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WordPress Website Launch Checklist – Things to Remember

Let’s admit it! Launching a website can be stressful experience, even for the most seasoned project managers and digital marketers.

Websites are complex and there are so many things which can be overlooked for instance a broken link or misspelled word. Also, a magnitude of technical errors can do irreparable damage upon website launch. For instance, you could forget to set up site redirects or mess up the SEO which could prevent search engines from capturing your site and los e out on valuable traffic!

Instead of incessantly worrying about what ifs, wouldn’t it be much easier for you to have a comprehensive checklist to run down before every launch? At Seahawk, we follow an exhaustive checklist before every launch to make every site launch successful right from the start. So, here we go.

Design

  1. Check HTML Markup validation: It is important to avoid incompatibilities. This can be done with the use of tools like W3C’s Markup Validation Service that help to check all the pages of your website and ensure they are up to date with web standards.
  2. Check CSS validation: Just like HTML, it is important to validate your styles by using the correct tools.
  3. Check previews with different browsers: Based on what your client wants, take your website to different browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc. to spot any cross-browser compatibility problems and the efficiency of all multimedia on your pages like audio and video files. Alternatively, you can even use a service like Browsershots for the same.
  4. Check optimization: Your website needs to be mobile-friendly in terms of design and functionality. For an optimal user experience, it helps to test your website’s designs on various gadgets (phones, tablets, etc.) and platforms (Android and iOS). It can also be tested on services like MobileTest.me
  5. Run with Google’s Mobile Testing: Google’s automatic tool is a great addition to manual testing. It’s also simple as it runs a full analysis of your website and provides feedback by just entering the URL in.
  6. Optimize images: Resizing images without their quality being affected will definitely help with better page load time and ultimately, user experience. Some helpful tools to do the same are TinyPNG and RIOT.
  7. Use Favicons: Commonly forgotten, adding a favicon to your browser tabs enhances the website design and makes it look more professional.
  8. Header should redirect to Homepage: Ensure that the company logo appears clearly in the header and that it links to the homepage of your actual website. This creates a quick shortcut for users to return to the homepage.
  9. Install a Print Stylesheet: This comes in handy for any user who wants to print your content down onto paper. You can use the WordPress Codex for the same.

Functionality

  1. Check all Web Forms: If you have any shareable forms on your website (contact, survey, etc.), it is vital to check that the data gathered by the site, is being submitted correctly and that the form emails are arriving at the right spot.
  2. Redirections and confirm messages are in place: It’s equally important to check that users are being provided with relevant help/confirmation messages and redirected to the correct page after submitting their data.
  3. Check any autoresponders: Any automatic emails/response messages in place should be checked too before the website is live.
  4. Run a speed test: Using tools like Google Pagespeed Insights, GTMetrix, and Pingdom can help you see how quickly your website loads and what more can be done to make it faster. Ideally, you should aim for a load time of below two seconds.
  5. Check social sharing: Just like everything else on the page, it’s important to check whether all social sharing widgets and buttons are working properly and are linked to the correct platforms and profiles.
  6. Check all Site Feeds: Any RSS, news, social, or other feeds on your website are supposed to be functioning correctly before you take it live.
  7. Implement accessibility guidelines: Accessibility is becoming more and more important around the web. Read this article on how to implement it in WordPress, especially if you are required to by law.
  8. Check any third-party tools: Any external tools that are being used for activities like CRM, E-commerce, marketing, etc. should be positioned correctly and more importantly, functioning properly.

