10 things to check before launching a website

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Launching a successful website is no small feat. Almost inevitably, just when it looks like yours is ready to go live, it turns out that the rush has gotten the better of you and you’ve almost posted something incomplete. Even a small mistake can change the way people see a website and the products associated with it. And of course you can fix it later if the site is for you, but if you’re producing one for a client you need to make sure all runs smoothly from day one – that even the smallest errors are corrected before they become major problems.

Here are some handy ways I’ve found to make sure.

1. Check on different browsers

This one cannot be stressed enough. Always check if things look and work the way they’re supposed to on many browsers, with Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge and Firefox you should test. Because, even if a site looks perfect when using Chrome, it can look like complete gibberish elsewhere, so never assume anything about it.

2. Don’t Forget Titles and Metadata

Your page title is not only important for SEO reasons, but also because it gives future visitors a first glimpse of what they can actually find, so set a meta title for each page before launch and make sure it relates to the content of the page. Try to also include metadata, such as descriptions or tags. While not as important as meta titles when it comes to SEO, a decent meta description will invite more users to view a given page, and by tagging it properly, you’ll make it easier to find.

Related: Everything you need to know about SEO data collection

3. Check the links

Never assume that links will work. Maybe you made a spelling mistake, or while inserting a link in the text, instead of pasting the URL, you accidentally deleted it and as a result your link is not nothing more than random underlined text? Believe it or not, even advanced webmasters make these seemingly rookie mistakes, so double check. And both internal and external links are key, because successfully linking your page to a trusted partner domain can help you attract thousands of customers.

4. Test functionality

The ease with which a user can navigate a site is essential. If you’re going to offer customers the ability to submit complaints via a contact form, for example, test it out for yourself, see if it works, and then test again. If you’re going to invite them to shop, check to see if the sales system is properly integrated with the rest of the site. We suggest you do all of this on your own; after all, probably no one knows your goals and desired customer experiences better than you. Also consider supporting these results with user testing: you will find various platforms offering testing services on the Internet, and receiving positive or negative feedback from one or more independent users can be crucial.

Related: 6 Free Tools That Help Optimize Your Website

5. Approval

Before you start, validate the HTML code of a site, according to the standards established by the Wide Web Consortium. If yours is not successful, it could mean that there are serious issues, so it’s up to you to find and fix them. Keep in mind that not being validated doesn’t mean you won’t be able to launch, but it can indicate that there are various issues that may be affecting the user experience.

6. Analytics

Installing a decent scan tool is a great idea. These help measure important stats like unique visitors, conversion, and page views, and warn when the numbers start to drop. Google Analytics is the most popular tool and is also available for free, but paid apps like Clicky or Statcounter can offer more detailed data. However they are aggregated, the resulting statistics could be the key to launching a successful marketing campaign.

Related: Critical analyzes that will improve your SEO results

7. Include a sitemap

Don’t forget to add a sitemap.xml file to your root directory, which will help search engines index your site faster and more efficiently. You don’t even have to do anything on your own, as tools like XML-Sitemaps can create a complete sitemap without your intervention. Alternatively, on WordPress you can install the Google XML Sitemap plugin. Creating one is pretty quick and simple, and in today’s world that’s pretty much a requirement if you want the result to be successful.

8. Present a creative “404 error” screen

The 404 error, or “the page does not exist” response, is one of the most common errors encountered while browsing. Whenever a user tries to access a non-existent page, it shows up. Don’t settle for the bland, basic message, because you can customize the look of a “404 error” on your website. Try to get users back on track by offering suggestions they might have searched for or simply allowing them to return to the home page.

9. Configure for optimal performance

Optimization is crucial and will allow a site to rank higher in search engine results, attract a new audience, and just perform well. A good way to achieve this is to reduce HTML requests or use CSS sprites whenever possible. Also, make sure that each page loads properly and completely, that there are no missing elements or annoying (and non-skippable) banner ads covering important content. And keep in mind that optimizing a site once is not enough: you have to repeat the process several times after launch.

10. Proofreading

Ensuring high-quality textual content is just as important to user satisfaction as ensuring that all technical aspects are working properly. That’s why whenever you write an article, blog post, or anything else, spend some time going through it, including determining if it’s easy to read. Ask a friend or family member to do the same, then ask them to share their thoughts. You can make the process easier by avoiding long sentences and paragraphs, adding headings, and emphasizing easy-to-understand language.

Related: Why You Should Revamp and Improve Your Website Content

Edwin S. Wolfe