Suppose you’ve never made a website before. It would seem daunting at first. Even a simple website launch checklist like this one might put you off with the sheer number of steps.
There’s a lot of things to consider before successfully launching your website. So, to make sure that your new site delivers an exceptional user experience from day one, we are going to take it step-by-step.
Website building checklist
Step one of the website checklist is website building.
Before we get into the fun parts of web design and optimization, you have to get the basics right to make sure you are working with a solid foundation down the line.
1. Pick your platform
Solid foundations build better websites, and in web design that means choosing a CMS that is right for you.
A CMS, or content management system, should help you navigate this website launch checklist with ease, even if it is your first time launching a website.
The right platform for your new website should offer design templates, optimize content for SEO, and create a reliable structure for your website without any need for coding on your part.
On day one, you need to know that your website visitors will be able to move from your landing page through your other site pages on mobile devices or desktop without running into a 404-page error.
Of course, we would recommend Zyro to help you launch your website quickly and effectively with coding or design skills needed.
2. Pick a perfect domain name
You don’t get two shots at a first impression, and your website URL should reflect your site content as well as appeal to your target audience.
The best domain names are short, punchy, and memorable. While striking that perfect balance is easier said than done, there are some things to avoid in your domain name.
Stay away from numbers, hyphens, and any tricky words to spell, as this will negatively impact your website traffic.
3. Stay safe out there
Every new website needs an SSL certificate to keep visitors safe.
If your website does not have an SSL certificate at site launch, your website runs the risk of being labeled as insecure by search engines, which will badly harm your website traffic.
SSL is the minimum requirement for safety, and it is one of the first things to check when launching a new site. Luckily, most website builders include an SSL certificate as standard.
If your website will feature eCommerce for business, then it is a good idea to double-check the security of your chosen payment gateways.
4. Connect your domain
Most website building platforms offer domain hosting services as part of the package.
Still, if your website has a custom domain hosted by a third party, you will need to connect your domain to your new website with a process called domain mapping.
While every platform does this slightly differently, the main steps remain the same. You will need to align your DNS, or domain name settings, on your website building platform with your website hosting provider.
This information is available from your website hosting provider and must be entered on your chosen platform to connect a domain you already own to a new site.
5. Plan, plan, plan
Before launching a new site, you should already know exactly what you want from it.
In practice, that means planning the website structure according to goals, branding mission statement, and desired conversions.
If it is a business website, you should be thinking about key on-site structures like the conversion funnel and how your page design enhances your calls to action.
Consider your page titles and start to think about the key metrics you want to measure with google analytics post-launch.
6. Build it, and they will come
It is as simple as it sounds, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to populate their website with content before the site launch.
Make sure you have the key pages on your website ready before you publish. While it is relatively unlikely that a new site will suffer a 404-page error, it is not worth the risk.
Most template websites will feature a homepage with links to basic pages like ‘about us,’ ‘contact,’ and ‘blog’ as standard but might not have any content to back it up.
Don’t lose out before you even get started. Make sure to account for every page.
7. Add key features
Whether it is a WordPress blog, a dropshipping business, or an internet radio station, every website has its own unique features.
One of your first web development tasks when launching a new website is to tick these elements off your launch checklist.
Ensure your site has the right plugins for eCommerce or, in the case of radio, can host audio files.
There are plenty of options out there for every possibility. It is worth taking the time to take a look at the difference between plugins like WooCommerce for WordPress and a dedicated eCommerce web builder.
If you get it right pre-launch then, you won’t lose any customers post-launch.
Website design checklist
You’ve got the basic frame of your website down, but now it is time to make it pop.
If you want people to stay on your website for more than just a couple of seconds, you need to think about so much more than the text on your landing page.
8. Site branding and logos
Your brand underpins everything.
Every element of your page design should have your brand in mind because your brand is the collective expression of your target audience’s desires.
In that sense, designing for user experience is also designing for your brand.
Finalize a coherent brand voice for your content and strong brand identity for your logo. You need to commit because this must be consistent across every page of your website.
In practice, this means developing a value statement that resonates with your audience and choosing a tagline, colors, fonts, and images that complement that vision.
It will make your content more coherent across all pages and enhance the legitimacy of your brand.
9. Colors, typefaces, readability
In terms of color, it is essential to remember that less can be more.
