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      Master Your Website Launch With This 18-Item Checklist


      Unveiling a new website can be an exciting and nerve-racking time. Sometimes it might feel like you’ve forgotten a crucial element, but you won’t always know until someone complains. Additionally, there are a lot of pages and items you’ll need to include, so it can be hard to know where to start.

      Not to worry — we’re here to help! Creating a comprehensive checklist of key pages and technical items to review before you launch your website can be a helpful time-saver. Scanning down a pre-flight checklist is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t overlook anything important.

      In this article, we’ll run through 18 essentials that you need to put on your website launch checklist. Let’s start from the top!

      Launch Your Website with DreamHost

      Our automatic updates and strong security defenses take server management off your hands so you can focus on creating a great website.

      1. Finalize Your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

      A privacy policy is required by law if you’re collecting any kind of personal data. This policy spells out exactly how any information (emails, contact information, and more) will be used.

      Terms of Service (TOS) statements are not legally mandatory in most cases, but they can still be valuable. Your TOS states the ground rules for visitors who want to use your site.

      2. Create a “Contact Us” Page

      Contact pages might seem straightforward, but there is room for creativity. Buzzworthy Studio has an excellent example of a bold and effective contact page.

      Buzzworthy Studio’s contact page.

      Your contact page can be a valuable way to reaffirm your brand. Plus, it helps visitors get in touch and find answers to their questions.

      3. Set Your Site to Back Up Regularly

      If your website crashes or is hacked, or if you install a plugin that causes a problem, having your files backed up regularly and automatically is a lifesaver.

      There are many ways to approach this task, but one surefire way to keep things running smoothly is by using a managed host for your site. That way, your provider can take care of restoring backups and automatically archiving them for you.

      4. Configure Your 404 Page

      A 404 page is what will display when an error occurs on your website. Designing fun and on-brand error pages can help you retain visitors who would have otherwise left once they encountered an error.

      Magnt, for example, managed to turn an error into a marketing opportunity.

      Magnt’s 404 Error page.

      This clever error page displays the company’s skills for humor and design. Creating this kind of page prompts visitors to learn more about your business, rather than leaving in frustration.

      5. Establish a Comprehensive Site Map

      Sitemaps play a vital role in how search engines read and index your pages. While a sitemap won’t directly improve your rankings, it can help to ensure that your site is indexed properly.

      If you use WordPress, there are plugins available to help you generate and manage sitemaps. Google also has an established process for submitting your sitemap directly.

      6. Complete Your “About Us” Information

      Keeping your About Us information up-to-date and well-organized is essential. In fact, 94% of first impressions online are design-related. That’s why the Refinery29 About Us page is a great example of concise web design.

      Refinery29’s About Us page. 

      Visitors are likely to check your About Us page or section in order to vet your business. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure it contains all the information they need and looks professional as well.

      7. Set Up Your Permalink Structure

      Permalinks are the permanent URLs to your posts and pages, as well as to your category and tag archives. Strategically creating your permalinks can help with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

      It’s also important to note that deciding to change your permalink structure after you’ve created content can result in a lot of work. For that reason, it’s best to decide on a structure you’re happy with upfront.

      8. Choose a Web Host With Fast and Reliable Servers

      Your site’s hosting server is a determining factor for how fast its pages will load. Consequently, it’s a pretty significant decision.

      Here at DreamHost, we offer several options for hosting your website.

      DreamHost’s managed WordPress hosting plans.

      A fast and reliable managed hosting plan means the website owner can focus on their business and website content. Leave the server management to us — we live for this stuff!

      9. Add Meta Titles and Descriptions to Your Content

      Metadata, such as meta descriptions and title tags, can help you tell potential visitors what kind of content to expect when they find your website’s pages in search engines. You can think of this data as a summary that helps people decide if a page is valuable to them.

      A meta description is typically limited to two lines of text, so choosing the right keywords is critical. However, what matters most when you’re launching a website is that each post and page has its own meta title and description.

