Considering over a billion websites have been launched since the inception of the World Wide Web, you’d think the launch of a poor website would be a rare thing by now. Think again.
Every year, thousands of websites are launched that don’t even get the basics right, limiting the businesses behind them and creating massive headaches for everyone from webmasters to content creators down the road.
To avoid these issues and give your website a fighting chance in its all-important first year, here are some ways to avoid simple launch mistakes.
Don’t underestimate SEO
SEO is one of the most interesting parts of website development.
To the uninitiated, this invisible website booster can feel confusing and far too technical for the layman. To true believers, there’s nothing more important to succeed online than mastering SEO.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. SEO isn’t for everyone and every business, but it can provide a significant leg-up to smaller websites trying to compete in heavily crowded markets.
A new website needs to put significant time and effort into getting on-page SEO just right. Optimizing content with targeted keywords is a must, while even something as simple as internal linking to the right page can have a dramatic effect on how your website ranks on search engine results pages,
To avoid tripping up dramatically when it comes to SEO, pick a website platform with built-in SEO functionality or the option to download industry-leading SEO plugins, such as GoDaddy (check out this GoDaddy review for ecommerce store owners for more information) and Yoast with WordPress. This makes SEO a simple box-checking exercise and highlights areas where your website may be lacking. Coupling these tools with research from SEO blogs, vlogs, and thought leaders can turn even first-time website owners into search engine wizards.
Don’t go Cheap on Hosting
When you’re planning out your dream website in your head, hosting isn’t exactly something that’s top of mind.
You’re jotting down content ideas, workshopping the visuals, and planning the user experience. You’re not thinking about how skimping on hosting costs may bring your website to a crashing halt.
But you should be.
Hosting is what keeps your website ticking along in the background. There are lots of good options out there that suit websites of different shapes and sizes. However, there are some common traps that are easy to fall into, but just as easy to avoid.
First, avoid free hosting. It can feel like a good deal, but more often than not free hosting means submitting your website and visitors to annoying pop-up ads that won’t just ruin the customer experience, but penalize you on Google (ruining all that good SEO work you did). These packages rarely include any kind of technical support either, which can leave your website down for days on end as you try to figure out the particularities of what’s broken.
Speed is one of the most important elements of website design, and the wrong host can have a huge impact on how quickly your pages load. If they’re not loading fast enough, even the most committed users will jump ship to a competing site. There are a ton of ways to speed up your website such as optimizing images, but if your hosting is bad even this work won’t have much of an impact.
Understand that SSL Certificates Matter
An SSL certificate is one of those things many people won’t notice until they look into starting their website, but absolutely everyone should be aware of it.
New website owners will need an SSL certificate in advance to launch day, particularly if they’re running an ecommerce store.
If you put off doing this it can lead to broken URLs when visitors try to visit your website and distressing security warnings meeting them on their screens when they arrive. This is yet another element that impacts Google rankings, harming your ability to get noticed.
Savvy shoppers will also be hesitant to visit a site with security warnings and no SSL certificate. If they can’t trust their information will be safe with this company, they’re hardly going to hand it over to up rather than a competitor.
Make Mobile Compatibility a Priority
Mobile compatibility should be the number one concern of any web developer and online business owner. With a larger percentage of the online audience using mobile and tablet devices to browse, shop, and everything in-between, it’s vital that your website is prepared for launch.
If your website isn’t mobile compatible, it’s not fit for purpose. Anyone visiting your website on one of these devices won’t be able to use your website, the text will be unreadable, and operating it will feel clunky and unresponsive.
Many business owners get tunnel vision working on their website from a desktop point of view, but how your business looks on mobile and testing that feature needs to take priority during the design process.
There are numerous free and paid tools out there to help you test how responsive your website design is at launch. This shouldn’t be something you give up on after launch though. Monitor activity and useability within the first few weeks just like you would on a desktop so you can make changes simultaneously.
Test Key Services in Advance
Testing, testing, testing, it’s all that should be going through your brain in the weeks leading up to a website launch. You can never be too thorough when testing your website’s functionality, it will help you pick up on issues that may not have sprung up until weeks down the line.
Testing doesn’t just mean seeing if links are working and payment information can be input, you need to see if the website is usable and those journeys are obvious. Put yourself in the mind of a first-time visitor. Would they enjoy this or even know how to find their way around if they were just dropped on the homepage? When you launch a new website everyone is a first time visitor, and they’ll need to be guided through the process of a website that should be simplified and streamlined for them.
While I’m sure you’re feeling very excited about your upcoming website launch, it’s important to adopt the attitude of relative negativity in the weeks leading up to it. Assume there is a problem around every corner, and do your best to hunt them down and apply a fix before it’s too late.
Re-Think Competitor Research
Competitor research is just as essential a part of your pre-launch checklist as it is your initial design process.
Good research is not just a case of taking influence from particular design and branding decisions, but understanding the smaller elements that have been key to making these websites a success.
There’s no shame in taking some inspiration (read: copying) from competitors. Head to their websites and navigate through a typical customer journey, taking note of how simple or difficult they’re making the process and what sticks in your memory as effective, like small visual cues and tricks you would never have otherwise thought of.
With this kind of information you shouldn’t just aim to replicate what they do, but use what you’ve learned to create an equally helpful and enjoyable service. This can be enhanced by your own unique touches further down the line.
Launching a Good Website is as Complex as It is Stressful
You also need to consider cosmetic issues such as the impact of your visuals or whether or not your content is properly optimized for the web. Technical decisions are just half the battle. There’s no need to panic though – it is a manageable process that should be approached calmly and analytically with these simple steps, among other key considerations.