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All Systems Are Go: Countdown to a Successful Launch With This Website Checklist

Using a guided website checklist to aid in your next launch is a great idea. Rolling out a shiny new site shares a similar approach with launching a rocket into space. NASA goes through a series of checks before every rocket launched, and that’s the same mindset you should take when rolling out your new website. This checklist will help you with everything you need for each stage—prelaunch, launch and post-launch.

Prelaunch

In the days leading up to the launch, there are several points to check off along the way—from final coding efforts to testing to teasing out what’s to come. Some of these steps may seem obvious, but every detail matters in a launch so it’s important to pay attention to the small stuff as well.

SEO and Mobile Optimization

According to recent studies, mobile devices account for close to half of all global website traffic. This, combined with Google’s mobile-first indexing approach to crawling websites, is proof enough that if your site isn’t mobile optimized, that should be your first “No go!” to launch.

In addition to being mobile friendly, it’s important to ensure you are following common, best practices of SEO to help improve rankings in search results. This SEO infographic is a great reference to keep handy as you do your final checks of the site.

Verifying Key Pages Exist

Just as my colleague Angie Porow mentioned in her comprehensive SEO checklist for site launches, it’s important to make sure you have the mission-critical pages for your site. Those pages include:

  • 404 page with an internal site search feature
  • Thank you page – if you have any e-commerce or form submission options
  • Disclaimer page – if applicable
  • Privacy policy
  • GDPR – read more about the importance of GDPR and whether you need to include this information
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) page – if applicable
  • Site map

Copy Edit Everything

Proper grammar and spelling are just as important on the homepage or about page as they are on thought leadership content. Whenever you are launching a site, be sure to have a copy editor check all the copy on the site for any errors.

Copy editing a site extends beyond just grammar and spelling though. Other areas to focus on include:

  • Trademarks
  • Registered product names or services
  • Copyrights
  • Facts and statistics
  • Addresses

Testing

In the final days before launching the site, it’s important to remember to test everything. Just like NASA, you should go through each element on the site in a variety of testing environments to ensure expected and proper functionality. The QA team should conduct tests with a multibrowser and multidevice setup to ensure no users will experience unexpected issues across at least the most common setups.

Testers should click on everything­—yes, really, they should click on everything. Is there a link on a page? Then click on it. Is there an embedded video? Yep, click on that too. When I help out with QA testing before a launch, I use this list to help make sure I leave no link, button or other element unclicked.

  • Links – inline, global navigation, breadcrumbs, footer, sidebar, etc.
  • Audio/video embeds
  • Images
  • Forms
  • E-commerce links
  • Email sign-ups

Another thing the QA team should check across the browser/device combinations is the load time for each page. Slow load times are red flags as to which pages need to be looked at further as that negative experience can lead to losing users and potentially lower rankings in search engines.

While the site is in testing, be sure to check Google Tag Manager or a similar resource, to verify that all tracking codes and tags are implemented on the site and the expected data is being captured. You can always update these post-launch, but that means you will forever have an incomplete data history of the site.

Finally, while the site is with QA, have the marketing team double-check that the link with the CRM is functioning and that any automated communication flows are set up and triggering so that a smooth communication experience is in place from Day 1.

Tease That the New Site Is Coming Soon

The last step in the prelaunch checklist is to let your audience know that a new site is coming soon. Teasing the site launch helps to generate anticipation and excitement, which can lead to more engagement on the site. Ideally, you want to start dropping hints about the site for a week or two prior to launch.

One of the best ways to reach your audience is via social media. According to Statista, Facebook has approximately 2.8 billion active users, so chances are high that the majority of your audience is active on the channel. When you are posting about the upcoming site, it’s a good idea to share screenshots of certain sections with copy that entices viewers to check back in for more updates or shares before the expected launch date. Using a mix of organic and paid posts across the main channels for your audience is important to maximize reach.

In addition to social media, you should send out an email blast or include the tease of the new site in an upcoming newsletter. The people on these lists are actively seeking information and ways to engage with your organization and will be highly likely to be regular users of the new site once it’s launched.

It’s important to not forget about your internal audience as well at this phase. Sending out internal communications via email or other communication channels can help to generate excitement and awareness. Include sample text for employees to copy and share on their own social profiles to help expand reach.

