Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
Here are some of the best tips from professionals in the industry on what you need to do before launching your website.
Deploying a website can be incredibly stressful, and launching an internet presence is a complex task that involves many moving parts. Even before you begin drafting the concepts for it, you’ll want some experience in marketing, research, and design — and that’s on top of the technical requirements and rigorous quality testing, just to make sure the page works as intended.
Indeed, there are multiple steps involved in ensuring that you have a successful website launch, and equally as many opportunities for failure. In order to help ensure the transition goes smoothly, it’s essential to verify that it first meets certain criteria. With that in mind, here are some of the best tips from professionals in the industry on what you need to do before you take your website live.
Have a Unified Vision
Even before your website leaves the “conceptual” phase of design, you should first spend some time deciding on what your page will represent. Common themes, specific color palettes, and shared elements will not just improve the aesthetics and usability of your website, but they will also help keep you focused on the end goal of what you’re intent on accomplishing.
It’s easy for new designers to fall into the trap of wanting to slap every clever widget and fun feature onto their page “just in case,” but haphazardly mish-mashing everything together never works. Not only will your page look sloppy and amateurish, but later on down the road, you’ll find yourself wasting hours trying to get these unnecessary bloatware elements to work together.
Rather than fussing with these useless frivolities, this time could instead be better spent on improving the core functionality of your page. Come into the project with a mindset of “only what I need to showcase what my page represents,” and then design your page around that philosophy for a clean, professional looking website. In doing so, you’ll ensure both solid functionality and an attractive online presence.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a complex topic — entire books have been written about making sure you get the best results from popular search engines. No matter how amazing your website is, if nobody can find it, it may as well not exist. There’s a reason why companies like Google and Microsoft invest so much every year into improving their search engines.
One of the most important lessons to take away is that the word “optimize” is there for a reason. Many amateur web designers will try including all the tangentially-related search terms, hoping one or two stick and help them rise to the top of the listings. This has the exact opposite effect. Without specificity, you’ll instead discover your page (if you can even find it!) down in the bottom rungs with all the other overly-generalized pages.
There is no hard rule, but try to stick to five to ten words that people looking for your page will search for, and use them frequently. The more specific and optimized, the more likely you are to get results. This is especially true if you include SEO techniques with grassroots methods of reaching out and building up your follower base, such as handing out business cards with your website’s QR code for convenience.
It cannot be overstressed: proper communication is vitally important on the internet. There are different approaches you can take, depending on target demographics, but proper grammar, spelling, and word choice will go a long way towards making your page stand out. In particular, one of the most frequent maxims for effective online communication is “write at a fifth-grade level.”
Unless your page explicitly deals in specialized concepts and highly technical terms, avoid the impulse to impress your audience with excessive loquacity, and reach for more common synonyms instead. The more people who can access your website without needing to open up a thesaurus, the more people who will find, use, and ultimately return to your website.
Consider accessibility the main part of your communication strategy, and design accordingly. Even if you are confident in your skills, it never hurts to hire a professional online content editor for a once-over before launching. They can offer invaluable advice, from corrections and suggestions to pointing out bottlenecks where the average user might lose interest and navigate away.
Despite any attempts to “standardize” the internet, every browser and every device features slightly different ways in which they prefer to display your page. This is why it is incredibly important to test across multiple platforms and configurations. Yes, reducing test maintenance costs is an objective of almost every web developer out there, as repeated checks of your website’s functionality can certainly add up.
Nonetheless, sacrificing the quality of the User Experience (or UX) is never a good idea, and it can quickly backfire. A website that looks perfectly amazing on your laptop may look like a terribly churned mess on your audience’s digital watch. You can follow to a tee all the official standards that exist, only to then discover that one person on a different computer resizing their browser breaks it anyway.
Fortunately, there are a myriad of tools that exist for rapidly testing UX across the most common viewing devices, ranging from televisions to mobile phones. Using them before launch is a great way to ensure that your website is accessible to the majority of users. You should always aim to develop your page with these concepts in mind to avoid alienating or driving away users from your website.
