Creating a website is the last step in our digital strategy methodology, but in many ways it’s the most complicated. Building a website isn’t hard, but there are many moving pieces, and there is a lot of stuff that most people skip over.
We’ve built a checklist that we use for every website we build.
We tend to build WordPress websites, so this list is written with that in mind, but you can modify it for any website host.
This list is long, and fairly comprehensive. We’ve written some details about the bolded items.
Website Launch Checklist:
- Register a Domain
- Secure Social Media Handles
- Assemble Copy Deck
- Assemble Asset Deck
- Setup Hosting
- Setup Staging Environment
- Setup Production Environment
- Migrate Site to Host
- Install Main Theme
- Setup Bitbucket Account for Theme *
- Create Child Theme (or original theme)
- Favicon and Touch Icons
- Setup Basic Plugins
- Install Contact Plugin
- About Us Page
- Contact Us Page
- Setup backups and test restore process
- Setup / Connect Google Analytics
- Review all Links for Possible Redirection
- Connect all Social Media accounts
- Error Pages (404, 500 etc)
- Setup Mailing List / Connect to Marketing Automation
- Implement 301 Redirects
- Secure site with security plugins
- Browser Testing
- Browser Testing – Firefox
- Browser Testing – Chrome
- Browser Testing – Safari
- Browser Testing – Android Phone
- Browser Testing – iOS – Tablet
- Browser Testing – iOS – Phone
- Browser Testing – IE 10
- Browser Testing – IE 9
- Replace Test Emails with Final Emails
- Submit sitemap to search engines
- Launch Website
- Setup Google Search Console
Register a Domain
This is one of the most important steps in creating a business. If you don’t own your domain, you should probably rename your company to something you can own. While there are tons of different top level domains, the “.com” domain is still the king.
Use a registrar with a good set of tools. At NorthIQ, we prefer Hover (affiliate link) because they have good tools, they’re a Canadian company, and they don’t spam you with a ton of other offers like other registrars who’s names rhyme with “MoBaddie”.
While you are at it, make sure you can register the Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Google Plus, and whatever other social media handles you can think of at the same time.
Assemble Copy Deck
A copy deck is a Word (or better yet, a Google) Document that has all of the copy on the website. This is where you write the words for the About Us page, everything that needs to go on the Contact Us page, anything you may need in your widgets and sidebars, as well as all of the copy for your home page.
It’s important to also remember your “micro-copy”. What will you say in error messages? How do you write a success message when someone completes a task (like filling out a form), and what do you put on your 404 page not found and 500 error pages?
Along with this is an Asset Deck, that’s where you identify all of the pictures that you need for a website and collect those images. You will need copy for those images as well since Alt Tags, captions, titles and descriptions all help to improve your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Create Child Theme (or original theme)
With a WordPress website, you will want to keep all of your customizations in a child theme. The original theme will be updated by the theme makers, and any customizations you make will be kept separate in a child theme.
You can also create a theme from scratch, but you lose a lot of the built in support from a theme builder.
Setup Bitbucket Account for Theme *
I like to keep my themes in a versioning repository so that I can roll back any problems I introduce. Bitbucket is free for small teams, and inexpensive for larger teams.
Every website needs a reliable host. Again, depending on what you are looking to do, you might want to register your hosting with a place like SquareSpace or WordPress, or go with your own hosting.
We have experience with a number of hosts, and our current favourite is SiteGrounds (affiliate link).
Setup Basic Plugins
What you set up will vary, we recommend the following plugins:
- Caching plugin to reduce database load and improve site speed – WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache are both good choices (pick one)
- Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights – for Google Analytics tracking
- Gravity Forms (paid version) or Contact Form 7 (free) for forms
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – it has a ton of built in tools like Social Sharing
- Mailchimp for WordPress – adds easy to use sign up methods to your website
- Yoast SEO – for general Search Engine Optimization
Setup backups and test restore process
Backups are ridiculously inexpensive, and will allow you to roll back to a previous date and time if something happens to your website.
Setup / Connect Google Analytics
Google Analytics is one of the most important things you can do for your website. Analytics are free, and they’re invaluable. This will give you insight into your website. It will tell you where people are going, and what they are looking at. It will also help you figure out what you should be building.
Review all Links for Possible Redirection
If you’re rebuilding an old website, you need to review all of the old pages and make sure that you’re remapping them to new URL’s. This can be a massive pain in the rear end, and can result in the larges amount of work.
This is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle if you have done any Search Engine Optimization work in the past as you will lose your rankings if you don’t keep those URL’s in tact.
Setup Mailing List / Connect to Marketing Automation
What is your Lead Generation Strategy? How are you acquiring new clients? Are you just hoping that people will fill out your contact form?
Hope is not a plan.
These services allow you to set up a professional mailing list where you can regularly send out emails to keep in contact with your customers.
Secure site with security plugins
You need to test your website in various browsers. You can do this the hard way by manually testing with the most popular browser/operating system combinations, or you can use a service like BrowserStack to automate testing.
Submit sitemap to search engines
Yoast SEO will help you generate a Sitemap.xml file which will give you a file that you can send to search engines to crawl. This lets your website get discovered on the internet, and will greatly increase your site’s visibility.
Setup Google Search Console
This will let you see how your website is being displayed on the Google search engine, as well as allowing you to disavow any spammy inbound links (which negatively impact your SEO). The insights you get out of Google Search Console are great, and they’re very easy to understand, from what searches on Google you are ranking for, to how people are finding you.
Setting up a website isn’t a simple matter of just jamming some content onto some page in the middle of the internet, it takes time, planning, and quite a bit of technical know-how to make something awesome.
We’re happy to set this up for you, we’ve been building websites on the internet for over 20 years at this point, and we’ve made a ton of mistakes so you don’t have to. Simply contact us if you’d like to get started!
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