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10 Things To Do When Launching A Site

It always seems to be a hectic and rushed time when launching a new site. So having a checklist of things to tick off before launching can help save your sanity and avoid you launching a site that’s missing something important.

Please note that this guide only lists things that you should do when launching a site and not during the build process. I expect you to have already executed a good build process with testing of code, following standards, observing accessibility guidelines, checking in different browsers and correct navigation heirachy.

1. Check HTML/CSS Validity

HTML/CSS ValidityCheck your site one last time to make sure it is valid to the WC3 guidelines. Check both your HTML markup and CSS. Both can easily be checked from the Web Developer Toolbar extension in Firefox or Chrome.

2. Check Page Titles

Ensure that all pages on your site have unique page titles that accurately describe the page content. Page titles are used for search engine results, bookmarking titles, window titles, tab titles and printing, so check to see how your titles look across these different situations.

Google will only show a maximum of 66 characters and many browsers wll cut you off after about 75, so ensure you put the most important information at the start and have it make sense to the user.

3. Check Form Submissions

Go through your site and ensure that any forms you have fully work and submit the data to the correct location/person. During testing forms usually send email to the developers rather than the site owner, so ensure that the correct person is receiving those contact us forms or your customers may get angry!

For e-commerce sites, double and tripple check that any order or payment processing forms are working and that they are set to live payment gateways.

4. Add a Favicon

A favicon is the little graphic shown in the address bar and on bookmarks. Having one just gives a little finishing touch to your site. You can use various sites to quickly make one from any image you have and then use the following code within your <head> section of your HTML to add it:

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/path/to/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon"/>

Example Favicons

Many browsers will automatically check for a favicon at ‘www.yourdomain.com/favicon.ico‘ so you may want to also add the favicon in your root directory or setup some kind of mod_rewrite to redirect the request.

5. Add an iOS Icon

When adding a site to the iPhone/iPod/iPad home screen an image is used to create the icon. This image needs to be 129x129px to allow for the different resolutions and sizes used across all the Apple products and is again added like a favicon to your <head> section.

<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/path/to/icon.png" />

iOS home screen icons

6. Add an XML Sitemap

To ensure your site gets indexed in the search engines quickly and completely you should create an XML sitemap that contains every publicly available page on your site. There are many tools out there to do this and many blogging and CMS platforms will automatically generate one for you. Google has a complete guide for you to to digest.

7. Add a robots.txt

Add a robots.txt file to ensure that search engines can crawl your site fully and also link to your XML sitemap. If you are unsure what a robots.txt file is you can use this very basic example below (just save it as robots.txt in the root directory of your site – e..g www.yoursite.com/robots.txt).

# Allow all
User-agent:  *
Disallow:

Sitemap: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml

This robots.txt will allow all your pages to be indexed by the search engines and is a good general starting point for all sites.

8. Add Analytics

Setup your analytics code before you launch to the general public so that you can ensure it’s working before opening the flood gates and not having any stats for your first day. I recommend Google Analytics as it’s simple to install, free and has a good general breakdown of stats that anybody can understand.

Google Analytics Example

9. Add Google/bing Webmaster Tools

Add your site to the various free webmaster tools that the major search engines offer. Google and Bing are the main ones, and Yahoo can offer some insight still. These will allow you to better track your sites status with the search engines. They allow you to see how many pages are indexed in your site as well as how many search queries you appeared in and how many people clicked through.

Google Webmaster tools Example

10. Spread The Word

Finally, spread the word. Use your social networks to spread the launch of your site. Tweet it. Send out a facebook update. Email any customers/friends/mailing lists you have.

Then sit back and relax, enjoy the moment, as you will soon be having to launch new features, updates or completly new sites all over again.


About The Author

Jacob Wyke is a web developer from the UK who makes complex things simple on the internet. He develops a batch image resizer for Mac OS X called ImageXY which you should try if you ever need to resize anything for the web.

You should also follow him on twitter.