10 Things to Test Before Launching Your Website
Look Before You Leap: 10 Things to Test Before Launching Your Website
Launching (or re-launching) your website is an exciting time for a brand – you are about to define your company’s online presence. It’s a major undertaking, one that has been in the works for months of brainstorming, planning, designing, coding, arguing, re-designing, writing, editing, and development. After all of that work, you’re excited to unveil the finished product; however, if you haven’t tested and retested every single element of your site, it isn’t quite finished yet. The following ten items are often some of the most overlooked items on a website – and some of the most important to the success of the entire project.
I. User Experience Elements
These items help ensure that visitors to your website have a meaningful, positive experience, which in turn helps increase the chances of converting them into leads and eventually customers.
Forms are often the last things that you will think about when creating your website content, and are hurriedly dashed off and placed on the website. However, forms are some of the most important tools that your site has; forms are how a website captures leads, and builds lists of interested potential customers. Before you launch your website, you should check every form for the following:
a. Does it make sense for the form to be on the page that it is? Is the incentive offered (whitepaper, contact form, etc.) appropriate to the content on that page?
b. Are the form instructions easy to understand?
c. Are you asking for the right information you need on the form, and only for the essentials? For every field you add on a form, you sacrifice a significant percentage of total conversion. Make sure that you’re only asking for the information you need to initially engage with that lead; you can always ask for additional information farther down the pipeline.
d. Does the collected form information go to the right person at your organization, or into your lead nurturing system and CRM?
e. Upon completion of the form, does the user successfully access the offered incentive? Is it the correct asset as promised in the form header and instructions?
2. Social Media Integration
Social media is invaluable for its contributions to your company’s online visibility, customer engagement, and brand management. You want to make sure that these channels are accurately represented on your website. Double-check to make sure the following are all in working order:
a. Do your social media badges or icons lead to the correct pages?
b. If you are using plugins to encourage users to take a social action on your site, such as to Like your Facebook Company Page, are they placed properly on the site? Do they integrate with your website’s design? Are they functioning correctly?
Have you ever visited a website, and noticed a unique icon on the address bar and tab? That is called a favicon, and it is a great tool to lend credibility to your site and to further establish your brand. Before you launch, make sure you have created your favicon using your company logo or a recognizable symbol, and have implemented it correctly on all of your pages.
II. Site Functionality Elements
These components keep your site running smoothly, which is one of the most critical aspects of unveiling a new website. Broken site elements mean broken traffic flows – and lower conversion rates.
Visuals are essential to a successful design, but there are several steps to consider when placing an image on a page:
a. Make sure that you have display text for every image, and that it appears properly when your cursor hovers over each visual. This is important for attribution and for SEO purposes.
b. Image size: in order to have a quality web image, images need to have around 75 dots per inch (dpi). If you have visuals that are larger than that, evaluate if the additional size is necessary; large images take longer to load, and are more prone to misrendering.
5. 404 Error Pages
It happens to everyone – something has gone wrong in the code, or you’ve moved a page on the site. Whatever the reason, when you have a 404 error (“page not found”), make sure that you have created a custom page that will help the user get back to a working part of the site. Some ideas for a useful 404 page:
a. Include a site search bar so that the user can see where the information is that they are looking for;
b. Place a sitemap on the page that shows where everything is on your site.
Your company might all prefer one browser, and you’ve been building and testing your website on that browser. However, you can’t ensure that all of the visitors that come to your site will view it with the same system (in fact, you can guarantee that they won’t). Therefore, you should test your website’s design and functionality in as many operating systems as you can. Don’t forget the following:
b. Internet Explorer
7. Measurement Tools
Your site won’t do you any good if you can’t measure how it’s performing. Before you launch, check to make sure that you have placed your Google Analytics or other analytics package code on the site, and that it is accurately measuring visits, time spent on page, and other important site metrics. Additionally, make sure that you have set up your Webmaster tools.
III. SEO Elements
These final components will help search engines crawl and index your website properly, ensuring that you will be found – and visited by – interested potential customers.
8. Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
While these are basic SEO elements, it’s surprisingly common for these items to be forgotten or pushed off until post launch; unfortunately, that’s precious time lost, and it will be more difficult for your site to rank on search engine results. Make sure that you have the following in place for every single page of your website:
a. Title Tags: Every page should have a unique title tag that is appropriate to the content of the page.
b. Meta Descriptions: Search engine spiders pull information from these descriptions to understand the content and scope of your site, and to give searchers a preview of your page content. Make sure you have a concise, clear meta description for each page for these spiders to crawl.
Search engines (and actual users) rely upon sitemaps to find information on your site, especially when other methods fail. You should have a sitemap that details every page in both XML and HTML format.
10. Live URLs
Most websites are built on a development server, with a different uniform resource locator (URL) than they will have when launched. When a site is taken live, the URLs are all moved from that staging area, and change. Every single URL on your site needs to be tested when the site goes live to make sure that they work and lead to the correct destination. This is important for both a functionality standpoint and for SEO purposes.
Launching a website is a major undertaking; there are hundreds of moving parts that need to come together in order to make your site a beautiful, functional tool for a business. This list is just a small sampling of the components that need to be double- (and triple-) checked before launching the site. If all of these elements are in working order, you’ll be well on your way to having your brand new site customer-ready!
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