The ultimate pre-launch checklist for your website: 6 essentials

The ultimate pre-launch checklist for your website: 6 essentials

Don’t hit publish on your new site before making sure everything’s in order, from design to functionality. Follow this pre-launch checklist, then go live.

The ultimate pre-launch checklist for your website: 6 essentials

Don’t hit publish on your new site before making sure everything’s in order, from design to functionality. Follow this pre-launch checklist, then go live.

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Written by
Mat Vogels
Mat Vogels
Mat Vogels
Mat Vogels

After pouring time and energy into developing a website, you’re likely keen to see it go live — but don’t rush to hit “publish” without taking the time to review everything.

You owe it to yourself to check (and double-check) your site to prevent complicated fixes down the road. 

Don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled a six-part website launch checklist to help developers like you ensure they have all the essentials of a stunning website ready for publishing. 

Double-checking design

It’s all too easy to miss (or break) something during design iterations and feedback sessions with clients. Here’s a design checklist to ensure everything’s in order before launching:

  • Spacing: Is spacing consistent across the site? Do all elements have enough breathing room? 
  • Colors: Is there a consistent, harmonious color palette? Do you have clearly defined brand colors? Did you use global swatches?
  • Shadows: If you used drop shadows, is the light source consistent across each one? Do they have the same blur, opacity, and spread values?
  • Typography: Is the font stack logical and consistent? If fonts are italic or bold, is it obvious why? Are heading sizes consistent? Is all text readable and web safe?
  • Imagery: Do any images look blurry or pixelated? Are any images broken or a drastically different file size? Do all non-decorative images have alt-text?
  • Logo: It’s an image, but it’s so important it warrants its own step. Is  the latest and most up-to-date version used throughout the site? Does it appear crisp and sharp (not blurry or pixelated)?

Cross-browser appearance

After those initial visual checks, it’s time to ensure the site’s appearance is consistent and functional on any screen.

Different browsers render web designs differently, making it essential to test your site across as many variables as possible to verify compatibility. The most common browsers are Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, but additional options exist, like Opera and Microsoft Edge. If you only focus on one or two browsers, you risk alienating potential viewers whose preferred browser won’t allow the site to function properly. 

Remember: your website should be consistent in appearance and functionality no matter where it’s being displayed. This means ensuring that your site layout, typography, navigation, and content should move seamlessly between different devices, browsers, and screen sizes. 

A few other elements are variable across browsers, making them equally important to check. These include:

  • Fonts 
  • Colors and gradients
  • Images
  • Logos

Cross-device appearance

An image of Webflow’s website on a tablet and smartphone with sleek cross-device appearances.

There have never been more web-capable devices, and with that diversity comes a staggering array of screen sizes. When done right, your site should perform well on any screen, but double-check to maintain effective cross-device navigation with a responsive web design.

Navigation is a crucial aspect of web design that determines how people interact with your website. Providing visitors with a pleasing, intuitive web design enhances ease-of-use and helps people to find what they’re searching for. Ultimately, users should go from Point A to Point B seamlessly — that’s the mark of great navigation.

Once you’re happy while navigating the site on the development platform, give it a final test on a computer, smartphone, and tablet and verify nothing is lost in translation.

Image optimization

Images and graphics enhance user experience, improve SEO, and affect a site’s loading times. 

Mobile devices now have ultra-high-definition displays with high refresh rates, so having high-quality graphics is crucial. Grainy images look unprofessional.

Upload graphics at twice the size they display on your site. If your site is equipped to optimize images — like sites created on Webflow — you can resize and compress images for lower-resolution devices while maintaining larger files for high-resolution devices. This ensures high-quality imagery plus support with slower devices or internet speeds.

Check out our responsive images and read our article on site performance to learn more about the impact of image optimization.

Testing website functionality

It’s essential to strike a balance between design and usability to ensure your website looks like you imagined and performs as intended. Otherwise, you could end up with an aesthetically pleasing website that doesn’t function smoothly or a well-functioning site that looks unprofessional. Neither option provides a positive user experience.

Functionality testing usually involves two aspects: integration and link testing. 

Integration testing

Website integration is when your site shares information with another application, system, or website. Integration testing analyzes the individual integrations of your website as a group to ensure they’re all functioning. How long this testing takes depends on how many integrations you have. 

