One of the mistakes we may make in developing a new website is not having a launch plan. Taking the time to develop a launch plan and an accompanying pre/post checklist allows you to make sure all of the necessary things are in place prior to making your site live. Doing so will contribute to you having a successful and hopefully error free launch for your website.

The Launch Plan: What to Do Before You Launch

Try to think of your website launch as an event. After all, you’ve put in hours of hard work to brand, design, develop, and create content for your website.

To help you prepare for the event, we are going to provide with you a few things to consider.

Have a Launch Date and Stick to It

It’s ideal to have a specific date and time for your newest project to go live on the web. Sit down and think of when you want to unveil your website to the public. Then work towards making that deadline. To accomplish this goal, you should:

  1. Write down your launch date.
  2. Write down the major tasks that need to occur by working your way backwards from the launch date to the very first thing you should do.
  3. Break down major tasks into minor tasks.
  4. Put these tasks into some kind of task tracking application or software (i.e. Podio, Asana, Remember The Milk, etc.).

Knowing when you want to launch and having the accompanying tasks outlined will help you stay focused towards achieving your launch date.

Set Your Launch Goals for New Visitors

On launch day, your aim should be simple: have traffic coming to your website. Ideally, you don’t want to launch your website and have no one reading your content and sharing your URL.

Of course, if your website is new, having lots of traffic will take time to grow; however, any traffic will be something to be proud about, especially day one traffic. Therefore, you should target these launch goals and allow your new visitors to do as many of these steps as possible:

  • Read your content (i.e. a well written viral piece).
  • Subscribe to your email list.
  • Share your content and website with others.
  • Engage on your website and leave comments.
  • Get excited about future content.

If you can allow your visitors to accomplish as many of these steps as possible, then you’ll create an impression that will keep them coming back for more.

Have a Well Designed Website

When people think of good design, some automatically think of the overall look and feel – things like a dazzling website design. While this is important and can create a good first impression, it’s not necessary. Nevertheless, a well designed website that’s clean and easy to navigate is what you should aim for.

Your website should also make it very easy for your visitors to read your content, share your content, and subscribe to your email list.

Make sure you have branding – tagline, logo, etc. – that gives your website an identity. It should explain to new visitors why you have created the site and the message or products/services you want to convey.

Most importantly, you should make sure your site is responsive and looks good in all types of devices beyond just your computer screen. More and more people are using mobile devices as their primary method for viewing the internet, so plan for the mobile user experience by making your site responsive for various screen resolutions.

Create Content that Will Be Live on Day One

If your website has a blog, spend some time crafting multiple high quality articles that will be live on day one of launch day. A single blog post just won’t be sufficient.

Ideally, you’ll want to have one viral piece of content that you can promote heavily. This piece doesn’t have to be a novella, but the content should be substantial in terms of quality and usefulness.

There are two main methods to go about creating viral content: the expert round-up post and the ultimate resource piece.

The Expert Round-Up

An expert round-up piece is a post that comprises answers to a specific question that experts in your chosen field have answered. You can create the expert round-up piece by doing the following:

  1. Determine the most important question that your target audience wants answered.
  2. Email experts in your niche and ask them to answer that specific question.
  3. Compile all of the answers into a single blog post
The Ultimate Resource

The ultimate resource post is a monster resource that comprises a highly detailed guide on how to do something specific. An example of this is the post you’re reading right now.

Your site can contain several of these ultimate resource guides that cover a variety of topics in your area of expertise. When starting out, you should pick a topic that is appropriate for your target audience.

The ultimate resource should be lengthy and extremely detailed in order to provide value to your audience and establish you as an authority on the topic. These types of posts will involve a lot of research and writing, but the work can definitely pay off in the end.

Your viral article should standout above all other pieces of content, and you’ll want to use it as a promotional tool on day one.

If you plan to write both types of viral content – the expert round-up and ultimate resource – only publish one for launch day. You’ll want to hold the other viral article back for future promotion after your website goes live.