      10. Optimize Image Sizes

      Optimizing your site’s images not only improves performance but can improve the user experience for those using mobile devices to view your site. As a consequence, it can also benefit your rankings on search engines.

      You can use a tool like Tiny PNG to reduce the size of your image files.

      TinyPNG’s home page.

      There are also many plugin options for optimizing your images, either one at a time or in bulk.

      11. Turn on Caching for Your Website

      Caching is when a web browser stores a static version of your website, and loads that copy for the visitor. This results in a faster loading speed than if the site’s data had to be transferred each time anew. If you want to check your site speed, start with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

      It’s a good idea to check with your web host, to see if it offers built-in caching options. Otherwise, you’ll want to look into plugins or other caching solutions.

      12. Set Alt Text for Your Images

      Setting alt text for all the images on your website benefits both its accessibility and SEO. Alt text can typically be added in the same menu you use to edit your images.

      Wordpress’ image edit panel.

      This text will help visitors understand what an image is if it doesn’t load properly. Additionally, it will make it easier for those using screen readers to make sense of your content.

      If you’re looking for more ways to boost your search performance, check out Google’s Search Console. This tool will help you create reports that measure your traffic so you can improve how your site’s pages perform in search engines’ rankings.

      13. Review Responsiveness on Mobile Platforms

      Whether you’re writing a blog post or operating a Shopify store, it’s vital that your site looks good and performs well on devices of all sizes. One easy way to check your website’s mobile responsiveness is with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

      Fortunately, most website builders include built-in options for testing mobile responsiveness. Still, there is no doubting the importance of designing with an eye toward mobile use.

      14. Clean Up Your Plugins List

      When you’re launching a website with WordPress, managing your plugins is a must. You may have tried out several different solutions during your development and building process, which can result in unused items in your plugin list.

      There are literally thousands of free and premium plugins at your disposal, many of which we’ve previously recommended:

      A list of plugins.

      Before you launch your site, you’ll want to remove all unused plugins to shore up site security, speed, and functionality. There are a few essentials that we’d recommend you keep, though: Jetpack, Akismet Anti-Spam, and the Yoast plugin for SEO.

      15. Update All Your Website Software

      Keeping every part of your website up to date is vital. Not only does each software update or upgrade help keep your site secure, but newer versions can boost its performance as well.

      Fortunately, software updates can be a “set it and forget it” process. That way, you can automatically keep on top of your plugins and other software from the very beginning.

      16. Double-Check Your Site’s Security License

      Site security is something we can’t stress enough. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate tells your visitors that all data exchanged between their browsers and your site will go through a secure connection.

      An example of a secure URL.

      There are several ways to acquire an SSL certificate. You can check with your web host to see if it provides one, or you can purchase a certificate through a third-party service.

      17. Add Analytics Tracking to Your Site

      Once your website is up and running, you’ll need a way to measure how well it performs. That’s why it pays to set up an analytics tracking solution before even launching your site.

      There are many excellent solutions out there, although Google Analytics is a strong choice for beginners. No matter what tool you use, make sure you have an easy way to keep an eye on important numbers, such as your daily visits and page views.

      18. Connect Your Social Media Accounts

      Promoting your site on social media can be vital to reaching your target audience. Providing icons so your visitors can easily find your social media pages is one of the best ways to do that.

      Social media icons.

      Plugins such as Jetpack can also help you automate social sharing. That way, this task will take up as little of your time as possible.

      Your Website Launch Checklist

      Launching your website can involve a lot of work, and many different kinds of tasks. Checklists are one way to help your team stay on track and cover all the bases before revealing your masterpiece to the public.

      To provide a seamless first experience to your website’s visitors, you’ll want to keep in mind a few key items on your website launch checklist. For instance, you can write strong meta descriptions, optimize your images for increased site speed, and take advantage of an SSL certificate.

      Here at DreamHost, we want you to be able to focus on the task at hand, and not worry about whether your website maintenance is taken care of. That’s why we offer complete hosting solutions with reliable support, so you can focus on enjoying your new site!



