Launching a new website or just starting with your first one? Read through this checklist to make sure you’re all set to go before you hit publish…
Download this checklist for on-the-go improvements.
1. Proofread For Little Errors
Don’t let a few typos ruin your credibility. Make sure you check your navigation bar and page titles for small errors. Proofread as much as you can before launch.
While you’re at it, stay on the lookout for audio, video, or hyperlinks not working the way they’re supposed to.
2. Test Your Site’s Usability
Your content should be easy to read with proper font sizes, short sentences, bullet points, white space, and accurate information. You need to take a look at each of the following elements on your website:
- Optimize all images by adding alt text and smushing them to increase the speed of your pages.
- Test all call-to-action and contact forms – be sure to double-check your affiliate links as well.
- If you own a multi-user website, be sure to check everyone’s roles, bios, and credentials. You don’t want an author to be able to delete your entire website with a few clicks.
- Triple-check autoresponders.
- Accepting payments? Do a test purchase on each of the processes. Even if you’re not accepting payments, test out downloads, sign-ups, cart functions, email notifications, buttons, and links.
3. Create A “Contact Us” Page
A contact page allows visitors to get in touch with you and adds credibility to your website. A website without a contact us (or an about us page) will have a harder time building trust with their users.
You can easily download a contact us page plugin or create a simple form yourself. Once you’ve made the page, be sure to add it to the footer navigation.
4. Make Mobile-Friendly
Websites that are desktop- and mobile-friendly are almost guaranteed deals these days, but make sure your website not only goes mobile but looks good.
Mobile accessibility is an essential part of any launch checklist. Test out your colors, menus, and take a look at image/text size for readability.
Pro Tip: Avoid putting hyperlinks and call-to-action buttons too close together. If you can’t keep them spread apart, increase your button sizes so the user doesn’t accidentally click the wrong one.
5. Test Your Navigation Links
A visitor should never be unsure of where a button leads to. The on-site search and navigation should be clear, accurate, and a smooth transition.
Ask a friend or family member who has never been on the website to surf it for a few minutes. Then, ask them if there’s anything you could improve on – don’t be sour when they give you the advice either.
6. Run Plugin Compatibility Tests
Sometimes, one plugin or two plugins that don’t work well together can break your website. It’s almost like taking medications that don’t mix for your body.
I’ve downloaded plugins that have added a white bar to the top of my website with a height of at least 100px. I’ve also run into plugins that make images disappear, turn my screen black when I scroll, or redirect me at least 20 times before I end up on a page that isn’t even my own.
Play it safe. Before you add any new plugins, make sure you have a backup saved (or a wicked support team).
7. View In Major Browsers
No, this doesn’t mean you have to go find and download every major internet browser you can think of, but you should test it on Chrome, Firefox, & Safari to get started.
After you do those, use a website like Browser Shots to check the accessibility of your website across every other browser you can think of. Copy and paste your website’s URL into the search bar and hit submit.
It will then send screenshot requests from every browser selected that you can review. Broken screenshots aren’t necessarily a bad thing as your website may not be viewable in other countries/weaker browsers.
8. Download A Plugin For Your 404 Page
There’s no greater turn off than a 404 page, especially a generic one provided by your website. Search through the plugins to find a 404-page solution that will log any 404s as well as allow for redirects to another page(s).
The one I use for this website is Custom 404 Pro. For my own 404s, I link the user back to my homepage. However, this could be a good time to devote their attention to signing-up. Write an apology and a solution to the custom page – your newsletter.
9. Clear “Call To Action” On Every Page
You can’t afford to have a poorly crafted call-to-action when you start your website. A website with unclear call-to-action(s) won’t be receiving new sign-ups, customers, or clicks any time soon.
Make sure you’ve taken the time to build the best call-to-action with colors that don’t conflict with your website. A bright rainbow button on a black & red website may attract attention but dissuade users.
10. Double-Check URLs Are Ready & Live
A website’s core navigation and starting pages should all have clear & concise URLs. If you forget to shorten the length of the URLs in the beginning, it will turn into a major headache in the future.
Trying to quickly change your URL for SEO purposes turns into a week/month-long process of updating every link that goes through that page (or leads back to it).
You should also recheck your links after you publish them or switch the main URL. Things can get broken in the move.
11. Configure Your Permalinks
This is going to be a huge pain in the ass in the future if you don’t set it up the right way from the beginning. Many new websites will automatically choose a “weird” permalink URL.
I didn’t get to read about permalinks at all when I first started this website, so my URLs were long and unoptimized for Search Engines. My blog posts, for example, would show up like this “/2019/11/18/blog/blog-title” instead of “/blog-title.”
I ended up wasting an entire day whenever it came time for me to change my permalinks. I downloaded plugin after plugin, read post after post, and was troubleshooting for hours.
Eventually, I had to learn how to translate my code to another code to make sure all shared links redirected to the same page (see 301 redirects).
You can easily configure permalinks on WordPress.com by heading to your wp-admin, finding “settings”, and then clicking “permalinks.”