Launch

All of the prelaunch checklist items have been given a “Go!” and it’s time for the final countdown. Sure, you can pretend to be NASA and do your own “T minus 10, 9, 8 …” leading up to the moment you publish the site live from the staging environment, but when exactly should that be and what needs to be done when the site launches?

When To Launch

The best day to launch a new website is Tuesday. There are several reasons for this, beyond the fact that most people seem to dislike Mondays.

Launching on a Tuesday allows for several working days of further testing and bug fixes before the weekend, when development teams are likely offline. Even though we’ve already tested the site thoroughly during the prelaunch phase, once the site is live there will likely be a few things that need to be fixed that weren’t expected or slipped through the cracks.

In addition to allowing several business days to update any unexpected issues, launching on a Tuesday avoids the chaos and overload of meetings, emails, news, etc. that typically come on Mondays and avoids the chances that people will be offline leading into the weekend.

Start With an Internal Soft Launch

Doing an internal soft launch of the site is a great idea if you are able to go that route. Let everyone know through internal communication channels that the site is live and provide them with the link to access the site.

Ask Internally for Feedback on Experience

It’s a good idea to request feedback from not only internal stakeholders, but other employees and co-workers as well. When you send out the link internally, be sure to request that they explore the site and note anything that does not work as expected, seems to be a little wonky or does not look right. If there is a broken link or award navigation, it’s better for internal audiences to discover and let you know than if an external audience were to have a bad experience and potentially not return to the site.

Submit Site Map to Google for Indexing

Even though you aren’t broadcasting that the site is live to external audiences yet, you need to let the search engines know that the site exists so that it can be indexed and appear in organic searches. The overwhelming majority of internet users search via Google, so you want to ensure that you submit the sitemap.xml file through Google Search Console. This will speed up the process of Google indexing all the pages of the site so that it knows what results to share for relevant searches.

Post-Launch

Once the rocket lifts off, the fun is just getting started. There are a lot of in-flight checks and steps that still need to be completed, and the same is true for a new website launch.

Fix Errors and Push Codes Updates (If Needed)

In the first week of being live, you want to address any errors that were discovered during the internal soft launch and test those fixes. Once they are verified, push the code updates to the production site. A good habit to get into is resubmitting the sitemap.xml file to the search engines if anything changed with navigation, content on a page or links. This ensures a timely update to those search engine indexes since they do not constantly recrawl sites.

Announcing the New Site Externally

Once there has been enough time (typically a week from the soft launch) for people to internally review the site and apply any updates, it’s time to announce the launch to external audiences. Just like teasing the site launch is coming, you want to utilize the same methods to announce the launch of the site:

  • Social media (both organic and paid)
  • Press release
  • Email blast or newsletter
  • Employee email signatures

TLDR

These “Go!” and “No go!” steps are key to launching a website with minimal hiccups. Follow this checklist to ensure your site launch goes smoothly from prelaunch to post-launch.

Website Launch Checklist

Prelaunch

  • SEO and mobile optimization
  • Verify key pages exist
    • 404 including internal site search function
    • Thank you page
    • Disclaimer
    • Privacy policy
    • GDPR
    • CCPA
    • Site map
  • Copy edit
    • Grammar
    • Spelling
    • Trademarks
    • Registered marks
    • Copyrights
    • Product names
    • Addresses
    • Facts and statistics
  • Testing
    • Multibrowser/multidevice QA testing
    • Click on everything
      • Links
      • Audio/video embeds
      • Images
      • Forms
      • E-commerce
      • Email sign-ups
    • Verify analytics/tracking codes are capturing data
    • Speed test all pages to ensure low load times
  • Tease the new site is coming soon
    • Social media posts (paid/organic)
    • Email blast/newsletter
    • Internal communications

Launch

  • Launch on a Tuesday
  • Start with an internal soft launch
  • Ask for feedback from internal audiences
  • Submit site map to Google for indexing

Post-Launch

  • Fix errors and push code updates
  • Announce the new site externally one week after launch
    • Social media posts (organic/paid)
    • Press release
    • Email signatures
    • Email blast/newsletter

DOWNLOAD THE WEBSITE LAUNCH CHECKLIST

Want a quick reference for your next website launch? Click here to download the PDF version of our checklist.

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