13 May 2011

Things to Check Before Launching Your Site

With the hundreds of details that go into building or redesigning a website, overlooking minor points is easy, especially as deadlines loom—or pass. But missing details detract from the quality of a website. The worst solution is to not take a pre-launch checklist as seriously as the planning stage itself.

So, before you head out to conquer the world, here are a few things you should check just to make sure your business is really launch-ready. Do this and you will ensure that you have a smooth and successful launch.

Section 1: Design

1. Color and Style

Check over your entire site and make sure the colors and style of your site are consistent. You do not want to somehow have different colored links and different pages and end up confusing your viewers.

2. Don’t Overuse Text Decorations

Make sure you are only using text decorations like bold, italic, and underline when absolutely necessary. These things should be used for emphasis and not everything is worthy of being emphasized.

3. Make Sure Your Text is Readable

At a quick glance your website may look awesome with the dark gray text on a black background the text is not too small or too big and there is adequate spacing. Remember, you want people to be able to read your content. Check every part of your site for this from the navigation to the footer. Make sure there is good contrast between text and the background.

4. Avoid Overly Distracting Ads

Contrary to what many people think, ads are not evil. They have their place and serve a purpose, which is revenue generation. On the other hand do not go overboard and have so many ads the actual content of your site is hard to find or read. Work the ads into the design of your site. It will look much more professional and your readers will appreciate it.

Section 2: Navigation

5. Main Navigation is Easy to Find and Use

There are a lot of websites that like to go way over the top on their main navigation, to the point it is confusing and hard to use for the general user. If you actually want visitors to navigate around and check out your site don’t make it a guessing game. Make sure your navigation is easy to locate and use.

6. Navigation Labels Should be Clear

Hand-in-hand with ease of use is the fact you want to make sure your navigation labels make sense. If someone clicks on the ‘About Us’ page they should be taken to a page detailing the origins of  the company, not someone boxy a kangaroo. Just use common sense and don’t try to get too cute with your navigation labels.

7. Link the Company Logo to the Homepage

This is a pretty basic, and common thing, link the company logo to the homepage. It amazes me the number of sites that do not do this and it is frustrating when you click the logo and nothing happens. Just link the logo to the homepage and all will be right with the world, trust me.

8. Make Sure Links Work and are Easy to Identify

This is a great time to use underline or even bold. Differentiate the links from your regular content enough that there is no question which are links and which are not. Also make sure they use the same color and style throughout so it is not a guessing game for the visitor as they navigate your site. Finally, and this is an important one, make sure the links work. I speak from experience when I say nothing is more embarrassing then having a broken link on your site, unless it is something from the next section.

Section 3: Content

9. Triple Check Your Spelling and Grammar

There are a ton of websites out there trying to put forward a professional appearance who end up looking bad because of a simple spelling or grammar mistake. A software spell check should be only the first step to take towards making sure you have everything spelled right. In addition to the automatic spell check you also want to manually go over every word and sentence on your site and make sure everything is spelled and grammatically correct. Finally make sure you are consistent with the way things are worded through your site. If you use “Shipping & Receiving” on one page, use it on every page.

10. Keep a Consistent Tone of Voice

When addressing your company, customer, or anything else make sure you stay consistent with the way you address them. Don’t refer to the visitor as “you” in one sentence and then “our customers” in the next. Keeping a consistent tone of voice will make your content much easier to follow and read.

11. Fill in Your Alt and Title Tags

Make sure you have something for the alt and title attributes for all elements including links and images. This will not only make your site more accessible for the handicap but it also helps with your site’s search engine optimization.

12. Remove All Test Copy

If you have performed the previous steps then you most likely removed any test copy that may have been used during the design process. Just in case, give your site another once over so that it does not go live with lorem ipsum or some other filler text of your choice.

Section 4: Other

13. Don’t Forget the Legal Mumbo Jumbo

Your website will not be complete without a copyright, privacy policy, and terms and conditions. This is probably something you will want to talk to your lawyer or legal department about. The bottom line is, if you want to be taken seriously you must at least have a copyright and privacy policy.

14. Have a Plan for Backups

As you are working on the site you should also be thinking about the backup plan. This is very important and something you will want to institute from day one. You do not want to go to your client and tell them that everything was lost due to a malicious attack or some other issue.

15. Don’t Forget the 404s

Finally, make sure you have setup a 404 page. While there is a default one in Apache you should take this opportunity to setup a nicely designed page with a sitemap and a way to report the error so the visitor can get back on track and continue to browse your site.

Each web designer/developer should put together their own pre-launch checklist. The things I have listed here should give you a great start on creating your own. Once you put one together make sure you use it, your clients and their customers will appreciate it.

For professional and affordable website design and development, contact Farend, for free and no obligation quotation.

The above article was adapted from an article originally published at: http://www.testking.com/techking/web-design/ready-to-launch-things-to-check-before-launching-your-site/