10 things to check before launching a new website

With three of our most charming clients launching new websites this autumn, checking that everything has been done properly has been uppermost in my mind. So I thought I’d formalise my checklist into something we can all refer to in the future. Here then is the “Are you sure this has been done?” list for your next website launch or redesign.

1. Redirect the old website’s pages. Top of the list is one that gets forgotten so often, and will just kill a site if it’s not done. This must be in place before the launch button is hit. It’s not a job for later. After the new site is live, to check it’s been done properly, go to your website analytics and find the top 100 pages in the “Landing Pages” report for the last year. These should cover most of the pages with external links. Now check them all (using something like Screaming Frog) and ensure they all ‘301 redirect’ to their equivalent on the new site. Yes, all of them.

2. Make sure the page titles and description meta tags are in place. Many companies have spent hours crafting great copy, only to see the designers of the new web site replace it with some machine-generated, poor-quality equivalent. Again, Screaming Frog can whizz through the new site and give you a comprehensive list of what’s in place.

3. Check that your analytics application’s code is in place. I can’t tell you how many times designers miss this off, and the first the site owners know about it is when they come to check how the traffic is doing (and it appears to be zero). While you’re at it, check any other code (e.g AdWords remarketing) hasn’t been left off, either. Maybe this is the time to get Google Tag Manager installed?

4. Is there a sitemap? Is it automatically updated? After the site has gone live, check the sitemap is OK in Google Search Console.

5. What’s the site’s backup strategy? You want to know that something is in place, quietly working away.

6. Have you taken the opportunity to switch to https?

7. Is there a good ‘404’ (or ‘page not found’) page? This frequently gets omitted in the rush to launch a site, yet it’s the time when you’re most likely to get people arriving at no-longer-existent addresses. One which just says ‘404 – Page not found’ is not good enough. How does the page help people get to where they need to be?

8. Do the forms all work? Check they send the right data to the right place at your end, and send the right response to the user.

9. Have you tested and approved the way the site looks in a wide range of browsers and devices? There are a few ways to try this here.

10. Compare the site speed of the old site with the new one. That means testing the old one before the new one goes live, and keeping a record! Use the Google tool or something similar. Do not accept a backward step with the new site.

By all means, forward this to whoever’s working on your website, or take it along with you when talking to a design company about what you’ll expect. And make sure those checks are done!

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