There’s no more stressful time for a development team than when it actually comes down to launching a new website. Although it seems like you can always count on Murphy’s Law to come into play when you look to push something into production and onto the web, we’ve learned over hundreds of site launches at Adage that if you follow the right plan you can anticipate challenges before they become major issues.
Here are five important steps to ensure success when launching a new site, whether you’re a development firm or agency, or just an internal team of one.
1. Test and Populate
Start with internal quality assurance testing. Before anyone from the client team sees the new site, make sure to have your internal team review it and log any issues they find. Be sure to check for broken links!
If you actually have a QA team, that’s great, use them, but chances are you aren’t lucky enough to have dedicated team at your disposal. See if you can create your own QA department by recruiting another project team to spend some time looking at the site. If you have to review the site yourself, try talking through the site functionality. (It seems silly, but actually talking through it out loud can be very helpful!)
Now it’s time to take the testing outside of your organization. Bring in the client and have them review the functionality of the site, being sure to log any issues they find. It may be necessary to create a list of site features to test to ensure the client invests the time necessary to find any bugs.
Once you’ve gotten through the two rounds of testing, it’s time to freeze the code and content. You want to make sure that new issues aren’t introduced now that the site has been given the preliminary clearance for launch. Make sure to give the internal and external teams access to the site during the freeze, as this is often when more errors become apparent.
2. Turn on SSL
SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, is a protocol for encrypting data between a website user and the server. The protocol is essential for protecting the sensitive data necessary for ecommerce functionality and membership portals. Make sure that you follow up with your developers and your IT team to see that this service is implemented correctly.
3. Complete a Browser Sanity Check™
Thought you were done with testing? Think again.
This is perhaps the most important part of the site launch process. Skipping this step will more than likely result in angry calls from clients down the road when they discover their brand new site doesn’t work on certain browsers or devices. Have your internal and external teams test the site on a number of the most common browsers and devices and log issues along with the browser and operating system version.
It’s not realistic to design a site that works perfectly on every single browser or device ever invented, so work with your client (hopefully long before you reach this step) to figure out a realistic set of intended browsers and devices for their site. Google Analytics data from their existing web presence can help you figure out what their visitors will likely be using to access the site.
4. Launch the site
Note that this is not the last step in the process! At this point, it’s time to bring the site live and present it to the world. Work with your IT team to switch over the DNS information so the site at be accessed at the proper URL.
Make sure to conduct the site launch at a time that’s not going to cause major issues for the client if downtime should occur. Once you’ve selected a site launch time, make sure that it’s communicated to all of the project stakeholders and to the relevant internal team members. Also consider having a conference bridge set up during the entire go live process and for a period afterwards, so the client has quick access to your team should things go awry.
Be sure to have a fallback or failover plan should anything go wrong during your launch.
5. Test the live site
Now that the site is up and running, it’s time to test again! Go back through the functionality list and test everything again on browsers that you selected to support. It’s best to do this as soon after the launch as you can to make sure any issues are taken care of ASAP.
Launching a website is a complicated process, but if you follow these steps and remember to never stop testing, then you should be ready for your go-live date.
Mathieu Agee leads development innovation and sets the standard for our technical frameworks. He personally completes deep technical reviews of new features and functions coming from our partners and determines how the Adage development team can leverage the technology for our customers. Mathieu also supervises training and mentoring efforts for our .NET developers.