Checklist of Things to Remember when Launching a Website
There are a few of these lists around on the internet giving people advice on what they should check before they launch a website but most contain things that should be thought about from the very start. If you have forgotten about browser testing, screen resolutions & progressive enhancement until you are ready to launch you should take a look at how you are going about the whole build process.
This list is a reminder to myself, hopefully others may find it useful, of common things I have sometimes missed when handing over a website to a client at launch. This list is not always applicable in every scenario and purposely leaves out things to do regarding SEO and Performance enhancements as they are topics that should be looked in their own right.
If your client has supplied the copy it is worth giving it a final once over, if you have supplied the copy it is even more important. Even if you’ve already read it, read it again even better is to get someone else to read it. Don’t forget about text outside the main paragraphs. It does not look very professional misspelling “Submit” on a button for example.
Testing Links & Forms
Test your links. It is easy to forget about links in the footer that should point to terms & conditions in stead of the # you used when you thought you would put that in later. The W3C provides a handy utility to check the links on your site automatically. Check your forms to make sure they work as well, it may have been working on the test server but now you have moved it to the live server it might not.
CSS & HTML Validation
Validating your HTML and CSS provides a way of catching mistakes in your coding, if your site validates great, if not it is not the end of the world. Browser testing is key, if it works consistently in all the major browsers who cares if it is valid. The validation tool will catch errors like missing closing tags that you probably should care about and that is why it is on the list.
Measuring statistics to see how your website performs and how successful your conversion rates are is important for many clients and clients will be most intreated how their new site is performing so forgetting to include the code on the new site can be embarrassing a month on when you have a blank statistics report. Google Analytics is popular it allows users with different access levels. This site previously used Mint to track its visitors whichever you choose remember to set it up before launch.
This one is easy to forget. The favicon brands the tab or window and bookmark so that users can easily identify pages from the site. There are lots of online tools, like favicon.cc, that allow you to create them by uploading an image or drawing one from scratch. Add a WebKit icon for iPhone users while you are at it, read about how to do this in my previous post “How to Create a WebClip Bookmark Icon for your Site”.
ALT Text for Images
This one is about accessibility. Remember people that are visually impaired rely on screen readers to surf the web and supplying ALT text can greatly improve their experience. A side benefit of taking the time to add ALT tags is they have some value to search engines indexing your site.
Backup the Site & Databases
Easily forgotten but if your website runs off a database as many CMS sites do, you need to take a back-up. Most CMS‘s have plugin utilities which you can set up to automatically email backups at set intervals. It may take a few minuets but you will be glad if you ever have to use it.
Stop search engines from indexing content that they should not be poking around in. This only applied to sites with content that should not be crawled e.g. your includes folder. The robots.txt file should not be relied on for security of sensitive files, it merely suggests that search bots don’t index the file or folder. While you are there don’t forget to link to your XML sitemap.
If you are re-launching a site point old page
If you are creating a new site or re-launching an old one then dealing with 404 errors is also important. Creating a custom 404 page is usually the best approach but directing 404 errors to the homepage is probably better than seeing the default browser 404 page. Lastly while editing your htaccess file add a rule to deal with URL canonicalisation. This is where you choose whether to use “www” or not and then enforce it with the htaccess file.
This is one I have missed a few times. Page titles are handled automatically by most content management systems so you don’t have to worry but for smaller sites I tend to copy pages and replace the content sometimes forgetting to change the page titles.
I hope this list is helpful to others and welcome your comments on anything you think I have missed. Keep in mind this list is a check list of things to look at before launch and is not a list of things you should consider when designing and building a website.
This article was posted on 22 January 2010 in Misc
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