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You’ve done it. After weeks of planning and countless discussions with your design team, you’ve finally got the green light. You’re ready to launch your beautiful brand new website to the world!
But although you might be tempted to push the ‘live’ button right away, it’s really important to test a few vital elements of the site before you start showing off the fruits of your labour to your potential customers.
Carrying out the ten final checks below will give you extra peace of mind that your new platform will perform at its very best after launch (and have a great chance of ranking well in the search engines, too!).
1 - Proofread your web page content
Before launch, go back to basics. Review and proofread all the content on your website to make sure it’s free from typos, poor grammar and duplicate copy.
This is essential for two reasons. Firstly, poorly written content won’t leave the best impression on your users. You only have five seconds or so to capture their attention and encourage them to explore everything your company can offer, so the last thing you want is for them to head straight over to a competitor’s site because they’ve been turned off by sub-standard writing.
And secondly, the major search engines such as Google will take your syntax into consideration when deciding whether or not to rank your web page in their organic listings. Bad content is less likely to rank well.
2 - Review the flow of the site
Pretend you’re a potential customer. Work your way through your site pathways to see if your new platform offers a simple, seamless experience.
Are your instructions clear? Is your main call to action displayed prominently on each page? Does your contact form return that reassuring ‘thank you’ message once it’s been completed? If you’re finding it difficult to get from A to B, or you’re encountering needless hurdles along the way, you need to address these flow and usability issues before you unleash your site to a wider audience.
3 - Test the site’s speed
It’s a simple check, but it often gets overlooked by webmasters who are keen to launch sooner rather than later. The load time of your pages will have a big impact on the user’s experience (and you’re probably already aware that slow load speeds can have an adverse effect on your SEO, too).
As we mentioned in a previous blog post How Important Is Site Speed For SEO, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you assess and improve your page load speed. Google’s PageSpeed Insights will give you plenty of food for thought, but other alternatives such as WebPageTest, GTmetrix and Pingdom will also return useful feedback.
4 - Make sure the site displays correctly on mobile devices
This is a big one. More of us than ever before are using smartphones and tablets to navigate the web, so any new website must be able to render correctly on mobile browsers.
The best way to make sure your site is mobile responsive is to test it on as many devices as possible. If you spot any glitches, or you find that some or all of your content is displaying incorrectly, let your developers know so they can fix the problem before launch.
Again, there are tonnes of tools out there that can help you test responsive websites. Google Search Console’s Mobile-Friendly Test will show you exactly how your page is being displayed on a typical smartphone screen and will provide you with a site-wide mobile usability report that highlights any major concerns. Elsewhere on the web, you could use Responsinator, mobiReady or MobileTest.me to gauge the responsiveness of your latest creation.
5 - Remove any unwanted noindex and nofollow tags
These small but mighty directives are often used by web designers while they’re creating your new website in a test platform. The noindex directive stops the search engines from being able to access the test site’s content while it’s still in development; the nofollow tag prevents Google from following links between pages.
As you can imagine, launching a website with noindex and nofollow tags is far from ideal if you want your pages to be found – so make sure they’re taken off the code when everything’s ready to go.
6 - Add accurate Open Graph tags
These handy tags let you control what content shows up when one of our web pages is shared on Facebook. They’re also recognised by Twitter and LinkedIn.
Needless to say, if you don’t have the right Open Graph tags in place, you won’t have any say in what copy is displayed when somebody shares your page or post on social media. Set up and customise these vital pieces of code as soon as you can (or ask your developer to do this for you).
7 - Check your 404 error page
If a user requests a page that doesn’t actually exist, your site will return what’s called a 404 error page. This page can play a key part in keeping the potential customer on the website if they’ve reached a dead end; an empty template will confuse them and, in the worst-case scenario, encourage them to jump ship.
Test your existing 404 pages to see if it follows the same design theme and contains visible links back to the homepage or other resource pages that might be of interest. If it doesn’t, get your developer to improve it ASAP.
8 - Implement an XML sitemap
Every website should contain two sitemaps: one written in HTML, and one in XML. The HTML sitemap is a more user-friendly version that’s easy for human eyes to follow, whereas the XML addition is designed specifically to help the search engine bots find and index your website’s pages.
Make sure your developer creates an accurate XML sitemap file, then uploads it to your root directory so it can be found at www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
9 - Test your contact form
We’ve seen it time and time again. An organisation has created a flawless website – its design is impeccable, its UX is incredible, and its content adds that extra je ne sais quoi to the whole platform. But several weeks after launch, there’s not been one single enquiry… or so it seems.
In reality, plenty of people have tried to inquire about the company. But the contact form hasn’t been working properly, so all attempts at communication have been bouncing straight back to their potential customers.
Before you open up your website for business, make sure that your contact portal is set up to send your enquiries straight to the email address of your choice (and isn’t pinging correspondence to your developer, who may have used their own email to test the form during the development phase).
10 - Hook your site up to Google Analytics
As we all know, the work doesn’t end with the launch of a website. If you really want to make a splash online, you’ll need to invest in an ongoing search engine optimisation campaign that will increase your reach and exposure over time.
To make sure you’re able to monitor your online performance, set up a Google Analytics account and link it to your website’s header to start tracking your site data from day one. The data generated by the software will give you valuable insight into where your traffic is coming from, how users are interacting with your pages, and how people are converting into genuine leads.