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      How to Choose a Web Host: A 15-Point Checklist


      Choosing a web host can be challenging — especially if you’re just starting your first website. There’s a lot of information to digest about hosting your site, and it’s easy to forget something important when you’re weighing the pros and cons of various providers.

      However, if you know the right questions to ask, you can navigate the waters of web hosting without fear. There are many excellent plans to pick from. Making the right choice is simply a matter of considering your needs alongside what each service provider has to offer.

      In this post, we’ll discuss why it’s necessary to determine your site’s hosting needs before you begin shopping. Then we’ll share a 15-point checklist to help decide which web hosting provider is right for you. Let’s get going!

      Why It’s Vital to Identify Your Hosting Needs Upfront

      There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all web hosting. Every website has different needs when it comes to storage, performance, features, and price. So before you start looking at plans, you’ll want to determine your site’s hosting requirements.

      By knowing what you need ahead of time, you can narrow down your choices more quickly and avoid making costly mistakes when selecting your host. Some questions you might ask include:

      • How large is your website and what are its storage needs?
      • On average, how much traffic do you expect each month?
      • What’s your hosting budget?
      • What are your current website management skills? What might you need help with?
      • Apart from storing your site, what services will you need from your hosting provider?

      Your answers to these questions will eliminate some hosts right away. Then, you can use the checklist below to determine if other hosting options are a smart match for your site.

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      How to Choose a Web Host (A 15-Point Checklist)

      There are many aspects to consider when choosing a hosting provider, and the process can seem overwhelming at first. That’s why we’ve listed out the 15 most important questions to ask when evaluating a hosting provider:

      1. How Reliable Are the Host’s Servers?
      2. Is It Easy to Upgrade Your Plan?
      3. Can You Easily Add a Domain?
      4. Are There Significant Differences in the Sign-Up and Renewal Costs?
      5. Does the Host Have a Generous Refund Policy?
      6. Is There a One-Click Installer?
      7. Will Your Host Provide Email Addresses for Your Domain?
      8. Will You Have Easy SFTP Access?
      9. How Difficult Is It to Find and Edit .htaccess?
      10. What E-Commerce Features Are Included (If Any)?
      11. Can You Easily Navigate and Use the Control Panel?
      12. Are SSL Certificates Included?
      13. How Often Will You Have to Renew Your Subscription?
      14. Does the Web Host Offer Easy Site Backups?
      15. Can You Quickly Access Support 24/7?

      Now, let’s dive into each question in more detail to guide you towards the best host for your situation.

      1. How Reliable Are the Host’s Servers?

      Performance and uptime can make or break your website. Your website’s performance influences Search Engine Optimization (SEO), bounce and conversion rates, and how trustworthy your site appears to visitors. We’re not exaggerating when we say that the reliability of your server has a direct impact on your website’s bottom line.

      Any provider you consider should have an uptime guarantee of at least 99%. At DreamHost, our uptime guarantee is 100%, as per our Terms of Service.

      DreamHost's uptime guarantee.

      It’s also wise to check out what performance-related features a given host offers. This can include built-in caching, access to a Content Delivery Service (CDN), and more.

      Shared Hosting That Powers Your Purpose

      We make sure your website is fast, secure and always up so your visitors trust you. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      2. Is It Easy to Upgrade Your Plan?

      If you’ve created a website with all the elements it needs to succeed, chances are it’s going to grow. With any luck, you’ll see an increase in traffic and conversion rates. This will likely mean you’ll have to upgrade your web hosting plan.

      Most new sites start on a shared, low-cost plan. As your online presence expands, however, you’ll need more resources, bandwidth, and disk space to maintain your site for all its users. A host that offers easy upgrades to a Virtual Private Server (VPS), Managed WordPress, or Dedicated Hosting plan can make this process smoother.

      Upgrading a hosting plan in the DreamHost control panel.

      If you choose a host that makes it difficult to change your plan, you could find yourself migrating to a new provider just a few months after launching your site.

      Already Have a Website? We’ll Move It for You!

