launch. A PDF version is also available. I also found a web standard checklist and a checklist for improving website performance.
If you create a lot of websites at the same time, then maybe you should consider to use this before launch check list web app called Launchlist Pro, a centralized place to monitor your upcoming website launches and gives you a convenient way to stay on top of your progress towards launching. You can check out the lite version of Launchlist for yourself here to get a feel for what it’s like.