Launching a website can be a very exciting, yet frantic, time for both my clients and myself. With the end of the project in sight, it’s easy to forget to do some of the basic things that can greatly affect the initial success of the new website. Here is my list of what I do before I launch a new website.
While some of these things fall into what I would call basic design practices that should always be done, others are what I think of as the little extra touches the designer can do to make a website that much better.
No matter what you call them, what everything on this list has in common is that they’re extra value that clients are receiving for their financial investment. It’s something that I communicate to them when giving a cost estimate for their project because it shows both how I’ll be spending the time and what they’re getting for what they’re paying.
See how many of these things you do when working on a website for a client – and if you’re not doing them, consider adding them to your regular design process.
Design and Navigation
- Create an error page – You may have checked every single link on your website, but it’s still inevitable that some visitors will type a URL wrong or somehow get to a page that doesn’t exist. A custom 404 error page will help your users find what they’re looking for when that happens.
- Add a favicon – Favicons are the little icons that you see at the top of a browser window and in your bookmarks list. They’re a great finishing touch for any website to have, and can even have some small usability benefits – great reasons for why websites should always use favicons.
- Validate the site markup – Make sure your website adheres to web standards before you launch. Validated websites load faster, better, and on more web browsers, and are also “future proof” in the sense that all web browsers will handle the website as you designed it.
- Cross-browser test – Your website should look and functions the same in all of the major web browsers and on all of the popular operating systems. Most of the popular cross-browser testing tools, such as Browser Shots, also test your website in various screen resolutions as well.
- Resize images accordingly – If you’re calling an image from the server and the image files is really large even though it’s being displayed much smaller, resizing ahead of time will speed up the load time of that page, and help keep the amount of server space you’re using up at a minimum.
- Clean up server of working files – While developing a website, I often find myself with extra files on the server that I had used at some point but am not using any longer. I delete those unnecessary files so that what’s on the server is only what’s being used somewhere on the website.
Search Engine Optimization
- Generate a sitemap – Creating a sitemap is useful for your users as a navigation tool, but for the search engines perspective it will help them find new content on your website faster than by relying on their crawler to find it. This will help you get more of content noticed and more links followed.
- Submit URL to search engines – If you’re launching a new website, the search engines won’t know about it unless you tell them to come and crawl your website. This one of the simple steps to bolster SEO on your website, so at a minimum submit the URL to Google, Yahoo, and MSN.
- Create a robots.txt file – This file tells the search engine spiders what they can and can’t crawl on your website. If you don’t want them to look at certain directories, this is where you would specify that. One way this might be useful for SEO is as a way to avoid duplicate content on your website.
- Proofread your content one last time – There’s no excuse for spelling or grammar mistakes on a website. If you’ve written content for a website, such as links, intro text, etc., having extra eyes looking at it to make sure everything sounds good and is written properly will make sure any errors are caught.
- Check for broken links one last time – You can spend all the time in the world making your website as great as possible, but if you have broken links on it, the website looks bad. Before you launch, click through all the links on the website to verify that everything works properly.
- Set up Google analytics – Understanding what content your visitors are looking at on your website is absolutely essential in order to make it as effective as possible. Google Analytics is not only free, but incredibly popular and easy to use, which is why I use it on all my client websites.