Launching a website, whether it’s a rebrand or a new site from scratch, is a big task. And it might seem overwhelming or daunting, but breaking it down into manageable steps will make the process smoother for both yourself and your designer/developer, resulting in a fruitful, fun collaboration and a beautiful end result.
Here are six easy ways to ensure the process runs smoothly.
1. Set a realistic deadline
Don’t rush it. We can’t stress this enough. It’s in our nature to think we can get more done in less time, but we’ve seen this over and over again: rush jobs end up taking longer than a project that had a reasonable deadline from the start.
Set aside at least a couple of months for your website to be designed and built. Let’s say you need to launch your site in June, you’ll need to start thinking about the site at the latest in March, and connect with your designer by April to get the ball rolling.
More time should be set aside if you’re starting with a brand identity, as that needs to be done before a website can be built.
Talk with your designer to understand how much time you should expect between starting the design process and launching the website, and what steps there are in between.
Keep in mind that whatever time frame you’re given will also be dependent on completing tasks you’re assigned such as providing images, content, and other collateral.
2. Create a launch timeline
A timeline helps to set goals and manage expectations. Get everyone involved – copywriters, content creators, developers and everyone that needs to contribute to the website in any way. This will ensure all parties know what is expected of them, and more importantly, when it is expected of them. This eliminates miscommunication and delays caused by elements that are outstanding along the line.
Remember to factor in time for delays, as these naturally will pop up during the process. Whatever your timeline is, we suggest adding a week to that to allow for delays, testing, troubleshooting, a soft launch (to test that everything works) and any other unplanned events. Put the agreed-upon timeline down on paper, so that all parties are aware of what was agreed upon.
Personally, we’d suggest always having all of your content ready before starting with the website design or build, but we know this isn’t always possible, so be upfront and transparent with your designer about when you will have all of your content finalised. This way they can schedule in parts of the project, leaving time in between for you to gather your resources, and at the same time avoiding frustration on both ends when one party has to wait for the other.
We cannot stress this enough: building a website requires as much input from you as it does from your designer. Every designer works in their own way, but the more organised you are, the easier (and quicker) your project will be for everyone.
3. Get organised
This point ties in with point number two above. It might be tempting to just dump a whole bunch of copy and an image bank on Google Drive and telling your designer to put it together (and this has worked in rare instances), but organising your content in a logical way makes it easier for your designer to see what ranks higher and lower in terms of importance. It’s also helpful to organise and label your favourite images – this can save time down the line if the correct images are used from the start.
The picture you have in your head is easier achieved if you communicate clearly with your designer about your wants, needs and goals for the website.
Here are some organising tips to think about when chatting to your designer:
- Think about how you want to organise your website, what pages do you want and how do they rank in terms of importance? Do you want people to look at your services first, browse through your work or learn about the company? Start with the basic pages – Home (usually a snapshot overview of the rest of your site), About, Services, Portfolio/Shop and Contact – and add/remove pages from there.
- What are your favourite brand images? Choose a handful of these and group them together in a folder. This will help the designer nail the look & feel from the start.
- Start mapping out your content logically. Draw a spider diagram on a piece of paper on how you see the main navigation and secondary navigation below that. This will help you determine what content needs to live on which pages.
- Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What questions will they have when visiting your site for the first time? What do you want them to see first?
- Make a spreadsheet. This is especially helpful if you are planning on selling products or services. Create a sheet with tabs for Name, Category, Price, Product Code, Description, Images (and any other additional info) and make sure you fill out each tab for each product. This way your designer knows the exact information that needs to be added to each product, and makes the uploading process a hundred times faster.
4. Set up website analytics
These are the kinds of things that people often wait to take care of after their launch. But make sure these things are set up correctly before your launch.
Google Search Console and Google Analytics are two good places to start. These tools will give you valuable insights into your website and visitors.
Wouldn’t you want to know if there are any indexing issues before you launch your website?
And on launch day, wouldn’t it be nice to know where most of your visitors are coming from—social media, email, a friend’s website?
If you’ve set measurable goals for your launch, these tools will help you track your success.
5. If it hasn’t been tested, it doesn’t work
If you work under this assumption, you’ll vastly increase the chances of a stress-free launch.
Adequate time for testing the new website should be built-in to the launch schedule. This is more than just clicking the links in the top-level navigation to see if they work.
This also includes:
- Checking for broken links (there are tools that do this) and making sure links behave appropriately.
- Being sure pages and posts have been optimized for search engines.
- Having others go through your website to give you feedback.
- Testing various integrations such as lead catchers, payment gateways, and contact forms.
- Testing your site for speed and responsiveness.
And making sure all these things are done on both the desktop AND mobile versions of the website.
We recommend a soft launch of your website if possible to make sure that everything is working as expected before sending traffic there.
There’s nothing worse for a launch than coordinating it, having others promote it to their audiences, and then finding out it doesn’t work. Your designer should have a series of checks they go through, but things do slip through the cracks so we recommend doing your own testing just to be sure it’s all behaving properly.
6. Remember that your website is your own
It might be tempting to ask your partner, brother, mother-in-law, grandfather, colleagues and all of your Whatsapp groups their opinions on your website. BUT, as much as this helps to get feedback from potential customers, any design is a very subjective topic, and you need to keep in mind that different people have different tastes – and that not all input is equally valuable.
For this reason, we suggest asking a few people (who fall within your target audience) about their expectations for a website likes yours before you start putting the content together. This way you can keep their feedback in mind, and design accordingly.
And yes, you should show the finished site to some people whose opinions you value, to get their feedback on how the site functions, whether it’s user-friendly, and whether there are any errors – but take their feedback and process it, look at it for yourself and make a decision whether it’s contributing to the overall usability of the site or whether they are merely giving their personal opinions. There is nothing more frustrating to a designer than finishing a site and then receiving a four-minute voice note forwarded from someone’s auntie on how they think the colours need to be changed or a font needs to be added for a little (and it pains us to even use this word) “pop”. Each element on your website would have been carefully considered by your designer, taking into account your brand identity, the end user, your target audience and your overall look and feel for the website.
In a nutshell; ask for feedback and take advice from people who will interact with your site, but process these and decide for yourself what is valuable and what is just opinion. If you are not sure, ask your designer (that’s why we’re here), and nine times out of ten we will be able to give you sound advice on the issue at hand. We won’t bite, we promise 😉
And there we go, our six top tips to know before you launch your website. We hope this makes your process easier, and helps to make your website build fun for everyone involved!