You have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money to build a site that serves your customers or audience, and your business goals. You have worked really hard to ensure that the site accurately represents your brand and that it will be a great first touch point for your customers or users.
Despite the effort that you have put into your site, it is easy to miss out on important details. This is where a checklist comes in handy.
1. Proofread all content
Typos on main pages could make your site seem unprofessional and untrustworthy. You need to read through your copy before launch. There are proofreading tools that you can even add as Chrome extensions, for example, Grammarly that can help you correct your grammar. Article from Convince and Convert summarizes 11 free proofreading tools. Read through it for more options.
Look out for the following when proofreading:
- Filler text
- Working links
- Alt text in mages
- Consistent headings
- White text on a white background - you may have added styling and did not change the font color.
- Make sure to differentiate your linked text from normal text
While proofreading, ensure that you check both the page’s HTML file and what you see on your browser. Sometimes, there may be items that are not meant to be on the browser, for example, image alt text, and items that are supposed to be seen may be hidden using CSS styling.
2. Make sure Name, Address Phone number (NAP) clearly visible
Your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) need to be easily visible to make it easier for customers or users to contact you. You can include your business name in your logo on the top and bottom navbars, for example. Your address could go to the bottom of your home page, and to your contacts page. It is even better to have a Google Maps pin showing the exact location.
Your phone number should also be easily visible. It could be on your navbars, footer and contact pages. Contact information could include links to your social media pages. Ensure that the links work and direct people to the correct pages. You may include the social icons on your navigation bars and footer for easy access.
4. Make sure you meet compliance rules
While ensuring data privacy, you can in the same breath, look out for compliance. Here is what you need to look out for:
- Licenses for stock photos.
- Proper attribution for images, fonts, and icons that are not your own
- Some creative work may also require written permission from its source. Ensure that this is done.
- Any other compliance based on your location’s requirements. You may need to confirm that you are out of any legal trouble.
5. Check your site security
Closely related to legal stuff is security. If your customers will be making any transactions over your site, you need to take care of their personal information also their financial information too.
Sites that use SSL certificates are likely to rank higher, as Google confirmed in 2014 that HTTPS was one of the ranking signals. Other search engines also included website security in their ranking algorithm. Read more about SSL and how it works.
Verifying that your site is approved by the popular malware scanners will help ensure that your site is safe for your customers to browse through.
When it comes to security, check for the following:
- Monitoring scripts
- Secure password storage
- SSL certificates - check whether your hosting package comes with one. Most hosts give free SSL certificates.
- Security plugins - ensure that these are properly installed (some plugins you can use here are iThemes, MalCare, Security and Wordfence.
- Avoid adding the plain-text email address on your website to avoid any spam or hacking.
- Spam plugins - as you take care of security, you might as well take care of spam. A plugin you can look into here is Antispam Bee.
6. Check business branding
What should you look out for when it comes to branding?
- Logo - ensure that your logo is placed correctly on your page. You could also link it to the home page.
- Favicon - this is an icon just before your site’s address bar in the browser. A square icon is highly recommended.
- Retina logo - this version of your logo will look great if your users use high-resolution screens to view your website. Here’s an article explaining how to upload a retina logo.
7. Verify on-page SEO
If you are using WordPress, a great SEO plugin to us would be Yoast SEO. Here’s what you need to look out for:
- Clear calls to action (CTAs)
- That each page has different but relevant title tags
- Title tags start with the main target keyword and company name
- 55 characters max for your title tag on your the web version of your site, 80 on mobile
- Include the main keyword in a page’s meta description
- Each page has a different but relevant meta description
- The meta description should be 120 characters long on your site’s web version and less than 200 on your mobile version
8. Verify Tracking Codes (Google Analytics and Social Media Facebook)
Verify that your home or landing page has a Google Analytics code. This will help in measuring traffic and details about how your users are using the site, for example:
- bounce rates
- traffic sources
- most visited pages
- least visited pages
- Audience demographic data
- devices used to access the site
- campaign data and performance
- search terms that people use to get your site
For Google Analytics, check that admin and/or company IP addresses have been excluded from tracking. This way, you have more accurate data.
Other items to check under Google analytics:
- Properly created goals and funnels
- Correct syncing of Google Analytics and Google Console
9. Backup your site
Backing up your site is a great way to prevent data loss. Here is what to check:
- Monitoring scripts
- A copy of the site has been backed up
- Scheduled and frequent site back up
- Test the backups
10. Check link structure
If you are using WordPress, you have an option to use permalinks. These are more memorable URLs. You can define them as you like. Just ensure that they make it easier for someone to understand the content of the web pages.
There is a possibility that during development, links kept being changed. Sometimes the same page can be accessed using different URLs.
Plugins like Broken Link Checker will come in handy for a WordPress site to help identify any broken links.
Check that pages on one webpage link to other pages. An example here would be the services pages linking to the contacts page where users can request for a quote.
Ensure that the links work and that they point to relevant pages and information.
11. Ensure site is crawlable
If there are pages that you do not want to be crawled and indexed, you need to ensure that your robots.txt file includes clear instructions.
Learn more about robots.txt.
12. Enable Indexing
During development, it is good practice to turn indexing off, especially if you are using WordPress. You need to ensure that at this point, just before launch, indexing is enabled.
Here is where you enable indexing on WordPress:
The other option, especially if you are not using WordPress is to submit it to Google here:
You can also ensure that you have a sitemap.xml file in your root directory, which again, allows for your site to be indexed.
If your site is WordPress powered, add the Google XML Sitemaps plug-in.
