Before you “flip the switch” from the old website to the new one, there are oodles of essential functions that should be double-checked and implemented to ensure a smooth transition.
Here are 12 crucial considerations to test before the big launch:
1. Conduct cross-browser testing.
When you use a certain browser every day, you might assume that everyone else can see exactly what you see on your computer. Unfortunately, not all browsers work the same way, and your website may display and act differently on each one.
Thoroughly test your website on all browsers and on different mobile devices, such as iPad, iPhone and Android.
Before going live, send your staging link to at least a few colleagues who own different devices, and ask them to click through every page and link. Then, repeat the process after the website goes live to ensure nothing broke during the launch process.
2. Proofread content.
Come launch day, your copy should be bright and tight—and every bit of contact info should be right.
3. Test forms.
During testing, fill out and test all the forms on the site, such as contact forms, job applications or email subscriptions. Change the notification email to your own address, then fill out each form on all desktop, tablet and mobile versions.
Even if a form works flawlessly in one place, that doesn’t mean it works everywhere. If the forms are integrated with a third-party tool such as a CRM, marketing automation tool or email marketing platform, ensure that all fields are pushing information into those platforms. After testing, don’t forget to change back all the form notifications to alert the right people.
4. Tweak the SEO elements.
A crucial yet overlooked aspect of SEO is making sure each page of your website has a unique title tag and meta description. This helps tell the search engines what content is on the page.
Another common SEO oversight is the omission of image ALT tags, robots.txt and other technical factors. Here’s good guidance from Google.
5. Set up 301 redirects.
Creating a new website or redesigning your current one means that some of your URLs will change. For example, your old website might have the URL “/team” for your team member bios but use “/professionals” on the new site.
Adding 301 redirects triggers search engines to remove the old page and index only the new page, therefore helping it rank organically. Before your launch, record all current URLs, and designate the page on the new website where each URL will redirect.
6. Upload a favicon.
A favicon is the little image of your logo or brand that appears in the address bar and browser tabs beside your page title. Well-designed favicons can boost your branding and increase your website’s credibility.
7. Optimize page speed.
The biggest cause of a slow website is related to image size and quality. The Imagify plug-in on WordPress websites can compress images for you and is very easy to use.
Another way to improve page speed is to use a caching plug-in such as WP Rocket. Caching plug-ins generate and save HTML pages of your website to the server so that when a user accesses your site, it pulls the simple HTML instead of the cumbersome PHP scripts.
Check your speed before going live.
8. Create a sitemap.
Search engines aren’t automatically aware of new websites. To get them to correctly index your site and recognize the new pages you’ve published, create an XML sitemap.
This is a specific file that lists all the pages of your website, helping search engines understand your website’s structure and which pages are most important.
Try using the Yoast SEO plug-in for WordPress, which will automate the creation and maintenance of XML sitemaps.
9. Install tracking codes.
Your beautiful new website just launched, but do you know how users are finding it and what pages they’re landing on the most?
Google Analytics can track your visitors, including what pages they’re visiting, how long they are staying on certain pages and how they arrived at your site.
You can also try HotJar or other marketing automation platforms to gather in-depth analytics on your website visitors.
10. Buy an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate protects your website and also keeps the data between the servers and your browsers private. Furthermore, Google will penalize your site and mark it as “not secure” on its search results page if you don’t have an SSL, and that designation will deter users from visiting your site.
11. Update the Time To Live.
Time To Live (TTL) tells the server how long the DNS information should be cached. This should always be checked before launching your website, because it affects how long it takes the new site to propagate on the servers.
Communicate to your IT company where your domain is registered and how short you want to set the TTL. Ideally, you want the TTL set as short as possible—typically 30 seconds to a few minutes.
12. Adjust the website privacy/robots.
Once the website launches, ensure the privacy of the website is turned to “public.” During development, your website is normally set to “private,” which tells search engine robots not to index your website while it’s under construction. However, once you have liftoff, you must go “public” if you want to be found.
A version of this post first ran on the Circle S Studio blog.