After designing a website, you verify that the CMS is working perfectly, all content has been added, and your senior management is satisfied with the results. That’s it, right? You can now launch the site. But is it enough? Actually, no! As a designer you need to undergo a complete prelaunch exercise before launching your website.
Many designers forget a number of things related to the website in their excitement to go live, which might cause unwanted problems in the near future. This article outlines a prelaunch exercise that every web designer should follow before making any site live.
Remember your teachers and parents repeatedly saying to check your answers before you submitting them during an examination? Although it doesn’t sound interesting, the same is true for websites. Check everything before making it live. However, when checking a website, you must go beyond simply reading the content and looking at the graphics. Ideally, you should prepare a checklist as a part of your prelaunch exercise to help ensure that you do not overlook any important items. Before going through the checklist of prelaunch exercise, let’s understand the major benefits that come along with these checklists.
Benefits of Pre-launch Checklist
Reduces re-work: The major benefit of preparing a checklist is that it reduces the need for a huge amount of re-work. When a designer overlooks certain important tasks before launching the website, the natural result is extensive re-work. The pre-launch checklist enables you to ensure that all features are working before going live.
The first-impression effect: You might be thinking that, if you do not perform a checklist, you can still redo your design at any time to resolve any issues. However, first impressions play an important role here as well. Whether in terms of your audience or your senior management, the first impression always counts. It is always better to present perfect work the first time so as not to lose the first impression effect.
The search engine: The web business is built around the search engine. You design a website and launch it to generate more business, but the result depends on the search engine results. If you overlook certain important things and the search engine crawls your site, even if you make changes, the engine will take its own time to come back and crawl again. Thus, missing out a major thing might hamper your business as well.
Indeed, a pre-launch checklist is not just good practice, but also a necessity. Now let’s move ahead with the important things to consider before launching a website. Here are the 10 most important things to consider during a pre-launch for a website:
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One of the most striking and important things that a person usually notices about a website is the design; therefore, in your checklist, you should have design as the top priority. When you design a website, you tend to think it as great; afterwards, you might see a host of faults with your design. This is a natural human characteristic. You are unable to see defects immediately after you create something, but after some time, you can identify all the issues that you missed. Therefore, it is always a good idea to proof your design before launching the site. When it comes to checking a design during the pre-launch of website, looking only at visual smoothness does not complete your work. You need to consider approach design in a different way, as discussed below.
Check the color combinations: You might overlook the color combination and the mixture of colors used in a particular design. Although you might like it initially, give it a second. Make sure that your design color is not creating too much hindrance for your eyes. If you love bright colors, make sure that you have not created a paint house design. Observe the design once or twice more to see if the color combination is working fine and the colors are not standing out as something odd. If anything distracts you while observing your website design, realize that there is a problem. Try to identify it and resolve it during the pre-launch efforts.
Typography: After checking your color combinations, consider the typography. Check through the fonts, sizes, and types once again during the pre-launch exercise. Do you note any discrepancies? Make sure that each and every word in every corner of your site is readable. Although you might like different types of cursive fonts, when designing a website, try to keep it simple because you do not want your users to get confused. Moreover, check that the sizes of the fonts are clean and readable. The most important factor of fonts is to make them readable. If you choose a font family that looks great with your design but is not that clear when reading it, your major purpose will not be fulfilled. Therefore, make sure your fonts in the title, heading, and body are clearly visible and are easy to read.
Logos and banners: You should also double-check the logos, banners, and videos to make sure that everything is working. Check if you have used your company logo in every required section and that the right banners are used for the right campaign. Also observe the clarity of pixels with your images and videos available on the site. See if the images are clear and that the page is not taking too much time to load due to the images and videos. Once all things are in place, check once again.
Titles and Meta Tags
Titles and meta tags are very important for your website, especially in terms of making it search engine friendly. One of the major ways to generate business on the web is to make your site SEO friendly so that it shows up in the search engine results. Taking care of titles and meta tags will make your site SEO friendly.
