Ready To Launch Your Website? The 12-Point Ready-Test-Go Checklist

Ready To Launch Your Website? The 12-Point Ready-Test-Go Checklist
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You’re ready to launch your website!

If you built it yourself, you might be thinking, “Done! And go…” without really understanding all the little things that can really ruin your good day.

Maybe you worked with a developer and the last thing he said to you was, “Test it. Let me know when you approve it and we’ll launch.”

Hey, that’s what I’d do.

But what does “test it” mean?

If you’re like most people, clicking around on a few pages and not seeing anything glaringly broken means testing. But there are some things you should be looking for if you want to be sure your website is really ready to go.

These aren’t major things like making sure your message is right, the site is optimized and the layout shines. These are “the little things” that make a big difference and can make or break the success of your site.

Here’s a simple list you can use as you test for launch, and that you can also use periodically to be sure things are still looking and working as they should be.

1. Do Navigation Links Work?

Check them! If you’ve got dropdowns, they should not only work, but work in every browser. If you’ve got top, side and bottom navigation, click on each one to be sure every link works.

And later… check them again. Especially if a new browser version is released. You never know when something will stop working, especially fancy menus.

2. Do Inline Links Work?

This requires going to every single page of your site and clicking on every link within the content of those pages. You never know when a typo might have crept in or a page might have been renamed during development without updating all the links to those pages.

And later… check ‘em again. Sometimes you may delete or rename a page and end up with a broken link.

3. Do The Forms Work?

Try them out. Submit a form and make sure it’s sent where it’s supposed to go, that any autoresponders are sent appropriately and that a “thank you” page is set up properly. You should try to break it.  Leave out required information and be sure your form fails. Enter a phone number where the email address should be and make sure your form lets you know about the mistake. And when you check those autoresponders, check for typos, too.

And later… check these again, too. In fact, make yourself a calendar item to check once a month or once on some schedule (especially if you don’t get emails regularly) to be sure they still work. It’s not unheard of for tiny gnomes to sprinkle mischief all over your site.

4. Do You Have A Favicon?

It’s a small thing – literally. It’s just the tiny icon that appears beside your URL in a browser but it will show up instead of a default icon (or worse, an icon that’s branded to a theme you’ve used), and it will follow your site around as a branding emblem when it’s bookmarked.

5. Do You Have Analytics Installed?

Google analytics is free and easy to install. Make sure it’s present and working on every page of your site. Without it, you’ll have no way to track any metrics and no basis to make decisions about changes or improvements.

And later… things change and standards evolve so be sure you have the most current version of analytics installed and that it’s in the proper location on your page.

6. Are Your Headings Consistent?

You probably – or at least you should – have headings to differentiate page titles from subheadings from other content. These are often set up in descending sizes. Check to be sure you’re using them consistently on every page. If they’re titlecase on one page, are they titlecase on every page? If your page titles are a Heading 1, are they a Heading 1 on every single page?

And later… whenever you add or change content, follow the same formatting rules. In fact, it may help to write up a brief style guide to check against.

7. Do You Have An XML Sitemap?

This is a directory of your site pages that is specifically set up for search engines. It’s not the same as a traditional “sitemap” which is a page on your site that lists all the other pages. Humans should never see your XML sitemap but it’s important for search engines.

And later… make sure it’s current and working. Remember those gnomes? And those squirrely things called “standards”? Tough to stay on top of it all, but worth it!

8. Do You Have Page Titles?

Not titles on the page but titles for SEO – only visible at the top of the browser or in search results. Take a look at the space above your URL in the browser. Is your company name repeated on every page or worse, does every page say “Untitled?” be sure to make these descriptive and unique to each page.

And later… remember to add these for every new page, perhaps by making a note to do so in your handy style guide.

9. Do You Have A 404 Page?

Someone is bound to look for a page that has moved, changed or doesn’t exist. Make sure you have a catch-all “oops” page to let people know when a page doesn’t exist and guide them toward another page or action.

10. Are There Any Typos?

Proofreading a site is a. lot. of. work. Just ask my mother… she’s the one who usually prints and pores over mine. But it’s essential to proofread because typos do sneak by, especially if you’ve spent a lot of time looking at the site. This includes double checking your phone number and address to be sure nobody fat-fingered the 9 and turned it into a 0 instead.

And later… never hurts to look again, especially if you’re adding or changing content. You’d be surprised at how many typos turn up a year later. Damn gnomes.

11. Does Your Site Work In Multiple Browsers?

Just because you use Chrome doesn’t mean your customers do. Check your site in every major browser and be sure it functions properly in each one. Things like menus, photo sliders and even forms may work perfectly in one browser but not at all in another.

And later… keep checking periodically as browsers are updated. Stuff really does stop working. Better that you find it before your visitors do.

12. Are The Photos “Real?”

Make sure somebody remembered to replace the placeholders and comps with the real thing. Watch out for blurry photos and stock photo watermarks, telltale signs that you’re not using the correct version.

As you can see, testing is a lot more than clicking a few pages and saying “ok, done.” If you’re working with a developer, be sure to go through these steps before launch or chances are, fixing problems “later” will be a billable event.

