You have worked hard to get your website out, things have started to fall into place and your main content is ready. However, you're feeling increasingly anxious and now you are not so sure if your website is ready to be seen.
How do you know if your website is ready to go live? What should you check before launching a website?
There is no reason to freak out or doubt your launching date. You don't need to be a tech professional to launch a website that doesn't suck.
We want to help you stop wasting time and making excuses to postpone your launch. We want to show you four steps to take before launching your website.
Getting your website ready to launch (stop your website shame)
6 months ago I met Jenn. Jenn has wonderful energy and an incredible business mind. She had come up with an amazing idea for her new business after being laid off from work. Jenn started following a business coach, bought a couple of courses and in 2 months she had a whole business plan, a domain and a couple of pages ready to launch. She had followed all the general advice that she got from mentors and coaches for online entrepreneurs.
However, she was still feeling a bit shy about the whole online presence and being out there. Everything seemed to be in place so what was holding her back? In a word, confidence!
- How did it compare with other websites?
- Would it ever be taken seriously?
- Was it full of imperfections?
She kept spending countless hours creating graphics, shuffling things around on her website and making endless plans for when she is “ready”.
Jenn had a case of website-shame. She didn't feel like she had it all together, she felt like her website was not looking professional and still was missing something. She wasn't sure if that was all she needed it.
Most importantly, she wasn't sure her target audience was going to like it and listen to what she had to share.
What do you actually need to feel confident to launch your website?
Jenn needed a launch plan but not your typical one, not the kind that includes a webinar and a complex email campaign.
What Jenn needs is a simple DIY audit of her website to make sure she can feel confident to press Publish and tell the world she has something to offer.
That is why we have put together a 4-step plan for your own website audit towards a shame-free launch. 4 steps that will make you feel ready to go live.
Step 1 - Website content checklist
Do you have enough content and is it ready to go live? It's the same question regardless whether you have decided to go live with a couple of pages describing your offer or a blog with tens of blog posts.
“Before going live you need to make sure your content tells a story and it's properly set up for your readers to consume.”
So, what do you need to check content-wise?
Story: Make sure your content identifies clearly what you or your business offers. To present your message the best places tend to be:
- About us/me page
- Mission statement
- Services page
- Products page
You want to make sure that you have at least one of these pieces of content, so your visitors can identify what is the website about and whether they can relate to the content and your offer.
- Does your menu offer access to all your content?
- Are all your links working?
- Have you interlinked your content?
Make sure you have enough links between your own pages. The aim is to keep your readers on your site. If you have a blog type website, make sure each post has a reference to at least one of your other posts or one of your product pages.
If your website is product or service-based, make sure that you provide enough information around your offer. You may want to link it to additional support pages that explain more about your product or service.
In order to make sure all your links are working, the first step is to check for broken links. You can use tools like Brokenlinkcheck (free up to 3k links) or Xenu's Link Sleuth or Deadlinkchecker (free up to 2K links).
Menus: Some people forget the importance of a clean and straightforward menu structure. Your menu is not just a widget. It is one of the most important features of your website.
Your menu should be available at all times, allowing your readers to stay on your website and build an image of your brand and offer by browsing your content and putting all the pieces of your story together.
Remember not all your visitors arrive at your homepage, so you need to guarantee that they can find their way around no matter where they have landed.
Step 2 - Is your website looking (working) good “everywhere”?
Have you had a look at your website on your mobile phone or tablet? How does it look?
On my laptop everything is fine but as soon as I switch to my phone, images get cut off; my clever animations disappear into the ether.
This step is to make sure that your readers/customers can fully use your website, read your story and get to know your offer from any device they choose to use.
Define a list of devices and browsers that you will support.
This means you need to choose where you expect your website to look good.
Why do you need to choose? There are many flavors of devices, screen sizes, browsers, operating systems. Most likely you won't be able to provide a great experience on all of them but you need to figure out which one your audiences are using and where you need to focus your efforts to provide an excellent user experience.
Let's start with devices. If you don't have an audience yet, you can find stats about the most commonly used devices and screen sizes.
Pay special attention to:
- Screen size and resolution
- Browser market share
You will quickly find what the most popular resolution for mobile devices and for desktops is. (eg. 1366x768, 1920x1080, 360x640)
At the very least you will need to test your website and make sure that your website is fully functional and readable on screens with these resolutions.
Most likely you will have enough devices at home or among your friends and colleagues to test how well the system performs on the different devices.
What to look for:
- No hidden content.
