My web design checklist for going live

Last updated: Saturday May 10th 2014
Reading time: 8 minutes

All of a sudden the site you have been working on for months is approved and the client wants it live.

However, things can still go horribly wrong if you are not prepared.

We’ve all been there.

After weeks and even months of development, meetings, conference calls, protracted arguments over typography, imagery, colour schemes and content checks. All of a sudden the website design is approved and the client wants it live, and quickly!

Hopefully not. You’ll have a concrete checklist in place which you complete before you go live.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. Neither is it presented in any particular order. Your own checklist will be very much tailored towards your own individual clients and the type of project you are delivering. Be sure to add your thoughts and suggestions to the comments at the bottom of this blog post.

Either way, get your web team together, get out the red pen and start ticking them off.

My basic web design checklist:

This website design checklist is based on a typical checklist I use when launching WordPress websites every week at work.

  1. Google analytics/ Google web mastersIf your not measuring how effective your site is then what is the point of the new website?  Ensure Google analytics is in place so that you can review the site progress and use the data to improve your website. Also install Google webmasters for further reporting.
  2. Redirects from old website pages if anyOne vital part of launching a website which many web designers forget is to ensure all old web pages point to the new ones. This can easily be done by using 301 redirects. You don’t want people clicking on old links from Google or from their bookmarks and finding 404 “This page is missing” messages.
  3. On page SEO titles, description, keywordsI always use the All in one SEO plugin or the Yoast SEO plugin for my WordPress sites. These plugins allow full control over your pages and posts meta information and how you are displayed in Google search results. Every single page on your site should be optimise for your keywords and phrases.
  4. Ensure all development server references and links are updated to the live URLNot only can this have an effect on your site speed it can also cause problems if the development server is deleted and then resources such as style sheets and images stop working on the live website.
  5. Update all posts/ pages linksAgain, this is to ensure that all links are working correctly and don’t point back to your development site. We don’t want to have any 404 error pages here.
  6. Check all links work correctlyUse a broken link checker like the W3C link checker tool. This website link checker will look for issues in links, anchors and referenced objects in a web page, CSS style sheet, or recursively on a whole web site design.
  7. Google XML Sitemaps pluginThis plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines to better index your blog. It can be set to automate this process each time you add a blog post or add a new page.
  8. 404 error pagesIf there are broken links in place ensure you have a 404 error page set up to quickly redirect users to what they are looking for. Have a look at some cool 404 error pages here.
  9. Google page speed insightsPage Speed Insights measures the performance of a website for mobile devices and desktop devices. It fetches the url twice, once with a mobile user-agent, and once with a desktop-user agent. The Google PageSpeed Score ranges from 0 to 100 points. A higher score is better and a score of 85 or above indicates that the page is performing well.
  10. Test all formsYou have built a great site that will attract new visitors but make sure they can convert into business leads and ensure that your website form are all working successfully.
  11. Ensure WP and plugins are all up-to-date
  12. Cookies plugin
  13. Privacy policy and terms
  14. Discourage search engines OFF
  15. Remove developer plugins such as theme file duplicator, WP import tool etc
  16. Remove unwanted themes

A few final web design checklist thoughts…

Make sure you monitor your web site traffic, traffic sources and crawl errors in Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics for the weeks after launching your website design. In fact, you should monitor your website performance for the next four to six weeks to quickly diagnose any loss in traffic. If you see an increase in crawl errors reported in Google Webmaster Tools, prioritize the issues and get them fixed. Use your Google Annotations to identify what changes may have caused the increase in errors.

Once your new website has launched, traffic might decrease but within two to four weeks, you should see your website performance return to pre-launch traffic levels. In fact, you should even see an increase based on the improvements made and marketing plan that supports the launch!

If you find that your website traffic does not return to previous levels, chances are you might have missed a step so make sure all points in the launch checklist have been ticked off. By following these guidelines, you will ensure that your traffic remains consistent and your new website launch is successful.

Let me know if there are any additional points that you have when launching a new website.

About the author
Laurence

I am a 27-year-old WordPress web designer and SEO consultant based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK. I have designed and maintained sites with over 20,000 pages on large corporate websites, smaller small business sites, and tiny personal websites and blogs. I provide freelance WordPress web design services in my evenings and weekends and also work full time for a local design agency in Banbury. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and on Google+.