Either way, working solo or with a team, you can launch feeling pretty confident that you’re starting off in a good place, gnomes and mischeif notwithstanding.

Got another tip? Let me know!

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • Ruth Zive

    Loving your lists! We do all of this testing for our clients and I agree that it’s critical. I would add (per my most recent blog post), make sure your site is responsive to mobile. :-).

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      That is a most excellent point and I debated mentioning it. In the end I decided that by launch, if someone is wondering how the site works on mobile it’s probably too late to care :) But giving it a test would be a great idea for sure.

  • http://twitter.com/RebekahRadice Rebekah Radice

    This is a fantastic post that’s incredibly detailed and thorough Carol Lynn! As always, you’ve shared important info that anyone can follow and implement!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks Rebekah, it’s the little stuff that’s easy to overlook!

  • http://twitter.com/gonzogonzo Frederic Gonzalo

    Excellent list! There is a big one missing, if you ask me (and Ruth beat me to it): make sure your site is mobile optimized! Whether it was built in responsive design, mobile-first or simply adapted for mobile, there needs to be a focus on ensuring everything shows up fine on smartphones and tablets, whether they run on iOS or Android.

    Aside from this, your list is quite complete and deserves some sharing with a few clients of mine… ;-)

    Cheers,
    Frederic

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks, Frederic, I agree with that point and had a moment of debate about putting it in. Lucky number 13 :) Mobile is so important and I daresay will be MORE important soon enough. Thanks for your input!

  • http://profiles.google.com/pricesuej Sue Price

    Oh wow this is a great list Carol. I had forgotten some of these points as when I built my blog I had no idea what I was doing. Fortunately I was being guided by someone who did know.
    I would not build my own again. I so do not like the techie stuff.
    Sue

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      It’s tough to stay on top of everything especially when building websites isn’t your job. it’s good that you had someone to help. They can really point out small things you could easily miss.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KenPickard Ken Pickard

    Carol,

    I saw on Facebook that you said this was a quick post. This is awesome! What a great list of things you should be on top of when you’re running a blog. I must admit that i may have let a few of these lapse. I’ll be reviewing back to this for sure.

    Another item or two that could be added to this list is your plugins and themes. Make sure everything is updated and test. You also should have a backup time frame as well. Now to figure out how to check if my site map is working. Thanks again for the great list.

    Ken Pickard
    The Network Dad

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Well, it is, relative to many of my usual diatribes. The points are quick and short! That’s a good point – making sure your theme and plugins are up to date is also a good idea because sometimes there are already new versions before you finish your site. In one of my regular testings I found that one of my subscribe forms had stopped working just yesterday. That’s the worst! That’s why it’s important to check those things out and not assume everything is just working.

  • http://twitter.com/SylvianeNuccio Sylviane Nuccio

    Hi Carol,

    Well, this is a post I definitely want to save to my favorites as a ready to send to any newbie that needs as step by step easy to follow tutorial to set up their new blog.

    Very simple and to the point. Everything checked!

    Thanks for this :)

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I tried to be pretty simple about it, you don’t need long explanations, just some stuff to go and DO! Thanks :)

  • http://www.adigaskell.org/blog Adi

    Good list. One from personal experience is to make sure your redirects work. We launched a new website at work today and a lot of the redirects weren’t quite right. Much panic by stakeholders who could no longer access their sites.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Indeed! That’s a great point, Adi – and also a precaution to launch during a non-peak time so when you find those things out, there is less panic.

  • Adrienne

    Oh wow Carol, great list.

    I agree because a lot of us non-techie people would not have a clue what all should be tested. Of course I now know more then I did when I started but there are so many people starting that haven’t a clue about even a quarter of stuff that you have on this list.

    I’ll be hanging on to this page because I’ll be creating a site this upcoming year and I’m not going to remember half of what you shared here. Especially the 404 page. I forget that one all the darn time.

    Thanks Carol and hope your week is going well.

    ~Adrienne

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I know what you mean about forgetting pieces. I use a checklist for myself! There are a lot of things to think about and it’s hard to remember everything at once. Better to make a list of the important things and be sure you didn’t miss anything.

      I didn’t know you were going to create a new site… that’s something to look forward to! Can’t wait to see it :)

  • Deb Devita

    What a great article. I really enjoyed reading and learning from it.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Hope it’s helpful on your next launch!

  • http://inspiretothrive.com/ Lisa Buben

    I always forget #11 when doing a new site, great list Carol! #4 is my pet peeve if I see one missing on a site. Sometimes it’s the little things that count :)

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      It’s true, that sometimes small things count. You never know when but if someone like you sees a site that’s a little bit irritating, maybe you won’t bother to stick around. It’s worth paying attention!

  • http://www.wonderoftech.com Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Carol Lynn, This is such a helpful article! I have a friend who is launching a website soon and this will be a fantastic checklist for her. It’s actually a great checklist for anyone who has a website. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Glad the timing was good for your friend! These are some good things to check for that can make a big difference!