      Migrating to a new hosting provider is a pain. Sit back and let our experts do it! We’ll move your existing site within 48 hours without any interruption in service. Included FREE with purchase of any DreamPress plan.

      3. Can You Easily Add a Domain?

      As your digital brand grows, you may find that you not only want to expand your current site but start a new one as well. Alternatively, perhaps you simply like collecting domain names or you want to get into website flipping.

      Whatever the reason, if you’re going to purchase additional domains, you’ll need a host that makes it simple to acquire and manage them. Choosing a provider that offers unlimited domains ensures that you won’t ever run out of space.

      4. Are There Significant Differences in the Sign-Up and Renewal Costs?

      It’s important to choose an affordable host. However, be careful when signing up, as you don’t want to get roped into a plan that’s more expensive than it seems on the surface. Some companies will offer attractive sign-up deals for new customers. Then, when it comes time to renew, they’ll raise the price.

      Make sure to look into your potential host’s renewal fees as well as the initial sign-up cost. Some difference between these two is an industry norm. However, you’ll want to keep the contrast as low as possible and avoid a higher renewal rate entirely if possible.

      5. Does the Host Have a Generous Refund Policy?

      In an ideal world, you’ll choose the perfect host the first time around, your website will flourish, and you’ll never need to cancel your service. However, things don’t always go according to plan.

      If you need to cancel your hosting for any reason, you’ll want to avoid excessive fees. It’s also wise to choose a host that offers a trial period so that if things don’t work out in the first few weeks of service, you can cancel without penalty.

      6. Is There a One-Click Installer?

      As the most popular Content Management Service (CMS) on the web, WordPress often receives additional support from hosting companies. Managed WordPress plans and WordPress-related features can be especially helpful if this is the platform you intend to use.

      A particularly useful feature that some hosts offer is a one-click WordPress installer.

      The DreamHost one-click WordPress installer.

      Better yet, some hosts will pre-install WordPress for you. This can save you a lot of time during the initial setup. You can also find one-click installers for other platforms, such as Joomla and Zen Cart.

      7. Will Your Host Provide Email Addresses for Your Domain?

      Whether you have a business site, a blog, an e-commerce store, or some other type of website, your visitors will probably need a way to get in touch. Having an email address that’s associated with your site’s domain (i.e., zoe@mysite.com) appears more professional and is easier for users to remember.

      Checking out a potential host’s email services is a must if you want to incorporate this feature into your online presence.

      DreamHost's email services.

      Choosing a host that includes this service in its web hosting packages or provides it for a low cost means you won’t have to set up custom email addresses manually.

      8. Will You Have Easy SFTP Access?

      File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) are vital tools for website maintenance. At some point, you’ll likely have to use one or the other to resolve an error, customize your site, and carry out different tasks.

      Your host should provide credentials so that you can use FTP or SFTP via a client such as FileZilla. This information should be easy to locate so that you can access it at any time. Additionally, some hosts will provide their own FTP clients for your use as well.

      DreamHost's WebFTP client.

      This is a nice bonus and can be an easier and more secure option than third-party FTP clients.

      9. How Difficult Is It to Find and Edit .htaccess?

      For WordPress users, the .htaccess file is a crucial part of your site. It contains a wealth of configuration information that influences permalink structure, caching, 301 redirects, file accessibility, and more.

      You may need to edit .htaccess at some point to resolve an error, tighten security, or carry out other tasks to improve your site. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy, since .htaccess is a hidden file.

      Even if you can find the file, editing it via SFTP can be risky. It’s helpful if your web host provides a file manager for editing .htaccess, to minimize the risks to the rest of your site.

      10. What E-Commerce Features Are Included (If Any)?

      All websites have the same basic needs. However, if you’re running an e-commerce site, you’ll need some unique features. For instance, you’ll probably want more frequent backups and a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to reach customers around the world.

      A specialized e-commerce website hosting plan can help you get the support your online store needs at an affordable rate.

      DreamHost's WooCommerce hosting plans.

      Some plans — including our own e-commerce plans — will even pre-install WooCommerce and the Storefront theme for WordPress retailers.