Title: Have you made it right? Never be in rush when creating the titles for each page of your website. This is the most important thing that a search engine will identify when crawling your site. Search engines do not approach the site the same way as humans. Humans might be awestruck by your design whereas the search engine will look at your titles first. When writing the title, do not exceed 75 characters. Your title should make sense to users reading it in the search engine results. Indeed, it is the first instance your users will read something about your site. The title should have high search volume keywords related to your page and should be error free in terms of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It is understood that you cannot write a complete sentence, but you can follow simple formats to play it safe.
Meta Description: A meta description should not exceed 165 characters and should speak about the page. Meta descriptions should vary from page to page in order to keep your website safe from content duplication. Make sure that you have included all the important keywords in your description while also making it meaningful and correct. Meta description shows up in the search results; therefore, you cannot dump a keyword chain here. Your description should make sense and should be connected to your page.
Meta Keywords: Make sure you have added the right keywords and related tags. Although compared to titles, meta description and tags are not as important, you cannot ignore them. Add important and high volume keywords that related to your site as meta keywords.
H1 & H2: Though you might have an impressive content, at times you might find the search engine does not like it enough. The reason might be your not-so-impressive headings and sub-headings. Ensure that your H1 and H2 include the main keywords and are crisp and direct. Headings create impact not only for the search engine, but also for readers. Many people read the headings before going through all the content. Thus, you need to captivate the users through headings and sub-headings to lead them to the content.
Alt Tags: Never forget to tag your images. Search engines do not crawl images, but they do crawl the alt tags and descriptions. Therefore, make sure that you have given a definite alt tag related to the image and a crisp description, including the main keyword.
Another important thing to consider during the pre-launch is a cross-browser check. This is one of the most essential factors, but designers usually overlook it, thus facing a host of problems after the site goes live. What is your targeted audience? Do you know the browsers they use? As Chrome and Firefox are popular, you might assume that most people use these two, but you cannot be sure; you cannot abandon part of your audience based on the browser they use. Make sure that your website design is compatible with all browsers. This should ideally be a goal from the beginning of the design creation itself. If your design looks awesome but cannot be opened it in Internet Explorer, you have lost an entire segment of users who prefer Internet Explorer. Verify that your website is loading in the most popular browsers—namely, Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8, Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 3, Safari 3, Opera, and iPhone—before launching your website.
Proofreading is another major issue for your pre-launch exercise. Proofreading goes beyond the content to include spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You should also ensure that you have used the major keywords within the content to make it SEO friendly. Check every corner of your website, from title tags to headers and footers and from calls to action to discount coupons. Also analyze if your calls to action are in the correct place and are not standing out as too pitchy or awkward. Do a source search and proofread for meta titles and tags.
In order to create internal and external linking features, you will be using list of links in your website. But just because your links are highlighted and blue does not mean that they all work properly. Link building is a critical aspect of website design that should not be overlooked. Click on each link to verify that it is working. This includes image links and video links.
RSS Link for Your Blog
You should ensure that the RSS link for your blog is working to enable readers to use RSS feeds for subscription. Users should be allowed to find and use RSS feeds in a simple, easy way. RSS links help not only users, but also search engines and promotion. RSS links can notify search engines of any new update to your website. Moreover, certain websites collect RSS feeds and display the content with website links, which creates another source for attracting new external traffic to your business.
Make sure that all functionality of your website is working. Functionality here means the feedback form, contact forms, registration form, shopping cart, payment gateway, and so on. Try it yourself and cc your email address o check the process. Overlooking a problem in this vital area can hamper your business tremendously.
Validation of Your Website
You should always focus on achieving 100% validity for your website. Common mistakes that lead to an invalid website include no alt tags, no closing tags, and using ‘&’ instead of ‘&.’ Therefore, make sure you have checked through all the features to verify the validity of your site.
Saving a back-up is important for every designer. You need to create a back-up file to ensure that you can undo any mishap that might occur in the future. Although you are trying to perfect your design by following the pre-launch exercise, you need to make sure that you keep an alternative source available as well. If using WordPress, you can use the WordPress database back-up to restore back-up files.
Review Your Website
After completing your checklist, conduct a final review before launching it. Although the reviewer might not be a design expert, he or she can still point out fundamental problems. Once you have completed the checklist and final review, your site is ready to go live.
These are the most important things to consider before launching your website. However, the list does not end here; there are other checklists as well such as analytics, site maps, and print sheets that too should be checked to ensure a perfect launch of your website.