SAVE THIS CHECKLIST: How to systematically review your new website before it goes live
Use this checklist to ensure a successful launch for your new (or updated) website!
Over the years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of business websites to ensure they were polished, professional, and working properly.
Before a website goes live – and immediately after – I thoroughly review the website. Top to bottom. Using my systematic approach.
Use this checklist to thoroughly review YOUR new or updated website. The goal, of course, is to successfully launch your new, polished, professional website, so you can happily share it with the world!
Here’s my 12-point checklist. Use it to review your new or updated website before it goes live AND after it goes live.
- Test all links – Click the across-the-top navigation to ensure every web page is linked appropriately. Next, scroll down to the footer and click all text links to ensure they’re set up correctly, including social media icons. And don’t forget the site map: open the site map web page and check every link. Next, systematically move from web page to web page testing every link: any text links in the body copy, videos, audios, PDF speaker one-sheet, PDF resume, and all graphical elements (e.g., logos). If the blog has categories and a FeedBurner type of email subscription, check these links as well. Finally, on the interior pages, try clicking on the company logo in the banner – this should take you back to the Home page.
- Complete all forms to ensure they work – Complete all opt-in boxes and contact forms. Put on the “customer hat” and experience the process from the website visitor’s point of view. If there’s a PDF giveaway on the Thank-You-For-Subscribing page (from the opt-in box), click the link. It’s shocking how often this is overlooked! In fact, thoroughly review these behind-the-scenes thank-you pages (developers call these “success pages”). Also, critically look at any Captcha-type spam-control plugin the developer may have added to your contact form. Personally, I find reCAPTCHA beyond frustrating. If you and your website developer decide your website needs a spam-control plugin, select a version that your target market can easily use. Imagine a qualified prospect taking the time to thoroughly complete your contact form, then throwing in the towel due to a frustrating experience, right when they’re ready to hit Submit – you won’t get that lead.
- Now try to BREAK all forms! – What happens if you don’t complete a required field, then hit Submit? Is the “error” dialog box helpful? Or is it cryptic and confusing? On the contact form, can you input a long European phone number in the phone field or does it only allow 10 characters for US and Canadian phone numbers? Spend time trying to “break” every opt-in box and contact form. If there are any issues, it’s best for YOU to find them, not your customers.
- Purchase your product – Whip out your credit card and purchase your book or downloadable product. Check to ensure all pricing and shipping information is correct. Put on the customer hat to experience the purchase from the website visitor’s point of view. Is the purchase and downloadable process easy? Did it work properly? Are all directions throughout the process clear and easy to understand? Jot down any errors – and possible points of confusion – and discuss these with your developer.
- Test all email addresses – Is the main email address on the website Info@ABCcompany.com? Are there other email addresses? Ensure all are properly set up. If they don’t work, you may lose email messages from qualified prospects.
- Test all other features/functionality – Does your website have a search function? Test it. Any other features or functionality? Test these thoroughly, wearing the customer hat.
- Proof every word – Typos slip in … it’s a fact of life. Weirdly, typos seem to “hide out” best in 24-point headlines! Here are my favorite tips to flush out lurking typos and sneaky grammar and punctuation errors. This is an important step to ensure your website meets your high standards of professionalism.
(A) Print every page and proof the old-fashioned way – on paper. This simple trick offers a surprising level of objectivity and is much more effective than proofing at the monitor.
(B) Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to proof your website copy for you. Choose someone who has this skillset.
(C) Hire a professional proofreader.
- Critically examine stock photos – If the developer used stock photos in your new website, are the images fresh or trite? Do the images support your message? Ask pointed questions of your developer to ensure you have purchased the rights to use all stock photos and clipart. Finally, you’ll want to ensure photos with people present a mix of male/female, various ethnicities and, depending on your target market, different age groups.
- Check all redirects – For example, if your website address is ParagonConsulting.com and you requested that your developer redirect ParagonCoaching.com, then you’ll want to ensure this is set up.
- Ensure your developer has implemented basic SEO strategies – Like a well, this is a deep subject, given the plethora of SEO strategies and philosophies. At minimum, ensure your developer added a unique meta title and meta description for each web page and incorporated important organic keywords.
- Review using different browsers and multiple mobile devices (both Apple and Android) – Yikes, this is the bane of every website developer – and reviewers! This task can be time-consuming, and many developers do not conduct a thorough review. However, it’s YOUR website so, ultimately, it’s YOUR responsibility. At the time of this writing, there are 5 major browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera. Download each browser onto your computer and test the key features and functionality of your website on every browser (especially email and contact form). Yes, it’s a pain, but this is vitally important. And take time to review your new website on a variety of mobile devices – both Apple and Android. I recently found a significant issue when reviewing a client’s new website on my Android smartphone – an issue he didn’t encounter on his iPhone.
SIDE NOTE: As of December 2014, W3Schools.com listed the most popular browsers (in terms of market share) as:
- Google Chrome: 61.36%
- Mozilla Firefox: 23.6%
- Internet Explorer: 8.0%
- Safari: 3.7%
- Opera: 1.6%
- What’s missing? – I’ve done a ton of professional editing in my career. Long ago, this realization popped into my head regarding the difference between a proofreader and an editor: The proofreader looks at what IS there; the editor also looks at what is NOT there. Step up to the 10,000-foot level and ask yourself: “Is anything missing? Are all photos, videos, and other assets represented in my new website, as planned? Is the contact form robust, so it serves as a hardworking inquiry form? Have we overlooked anything?”
If you have thoroughly reviewed your new or updated website – using this checklist and a systematic approach – then you’re ready to go live. Congratulations!
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