However, by far the best strategy is to just make multiple versions of your individual pages and simply redirect traffic to the version that best matches their device. (As a direct example, this is why the “m.” prefix became so popular for mobile devices.) Hiring a professional web designer can also help verify that the code behind your site functions as intended, regardless of where it is deployed, and help ensure a smooth launch.
Avoid Legal Problems
Even if your website doesn’t deal with controversial or taboo topics, it’s still a good practice to keep a lawyer on retainer, even before its launch. The internet has many unusual and unexpected laws that apply to it, and some were even drafted with the digital frontier specifically in mind. You’ll want somebody who is familiar with local laws, national laws, and possibly even international laws that may apply to your site.
This is true even for things that seem like complete non-issues. Websites with certain domains or content may be automatically banned in other countries, for example, or you might find yourself tied up in costly court proceedings over a regional mandate you unwittingly violated. Knowing where these issues are likely to arise and how they’ll impact your website is a full-time job demanding specialists familiar with legalese.
Promotions and Preparations
Just because your website is ready for launch, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is ready-ready for launch. Ideally, you should begin networking and building up your user base before the website actually goes live. While you may be eager to present it to the public, it might even be worth temporarily delaying the launch, just to drive up interest and work behind the scenes on the upcoming content you wish to promote.
The “landing page” is the first page on a website that users are expected to see, and it’s normally found on the front or home page. Using this for a pre-launch page will help build up anticipation and hype for your website, allowing people to discover it early, learn more about your business and vision, and even communicate with you about your site even before the site technically exists.
Countdown clocks can also be used to let people know exactly when you’ll be launching, and similar to queues forming before a store opens, lets them prepare for it. Newsletters and communication forms can let them opt into reminders, too, so they don’t forget to come back. Sneak peeks and previews of your content can let people develop anticipation and excitement that lures them back even without prompting.
Lastly, use this time to ensure that you have at least a month’s backlog of content curated to their expectations. This way, no matter what other issues or complications may arise, you can continue to drive interest in your site during its golden period of novelty. It’ll also be far easier to adjust your website’s existing content based on that all-important early feedback, rather than creating entirely new content based upon it.
If you have the presentation, the content, and all the technicalities under control, then you are almost ready for your website’s launch. Yet before you begin, don’t overlook the value of networking to help bolster its audience. Now is the time to reach out to others in your field, in order to seek their experience and forge valuable connections to help ensure the best launch possible.
There is a fairly recent anecdote, an “unbelievable but true” success story, about a man who traded his way from owning a single red paperclip to owning a luxurious mansion. An often unmentioned detail of this parable, though, is that he masterfully used all his contacts with relevant skills and knowledge at every step of the way, to seize the best possible return for his trades.
The true value that eventually allowed him to own a glamorous home was not found in that small paperclip, but instead, in his ability to network. Networking is a fairly economical and organic way of promoting your website, and having influential and powerful people in your corner will make the difference between a bland, uneventful launch and one that is hyped up and driven by user excitement.
If your website deals with electronic media, for example, then having popular content streamers get enthusiastic about your website will allow you to share a portion of their user base even before you launch. Similar to SEO and how specificity is key, though, you don’t want to overwhelm or overgeneralize when reaching out. Seeking out the right kind of partnership can dramatically shift the perception of your website.
You’ll want to find exactly the right people to promote your website, as well. Ideally, you’ll be connecting with those who happen to have content of their own that also overlaps with and synergizes with your site’s content. Don’t think of it as a competition with other people with similar visions, but instead, try to see it as a mutually beneficial relationship to drive your shared vision forward.
Nobody loses when you decide to network with other content creators or influencers, either. The influencers themselves improve their reputation as a source of interesting content, your website experiences a great boost of early adopters, and the users get to discover new projects (like your website) that are similar to their existing interests. Everyone profits from networking properly with the right people.
Sufficiently preparing for your website’s launch is ultimately your choice, but doing so can determine its outcome. According to research out of MIT, only 3% of newly launched websites will pass UX metrics, with the overwhelming majority doomed to failure. But by making sure to follow this pre-launch advice, you are more likely to beat the odds and find yourself among the ranks of lasting internet entrepreneurship.
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