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!