Some common integrations to test include:

  • Web forms: Web forms collect volunteered user information, like a visitor’s name, number, and email address. 
  • Autoresponders: Autoresponders automatically reply to incoming messages and emails collected through a site.
  • RSS feeds: A Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed allows website authors to publish notifications about new content on a site, such as blog posts, articles, and videos.
  • Ecommerce tools: These integrations enable a website to connect multiple tools together such as product listings, cart additions, and payments to manage ecommerce functionality.
  • CRMs: Customer relationship management (CRM) tools monitor interactions between an online business and its clients with the aim of improving customer relationships for growth.
  • CMS: A content management system (CMS)  allows authors to create, edit, and maintain digital content on a website.

We recommend keeping a list of any integrations during the design stages so that you don’t forget to test any later.

Link testing

Checking links can be tedious due to the number of links on an average web page. An ecommerce site, for example, requires links on calls-to-action (CTAs), navigation, and to all product pages. It’s common to find a link or two that goes nowhere, but it’s essential to find these before customers do, as broken links negatively impact both SEO and user experience.

Some of the most important links to check are:

  • Top navigation links
  • Footer links
  • Links to social media profiles
  • Links placed on logos

Rather than performing each check manually, use a link crawler like the W3C Link Checker, the Chrome plugin Check My Links, or Screaming Frog. These crawlers work through your site and flag broken links for you to double-check and repair.

Editing content

Quality content engages visitors and encourages conversions. Visitors are also more likely to share content if they find it valuable.

Content testing typically involves combing through all content on the site to ensure it’s accurate, free of typos, and up-to-date. Be thorough — you don’t want a section of your website to have a lorem ipsum paragraph still lying around or your brand name spelled incorrectly. Spelling and grammar mistakes lower the value of content, so if you’re not a strong editor, outsource this to a professional.

It’s perfectly fine to change content after the site goes live. You or the client can continuously adjust text and images through a content management system like Webflow even after a site’s been published. Content testing ensures the first batch of content presents the website and brand in a professional way.

What to look for in a web hosting service

There are tons of web hosting options out there — but how do you know what features to look for? See how Webflow Hosting could be the perfect fit.

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What to look for in a web hosting service

There are tons of web hosting options out there — but how do you know what features to look for? See how Webflow Hosting could be the perfect fit.

Learn more about hosting
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Assessing SEO

SEO is the process of optimizing the quality and quantity of website traffic driven to a site by search engines. Appearing higher on result pages improves your website's visibility, which can increase visits and conversions.

Analyzing and optimizing your website after publishing is a never-ending process, but considering semantic site structure and content quality before launch reduces the amount of tweaking required later on.

Fortunately, you can make several changes to optimize your website for search engines.

Proper semantic structure

Web crawlers read through a site to understand its content on behalf of a search engine. They allow search engines to know when to display a site as a relevant search result. To help these programs crawl your site, you need to use languages they understand, like HTML, Javascript, or CSS.

Semantic coding language is the syntax that makes mark-up languages like HTML easier to understand by better defining specific elements of a web page. Using semantic tags helps web crawlers better understand the different aspects of your site and the functions they serve.

It’s essential to use the following basic semantic tags when designing a site in HTML:

  • <h1> to <h6> (heading tags)
  • <p> (paragraph tags)
  • <ul>/<ol> (unordered and ordered Lists)

You can also go above and beyond with HTML5 semantic tags:

  • <article> defines an article on the web page
  • <aside> defines content separate from the web page’s main material
  • <details> defines additional content that visitors can choose to view or hide
  • <figure> defines content such as charts, pictures, and illustrations
  • <figcaption> defines captions for <figure> content 
  • <footer> defines a webpage’s footer
  • <header> defines a webpage’s header
  • <main> defines a webpage’s primary content
  • <mark> defines highlighted text on the web page
  • <nav> defines navigation links across the web page
  • <section> defines a group of content on the web page
  • <summary> defines a heading for <details> content
  • <time> defines the date or time

These tags identify the most relevant content to web crawlers, making it easier for search engines to connect organic traffic with your site. It’s worth noting that while all of this can be done manually with code, tools like Webflow will take care of a lot of this for you. 

Meta SEO tags

Aside from on-page structure, you can help web crawlers understand a site by titling and describing its pages. 

Meta title

A page’s meta title is the linked text that appears on search engine result pages (SERPs). It usually displays on the browser tab when users click through to the page, unless you choose to code a separate title for blog content.