There is a difference between accenting images and highlighting content. Color can be useful here, but it can also be distracting.
One rule of thumb is to try not to use more than three colors on a page or two different typefaces as the result can be jarring and make your content unreadable.
Leave the crazy fonts for hero-text and stick to one font for headings and one font for body text.
Remember that black text with a white outline can be read against pages of any background color.
10. Customizing your design
Your website template might look fresh on the first inspection, but if you are going to run with an out of the box design for your site, make sure to tweak it to fit your brand, so your audience knows it is legitimate.
Making minor adjustments is simple and shouldn’t impact your pages’ usability, but no website launch checklist would be complete without customized pages for mobile devices.
With over half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, you need to make sure that your page design is responsive.
A straightforward structure to follow to check your site works well on mobile is to employ minimal navigation and reduce the amount of text on each page as this looks better on a smaller screen.
Experiment with micro-interactions as a way to guide users through your site without having to rely on bulky text elements or unnecessary pages.
11. Test for UX
Designing for user experience is a tried and true method to make sure your sit stacks up with your audience’s needs.
Simple UX tests like ensuring that website pages are compatible across browsers and pages are consistent across mobile devices go a long way in terms of usability.
Ensure that all images and videos are correctly formatted on the page and displayed appropriately on every device.
Set up library pages and databases for any additional downloadable content and ensure all internal links work properly.
Finally, make sure that visitors get what they expect. Your company logo should always act as a link to the homepage and display contact information such as your business email address and phone number prominently.
Navigation takes many forms and is essential to guide users naturally from page to page.
Almost every site features search navigation (a search bar) and browsing navigation (page links).
Browsing navigation comes in two forms: Primary navigation, or the most important links, which are often displayed at the top of each page, and secondary navigation, which is split into subsections of primary links.
New website pre-launch and troubleshooting checklist
If you know how to launch a website already, you know that things don’t always go exactly as planned. That’s why every pre-launch checklist needs to cover basic troubleshooting.
13. Back it up
Whether you’re using a website builder or creating a WordPress site, things can go wrong, and you expect the platform to back it up.
That works with established platforms, but if you’re building locally before migrating your site to a live server, you must back up your content in a database, so nothing is lost if things don’t go as planned.
Once you have migrated your newest version of your site, make sure that all in-site links are still working correctly.
14. Testing SSL (HTTPS)
As soon as you have your SSL certificate, it is important to configure your website to SSL.
In practice, this means enabling HTTPS traffic on your website. To do this properly, follow these guidelines from WordPress and Google.
15. Testing site speed
Did you know that a five-second delay in loading time can increase abandonment rates by as much as 90%?
Google recommends a page load speed benchmark of under 1.3 seconds on a desktop. There are plenty of page speed checkers out there that can measure your website speed effectively.
To improve speed, compress assets such as video or large images and enable caching.
16. Testing mobile responsiveness
Good news. Testing if your site is mobile friendly is as simple as using this responsive web page tool from Google.
The bad news is that if it isn’t mobile-friendly, you will have some work to do.
After that, you’ll need some more advanced tips to optimize images through resizing and caching, as well as removing unnecessary page elements to both increase speed and usability on the small screen.
17. Testing shopping experience
In 2020, the average cart abandonment rate was over 80%.
To optimize for this, you should ensure that add to cart buttons are prominently displayed and checkout pages are clear and obvious to use.
Ensure that address forms display correctly and that the relevant payment gateways are correctly integrated on your site.
Once tested, it is time to go through your product pages and optimize images and offer product descriptions and videos for prospective customers.
Website launch and promotion checklist
Your website has been built and is hopefully free of bugs. Now, it is time to bring the users in with some essential marketing techniques.
18. Get social
Setting up social media is a critical step for new businesses. Well maintained social profiles establish trust and widen your audience.
It is a great way to start building interest in your business before your website even exists in the search results.
Business profiles on social media benefit from targeted advertising, which can be an excellent draw for high quality leads.
When posting on social media, it can help think of your content in terms of bullet points. Lay out your core messaging quickly to be scanned by followers, and remember to use as much visual content as possible.
19. Create a content strategy
A proper content strategy will increase traffic and improve SEO in the long run.