The best option for better SEO (and the best option for users to remember your URL) is choosing the “post” permalink: http://www.yourwebsite.com/%post%/
12. Install & Configure SEO Plugin (Yoast)
Yoast SEO is a very efficient and user-friendly plugin for WordPress websites. After you write a blog post, you can scroll down and it will give you actionable advice to improve your article.
You can also edit the meta-tag, meta-description, and keywords for each article from the Yoast plugin bar (near the bottom of your WordPress admin blog post).
The requirements for bettering your SEO don’t change very often, so once you’ve got the tasks memorized, you’ll be getting the Yoast green light without much effort at all.
13. Review Your XML/HTML Sitemaps
Most SEO plugins will automatically build a sitemap for you after you download them, but you should always double-check. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a plain text file that uses custom tags to detail the structure of your website.
14. Test For AMP Compatibility
AMP compatibility can increase the load speed of your websites to improve user experience. Google also gives you a +1 in the SEO department if you have AMP running.
Although, there are some downsides to having AMP turned on. With AMP enabled, your website’s branding and most advertisements disappear. This can be counterproductive if your primary income is generated from in-content ads.
15. Check Your Robots.txt File
A robots.txt file helps search engines to crawl your website with greater efficiency. It tells Google and other search engines what pages or files the crawler can or can’t request.
Robots.txt is primarily used to avoid overloading your site with requests – not for keeping a web page out of Google.
16. Review Accessibility
You want to be sure your site is usable for everyone that tries to visit, including those with disabilities. You can learn how to optimize your WordPress website for everyone here.
If you’re not using WP, keep an eye out for helpful plugins or hit the forums to see how you can improve accessibility for others on your website’s platform.
17. Test Social Media Integration
It would be a shame if your social icons are broken for the first days, weeks, or months of your website’s launch. Tap/click every social icon to make sure they lead to the right profiles.
When working on the little things, like social icons, mistakes can be made. For example, I had my Twitter account linked to a random person for about two months because I added one wrong character to the social link.
18. Save A Back-Up Before Launching
You should be saving back-ups around every turn to be safe, but saving one before launch is vital. Going “live” can lead to broken links, blank pages, and other broken elements.
Adding plugins can also bring challenges. During tip 6, I talked about testing for plugin compatibility because they can break your entire website.
If you don’t have access to a killer support team (one that gets back to you within 30 minutes), you need to make back-ups a habit. Save your systems at the beginning of every week, month, or before you download a new plugin.
19. Confirm SSL Certificate
How many websites have you visited that run as “Not Secure”? You know the ones…
You tap their link, start to head to their webpage, and then Google pops up to tell you to “HEAD BACK! IT’S NOT SAFE HERE!”
To check if your website is secure, visit your homepage on an Internet browser and tap the “lock” icon beside the URL. It will tell you if the connection safe.
20. Ensure An Anti-Spam Solution
WordPress websites come with an anti-spam solution and will send any “spammy” comments straight an unpublished folder for manual approval. Non-WP websites might have to find a plugin or do some searching to see if their blogging platform does a decent job of protecting against spam.
Overall, anti-spam plugins make your comments easier to manage and your website safer for your viewers.
21. Update Your Website’s Timezone
All scheduled activities and plugins rely on the timezone set on your website. Imagine scheduling a post for a 5PM release and it publishes at 7AM… because you had your website linked to China’s timezone.
It has happened to me before. Be sure that your website automatically updates to your current, local timezone. Otherwise, you will need to do it manually. Stay vigilant for daylight savings as well – this can throw your website off by an hour.
22. Cover All Legal Stuff
This is definitely the most boring part of launching your website, but it’s probably the most important if you want to avoid any legal issues in the future.
- Add the required licenses to your About Us or Contact Us page.
- In case your website is an eCommerce store or deals with money in any way, you should add a comprehensive ‘Terms and Conditions’ section.
- A cookie warning is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions, so take care to include one
- Do research on legal requirements in different geographies for age verification, consent requirements, credit card processing and more.
23. Delete Unused Plugins
The plugins you use over time will change. Your favorite plugin one week could be one you never touch again after reading a blog post or a tweet linking to a better one.
Delete any plugins that aren’t in use to prevent breakage in your website’s code and improve the load time of your pages. Unused plugins take up unnecessary space even when they’re deactivated.
24. Insert Header Codes
Why do you need to insert header codes? Well, if you plan on using third-party tracking like Pinterest Analytics, Google Analytics, or Google Search Console, you have to add a unique code to your website’s header.
By header, we don’t mean font size either. Download a plugin to quickly manage your headers and footers. I use a Header & Footer App by WPBeginner.
25. Optimize Your Sidebar
Every blogger will tell you a sidebar is “worthless” but this is far from the truth.
What is true?
The sidebar is neglected in most cases because it’s known for “ads.” Yet, you can still use it for quick opt-ins for your email list, blog advertisements (instead of Google Ads), and links to your most popular/recent blog posts.
- Running ads.
- Increase email sign-ups.
- Promote related products.
- Organization (especially for eCommerce).
- Visually unappealing UX.
- Not compatible with mobile.
- Cluttered and clunky information.
- Unnecessary for many businesses and portfolios.