Website Launch Preparation & Testing Checklist

10 May 2017
Website launch checklist

When you are approaching the exciting stage of launching a new website it can be slightly daunting. What do I need to think about? What might go wrong? 

This post is here to help put your mind at ease. Even though much of the technical work will be done by a competent web agency (like us!) there are still some things that you need to think about to get the most from your new website. 

Pre-launch checklist

Domain control panel

You need access to your domain control panel in order to point ‘yourdomain.org.uk to your new website, ensuring that visitors will see the new website. Make sure you have access to your domain well in advance of any proposed launch date and shared access with your partner agency so they can make the switch for you and check everything is working correctly. It’s fine to provide temporary access to your partner agency but you should always keep control and ownership of your domain within your organisation because your domain is such valuable intellectual property for you.

Check your content

Content writingWebsite content strategyContent creation is a big piece of work. If you want step by step guidance, check out our guides on content strategy and content writing. There are two things that are often neglected when approaching a launch date. A small amount of attention to these can have a significant impact. 

1. Check your calls to action & eliminate dead ends

Once your pages are finished you can fully test your user journeys. Put yourself into the shoes of your target audience and click through all of the common user journeys that you expect people to take. By ensuring all pages have a clear ‘next step’ you will quickly improve the usability and effectiveness of your website. 

2. Check your SEOSEO for charities

Search engine optimisation is another large topic that is covered in detail in our SEO guide. At the final stages of the website project, here are a few practical things you should do:

  • Remind yourself of your important keywords (the terms your users will be searching for) and go back through your content. Maximise the use of your keywords and minimise the use of jargon and abbreviations. It’s amazing how many things you can pick up on this final pass over your content. 
  • Review important pages and consider tweaking the page titles and meta descriptions. This is the text that shows up in search results. Your content management system should automatically populate these but some custom tweaking on important pages can make all the difference.

Set up URL redirects

When you launch a new website, it is often the case that page URLs are different, even if you copy and paste text over directly. For example, the page /new-funding-grant-launched may become /news/new-funding-grant-launched. The result of this change is that deep links from other websites to your pages may stop working. Even Google can take a few days to understand your new page structure and update its search results to point to the new pages rather than old ones.  

You can address this issue by creating URL redirects, which most modern content management systems will allow. Unfortunately, there is rarely an automated shortcut to this meaning it would be time-consuming to do this for a large number of pages. Thankfully you normally only need to do this for a smaller number of important pages. You can find out which pages to focus by:

  • Compiling a list of your most popular pages (perhaps around 20)
  • Compiling a list of incoming traffic from referral links (i.e. where another site has linked to a page on your site). 

If you follow this approach you should be able to make a significant difference by setting up around 30 manual redirects. 

Set up or transfer Google Analytics

It’s quite likely that you already have a Google Analytics account setup on your existing website. If so, then this should be simple. All you need to do before launch is get the tracking code that Google uses to identify your account and give this to your partner agency. If you don’t have an account you can set up a new one

SSL certificate

How to secure your charity websiteThis is an area that will largely be looked after by your partner agency but it’s important for you to understand what is going on and ensure that you own the decisions that affect the security of your website. For more information and guidance on whether or not you need SSL certification on your website, read our blog on how to secure your charity website.

Website legal requirements

The last important area on our pre-launch checklist is to ensure you are happy that your website is meeting its legal obligations. You can read more details on this in our post on website legal requirements in the UK but in a nutshell, you should:

  • State clearly your registered name, numbers and address
  • Include a privacy policy that explains how you handle users’ data
  • Obtain consent for the collection of cookies (see the post above for more on cookies)

Post-launch checklist

There are a few things that, though important, are easy to overlook once your website is launched. Your partner agency may well do these checks too, but they are important enough that we recommend our clients test them as well.

Check forms are submitting correctly

It’s worth quickly going through the forms on your website and performing a test submission for each to check that enquiries from users will get through smoothly. You don’t want these going into a black hole!

Check integrations are working correctly

One common integration is an email marketing platform like Mailchimp. In that case, you should do a test sign up to check that subscribers are being added to your list correctly. The same goes for embedded forms or other integrations you may be using. 

Check Google Analytics is recording data

Google analytics measurement planYour developer should have set this up with the tracking code you provided. It’s best to check that the site is recording visits from the new website and it’s also a good idea to add an annotation to your Analytics account marking the date of the launch so you can make sense of any changes. If you use Goals you’ll also need to reconfigure these to make sure the correct page URLs are referenced. If you are new to Google Analytics but keen to explore it more then check out our comprehensive guide on setting up a measurement plan with Google Analytics.

Use Google Webmaster Tools

Another valuable free tool from Google is Webmaster Tools. Setting this up is usually easy if you have Google Analytics set up and you can do it here. This is a dashboard that is particularly useful for search engine optimisation. While very detailed optimisation may not be a priority, it’s worth setting this up because it gives helpful data about search terms that can’t be found in Google Analytics. It also provides an interface that allows you to submit your sitemap (which your partner agency should have configured for you at www.yoursite.org/sitemap.xml). Submitting this can speed up the process of Google crawling your new site and listing its pages in search results. 

Get promoting!

Now that your website is launched and working well it’s time for you to get promoting. We have loads of resources and tips on marketing your organisation online so check them out in the Marketing section of our blog or sign up for regular tips and notifications about new posts and resources. 

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