Website Launch Checklist: The Essentials
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - May 31, 2021
With websites getting more complex, layered, and function-rich than ever before, developers are under mounting pressure to write better code in shorter durations. Customers demand improved features, exceptional visuals, and technical excellence. If their demands are not met, it is easy enough for them to move on to a competitor. Hence, website developers have to conceptualize, code, and implement newer offerings on websites frequently to prevent the loss of traffic, revenue, and credibility.
Such formidable workloads make it difficult to keep track of all the checks and verifications that must be ticked off before releasing a website or web app. This article will outline a website launch checklist that developers, testers, and designers can refer to before pushing sites to public release.
Website Pre-Launch Checklist
1. Use a clean, appealing design
The website must look visually appealing, provide easy-to-follow instructions, and be effortlessly navigable. Through all the client feedback sessions and design iterations, keep the following pointers in mind:
- Is the font consistent and easy to read?
- Is it free of plagiarism, spelling, and grammar issues?
- Are heading, subheading, and text body clearly visible and accurately sized?
- Are italics and bold formats incorrect?
- Are all text links operational?
- Color Palette
- Is the color palette harmonious and pleasing to the eye? (This requires user experience testing).
- Have global swatches been used?
- Are spaces consistent across all content on the site?
- Do all elements have some room to appear independent and stand out?
- Are any images blurry, pixelated, or inadequately visible in any way?
- Are any images broken?
- Are image file sizes too heavy for loading at low internet speeds?
- Do non-decorative images have alt tags? All of this is especially important for the website’s logo.
- If drop shadows have been used, is the light source consistent for all of them?
- Are opacity, blur, and spread values compatible with the visual scheme across the board?
- Can a user easily move from one page to another?
- Are all relevant links visible and self-explanatory?
- Does the user hit any dead ends while browsing the website?
2. Implement and test for cross browser functionality
Expect a website to be accessed from multiple browsers and multiple versions of each browser. The website will have to render perfectly on each browser and browser version, considering their various technical variances and idiosyncrasies. The only way to ensure this is to perform comprehensive cross browser testing across real browsers and devices. Testers need to check how the website renders and operates in real user conditions, for which they need to test on multiple unique browser-device-OS combinations.
Given that there are at least 63,000 possible browser-platform-device combinations in popular usage, QA teams need access to a massive on-premise device lab (constantly updated with newer devices) to perform satisfactory cross browser compatibility testing.
Not every organization has the finances or the human resources to set up and maintain such a lab, and they don’t have to. They can use BrowserStack, a cloud-based testing platform offering access to a real device cloud of 2000+ real browsers and devices. Be it manual testing or automated Selenium testing, testers can utilize BrowserStack’s infrastructure to get 100% accurate results in real-world circumstances. Testers can also leverage Cypress testing on 30+ real browser versions.
Cross-browser testing is a non-negotiable aspect of the checklist. If a website does not render perfectly on all major browsers, it will alienate potential users, leading to loss of traffic and potential revenue.
3. Ensure that website speed is consistently high
In light of these numbers, speed is an essential element in the roadmap to a website’s success. In particular, testers must check the website’s loading speed on different browsers and devices. Run website speed tests on BrowserStack SpeedLab for free to check how a site loads across real, popular browser-device combinations.
When running speed tests, it is essential to keep the following metrics in mind:
- Time to First Byte (TTFB): TTFB is the time that passes between a user entering the site URL in their browser to the browser receiving the first byte of data the server responds with. According to Moz, “a clear correlation was identified between decreasing search rank and increasing time to the first byte”. Ideally, TTFB should be below 200 milliseconds.
- Time to First Draw (TTFD): TTFD is the time it takes for a user to see the first bit of content when they open a website. Ideally, it should be under a second.
- Time to Usability: This refers to the time taken before a website becomes fully visible and functional, i.e., users can scroll, click, view content and interact with all elements of the site. Ideally, this should not take longer than 2 to 3 seconds.
Recommended Read: 5 Tests You Must Run Before Launching A Website
4. Prioritize the use of cross-device visuals
Now, a website might be working perfectly across multiple browser-device combinations. However, with thousands of devices with different screen sizes and resolutions being used worldwide, there is an excellent chance that the site won’t render accurately on some screens.
To prevent this, web developers implement responsive design, and they must check the efficacy of said responsive design on different real devices. To do so, testers must once again resort to real devices.
They can use BrowserStack’s free responsive design checker to check on popular devices like iPhone X, Galaxy Note 10, iPhone 8 Plus, Galaxy S9 Plus, and more. For access to a broader range of real devices (Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and many more), testers can sign up for free and choose from thousands of real devices to check their website’s appearance
5. Implement reliable and security measures
With widespread digitization entering everyday life, users are more conscious of their data security than ever before. At the very least, every website should have the following measures enabled:
- SSL (Secured Socket Layer): If a site intends to gather sensitive user data such as financial information, personal details (such as address and DOB), they should have an SSL (Secured Socket Layer) certificate.
- Anti-malware Plugin: At this point, users should not have to deal with malware threats. Find suitable anti-malware plugins to combat attacks and regularly check in on their efficacy.
- HTTPS: Bear in mind that most major browsers flag all non-HTTPS websites as Not Secure, which causes most users to bounce as soon as they land on the page. Use HTTPS only. HTTP should always redirect to HTTPS, or user data will be at risk.
6. Focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Some interesting numbers from HubSpot’s 2020 Marketing Report:
- About 64% of marketers actively invest time in search engine optimization (SEO).
- SEO drives 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media.
Here are a few must-dos for deriving better SEO value for a site
- Web crawlers scan through a site’s content to understand how the content should be displayed to visitors and help them find a site with greater ease. To help them crawl and display content in the intended format, use the appropriate semantic tags: h1–h6 (heading tags), p (paragraph tags), ul/ol (unordered and ordered lists). Incorporate HTML5 semantic tags as well to improve SEO performance and improve user accessibility.
- Meta SEO tags, which comprise the meta title and meta description, also help the web crawlers understand the page content. The meta title should describe the page topic, include important keywords and be under 65 characters. The meta description should be within 160 characters, further describe page content, include keywords, and target human readers, not the search engine.
- Ensure that there are no broken links, as they degrade the page’s SEO score.
- Check with Google Webmaster Tools if the page is being fetched correctly by Google.
- The site should be on the first page of Search Results Pages (SERP), ideally in the top 5 results
- The web pages should contain correct OpenGraph tags for social sharing.
7. Set up Analytics for data collection
Integrate the site with Google Analytics to monitor its performance. Without gathering relevant data (what devices are used to access the site, countries from which most traffic emerges, site pages that get the most visitors, etc.), developers cannot optimize the site. In the absence of continuous optimization, the site will lose users and drop in SEO value. Sites can also integrate with Facebook PIXEL to gather information from their Facebook and leverage that intelligence to formulate targeted ads, make more engaging posts, etc.
Bear in mind that every social media platform and third-party advertisers have pixels that web developers can integrate with their website to track data on said platform.
This website launch checklist details the very basics of what developers, testers, and designers should examine before a site’s public release. Depending on the nature of the website, there might be other specifics that need to be verified before release. However, the items on this list are absolute essentials that cannot be missed, no matter the kind of website being deployed. Keep the list handy when performing final checks, and the chances of common errors occurring will be significantly reduced.