My Website Pre-Launch Checklist

This is a list of items to check before and after launching your site. It’s not necessarily an exhaustive list for every type of website, but it is a good starting point for most sites.

Getting Your Site Known

1. SEO

2.  Social Media

With the importance of social media, you should check to see how your site appears on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media sites you care about unless your site is purely B-to-B.

An easy way to check on Facebook is to enter your URL into the Facebook Debugger.  It will tell you what thumbnail image will be used when someone posts a link to your site on Facebook, as well as all of the metadata that it is reading.  It’s a good sanity test to make sure all of the metadata is there.

Tip: the Facebook Debugger is invaluable if you want to change your site’s thumbnail image.  If you just re-post the site on Facebook after making the change, it will just use the cached (old) image and you’ll be left wondering why it didn’t update.  You need to run your site through the debugger to clear Facebook’s cache.

Here it is for Linked In.

Here’s the same thing for Twitter (UPDATE: no longer works since Elon took over).

You can manually test on any other social media sites that you care about.

3. URL Variations

I’ve seen cases where the “www” version of the URL doesn’t work or vice versa.

4. Different Devices and Browsers

Checking with smartphones and tablets is a “must” in today’s mobile world. At a bare minimum, I check on the iPhone, an Android phone, and an iPad.

If you need more coverage, you can use Browserstack or another service. Browserstack has a subscription fee, but they do offer a limited number of free screenshots, which is more than enough for one site.

Reader Samuel recommended LambdaTest for browser testing. It has a free plan with 60 minutes per month as well as affordable paid plans that offer unlimited testing.

Here are some platforms to test on:

5. Content Cleanup

Remove any posts or pages that you don’t want on the final site. Some WordPress themes come with tons of demo pages. I’ve seen these show up on Google search results for sites! Be sure to remove those, along with any “Hello, World” posts.

Also, check for any placeholder text or photos.  Tip: Search for “Lorem ipsum” or other placeholder text you might have used.

If you are launching a WordPress site, make sure that any custom post types that are not intended to be visible as single posts are redirected.

6. Broken Links

Having broken links on your site can not only be really embarrassing but also fatally impact the functionality of your site, as well as adversely affect your SEO. I use this free online broken link checker. It’s saved my butt on several occasions.

7. Redirections / 404 Page

If the new site is replacing an existing site, you should redirect the old URLs to new ones.

Compliance

8. Accessibility

Web accessibility compliance is a big concern today, both to reach the largest audience and to avoid litigation. Make sure you’ve considered WCAG compliance for your site, ideally from the start, not right before launch! Here’s a good accessibility checklist to use.

9.  Privacy / Legal

I am not a lawyer, but here are some things to think about and possibly get legal advice on:

You should make sure you are not violating someone else’s copyrights. The most problematic areas are usually photographs. I have a colleague who used a random thumbnail photo from the Internet. It turns out that it was owned by Getty Images. He got a cease-and-desist letter and eventually paid $2000 to make the problem go away. That is a nightmare scenario.

Make sure you have the rights to all of your photos, text, audio, and anything else on your site. Check to see if the content requires attribution according to the contract.  Other pitfalls include copyrights with time limits and copyrights limited to certain industries.

You should also protect your content with a copyright notice at the footer of each page. You do want to protect your content, right?

Technical

10. Emailing

You can use a service like mail-tester.com to test the quality of your email sending service.

11. Server and Front-End Errors

12. WordPress Specific Items

These are wp_config.php settings for WordPress sites.

define( 'WP_POST_REVISIONS', 10 );
define( 'WP_DEBUG', false );
define( 'DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true );
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );
define( 'AUTOMATIC_UPDATER_DISABLED', true );

13. Load Time

If your site is slow, you can use Pingdom’s free website speed test to see what is causing the holdup.  Another free service is GTmetrix.  Just enter your URL to get a “waterfall chart” showing exactly what is causing your site to load slowly.  There could be a big uncompressed photo in there that you didn’t know about (that has happened to me).

14. Code Validation (for custom code only)

To make sure your code is error-free, there are many free code validators out there.  Here are a few that I use:

Maintenance

15.  Monitoring / Security

If you are using a new server, or are just concerned about your site’s stability, you should use a service to monitor your site. I use Uptime Robot, which lets you monitor 50 sites every five minutes for free!

If you want more than just uptime monitoring, check out Anturis.  It will actually monitor your server status (CPU, memory, processes, etc.), which can be invaluable if you are administering the server yourself.

For the last item, here are the wp-config.php settings I make to most of my sites:

16. Analytics

17. Backups

When everything looks kosher, make a backup of the site so that you can restore it to its original pristine state if necessary.

Moving forward, you’ll want to make sure your site is backed up regularly. If you’re on cPanel on GoDaddy, make sure your site is in the Installatron and has backups set up. If you have GoDaddy’s paid backup service, make sure it’s backing up the right database. If you’re using a different backup scheme, make sure it’s working.

Conclusion

What other tips and tricks do you use to check your website? Please leave a comment below!

If you’re wondering how I made the checklist blocks, check out this article.

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samuelthom
5 years ago

The point where you mentioned ‘Go to a mobile or a desktop store’ was really funny, it can be done though if you have a live site, if not user can try http://www.lambdatest.com

dowson12345
10 years ago

Good article about the work with the site and if you only start your business online it can be a great post to read. I do rely a lot on monitoring tools which, in fact, check the innner work of the site which is not visible to me at all. Thanks to my monitoring tool Anturis I avoided serious site crahses which could lead me to big losses.