Congratulations! Your hard work has finally come to fruition in the form of a beautiful, functional, intelligent new website. You and your development team have dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's to ensure your site is perfect. Now it's finally time for launch!
At this point, though you're 99% of the way done with your website project, don't relax just yet. The process of launching a new or redesigned website is critical to the success of the development project—and your marketing campaigns.
Follow these 10 website launch tips to conclude your project with a seamless go-live transition.
1. Agree on the launch timing
Discuss—with all those concerned—the best time to launch the new site. That discussion should initially take place at the beginning of the project, so you can establish and meet deadlines. But when it gets closer to the actual launch, be sure to reach agreement on the best date, day of the week, and time of day to go live. Should you launch over the weekend? In the middle of the night when traffic is low? Agree on a launch time that works for everyone.
2. Back it up
Back up your current website before launching the new one. Regular backups should be part of your routine web maintenance anyway, but they are essential before launching a major redesign. Just in case anything goes awry during the launch, you would be able to revert to your old site. More than likely... you won't need it; but if you do, you'll be glad you took this easy step.
3. Prep for the technical transition
There are myriad technical elements to consider when transitioning out of the dev environment, including configuring the DNS to point to the proper hosting provider, updating all hard-coded URLs to lead to the new domain name, and updating the WordPress/Site Address URLs (if you are developing a WordPress-powered website). The exact processes vary, depending on the location of your dev site (different server vs. sub-domain on current server vs. sub-folder on current server), so always consult an experienced Web developer and ensure there is a plan in place.
4. Make sure you're seen by the search engines
Before launch, ensure the entire site is set up to be indexed by search engines. This is a critical step if you want your new site to be visible in organic search rankings. Go one step further by submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console to ensure Google can crawl all the pages you want indexed. Oh, and Bing Webmaster Tools, too.
5. Set up 301 redirects
I can't stress enough the importance of proper redirecting. You should have a plan in place to set up redirects as soon as you launch the new site. Delay or failure to set up 301 redirects could affect your existing campaigns and lead website visitors to an ugly 404 page. Most content management systems, including WordPress, have built-in tools or plug-ins to make this an easy process.
6. Install tracking scripts
Ensure any necessary tracking scripts are installed, such as those for Google Analytics. Double-check that the tracking code in your Google Analytics account matches exactly with the code on the new site. After launch, check your Google Analytics account to be sure it is tracking traffic appropriately. The Real-Time feature in Analytics is helpful for testing.
7. Get everyone on the same page
About 30 days pre-launch, hold an all-hands meeting with your developers, designers, project managers, content creators, and anyone else involved in the project. Chances are, you met more frequently as a whole team earlier in the website development project, but take a moment to regroup and get everyone on the same page as you head toward the go-live date. Doing so will give everyone a chance to bring up any requests or requirements that could affect others—and give your team enough time to react and make changes to avoid any last-minute scrambling.
8. Prepare your other campaigns
Be sure to notify everyone involved in your marketing and advertising efforts—including internal and third-party teams—of the pending website change so they can update their campaigns accordingly. If your domain name is changing with the new site launch, give extra warning and a clear deadline for changing URLs in all campaigns. If any printed materials will be affected by the domain change, give even more advanced notice.
9. Test everything, before and after launch
Of course you tested the site extensively prior to this point to ensure all is working correctly, right? But be certain everything is firing on all cylinders by testing features immediately post-launch until you're satisfied that everything is working properly. Here is a partial checklist to get you started:
- Test all links and navigation.
- Ensure all images render properly and videos play.
- Test all contact forms and ensure emails are going to the right people.
- For e-commerce sites, test the cart and checkout functions.
- Have multiple people test the site on different devices and browsers.
10. Flaunt it!
Your team has poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears (well, hopefully not blood) into this new site, so show off your hard work! If it's your new site, be sure to alert your customers and potential visitors of new and improved features. If you created the site for a client, share your work on your portfolio, social media, blog, and more.
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There are a lot of things to remember when launching a new or redesigned website, so create a checklist and detailed schedule so nothing falls through the cracks.