      11. Can You Easily Navigate and Use the Control Panel?

      You’ll be spending a lot of time in your hosting control panel. Being able to navigate around your account easily can make managing your website much less challenging. Plus, you won’t have to rely on support as much when you’re figuring out tasks such as billing and upgrading.

      Choosing a host that offers a custom control panel can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.

      The DreamHost control panel.

      Our control panel, for instance, offers clear navigation menus. That way, you can easily find information on your site, contact support, or edit your account information.

      12. Are SSL Certificates Included?

      Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates are vital for keeping your site and its users safe. This is particularly true if you’re dealing with sensitive information such as credit card details, SSL certificates, and the like.

      Adding an SSL certificate to your site is usually an additional expense. However, some hosting providers will include one in your plan at no extra cost. Choosing one of these hosts can save you a little extra money while helping to keep your site secure.

      13. How Often Will You Have to Renew Your Subscription?

      Many hosts require a monthly subscription from their customers. There’s nothing wrong with that model, and if your fees are low enough, you might not mind having to pay monthly. However, this option isn’t always the most cost-effective.

      Other hosts will offer one or even three-year plans. By paying for a longer term upfront, you can often save some money down the line. When comparing prices between hosts, make sure to consider this.

      DreamHost's renewal term options.

      Don’t forget that you’ll have to renew your domain name as well. This is usually an annual occurrence, although you can find options for two- and three-year registrations here at DreamHost. You can also sign up for an auto-renewal program to avoid forgetting to renew your domain.

      14. Does the Web Host Offer Easy Site Backups?

      We all like to think the worst will never happen to us. However, it’s best to be prepared. Accidents and attacks happen, and if you’re in a position where your site has been destroyed, you’ll want a way to restore it.

      Backups ensure that you have a way to bring your site back if it’s lost. While there are many methods available for backing up a website, one of the easiest is to do it through your web host. It’s even more convenient if your host offers automated daily backups for your site, along with one-click on-demand backups.

      15. Can You Quickly Access Support 24/7?

      Your relationship with your web host will hopefully be a long one. Reliable customer support is key if that relationship is going to be mutually beneficial. Making sure any host you’re considering has multiple contact methods and a 24/7 support team can guarantee that someone will be available whenever you need help.

      DreamHost's 24/7 support page.

      Additionally, specific support for WordPress, e-commerce, or other niches can come in handy. Choosing a host with a team that is knowledgeable about the tools you use will ensure that your site has the best support possible. For example, if you opt for DreamPress, our WordPress-specific managed hosting, you’ll get priority access to our elite squad of in-house WordPress experts.

      Finding the Right Web Hosting Service

      When it comes to choosing a web host, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. There are many factors to consider, and your decision could ultimately determine your website’s success or failure.

      However, if you go into your web hosting search with your needs clearly outlined, you’ll eventually find the best provider for you. Asking careful questions about the quality of the host’s services and equipment, the additional features it offers, and its pricing will steer you in the right direction.

      If you’re a WordPress user, that direction just might be DreamHost’s Starter Shared Hosting plan. This plan is a low-cost option that’s ideal for small business owners or those just starting out. With Shared Hosting, there’s no limit to the amount of disk space you can use for your site. Unlimited bandwidth means when your site goes viral, you don’t have to stress about storage space. Most importantly, with any DreamHost plan, you’ll be able to answer “Yes!” to each of the questions on this checklist.



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      Spring Clean Your Website With This 13-Point Checklist


      The birds are chirping and the blossoms blooming, and you know what that means: it’s time to tackle your spring cleaning. Winter’s thaw is an annual reminder to clear out the clutter — and not just in your garage. Websites spawn their own digital dust bunnies and need an annual scrub to keep things running smoothly.

      This spring, take time to air out your website. Visitors will appreciate — and reward — a freshly scrubbed, updated site. Superpower your spring cleaning with this checklist of chores and your website will be sure to pass any white-glove inspection.