A stellar meta title:

  • Defines the page’s central topic
  • Is under 70 characters in length (including spaces)
  • Uses relevant keywords
  • Appeals to and engages a searcher

Meta description

The meta description is a short paragraph that describes what a site’s page has to offer in more detail than the title. It appears below the meta title on a SERP, unless the search engine selects an excerpt from the page it finds more relevant. Google rewrites 70% of meta descriptions to offer searchers a more accurate summary of the site.

An effective meta description:

  • Uses relevant keywords to describe the page and its value
  • Stays within 135-160 characters (including spaces)
  • Appeals to people, not web crawlers

Open Graph settings

Social media is an essential element of SEO. To use its benefits to the fullest, provide adequate Open Graph (OG) information so your site is attractive when shared on socials. 

OG technology extracts data from a website when its URL appears in comments or posts on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and converts it to a page preview. You may have noticed that when you paste a link to a news article into a post draft on Facebook, the platform transforms the link into a box displaying the article’s image, title, and a preview — that’s OG tech at work.

OG settings allow you to choose the information displayed when someone shares a page’s URL. The settings include three pieces of content: title, description, and image.

Choosing these pieces of content yourself offers more control over your brand. Create these snippets following the same practices as other SEO content: be professional, make it engaging, and entice people to click.

Preparing analytics

A screenshot of a company’s Google Analytics dashboard.

 Website analytics are crucial to understanding a website’s performance data, so connect your site to an analytics tool before launch. Setting up a Google Analytics account is free, and it’s incredibly easy to integrate Google Analytics with Webflow. With this account, you can track visitors and user engagement on your website the second it goes live.

Analytics and web performance go hand in hand with SEO. Google often rewards websites that offer a seamless user experience. 

Your website's performance is influenced by a number of factors, including its hosting speed, size, and responsiveness. Ranking well in search engine results is challenging if your site is sluggish, difficult to use, or has excessive code.

Users also expect websites to load immediately. Slow loading times can cause high bounce rates, which means visitors leave your website after viewing one page or without taking any action. Search engines will penalize you for having a site that searchers don’t want to spend time on. 

Fortunately, several tools can help you study analytics and measure performance to see where your site is doing well and where it isn't. Check out our article on the 7 best website performance test tools to learn more about using analytics and other performance metrics to your site’s advantage.

Testing the site

Once you’ve checked the site’s design, functionality, content, and SEO elements, take on the final step: testing your site. We recommend three testing phases: before, during, and after. Testing in waves makes it easier to pinpoint mistakes and when they occurred. Plus, it keeps testing more organized.

Before launch

Before hitting “publish,” browse through the website yourself to search for any bugs or other issues with performance you may have missed. Have colleagues and the client click through, too. 

Once you, your team, and the client are happy with the pre-launch tests, make the website live.

During launch

As soon as you publish the website, immediately look for any glitches or mistakes that might have crept in due to technical errors. Once again, involve other members of your team in this process to catch anything that you may have missed.

Check your notes and the site blueprint to ensure your live website runs the same way as your pre-launch tests did, and double-check navigation and functionality.

Once live, it’s also vital to keep your website’s security intact. The minimum is to install a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate — which enables a site to move from HTTP to the more secure HTTPS — before upgrading to higher defense protocols as your traffic grows. 

After launch

Remember, maintaining your website is just as important as creating it. 

Consistently verify if your site is working properly or needs maintenance. Run regular checks for bugs or security breaches, and ensure webpages load as quickly as they did on day one. Adapt to changing SEO strategies by tailoring new and existing content to provide more value to visitors to stay relevant. 

Don’t forget to celebrate

Creating a website is a long process with plenty of collaboration and stakeholders. Once a site goes live, you, your team, and your client can take a breath  and celebrate.

After launching, hold a website retrospective with your colleagues to discuss and reflect on the process of building the site. Have a similar meeting with your client. What did they like about the process, and what could have gone better? They’re just as excited to see the site launch as you are, so bask in that mutual joy.

Webflow can make your next pre-launch check seamless. Our visual web development platform streamlines cross-device testing by allowing you to preview your site on almost any device. Webflow also automatically scales, compresses, and optimizes graphics for all devices to increase page speeds and load times. Give it a try and if it’s the right fit, add Webflow to your toolkit.

Last Updated
November 7, 2022