Websites are launched every day. Hundreds. Even thousands. Every day. Each trying to grab your attention for one reason or another. Most have been checked and double checked for accuracy and a streamlined message before launching. But some have not. They lack correct spelling, have incomplete metadata, and aren’t set up on the front or back end for adequate display to the greater public. These missteps can affect a website’s credibility and authority from the outset. The list below aims to shed light to the 11 Items to check before launching a new website.
1. Website Copy
Check, double check and triple check everything you’ve written. Too often mistakes squeak through and make it to the masses. They take away your credibility bit by bit. And there’s support out there in the form of free web apps, friends and family, and services designed to help. There are plenty of free online spell checkers. Use them. Or ask close friends and family to proofread your copy. They will inevitably find something that can be fixed or rewritten to make your copy more clear.
2. Meta Content
I’ve written about meta content in my last post, 17 Updates to Decrease Bounce Rate. Getting your descriptions correct is essential to the long-term success of your site. Without it your target market won’t know you exist. When individuals search terms online, it’s your meta descriptions which Google matches to. Every page should consist of a title, description, H1, H2, and image alt tags. These items, used correctly, will further define your company connecting you with high-quality prospects. Tools like Screaming Frog have free and paid versions depending on your needs. A small site (less than 20 pages) should be able to use the free version without issues.
3. Cross-Browser Compatibility
Cross-browser compatibility is essential in today’s day and age. People use browsers of every shape and size. At minimum, you should strive for visual grace in the five major browsers: Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. And if you have a Mac, you should consider investing in a laptop that can run Explorer. In an ideal situation your code should degrade gracefully in older browsers versions.
4. SEO Keywords
SEO keywords offer a behind the scenes peek into how your site is organized. Each web page should be geared to a specific word with your most important keyword on your homepage. Keywords help search engines further understand what each page is about. Keywords are bought through sites like Google. Popular terms tend to be more expensive whereas niche terms are likely cheaper. That doesn’t mean competition in your market won’t drive up the cost a high-value keywords though. Keywords, coupled with sound meta content, and a strategy to promote your site will go a long way.
5. Analytics Install
Installing an analytics program, such as Google Analytics, is essential in today’s web. Without Google Analytics installed on your site, you’re essentially driving down the street with a mud-covered windshield. Sure, you may get where you want, but it’ll take a lot longer with unnecessary accidents along the way. With Google Analytics installed you can track how visitors spend their time while on your site. It will give you more insight into what people want and what they are looking for.
6. Code Validation
Code validation is the process in which you verify your CSS and HTML are properly deployed on your site. Without proper coding search engine web crawlers will set your site as a low priority.
7. Contact Details
If you sell a product or service through your site, it’s crucial to display your contact information. Visitors need a way to contact you with questions or concerns. Phone number, email address, and mailing address are all needed as people like to have different ways to connect. International sites should include an 800 number. Without these items visible in a convenient section of your site, you risk your credibility.
8. Secure Certified
If you accept payments or other vital information from your users, you will need to make sure your site is secure via an SSL. It’s the S in HTTPS. This certificate, typically supplied via your web host, let’s your users know that you take their privacy seriously. This extra layer of protection allows your user’s data to be sent to you encrypted.
It’s one of the littlest items on your website. 32 pixels square. And without it your site isn’t quite complete. It’s the little icon to the left of your text in every open browser tab. Nothing will break if omitted, but it definitely helps with completeness. And comes off amateur if omitted.
10. Development and Staging Site Setup
This step is a no brainer for seasoned designers and developers. I’ve personally learned the hard way. I’ve learned you need a playground for your site. A place where you can try out code and see what works in the real world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held my breath when updating plugins. Hoping nothing breaks. And theme or WordPress updates? Forget about it. Not happening on the live site. Development (Dev) and Staging sites are your playgrounds, or the tech term, sandboxes. As each name illustrates, each have different purposes. A Dev site is for you to develop your site. A place where you can try new things. A place where you can break things. And a staging site is just that, for staging. It’s there to make sure your code is working as designed before placing it into production. A trial run of sorts for the real world.
Many web hosts offer backups of your website, but each are different. Check with your hosting company to see what they offer. But, you shouldn’t rely on your host for a backup. It’s always better to do it yourself. You’ll know exactly what you’re backing up and where you placed it. There are many plugins out there that offer this service for free in WordPress. I use BackWPup WordPress Backup Plugin. It has over 600,000 active installs on WordPress so you know it can be trusted. Typically I make backups once a month due to the low frequency of my web changes. You may backup more or less frequent depending on your needs. The important thing is that you back up.
If you are a web designer, a developer, or a business leader with a vested interest in the launching of your site, keep in mind the 11 items to check before launching a new website. It will assist you in having a clean, error-free, and smooth release.