11 Musts For Your Site Launch Checklist

I’ve seen it more times done incorrectly than done correctly in today’s fast and furious market.

Money, resources and shortcuts are used to get a website out the door without it being fully ready for prime time. Management often thinks they can launch with a site 60-percent ready, but the first 2 weeks of a website’s launch sets the tone for the viewer perception of a site – and ultimately, the perception a user will have on doing business with a company.

Let’s not forget a bad user experience is more likely to be discussed with a user’s network of friends, family and associates. Brands are tainted by their website’s deficiencies. How many times have you went back to a site just to show a friend the ridiculously flawed experience you had so you can laugh and shake your head at it in conjugated laughter?

Yeah. We’re all guilty. A bad user experience spreads like wildfire and by the time a web team realizes it, first impressions are already made, established and revenue is indeed lost.

Below, is a list of the top 11 must-haves at site launch (because 10 is too few and 12 is too many). These are the most common website tasks teams don’t seem to have the foresight to include in their launch plans – whether the launch is managed by an IT team or a brand management group, these mistakes can make or break your brand strategy when it comes to website consumption and acceptance in the marketplace. If followed and implemented, they will keep you from becoming the laughing stock of your potential customers and of your competitors.

11. Conduct a complete audit of promotions, grammar and spelling. Just because all of your copy came from a copy desk or a professional writer doesn’t mean it is perfect. Where there are humans, there is human error. Have a person who is not familiar with the promotions, but is a proficient in web writing and grammar, look at the editorial on the pages for flow, fact and intrigue. This is one of the most important tasks. A mistake seen is a mistake read and consumed. Better for it to be consumed by an internal instead of a potential client.

10. Don’t forget mobile, tablets and other devices. There is no getting around it in today’s world. You must have a solid strategy for mobile and tablet viewing. Don’t consider it a post-launch enhancement. It is not. Failure to work on a Droid, an iPhone or a Kindle device could easily cost you valuable customer support. But then again, if you’re OK with ‘This Website Is Not Viewable on This Device’ as being the first thing a user sees … well, by all means … tackle it post launch.

9. Complete and deploy a site map consistent with site offerings. A common misconception is a link to the site map is not needed on a website and that it is only used by search engines. This is completely false. From a user perspective, a site map is an easy way to see all the pages a website has to offer without much fuss. There is a set of online users who prefer to surf via site map. It’s the first thing they find on a site and they’ll bookmark them because they prefer to enter pages this way versus going through main nav. Don’t ask my why. It’s not my preference, but it is an essential part of footer and even header navigation. Don’t bury it in main nav. Give it a place in your universal footer and also in your universal header nav by the search bar.

8. Do Not under-utilized page tagging, keywords and metadata. I have worked with vendors who completely ignore the need for individual page tags, keywords and metadata on each page within a site structure. It is one of the most ignorant assumptions within SEO, SEM and SOA to assume these items do not matter. They do. They also need to be entered in before a site is live. You will lose valuable search traction and indexing if you do not deploy proper tagging at the onset.

7. Do not back into your launch dates. Ah. The moving target of a launch date.  How it alludes and changes on a whim. … For those who don’t know what they are doing. Take your website feature sets, enhancements and overall product requirements and listen to your development team. Do not commit to dates based on unrealistic expectations. New technology or functionality requires more thought, care and testing. You’ve hired people on your tech team because they know their stuff. Trust their ability to do their jobs and don’t short change them on time.

6. You say 60%? I say 90%. Through the years, I’ve seen websites launch to ‘just get out the door’ in various states of readiness. And while nothing can launch 100 percent perfect, you should get it as close as possible. Because if you don’t, someone else will. In this competitive market in all sectors of business, the race is on to be the best. Shotty web work won’t get you there – even if you’re fixing it later.

5. Do a thorough link check of your website. So you wrote a cute message on your ‘404 page not found’ pages within your website. But STOP! Stop spending so much time being clever on error pages when there are real pages out there needing attention. Your error pages shouldn’t be seen. They are a fallback if something breaks – not pages you’re expecting to see traffic and conversion on. Use free link checkers online to find your problems and fix them. Launching with a few broken links happens. Launching with 600 is just shotty work.

4. Build a site completely compliant with your browser matrix. Do you have adequate information on what browsers people are using when they come to your site? If you don’t, get it. If you can’t get it, look up the most common browsers used online by percentages and make sure your site sings in all of them. As a rule of thumb, I require my sites to be in compliance with any browser getting more than 10% use.

3. Install and verify all analytics. There isn’t a reason  to not have data collection on your website. Google Analytics is free and there are also several others out there providing  metrics at a fair price. These services tell you extremely valuable information about how your site is being used, where it is being used and what type of people are coming to it. It also gives you geographical information, time spent on site by users and also unique visitors and pageviews. There is no limit to what you can do to make improvements to your site and product offerings with this information.

2. If you say it, deliver it. Your website is a sales pitch. But it shouldn’t be misleading. Truth in advertising seems to be a little more important on the web than in other places. If a tool set or feature on your site promises something, make sure it delivers – and not just half way. Don’t be afraid to tell your users you want to know what they think or that you’re in ‘alpha’ or ‘beta’ phase of a project. They’ll appreciate your honesty and those words allow for some errors and even a little misrepresentation as you’re gearing up for a GM.

1. When you’re launched, you’re not done. You just worked a 36-hour shift to get the site out the door, went home to sleep and now you’re back at work. You’re not done. It’s time to get back to the drawing board. While troubleshooting and solving bugs on the existing site, it’s time to come up with promotion schedule, editorial calendars, publishing timelines and yes … the next redesign. Website tech evolves and so should your site if you plan to keep up. A web team’s job is never done. If it is, you’re team just isn’t good enough to cut it.

Some of these might come across sorta harsh. But I’m here to tell you launching a great site is no easy thing and each and every area I’ve outlined has got to be executed in order for success.

Can you think of some others? I’d love to hear them! Leave some comments and I’ll work on a follow up and include them.

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