To implement a content strategy, start with your target audience. Consider what kind of content will resonate best with them. This might be WordPress blogs, videos, or social media posts.
After that, plan realistic goals with measurable outcomes according to a calendar. For example, creating one blog post per day to improve site traffic by 5% per month could play into a business goal of increasing email sign-ups.
Measure your progress and use it to refine your content strategy continually.
20. Build an email list
Five decades after it was invented, email is still the best performing marketing tool for websites, but you will have to build an email list if you want in on the action.
This means generating newsletter sign-ups with high-quality content and bringing customers to conversion.
The bigger and better your email list is, the more users you can retain. And remember, retention is always cheaper than acquisition.
21. Paid ads
Speaking of acquisition, paid ads on Google search or social can be an excellent way to boost your organic traffic from SEO.
Paid ads can be expensive if your website is advertising against a popular keyword or a popular website.
To optimize this process, spend time on your ad copy and test variations to improve your ads’ performance.
A good rule of thumb is to start out by advertising the unique selling point of your product. Check the performance with Google Analytics tracking or Google Ad Stats.
If this isn’t effective, think about audience pain points. These are your audience’s specific problems. Include them in your copy and present your product or service as an answer.
22. Landing pages
No ultimate website launch checklist would be complete without talking about landing pages.
The landing page is the first page that visitors will see when they find your website with a search engine, and you should tailor it to your specific marketing campaigns.
Effective landing pages should focus on one primary call to action that clarifies the desired course of action for the user.
Reduce text content to a minimum and present key elements such as a lead capture form prominently to increase the chances of converting a visitor into a possible conversion down the line.
Search Engine Optimization checklist
SEO is the most important tool available for any new site. It allows you to improve your traffic organically, that is, without having to pay.
Platforms like WordPress and popular website builders will always have SEO plugins for content, but your on-site SEO is just as important.
23. Keyword research
Keyword research is the process of compiling the most relevant ‘searched for’ words and phrases in your niche.
Building your website content around these keywords gives search engines a better chance of finding your website.
Adding keywords to your meta descriptions is standard practice for bringing users onto your site once it has appeared on a search engine.
The meta description is the small snippet of text that appears under the search result. Including keywords here is a simple and effective way to demonstrate good search intent and show users that your website will contain the content they are looking for.
24. SEO troubleshooting
Fixing common SEO errors need not be a chore. The fixes are often simple and will return significant boosts for your website traffic.
Quick fixes such as including keywords in title tags on Google or page titles on your website will go a long way.
Other common fixes include:
- Include keywords in the URL
- Remove duplicate content
- Improve page load speed
- Replace broken images and alt tags
- Increase the word count of your content
- Optimize for mobile
There are many more detailed SEO optimizations available, and this should be an ongoing practice. At launch, these steps will make a big difference in a small amount of time.
25. Google analytics
For first-time users, Google Analytics can appear overwhelming due to the large amounts of data on offer.
As you become more familiar with your website, the meanings of the various dashboards will become more apparent.
It is most important to set up the Google Analytics tracking code for your website and include it on every web page at launch. After this, you should always exclude your own IP address from results to not interfere with data as you make your changes.
26. Google search console
A search console is a tool used specifically to measure, maintain, and troubleshoot your website’s performance on search engines.
It differs from analytics in that Google analytics deals with information about visitors’ behavior to your website, where the search console deals specifically with search engine behavior.
That said, to use your search console data to maximum effect, it helps to link it to your Google Analytics account.
Once that step is completed, you will set goals for search engine conversions against the available data and optimize this to improve the traffic to your website.
A search engine can’t actually read what is on your site in a literal sense.
To help Google understand why your site should rank ahead of the competition, you need to make your pages more ‘crawlable.’
A site with no crawlability issues is appropriately linked, allowing a search engine to move naturally through each page.
If your site is suffering in terms of crawlability then the two most common problems are the ‘robots txt’ file and the XML sitemap.
Think of the XML sitemap as a skeleton plan of your entire site. Effective SEO must show search engines the paths to your web site’s most essential pages. You can ‘show’ your sitemap to Google in the search console.
Conversely, the ‘robots txt’ file manages the pages that a search engine can crawl. The primary purpose is usually to ‘hide’ pages from a crawler not to overload your site with requests from the search engine.