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.
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.
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.
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.
Related: 13 Simple Ways to Boost Search Engine Optimization on Your WordPress Website
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.
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.
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.
Related: The Best Search Engine Optimization Tools for 2019
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.
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.
Related: Optimizing Your Website for Speed Tutorial
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!