Launching Your Next Digital Project Successfully: A Checklist
Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to be a part of numerous launches online, each with varying levels of success. To be honest, I’ve lived through some fairly rocky launches, only to learn from these missteps and improve the process that we continue to use regularly at Alphabet®.
Nobody wants to stumble out of the gate while everyone is watching. People and projects will always change, but if you have a solid launch process in place, you are setting up all parties involved for success. Follow this checklist to ensure that your next project’s launch is a success.
Website Launch Checklist
|Code and content freeze|
|Website testing completed (Desktop, Tablet, Mobile)|
|Ensure accessibility standards have been met|
|Roll out website on the live hosting environment|
|Google Tag Manager installed and Google Analytics firing|
|Set up filters in GA to exclude traffic from the IP(s) of your office|
|Ensure event and goal tracking are functioning|
|Implement 301 Redirects on live environment|
|Update Google Webmaster Tools (submit new sitemap.xml)|
|Vanity URLs configured|
|Monitor all broken links (404 Monitoring)|
|Verify Page Speed numbers|
|Ensure social share images are configured|
|Ensure your website is secure and includes an SSL certificate|
|Test that all web forms are working|
|Configure monitoring software|
|Ensure backup scripts are working|
|Notify key stakeholders of launch|
|2-3 days later, launch campaign|
Download the Website Launch Checklist as a PDF.
This checklist has evolved over time, and we will continue to do so as we grow as a digital agency. We also have few unofficial commandments to follow when it comes to launching a new website.
Never Launch a Project on a Thursday or Friday
After all the testing, revisions and client sign-offs are complete, at some point you will have to launch your project. Once launched, something will need to be changed or updated — it always happens. Launching on a Monday or Tuesday shows that you are being proactive and allowing everyone ample time to further fine-tune or to tweak as needed. It also lets everyone leave on Friday stress-free to enjoy their much needed weekend.
Never Launch a New Website and Campaign on the Same Day
I have a little story I’d like to share about how this rule came to be. Cast your mind back. Remember when you could game search engine rankings? (Sorry Google, but we all did it.) Or when MSN.com, Ask Jeeves or eBaum’s World had a strong online following? I can remember like it was yesterday, it was right around this time however that we launched a branded flash game for one of our clients. Yes, I’m sorry Internet, but Flash was a thing, and people loved playing flash games back then.
So we had built a new Flash website, and we all hurried in early Monday morning to get it launched. We had anticipated a massive influx of traffic onto our servers, but nothing like what was about to happen. Once the website was live we shared it with our friends, and their friends shared it with their friends, and the cycle continued.
We were now on the verge of “going viral” before that became a popular buzzword.
At this time, however, it was not as easy to fire up additional servers with a few clicks of the mouse to deal with heavy traffic. Then, at 10:00 AM our MSN.com homepage takeover dropped, followed by an eblast to our client’s list that was 100,000 strong. Our servers were already overloaded and we had just invited tens of thousands of people to visit the site. Our excitement from the launch was quickly turning into dread — how much could our site take before things started to go sideways?
And of course, the inevitable happened. The first page errored out for a user and then another. A few minutes later we had tapped out all of our server’s resources. We were lucky we avoided any prolonged outages but we did go offline for multiple hours on a launch day. Needless to say, it wasn’t an ideal website launch.
Luckily with Amazon Web Services around these days, we don’t have to worry about massive swings in traffic as much. However, it’s always been a rule of mine to launch with plenty of time to gradually ramp things up because you never know what could happen. You really are only one retweet away from becoming an overnight success.
Launching your website should be easy, and hopefully, this helps.