Other Content Types

You’ll need other types of content, primarily pillar articles or evergreen content. While your viral articles might also be evergreen, there are other types of articles that you can write. Here are three different variations:

  • Case Studies and How-To Content: This type of content is made up of examples (experiences and results) from the real world and allows your visitors to gain new insight.
  • Analytical Content: This type of content appeals to those in your audience who are all about analytics, reasoning, and logic; they’re all about the data and numbers.
  • Theoretical Content: This type of content appeals to those in your audience who are all about intuition, emotion, design, and theory.

Taking the time to create these various content types will help to build your credibility and establish your presence in your specific field of expertise.

Create Your 30-Second Pitch

Something else you’ll want to do is gather a list of potential contacts to inform that your website is going live. Most people have limited patience, so make sure you have your pitch nailed down to a few seconds. In effect, you should create something similar to the 30-second elevator pitch.

If you can’t pitch your website in 30 seconds or less and it doesn’t sound like a no-brainer for those you are pitching to, then you’re not ready to launch.

As a result, you should spend a significant amount of time crafting your pitch and determining the right language to use. This process will help you figure out your tagline and the website copy you’ll want to use. You’ll want to craft copy that will make your site sticky to your visitors and subscribe to your email list when they visit.

Most importantly, make your pitch quick — really quick. Even though we are calling it a 30-second pitch, you should shoot for less. You have a small window online to make a first impression before people leave and turn their attention elsewhere. In the case of an email, you have even less time before people determine if your website is worth their time.

The Pre Launch Checklist

As you’re finishing up the design and development of your website, you may not have everything tested and in place before making the site live. This is where a website checklist can come in handy and help you make sure everything is “complete” and ready for launch.

1. Markup

  • Has the HTML passed validation (or any known issues noted)?
  • Has CSS passed validation (or known issues noted)?
  • Is the JavaScript error free?
  • Have all site links have been tested, and do they link where they’re supposed to go? You can use the W3C link checker.

2. Content

  • Has placeholder/dummy text (i.e. Lorem Ipsum) been removed?
  • Have all placeholder images been replaced with legal-to-use images that you or the client own?
  • Do all pages have content?
  • Is all of the text free from spelling and grammar errors?
  • Has the content been proofread multiple times by you and someone else?
  • Is the formatting proper/compelling for the web (whitespace, bullets, headings, etc.)?
  • Is the content and page formatting appropriate on all pages?
  • Has the correct author been attributed to posts/pages?
  • Has the Terms of Service been included?
  • Has the Privacy Policy been included? You can create one at getterms.io
  • Does the footer include a copyright statement with the appropriate year?
  • Has the favicon been created, and does it display correctly (retina included)?
  • Have the device icons been created, and does it display correctly?
- Does the 404 page exist, and is it informative?
  • Does a print stylesheet exist; has it been tested?

3. Social

  • Are Open Graph tags included across the website and appropriate (including images where possible)?
  • Have all social accounts been integrated, and are they linking to correct the URLs and use API for integrations?

4. Accessibility and Compliance

  • Have semantic headings and structure been used?
  • Do all images use the appropriate/accompanying ALT text?
  • Does the website meet the appropriate level of WCAG compliance?
- Are the links recognizable and have :focus state?
  • Are ARIA Landmark Roles specified?
- Do the forms have a logical layout?
  • Are the associated labels used for all form controls?
  • Has the color contrast been tested?
  • Are alternatives provided for users with JavaScript disabled in their browsers?
  • Has the website accessibility been checked with WAVE or Total Validator Pro and the issues resolved (exceptions noted)?
  • Is the website PCI compliant (if storing and processing credit cards)?
  • Do the web pages announce if the website stores cookies (required in some countries)?

5. Analytics and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Have relevant analytics/tracking tools (i.e. Google Analytics, Piwik, Kissmetrics, etc.) been installed?
  • Are relevant IP addresses excluded from analytics tracking?
  • Is the meta data included and appropriate?
  • Are all page titles unique?
  • Are page titles descriptive and SEO friendly?
  • Are H1 elements used for page titles, and is the site using only one H1 element per page?
  • Are the site’s URLs clean and descriptive?
  • Has the XML sitemap been generated and added to the website’s root directory?
  • Has the robots.txt file been generated and added to the website’s root directory?
  • Is there a RSS feed for the blog content (if you’re not using WordPress)?
  • Can the website can be accessed by search engines (make sure the noindex, nofollow for pages are removed)?
  • Are 301 redirects for the existing website prepared and in place?

