20 Point Pre-Launch Checklist for your New Website

May 25, 2015

8:00 pm

Launching a new website can be exciting, nerve wracking, and frustrating – all at once. With easy drag and drop website makers available dime-a-dozen, you’d think it would be different now than it was just a handful of years ago. But there are a bunch of things that need your personal attention, even with the best DIY website platform at your disposal.

Here’s a quick rundown of the top 20 things you must not overlook before launching that new website.

1. Will the user understand the purpose of each page in under 5 seconds?

Users today are notorious for their teeny-tiny attention spans. Most website visitors read just 20% of the words on a page on average. Does your website communicate loud and clear to time-starved visitors? Do your copy and images come together to communicate your core message(s)? Is your Call to Action (CTA) clearly communicated and understood?

2. Are the user flows natural?

Confusing product categories and convoluted navigation are two huge culprits that contribute to “bouncing” visitors. Work on improving the transition from one section of your site to the next. Avoid unnecessary back and forth with well-planned user flows. Minimize any friction the user may have in navigating across various sections of the site. Offer help via live chat when users linger too long on any one page. Make sure forms on your site have a natural flow of questions, aren’t endlessly long, and only ask users for information that is absolutely essential for completing a transaction.

3. Did you forget site search?

However great your navigation may be, there is always going to be a percentage of users who depend on direct site search to find very specific things on your site. Do not overlook site search as an essential component of your website. Make sure your search function offers features like auto-complete, auto-suggest, spell-check, item ID search, intent matching, faceted results, and more.

4. Is your site quick to load?

The average user expects websites to load within 2 seconds. Anything longer and they’re gone forever. Check your website’s load time with free tools such as Google’s Page Speed Insights, which shows stats for both desktop and mobile, and GTMetrix, which displays verbose instructions on where and how to improve your code for faster loading.

gtmetrix

 

All site speed tools offer you details on what it is on your site that’s slowing it down and help you fix these problem areas directly, so there’s no excuse for you not to do this.

5. Are there any broken links?

A link that leads nowhere is a common sight on new websites. The excuse of having too many things to do before launch does not hold well when you have to compete against well entrenched, well-oiled competition that will definitely not have such glaring errors. Avoid this rookie user experience gaffe by testing (manually or using a script) each and every link on the website. In case of 404 errors, create a dedicated page leading users back to your “money page” after offering them an appropriate apology.

6. Does it work across all browsers?

Your website may look awesome in Safari on your developer’s computer screen, but remember your users don’t all use just the browser that your development team favors. Test your website across leading browsers and their most common versions to ensure that no user gets to see a version of your website that does not live up to your exacting standards.

7. Is it mobile ready?

After Google’s latest mobile update to their algorithm, you’d have to be suicidal to not have a website that is device agnostic. Responsive design that resizes webpage elements to the user’s screen size is probably the best way to go. However, if your website does not lend itself to responsive design, make sure you adopt either a dynamic HTML serving strategy or create independent website versions for desktop and mobile.

And make sure every now and then that remains in Google’s “mobile-friendly” good books.

googlemobile

 

8. Does it have testimonials and user reviews?

Including testimonials from satisfied customers is a good way of building trust in your brand and your services. Make sure every testimonial includes the customer’s full name, company name, and an image (or even a video) if possible to make it more credible. A testimonial that describes the customer’s real experience with your brand instead of a string of superlatives works best to convince new users.

9. Is your branding integrated with the site design?

Integrate your brand with the design and layout of your website. This includes having your logo and brand name prominently visible across the site, synchronizing colors, fonts, design elements, imagery between your offline branding and your online web presence. The idea is to ensure that the website looks like an extension of your brand and not some unrelated online entity.

10. Is it social media ready?

Does your website integrate well with the social media platforms that your users are active on? Instead of the token social media “Follow” buttons on the footer of your webpages, make sure you allow users to share and comment easily with strategically placed social sharing buttons across your site.

And while you’re at it, integrate social login into your site to make sure you’re giving your customers an as highly engaged and personalized experience as possible.

11. Does it have a blog?

A blog is the easiest way to add new content to your site and keep it fresh and relevant to your users. The content marketing benefits of having a blog are too many to list here. Just suffice it to say that having a blog on your website is smart move, which must be followed by regular blog posts on the blog. There’s nothing more pathetic than an empty, abandoned blog.

12. Have you tested every user interaction feature multiple times?

Technology has a way of letting you down right when you need it most. Do not rely on blind luck. Instead, test every single element the user will interact with to navigate across your site. From CTA buttons to social sharing buttons, from forms to dynamic menus – make sure they all work as intended.

13. Are your contact details clearly visible?

Your website is your digital visiting card. Make sure your users know who you are and how to contact you easily from your website. Your NAP – name, address and phone number – must be consistent with what you have listed on your social media pages, online directories, mobile app, or business listings such as Yelp to maximize your local SEO potential.

14. Is there a self-help section?

Before your user can head to their phone and call you in a panic, offer them the option of helping themselves first. A detailed FAQ section will not only lighten the burden on your customer, but also save your support team from banging their heads on the table answering the same questions over and over again.

15. Is your customer care section / number easy to find?

If all else fails, there’s always customer care. Do not let your users hanging with no recourse by hiding your helpdesk numbers under multiple layers of pages. Display your customer support number prominently, and man your phone lines with well-trained and courteous customer care execs.

16. Is your site optimized for search engines?

There are some key aspects of your webpages that make your site jump out in front of search engines. These include using (not overusing) your keywords and their variations in in your page titles, headlines, tags and schema code, body copy, and so on.

With the complexity of SEO practices that conform to Google’s guidelines perpetually increasing at alarming rates, your marketing team would do well to use a tool preferred by the pros, such as SEMrush, to keep an eye on your traffic, keyword rankings and backlinks.

semrush

 

17. Do you have email capture widgets at the right places?

No matter how outdated it may seem to you, email marketing remains one of the cheapest, quickest and best (ROI-wise) ways to reach your customers. Make sure your website helps you build your email list from Day 1 by placing email capture applets at strategic positions across your pages. Have a segmentation strategy in place, so that you can target visitors with focused content appropriate for stage they are at in your marketing funnel.

18. For ecommerce sites, is your shipping and fulfillment process ready to go?

So your site has the most awesome merchandise and the coolest layout and design. But can the user get his order delivered to him on time? Make sure your shipping and fulfillment processes are set up and well-oiled by asking friends and family to place orders before the site goes live for the general public. For those of you offering digital downloads, there’s an additional layer of order fulfillment testing to do.

19. Do you accept multiple payment types?

Ecommerce sites cannot rest easy by accepting payments via credit and debit cards alone. To keep up with competition, it is essential to accept a variety of payment mechanisms including, but not limited to PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, cash on delivery and bitcoin.

20. Have you set up measurement and analytics mechanisms?

Finally, make sure you have a way to measure and analyze all the action that will soon erupt on your website. While Google Analytics is a given, investing in an all-in-one business dashboard like Cyfe that unifies data from multiple analytics platforms into a single view is a smart move.

cyfe

 

In Closing

While nothing can truly prepare you for every single eventuality before you launch your new website, taking care of these 20 essentials should hold you in good stead, at least in your roll out period. Post that, continuous improvements and consistent monitoring will ensure that you don’t drop the ball and keep the visitors rolling in.

 

Image Credit: George Yanakiev

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Tracy Vides is an independent researcher and content strategist, who blogs about things as diverse as tech, fashion, cars, and finance. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyVides or catch all her posts on Google+.

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