Content

  1. Do a content check: Ensure that all placeholder text (such as Lorem ipsum) is replaced with client-approved content wherever required.
  2. Proofread: To avoid the risk of looking unprofessional, make sure the copy has been through a grammar check – this includes spelling errors, minor mistakes, etc.
  3. Follow even formatting: It is essential for formatting to be standardized and easy on the eyes. Make the text look readable by using chunking techniques, using subheadings, and avoiding massive blocks of texts.
  4. Do an image check: Just like written content, any stand-in images should be replaced wherever required.
  5. Do a multimedia check: From audio to video files, everything should be functional, leading to the right pages and performing correctly on the page.
  6. Test all links: Ensure that none of the links on your page are broken or misleading. Internal links should be correctly redirected and all external links must open in a new tab.
  7. Do a quick download test: Any downloadable content on your page must be proofread, correctly linked and most importantly, easily downloaded before the page is made live.
  8. Prep for errors: While most themes have default error pages for content that can’t easily be found, it is essential to set up a customized 404 page so readers aren’t completely lost and are informed about faulty links.
  9. Set up a “contact” section: With plugins like Jetpack, Contact Form 7, and Fast Secure Contact Form, you can set up a relatively simple contact page that is crucial for any website.
  10. Prep redirection links: If you want to send visitors to your old website or redirect them to different sections of your current one, the best practice is to set up redirect links that work correctly and lead to the right place.
  11. Be prepared prior to launch: Before you launch your website, try to prep some posts that are ready to share upon launch on the website and your social media so you can kickstart with complete power.

SEO

  1. Set up a SEO plugin: WordPress alone is well configured for SEO. However, it doesn’t hurt to configure additional plugins like Yoast SEO or All-in-One SEO Pack to take your website ahead.
  2. Add site title and taglines: Make sure you set up a relevant site title and tagline under Settings > General.
  3. Set up SEO page and post titles: Unique titles that are under the limit of 70 characters and created with optimized keywords are essential for all pages and posts on the website.
  4. Add meta descriptions: Meta descriptions that are under the limit of 156 characters and uniquely describe the page and posts with proper keywords are also equally important.
  5. Add permalinks: Ensure that the URL of every page contains the main keyword and the permalink structure is set as per your needs. This can be checked in Settings > Permalinks.
  6. Image check, round 2: This time you should also go over file names, descriptions, ALT tags, and keywords along with loading times.
  7. Add focus keywords: Every page and post will require a defined focus keyword if you’re using an SEO plugin. Once you add a keyword, you will be given more information on how to further optimize it.
  8. Do a complete content analysis: After selecting a focus keyword, you can check the suggestions made for a complete analysis to optimize your website better.
  9. Set up a sitemap: If you’ve passed the development stage and have moved your website to its final destination, use tools like Yoast SEO and Google XML Sitemaps to set up a sitemap that can be shared with search engines.
  10. Check all metadata: Run through all your meta tags for social media and RSS feeds to see if everything reads right and is set up correctly. This also includes checking the implementation of optional tags like rel=”nofollow”.

Marketing

  1. Add signups for newsletters: Have you got a signup form for important parts of your website? This includes pages, popups, and other prompts. Find more ideas at SumoMe to explore more options.
  2. Choose and connect an email provider: For any forms on your website, there must be a proper service that collects emails. MailChimp is an industry favorite for this purpose. 
  3. Add and check social icons: Ensure that social icons are functioning properly, linking to the correct pages and they look okay. This may also involve you taking a second look at all of your social sharing.
  4. Check social profiles: Test out all your social profiles and ensure they are updated, correctly linked, and fall consistently into the website’s overall design.

Legal

  1. Add company details: Make sure all your contact details are easily accessible on the website – this helps build the user’s trust. You can also include important information like tax registration to instill that trust further.
  2. Acquire required licenses: Certain licenses are required for the usage of images, codes, fonts, etc. It is important to acquire these licenses for the smooth functioning of the website.
  3. Check for other copyrights: While the above should take care of most copyright-related things, do mention a copyright statement wherever required.
  4. Add privacy policy: While in some countries, it is required by the law, adding a privacy policy is a good way to gain trust while collecting any user data.
  5. Add T&C’s: Terms and conditions are a must-have especially if your website is an eCommerce shop and dealing with financial transactions.
  6. Add cookie warnings: Again, some places like the EU require cookie warnings as per the law. While this may look like a bit of a design breaker, you must include them on your website to avoid any unnecessary legal hassles.
  7. Check local legalities: Some laws are area-specific and you don’t want your website to be missing out on any of them. These include anti-spam measures, credit card processing rules, etc.