6. Site Optimization

  • Are the necessary fonts, weights, and character sets installed?
  • Have the images been optimized?
  • Has the CSS been minified?
  • Has the JavaScript been minified and combined (as much as possible)?
  • Has gzip compression been enabled?
  • Has caching/CDN been incorporated into the website as required?
  • Has the website been run through the Google PageSpeed Insights test and optimized accordingly (record the score and known issues)?

7. Functionality

  • Does the logo link to the index page?
  • Did the forms pass a validation check after submitting unusual information in your form fields (i.e. min/max lengths, character limits, etc.)?
  • Does the website search and search results function correctly and as expected?
  • Have all required fields been tested?
  • Have the forms been tested, and did they process correctly?
  • Did the forms send to the correct recipient(s)?
  • Do the forms have a confirmation URL or event tracking enabled so that submissions can be tracked?
  • Do the forms process correctly with JavaScript disabled?
  • Does a thank you or confirmation message display after the form data is submitted?
  • Has the email marketing platform (i.e. AWeber, MailChimp, etc.) and other relevant third-party integrations been configured and tested?

8. Website Rendering

  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (Windows)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (Mac)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (iOS – Mobile)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (iOS – iPad)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (Android – Mobile)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Chrome (Android – Tablet)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Firefox (Windows)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Firefox (Mac)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Microsoft Edge?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in IE9?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in IE10?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in IE11?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Safari (Mac)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Safari (iOS – Mobile)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in Safari (iOS – iPad)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly in stock browser (Android)?
  • Does the website display and function correctly on large resolutions?

9. Security

  • Are the secure areas of the site locked down and not accessible by search engines?
  • Has the default CMS username been changed?
  • Has the default CMS username password been changed to a secure, strong password?
  • Has the default CMS login URL been changed?
  • Is the SSL certificate requested?

The Post Launch Checklist

Now that your website has passed the pre-launch checklist, it’s time to check a few post launch areas.

Post Launch Checks

  • Are the webfonts integrated and working correctly on the live site?
  • Have the webfonts been set to production?
  • Do the images, media, and links reference the live URL?
  • Is the site visible to search engines?
  • Have the SSL certificates been successfully installed?
  • Are the 301 redirects in place and working correctly?
  • Has the analytics been setup and integrated into the website?
  • Has the website URL been submitted to Google and other search engines?
  • Has a new sitemap.xml been generated and uploaded to the root directory of the website?
  • Was the site added to Google Webmaster tools and the sitemap submitted?
  • Is your database backup strategy (for WordPress or sites running a database) in place and turned on?
  • Has the latest version of the code been pushed to the version control system (i.e. Git, Subversion, etc.)?

Launching a website can be tedious and sometimes stressful. However, using the comprehensive checklists will help your launch day be as error free as possible.

The Post Launch Plan: What to Do After You Launch

After your website is live, there are a number of things you should do:

Email the List You’ve Built

Remember the 30-second pitch you spent time crafting? It’s time to email this list of potential contacts you’ve identified.

Be sure to send an individual email to your contact and use their name in the email. Most people can easily spot an “email blast” that feels like a form email. They are more likely to ignore your email completely and delete it without reading more than a few words. However, if you’re using their name, you’re likely to hold their attention longer.

Hopefully, your 30-second pitch is “perfect,” and you’ll generate some interest from your list of contacts.

Thank Those Who Have Helped You

While some of us are capable of doing it all, most of us have probably had some help along the way. Even if you had someone help read and proofread your content or test the website on their devices, you should compose a quick email and thank them.

If people are sharing your content or URL on Twitter, you should send a response and thank them.

Reply to Every Comment

If you have traffic coming your way on launch day and visitors leave comments, respond to each person. As your site grows, of course you won’t be able to respond to every comment, but it’s important to do so early on. This shows your visitors that you’re present and active on the website.

Continue to Produce High Quality Content

You’ll want to capitalize on your new and noteworthy status as long as possible. The absolute best way to do that is to continue to write more high quality content. If you wrote another viral piece that you’ve held on to, release it and promote it heavily. And then do it all over again.

Published by Codeberry