13. Check cross-browser compatibility
It is important to check how compatible your site is among different browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox). You can use tools like Browsershots, CrossBrowserTesting, and Browserling.
14. Check cross-device compatibility
You also need to check that your site is compatible across devices - PCs, Android, iOS, and tablets.
It may even help to actually test for compatibility using specific devices. Google Chrome’s Dev Tools allows you to choose different devices.
Here is how to use Dev Tools:
- To access this tool, right click on your site (you can also use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+I)
- Choose “Inspect”
- Just before “Elements”, there is a rectangular icon that looks like a small phone and a bigger one placed on each other
- When you hover over it, shows the words ‘toggle device toolbar”
- You can also use the shortcut Ctrl+Shift+M to access it
- Click on it.
- On the left, you will see a select button with different devices
- Choose which ones you want to test your site for, and see how it renders on each one of them.
15. AMP compatibility
This will only be relevant if you are using Google AMP for faster loading mobile sites. You need to test your site using an AMP Tester Tool by Google.
16. Site loading speed
Images do affect site loading speed to a large extent. You need to ensure that your images are optimized.
Here are the plugins that you can use to optimize images: EWWW Image Optimizer and ShortPixel.
You can also utilize the image lazy loading option.
17. Remove unwanted files, images, plugins, pages, and posts
During the development stages, there’s a lot of testing. You want to ensure that you get rid of all unwanted items - images, plugins, pages, and posts. This way, you end up launching a clean site, with only what is required for correct user experience and site functionality.
At this point, you can also look out for filler images, content, and text. Ensure that the correct files are linked to each other. You may have for example had been testing out some styling and added an extra CSS file. Ensure that the final intended one is what is linked to on the web pages.
18. Test site functionality
If a user needs to fill out a form, for example, ensure that the input fields and submit buttons are working as they should. The information also needs to be sent to the correct location (server, email or database).
Other aspects of functionality to look out for:
- 404 redirects
- Logins procedures
- Pop-up and Modal
- Correct display of thank you messages
- Validation testing and message display
- Integration with other tools like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software
- Each step of the payment process works as intended - shopping cart, sign-ups, processing of payments, and email notifications.
- A comprehensive message to help the user fix a problem, for example, if they enter the incorrect date format on a form, they should be able to get a message that guides them on what to do.
19. Ensure consistency
It is important to compare the initial plan with the final product. What was the layout is supposed to be like? Is it reflective of the original plan?
Here is what you should also look out for:
- Line height
- Header styles
- Fonts and font styles
Possible adjustments were made during development, and it is important to acknowledge that. Keeping all the adjustments on record will help in determining whether the final website is what was intended and planned.
20. Customize your 404 pages
You are not likely to get 404s if your site is new. You, however, need to take into account as many use cases as possible. Sometimes users may misspell your company’s name or webpage, and they may end up with a 404.
Ensure that a custom page to redirect the visitor exists.
Here is an example of a custom 404 page:
You can add information to guide the user on what to do, for example, you can add links to other pages and include a message to let the user know that they can still get value from your site.
You may opt to add a search button to allow the user to get the information that he is looking for. This may not always work as they may search for something and get another 404 error message. This will make them feel extremely frustrated.
21. Check for device responsiveness
Ensure that your site looks great across a range of viewports. On mobile, for example, you may need to make buttons a bit larger since the user will be using their finger to ‘click’. You may also need to remove some images so that only the most important one load above the fold.
Here are tools to help you view how your site renders on different viewports:
Studio Press and Responsinator and our SEOptimer Audit Tool:
Learn how you can optimize your ViewPort with our guide.
22. Enable blogging
Do you have a blog? This is the section of your site that is essentially ‘alive’. Its content can keep changing as necessary and as frequently as possible. There is absolutely no limit to how many pieces of content or the formats that you can use here.
You can guest blog on sites with high traffic and they can link back to you, write a press release or even showcase awards and speeches that your team has been involved in. This page is a way for your new website to gain traction faster after launch.
23. Usability testing
This is a technique which involves evaluating a product by testing it with users. You can use it in website development too, prelaunch. You could get at least 5 users who represent your target audience and request them to use the site. Make observations and collect feedback from them.
You can also install heatmaps to track mouse movements. This will help you know how the users interacted with your site, and what parts of the site they found most interesting as well as relevant.
Image by CrazyEgg
Google analytics, if connected to your site will also come in handy. You can get the process flow, which shows the users' journey through your site. You get to see the pages with the highest bounce rate, the pages where users spent most of the time, the devices used, and the number of pages visited per session.
There are also tools that can help you test your site’s usability, such as, User Testing.
24. Have a pre-launch page
A pre-launch page will keep your users in anticipation. You can even add a countdown to your launch date. A signup button may be a good idea, as they will get notified as soon as you launch.
You can create pre-launch pages from templates on LeadPages or if you are using WordPress, Easy Coming Soon, and EZP Coming Soon Page are good options.
25. Test loading performance
Your site’s performance will determine the user experience. There is a need for conducting a performance test.
Relevant tools here include Website Speed Tests, Pingdom Tools, and GT Metrix. Look out for any recommendations and fix them before you launch. Or when you perform an audit using SEOptimer, you can view each page performance result:
Learn more on how you can optimize your Page Speed Guide.
Learn more about Page Size from our guide.
Having a checklist will help you cover a lot of details that may be easy to miss. After going through your checklist, you may need to make several changes, edits and tweaks. Go through the checklist at least a few days before the launch date. This way, you will have enough time to make all changes, without pushing the launch date (especially if you had promised your customers).