What you should do before releasing a new website onto the world wide web
When the release of a new site is imminent, it’s important to remember that every detail counts. Neglecting to check something could cost time, money, and sanity. Each of these topics could become blog posts in themselves. So instead I have, where available, provided a tool and a short summary of why you should use it and what it does.
If you have any questions, or would like some more detail about any of these topics, get in touch with us on Twitter.
Set a go-live date early and with reasonable expectations
Don’t rush the launch of your gleaming new site only to end up creating avoidable mistakes in the process. Allow for contingency time, and clearly sign everything off so everyone knows what is happening and when.
Setting a soft go-live two weeks before the real go-live is always a good idea. This means any stakeholders can go through the site and anything that might have been missed or is in need of updating can be fixed.
Make a solid nuke proof plan. Assign tasks to all those involved, allot time for each task. If a task runs over time you’ll be fully aware of; who, when, and why the project is taking longer than anticipated so you can adjust accordingly.
Use Trello to create to dos with due dates and assign them to the relevent parties. You don’t necessarily have to use Trello – but it is free and pretty robust.
Make sure all code conforms to web standards. This needs to be done first and repeated throughout until the very end. If your code doesn’t validate, it’s not ready to go live. For a full list of useful tools, visit: http://w3c.github.io/developers/tools/.
- Visit: https://validator.w3.org/ and make sure there are no errors on any of your site pages.
- Visit: https://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/ to check for significant errors.
- Open each browser's console to confirm no errors / warnings appear.
- Test any forms on your site.
Test that all fields validate correctly – for example, users should only be able to submit a valid email address.
Check that any emails and notifications are received correctly.
- Visit: https://validator.w3.org/checklink and check that all your links actually work.
- Visit: https://validator.w3.org/i18n-checker/.
Does your site render the way it should on your favorite browser? Good, now it’s time to check how it looks for everyone else.
Studies have shown that users will not tolerate more than a 4 second load time. If your site fails to offer a quick response, your users will leave. This is also a good follow-up after validation and compatibility, because it involves the same areas: checking browsers, devices, files, and folders.
Compliance and accessibility
It is important to remember that people with disabilities aren’t just blind people. Deaf people need closed captions, colour vision deficient people need bold contrasting colours, and so on.
Whilst also a legal requirement in the UK, you don’t want to exclude a huge number of possible visitors to your site.
Search engine optimisation is the process of making your site as desirable as possible to search engines like Google. While not vital to some, it is definitely worth a quick audit to see how good your site looks to search engines.
- Visit: https://moz.com/products/pro, setup a free trial and run a crawl test.
Diagnose any issues such as duplicate content and titles, broken links, missing page elements, crawl errors, or missing Robots.txt.
- While Moz does a good job by itself, there are many other choices which are neatly listed here: http://tools.seobook.com/.
You can spend months going through this stuff, so try not to get too lost.
- Visit: https://www.w3.org/2003/12/semantic-extractor.html to check how your site looks to search engine spiders.
This sounds obvious, but simple spelling and grammatical mistakes can easily creep in while making all these other changes.
- Go through the site and read everything. Better: get someone else to proofread all your text.
Anything could happen. Servers don’t last forever, and hard drives fail. Be sure that all your good work doesn’t disappear.
- Make sure there are a minimum of 3 different backups in separate locations.
- Test recovering the site at least once through, and document the procedure.
Extra nice stuff
Let’s add that extra bit of polish.
- Check you have a nice favicon and app icon.
- More compression.
There’s always more compression to be done, such as image sprites.
Be careful when compressing media like images though, as the higher the compression the lower the quality (in most cases).
- Further browser tests.
- Custom 404 page.
Ready for going live
Now it is time to set up your live environment.
Well, that is a lot to think about. The main thing to remember is to create an action plan and stick to it. Be sure to give plenty of contingency time and set reasonable expectations.
If you have any questions, send a tweet to @Zengenti, and we’ll be happy to help.