What to expect when you’re expecting a new website
“Congratulations. You have a bouncing new baby website,” said your web developer. You joyfully look at your sparkling new website, and then realise you have no idea what to do or how to look after it.
If only there was some sort of guide to tell you what to do next. Sort of like What To Expect When You Are Expecting, but only for websites.
Swish! Your Fairy Godmother appears in a cloud of sparkly bits and shoves this post in your hands. It may not be pretty, but Fairy Godmothers are horrendously busy what with granting wishes for world domination and all of that, so this was the best she could manage.
Day 1: Your new website
As tempting as it is for you to spend the day emailing or calling everyone from your Grade 1 English teacher through to the local paper, avoid telling anyone that your new website is live on day one.
Why? When a site moves from development to production, things often don’t behave the way they should. Most websites go live with at least one quirky bit – it’s totally normal!
"New website? Don’t tell people on day 1 of the launch! Do this instead."
Day one is the day for you to go over your site with a fine-toothed comb, counting fingers and toes and making sure that everything looks and acts the way it should.
Things to check on day one:
- Proofread every page … carefully! Even though your web copywriter may have written spectacular copy, sometimes the copy and paste bit can go awry with the web design. You may end up with duplicate paragraphs, sentences cut in strange places or typos. Look at everything with fresh eyes.
- Check your contact details. Too many websites have incorrect phone numbers, street addresses and email addresses. These are the most common typos, so triple check every detail (and try and click to call yourself from the mobile version of your website).
- Test your contact form. Test out every contact form on your website to make sure that a) it can be filled in, b) there is some sort of message when people fill it in and hit submit, and it doesn’t just go blank and, c) your business actually gets the contact form enquiry.
- Test your social media links. Another common mistake – social media links that go nowhere.
- Test every link on every page. Go crazy clicking every link to make sure it takes you to where it is supposed to and doesn’t throw a ‘404 not found’ error.
- Check your green padlock (if https). If you are running an SSL certificate, your entire site should have a green padlock. If some pages do and some don’t, then have a yarn to your web developer.
- Test your autoresponder. If you offer a free download or another sign-up incentive, test it out to ensure the process works.
- Do a test purchase. If you are selling anything from your site, buy something to make sure the transaction works.
- Test out your search box. Not all search boxes are created equal. Some will happily show the hidden download pages that “should” only be reached when someone has bought something.
- Check your error page. Type your URL plus some gibberish to see if your error page is friendly, useful and directs people to something useful. (g., www.yourwebsite.com.au/rubbish)
- Test the www and non-www versions of your URL. Try typing in your website with www.yourwebsite.com.au and yourwebsite.com.au. One should redirect to the other. You shouldn’t have two versions of the one website.
- Tell your team. Yes, you need to tell your employees and the team that worked on your website that your site is live. They can also look over the site for you.
Day 2: Confirm who does what
This is the day when you confirm with your web developer exactly what after-launch support they offer. You probably had this discussion early in the project and promptly forgot in all the excitement. This is the perfect time to refresh your memory and get clear on who does what from here.
Questions to ask:
- Who is backing up my website? Where are the backups stored? How do I get a copy if there is a problem?
- Who will update the plugins, themes and core of my website? If it’s me, how do I do that?
- Who do I call if my website goes down or the emails are not working?
- Who do I call if my website is hacked?
- Have you set up Google Analytics and Search Console? How do I see those figures?
- What security has been added to my website? Am I running a security plugin?
- Are there any paid themes or plugins that I need to pay to renew? When is the renewal due? How will I be told?
- How do I add new content or amend what is on my website?
You should also get copies of the details and logins for your hosting, website, and domain name registration (if you didn’t do set it up). Keep those in one safe place!
Other tasks you can do today:
- Set up a Google alert for your business and website;
- Set up Uptime Robot so you can keep an eye on when your site is up or down;
- Create an emergency admin login (in case you lock yourself out).
Days 3-7: Tell the world
With your site working the way it should, and with clear roles and responsibilities, it’s now time to tell the world.
Things to update:
- All your social media profiles
- Your email signature
- Letterhead and business cards
- Professional memberships
Some promotion ideas:
- Run a few Facebook posts or quick competitions to find things on your new website.
- Send out a newsletter.
- Update your voicemail telling people they can check out your website for more information.
Book in time each week to do some basic maintenance on your site.
- Update your themes and plugins (if you are doing it).
- Check your Google Analytics results.
- Check your security log.
- Check your backups are working.
Once a month, re-test your contact forms across your site. Also, check the 404 error log and index log in Google Search Console to make sure Google is finding all the pages it is supposed to.
Each year, go through and check every word and image on every page to make sure it still reflects your business. Many of my clients book in an annual copy refresh across their sites to keep things humming along.
Woohoo! You now have a simple cheat sheet of what to do when your new site goes live. Just like every child, you can’t ignore your new baby website and hope it will raise itself. Your new website needs nurturing and regular attention to grow your business the way it was meant to. The good news is, that this doesn’t have to be time consuming. Just a little bit each week goes a long way!
Over to you. Are their things you wish you had known about maintaining your new website before you started?