- No overlapping elements impeding the reading flow.
- A fully functioning menu.
- A fully functional and accessible search.
- Share options functional and visible.
- Font size and color legible.
- Tapping elements like buttons big and spaced enough to be used by big hands.
- Images resizing properly. No cut-offs.
- No tables where possible!!! - Tables are very tricky on small screens.
Another option that you can use to test your website is to simulate mobile devices with Device Mode in Chrome (Cmd+Opt+I on Mac or F12 on Windows and Linux).
Click on the toggle device toolbar. You will see some predefined list of devices that can be configured (Edit at the bottom of the list)
Keep in mind this is not a 100% representation of how it will look on the actual device but is very close. It is always better to test on the actual device, whenever possible.
Now, browsers! Here again, you need to find out which browsers and which version your audience tends to use regularly. Otherwise, you can see here the most popular browsers.
You will be surprised how some features on your website may not work or display properly on some browsers.
Special attention to Internet Explorer, which could still be very popular in some countries and niches (e.g. government, financial sector)
Some “fancy” effects or styles may not behave properly or as expected when using IE.
You (or your business) will have to decide whether you need to support certain browsers (& its versions) or if you are better off removing features that may cause problems to users of such browsers.
BONUS check: Speed
Some very easy fixes can help improve your speed. Images, for example, tend to be heavier than they need to be. Make sure you use a tool that helps you optimize your images for the web. E.g. tinyJPG
Step 3 - Tracking your progress and visibility
Will you be ready to track your progress from day 1?
Ok, let's pause here. You do NOT need this step to launch, but it is a good idea.
After you launch your website you will need to do a lot of marketing to get eyes on your offer ( you probably already know this)
At the same time, you need (will want) to have a system in place to facilitate visibility and track your impact.
What that means is that you need to be ready to find out whether your message and your marketing efforts are successfully reaching the right people.
How to measure your reach.
Social media: It's no secret that social media platforms are one of the most efficient channels to build an audience and bring your offer to the public.
Make sure your website allows or facilitates sharing your content on SM platforms. This means including sharing options on pages that are suitable for sharing on social media.
However, make sure the sharing icons are not disturbing the natural reading flow. Also, be smart about where to place these icons. Not all pages are necessarily shareable. (e.g. forms)
Sitemap: This is a file that will help you to “send” your website to Google to be indexed (or at least make it aware of it) Backlinko has a great tutorial about this topic.
Google Analytics: This tool will allow you to track the visibility and impact of your website. You will be able to see how many visitors you have, where they are coming from, what devices they are using ( check step 2 )
Ideally, you should set up your Google Analytics account and link your website before you launch. However, you can do this anytime once you decide to start tracking traffic.
This is definitely not a must at the beginning. Remember it will take time to bring some traffic so, there won't be too much to track initially.
Step 4 - Security check and final clean up
Https vs Http: HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it is a protocol used for transferring data over a network. HTTPS is the same protocol but with an extra layer of security. This protocol uses encryption and for this, you will need to acquire an SSL certificate.
The whole purpose of this is to certify your website so visitors feel safe when accessing your website. This is a must if you are collecting personal details from your visitors e.g. credit cards or log in details.
You can get an SSL certificate from almost any hosting provider. E.g. Namecheap
Backups: Set up backups or make sure that your host has a backup system in place. Make sure you are familiar with the process to follow to recover your website from a backup. Whether that means knowing all the nitty-gritty details or knowing exactly how to contact you host company to request a recovery (and how much will it cost you)
Google audits: Run Google audits and look for performance issues, best practices, accessibility issues, and SEO.
Don't get too stressed about the results, nobody is 100% complying. Just make sure you start getting familiar with some of the recommendations that Google has for a better website. There will be some recommendations that may be easy to address and others not.
404 page or Not found page: What happens when a link is broken or your reader reaches an error page? Here are some great examples that other companies have implemented to reduce the pain and stay in brand.
Ready to launch your website like a professional
It is important to note that we are not covering some areas that are indeed very important e.g. editing your content, making sure you have the right to use different types of media, etc.
The list above should give you peace of mind after you have put together all your content.
Your launch will look professional and you will have plenty of time to fine-tune it and adapt your site when the circumstances require it.
Choose a launch date and stick to it. Remember that you're not publishing a book, you are publishing a live product that can be adapted anytime. With time you will get to know your audience better and have more insights into the type of changes that you may need to implement in the future.
Now, what is the one thing you can do today to get one step closer to launch your website?