Move Site to New Server

  1. Acquire desired domain: It is super important to secure and configure a domain that fits your new website and is all yours.
  2. Prep a database: Create a database and a user for your new website.
  3. Copy data and database: Copy and move your website’s data and MySQL database to your desired location. Tools and plugins like Duplicator, UpdraftPlus, and WP Migrate DB Pro will make automatic site migration a lot easier.
  4. Check domain is pointed correctly: Once you’ve set up the website in its new location, ensure that the new domain is pointing to that place correctly.
  5. Test website display: Do a quick check to see if the website is being displayed properly in the new location without any mess-ups, missing icons, images, etc.
  6. Do a page/link check: If everything looks okay, it should also function properly. Check all your links and if they are pointing in the right direction. Also, check if all secondary pages of the website are working properly and being displayed correctly.

Prepare for Launch

  1. Renew required licenses: If you’ve got commercial, third-party features on your website including plugins and themes, run a check on whether you need to renew their licenses to move them to the new domain.
  2. Set up site caching: It’s always good to have a website that loads fast. A solid caching solution helps with this problem. Use solutions like WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Rocket to get great results. If you’ve got a managed hosting provider, then they can handle the cache for you.
  3. Set up a content delivery network (CDN): Another way to make your website faster is by connecting a CDN. Free tools that can help you with this are Photon, however, most managed hosting providers offer CDN services.
  4. Set up Google Analytics: Tracking your website’s performance, collecting user data, and making informed decisions is crucial for growth. There are plenty of options out there that can help with this problem, however, Google Analytics is an industry favorite. Google Analytics by Yoast makes setting up all the easier.
  5. Integrate Google Webmaster Tools: Another useful tool that can help with website performance is Google Webmaster and you can integrate your website with the same.
  6. Keep it clean: Delete all unnecessary and old files, posts, databases, etc. (unless you need your website to be a staging site).

Backup & Security

  1. Add an anti-spam solution: With traffic, comes a lot of spam. Solutions like Akismet or Antispam Bee help you keep away the worst bits. 
  2. Set up login protection: Keeping the login page safe is crucial as it is easily one of the most vulnerable parts of your website. It can be protected by using proper usernames and passwords but with also plugins like Login Lockdown.
  3. Add a backup solution: Losing your website is an absolute nightmare and it can be worse if you don’t have a way to bring it back. It is important to set up a backup solution for your site data and database at the pre-launch stage. If you’ve got a managed hosting provider, backups will be managed for you.
  4. Check your backups: Having a backup plan is great, but having one that actually works is what is necessary. Before you move everything, check if your first backup is successfully working and getting saved in the specified desired location.
  5. Change your admin password: It’s vital to set up a safe password and save it in a secure place too like LastPass.

Launch

  1. Uncheck ‘Discourage Search Engines’ setting: This setting can be found in the WordPress dashboard under Settings > Reading. If you don’t uncheck the box that says ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’, you’ll have to wait a really long time for organic traffic to be visible.
  2. Check for robots.txt files: All robots.txt files should be deleted or reconfigured so that search engines aren’t kept away from the new website.
  3. Create a sitemap: Building a sitemap right now would be helpful if you haven’t done so in a while. Once it’s created, be sure to submit it to the search engine of your choice (the one you want to ideally rank on).
  4. Promote away: Once your website is launched, email everyone you know, post your content to social media everywhere and let everyone know that it’s live!

While launching a new website can be a tedious task, you can mitigate some of the stress by using this comprehensive website launch checklist. If you are looking to build an effective web presence for your business, connect with our web experts at Seahawk!

REACH OUT

Content Writer, Editor & Strategist at Seahawk

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