Web Site Launch Check List

Avoid Chaos with a Proper Pre-Launch Process

We launch hundreds of new law firm websites each year. Launching can be easy and done in five minutes by flipping a few DNS entries or nameserver records. However, this easy five-minute flip has the potential to lead to disaster. Missing pages, broken links, no redirects, and just plain chaos can ensue on launch day.

Instead of chaos you should have a comprehensive process for launching a website. A process minimizes errors and keeps launch day a fun day.

Overlooked Big Issues

Corners should not be cut when launching a website. The following 10 issues are most often overlooked when a new designer or developer under bids a project and needs to cut corners. I have included estimated times to complete the task, so you’ll know where to budget your time.

301 Redirects for All Old Pages

A proper website launch will redirect all old page content into a specific new page. It is simply lazy, or ignorant, to not redirect pages. However, I have often seen new websites launch that break years of prior work. If you have a 50-page website with new page names, then take the three hours to map and write 50 redirects. Have 500 pages on your existing website? Plan more time to successfully complete the work. Have 5,000 pages on your existing website? Plan on hiring a data team to assist with mapping. Yes, you can get away with letting Google just figure it out when the new site launches. However, it often takes a month and you can lose rankings in the interim. Moreover, if you have a cool article on your old website that gets lots of traffic and links people will get frustrated and may not link to your page anymore when the page renders an error message. #Fail.

Smash” Images

No, this is not “Hulk” talk. You need to compress images before site launch. You can do this with a variety of tools. Our preferred tool is www.compressor.io. Image optimization can reduce file size by about 50% on average, and up to 90% for some images. After compression, the images will look the same but load faster. A faster website makes your visitors happy. Again, it is easy to overlook this step because it can add on a day or so of work.

Google Page Insights

Make sure you have the highest possible score or better from Google Page Insights. We are working on all our sites from the past 10 years and trying to get them to return the best possible score, ideally above a 90 depending on the server. Sometimes you can achieve this high rating, sometimes you can’t. Reasons your score might be low include the code, server technology, and various client priorities. A new website out of the box should receive the highest possible score on desktop and mobile. It does take time to make this work. Often you have to move code blocks around, update .htaccess files and debug code blocks.

Link Check

Always run a link check. It’s easy. XENU is an awesome program that is free, runs in about five minutes and allows you to see what is broken on your website. It can search through your code, links, images, CSS, and check external links.

Manual Review

You should manually review the site for the following things:

  • Desktop Page Loads – Open all main pages to make sure they are loading properly. When checking the desktop version hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and click on each link you want to check. Each link will open in a new tab making it easy for you to review.
  • Mobile Page Loads – Ditto. Open all main pages to make sure they are loading properly and that everything is condensing as planned.
  • Other Browser/Device Page Loads – You should test your new responsive website on all platforms and devices. Most modern browsers are getting better and Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari all act about the same, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. Also, did you test in iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android?
  • Lorem Ipsum Pages – Check for placeholder text, blank pages, sample copy and other testing pages. Obviously, launching with these issues is bad.

SEO Review

Even if ranking high in Google is not your primary concern you should still make an effort to comply with best practices. At a bare minimum add and review the following:

  • Title Tags – Check to make sure every page is unique and following Google’s guidelines about length and style.
  • Meta Description – Check to ensure every page is unique and following best practice guidelines.
  • Spam – Check for spammy items (footers, links, text) and remove them.

Website Load Time

Your website should load in two seconds or less. If its load speed is higher, check your code, images, and server. You can use Pingdom to check load speed and see how the site files loads (and where to improve).

  • Optimize all images (“Smash” Images”)
  • Minify CSS and JavaScript for faster loading
  • Turn on Server Caching and Gzip Compression
  • Reduce CSS, JavaScript and image files

Contact Forms

Check your contact forms and make sure they work properly. You would be surprised what people try to put in fields, so test thoroughly.

Site Map, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

Your site map, Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools (WMT) is recently known as your “Search Console.” Make sure you have a site map in HTML and XML form and that it is uploaded to Google Webmaster Tools. Also, make sure you have a Google Analytics and WMT account.

DNS / Nameservers

Ideally you are building the site on the new server, so you don’t have to migrate platforms, but know ahead of time if you are switching DNS or updating nameservers. It is also important to be aware of any email accounts or intranets that may or may not be transferred.

 

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