      1. Update Copyright and Time References

      Sure, the info stuffed in your website’s footer can feel like a fussy detail, but it’s one that can speak volumes about the attention you pay to your content. Visitors are sure to question the validity and functionality of an out-of-date website, so exude relevancy and timeliness by making this quick update. Go a step further and ensure your copyright date is always current by adding a few lines of code.

      2. Renew Domain Names

      Don’t let your domain disappear — renew your registration now or set a calendar reminder to do it before it expires.

      3. Check for Broken Links

      Like dusting, this tedious chore is best checked off more than once a year, but hey, we all get busy. Broken links will frustrate your visitors, repel customers, and damage your search engine rankings. If you haven’t hunted down these pesky pests recently, find yourself a link checker and tracking. There are a number of tools that can help here, but we recommend Screaming Frog.

      4. Check and Update Contact Information

      There’s little more frustrating than returned or unanswered email. Make sure your customers’ queries are going to the right inbox by double checking and, if necessary, updating your email address and other contact information: phone, fax, addresses, social media accounts, etc. Make sure the info for all your brick-and-mortar locations (if you have them) is present and accounted for. While you’re at it, delete any superfluous or unused email accounts, and don’t forget to remove every reference to them from your website.

      5. Test Functionality

      Fill out any forms, take any surveys, sign up for every email list offered on your site, and make sure the process is simple, intuitive, and most importantly, functional. Check that comments work on your blog, and don’t forget to test-drive your checkout process from shopping cart to deposit of money into the correct account. Fix any bugs and consider ways you can smooth out the process.

      6. Update Prices and Review Inventory

      Operation and manufacturing costs fluctuate through the year, so take a look at your numbers and check your prices for fairness to the customer — and to your profit margin. Also, take a second look at the products you have listed for sale. Any slow movers that need to be rethought, repriced, or retired? Make sure to remove any discontinued products from your site.

      7. Review Consistency

      Scroll through your content to ensure that fonts, image sizes and style, and copywriting and grammar style are consistent throughout your website. Tidy up any inconsistencies to ensure a professional look. And while you’re at it, check for relevancy and timeliness too, especially in introductory posts, popular content, and product descriptions. Repurpose or delete dated content.

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      8. Update Bios

      Keep your website feeling fresh by updating your bio and polishing up the “About Us” page. Double check any key stats or numbers listed on this page as well. Don’t forget to update staff positions and job duties that may have changed in the past year, so credit is given where it’s due and customer queries are addressed to the right person.

      9. Note Your News

      Nothing feels more stale on a website than old news, and little is more repelling than a “what’s new” post from 2013. When’s the last time you’ve updated your news page? There’s no time like the present: write a quick and catchy update, or consider nixing this page if you can’t keep it timely. If you have a calendar or events page, delete past events and update with current information.

      10. Update Policies

      The policy page is an easy one to fall through the cracks, so make sure to pull it out of the cupboard and give it some love this spring. Check that your company’s current practices are accurately and clearly represented — make sure nothing is overlooked — and make changes as needed.

      11. Review Analytics

      Take a look at Google Analytics and sift out trends. Determine which pages are frequented the most, and which are getting a bit moldy. Polish up your popular posts and consider how you can get more mileage out of them — a social media post or campaign, perhaps? As for the dustier pages, bring in more visitors with links and shoutouts in more popular posts, repurpose the content, or consider axing them entirely. If the pages you want people to see aren’t getting enough traffic, it’s time to rethink how the content is teased and the information presented.

      12. Evaluate Calls to Action (CTAs)

      Are your “subscribe,” “donate here,” and “buy now” links drawing enough attention? Rethink how you can shine up your calls to action so your website can better accomplish its purpose and clinch new customers.

      13. Review Your Hosting Plan

      After you’ve dusted off the details, take a step back and look at the place your website calls home. Is your current hosting plan working for you and your customers? Take a closer look at your analytics: are you seeing your website traffic grow over time? If you started out with shared hosting and are attracting more and more visitors, it might be time to upgrade to a plan that will enhance your site’s performance and stability. Consider whether your website would benefit from a VPS or a dedicated server.



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