Look Before You Launch

26, Feb. 2009

There are many things to consider before launching a website, whether it’s your company’s first site, or a refresh. Of course, as developers, our list is considerably longer and more technical (as an example, see Dan Zambonini’s developer’s list here), but that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. On the contrary, there are several things you should be considering when it’s time to “hit the switch”. Here is the short list:

  1. Know Your URL – it may sound trivial, but knowing your URL up front (before you even start development) can be important. Changing it at the last minute can cause all sorts of trouble, and trouble means unnecessarily spent dollars. Make sure your domain is registered and that you have all the credentials you need to make the necessary changes, especially when your changing developers/hosting.
  2. Email – How do you access your email? Is it sitting on a web server in cyberspace, or hosted internally? Do you get it via POP? IMAP? Exchange? Knowing the answers to these questions and discussing them with your developer can eliminate mail downtime that can result from a new website launch.
  3. Dot Your I’s – Has anyone proofed the content on your site? Launching without a thorough review of content is a dangerous proposition, which can result in embarrassing situations when your visitors find those “minor” (or worse, major) mistakes.
  4. Graphic Content – Do you own all of the graphics used on your new site? Often designers will use graphics downloaded from the web for concept, but these sometimes hang around until well into the development phase, and before you know it, you’re getting an cease and desist email from a photographer or illustrator. You are ultimately responsible for what appears on your site, so if you don’t know where images have come from, ask.
  5. Test Functionality – Be sure to click and test every link on your site, and go through every multi-step process (registration, purchasing, etc.). Test what happens when things go the way they should, as well as what happens when a visitor does something unintended. You cant possibly test every possible configuration and possibility, but the more you test, the less likely you will have to spend time dealing with the consequences when something doesn’t go right.
  6. Have a Launch Strategy – launching a new site is the result of a significant investment on your part, both financially and time-wise. Supporting your launch with some good old-fashioned PR work can make the splash you want and get your site on the radar. Besides, having some links to your new site from other reputable sources will get you to the top of Google much faster.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but paying attention to these six items should lead to a more satisfying, successful launch for all parties.

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