Great; your new website is complete and ready to go live. Exciting times. Although it can be tempting to rush along and push the “go live” button, there are literally dozens things that one should check and verify before making that call. These checks range from aesthetic, content and style checks to functional, security, performance and search engine optimization (SEO) checks. Any reputable web developer will automatically do most of these for you, which is great, considering that many of the checklist items are quite technical. But there are also a number of items that, as a website owner, you should verify yourself to make sure you’re satisfied. Here are five such items.
1. 301 redirects
If it’s a website redesign that you’re doing, then you’ll probably want to set up 301 redirects. The reason is because your current website pages have been indexed by search engines, and they have some sort of page rank associated with them that you’d probably want to maintain. When you update your website, these pages will more than likely either not exist anymore, or will have moved.
For example, say on your current website, you have a page about your company located at www.domain.com/about/, and on the new website, this page has changed to www.domain.com/company-profile/, then you’ll want to tell the search engines about the move. 301 redirects essentially tell search engines where the corresponding pages on the old site reside on the new site. This way the page rank may be transferred from one to the other and not lost in the ether. Be sure to ask your website developer to set this up for you.
Having a brand new website is great, but it’s even better when you have analytics installed. Analytics will tell you all sorts of useful information such and where your website visitors are coming from, which pages they visit, where they leave your website from and so on.
Installing analytics may not be done automatically by your web developer so you’ll need to check that it is. Google provide a great free analytics tool (https://www.google.com/analytics/), which is very straightforward for the web developer to install. It's recommended that you use this as a minimum. There are also a plethora of more advanced but paid analytics tools out there, if you’re so inclined.
3. Browsers and devices
This task would have been done by your web developer, but there’s no harm in checking that you are happy with what’s been done, since, as a website owner, it can be easy to overlook this. Just because you use Firefox as your default browser and your phone is a Samsung Galaxy S does not mean that everyone else does. Your customers will be using all sorts of browsers and devices, so it’s important that the site works on everything.
For browsers, you’ll want to check your website on Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. To see which browsers to focus on more check the analytics of your current website to see what most people are using when they visit your site. If it’s a brand new website you can go by the statistics here: http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp
You’ll also want to check your site on some phones and tablets. It’d be close to impossible to check everything, of course, but there are a couple handy browsers tools you can use to come close. This is one for example: http://www.dimensionstoolkit.com/
Be sure to check everything- not just how it looks. For example, fill in any forms you might have and make sure they work. Does the form validation work? Did you get the email response? Perform a search, use the map, download the press release, etc. In short, be sure to check the interactive features, as well as the style and presentation.
Speed is very important these days. It can mean the difference between a high bounce rate and a low one. Even your page rank is affected by the speed of your site.
It may be tricky to check this before actually going live, because prior to the launch, the site is most probably sitting on a developer/staging server, and so the results may not be accurate. You can check it as soon as the site goes live though, and there are several tools available for this. One handy one is provided by Google here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/
5. Go live at the right time
Lastly, even if your website is ready and checked and verified to go at the end of the week, it’s not recommended to go live, say on a Thursday. Computers can be a bit unpredictable at times, and things can often go wrong. Either the server is not fully compatible with the website, or data is lost on the upload. Whatever it is, going live before the weekend is risky, because you could end up with a broken website sitting in all its glory for the world to see for a couple of days. It’s much safer to go live at the start to middle of the week, so that in case something is wrong, your web developer can fix it right away.