Countdown to Launch: Make a Plan for Your Website's Debut

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Launching a new website is exciting – and a little scary at times. A strategy for the launch of your new website helps avoid mistakes, highlights commonly overlooked items, and makes for the most successful debut to the public. A new website takes months of thinking, designing, building, writing copy, and designating people to help, which is a lot of work. If you’ve done it right, the time has finally come to showcase your work. Don’t let all that time go to waste by hitting the “go” button before you’re ready – put ample thought and strategy behind getting people to care, notice, and engage with your site when it goes live.

Consider these best practices.

1. Launch Without Errors

Test all browsers and devices for glitches and keep a list of them all to stay organized. Pass the website around to colleagues and staff, and ask them to track any errors they find (avoid asking friends and family unless they are familiar with the goals and the industry). Of course, “red team” the website’s copy several times by sending it to someone in your office who has not seen it before in order to catch any spelling or grammar mistakes. Give all parties access to a shared document and track edits there, so they can see what has been discovered and what has been fixed. Finally, be sure to have a plan for all the technical aspects including pointing domain names, hosting setup or changes, submitting to Google’s search engine, link changes on other out-bounding sites, and so on. Keep this list updated even after launch to monitor anything else that comes up.

2. Strategize a Phased Launch

After countless web launches in the last eight years, we have learned that strategizing the launch approach with the client is the best way to avoid mistakes. We once made the mistake of tweeting about a site launch without the client’s permission, which taught us the hard way that discussing a rollout plan is an important conversation to have. Does the client want to do a soft launch, where only employees and close partners are told of the new site initially? Soft launches allow you to monitor any glitches with a smaller audience before going big. When it’s time for the hard launch, review your email database. Are there groups of people who you could email market to and highlight some of the user friendly improvements on your new site? The “check out our new website” email or tweet is ancient. Give them something more specific as to why they use the site. For instance, send an email blast to your apartment residents and say, “Now pay your rent online with ease,” or something that helps them understand what are the changes to your new website design. A strategy helps you really make the impact you’re seeking with this new tool, thereby securing your ROI.

3. Train Staff

Training your staff will help keep the site updated once it is launched. Show them how to use the CMS (Content Management System), help them with templates to develop future blog content, and most importantly, have your content marketing plan ready to go. Identify thought leaders in your office to help circulate and create content for blogs, creating key ambassadors that can champion your new site.

4. Think Web Presence

Often times when people launch a new website, they neglect to think about the entire web presence. A website is surely the most important online communication tool for your brand, but it’s also just one aspect of your online communications efforts. Think of the Internet as a whole platform for creating your brand moments. There are hundreds of places to engage users in the narrative of your story. Your social media content and profiles should be reevaluated to see if there is an opportunity to encourage deeper connection to the site. Was there some strong copy or taglines on your new website? How could these inspire a series of regular posts on Instagram? Make sure to update social media profiles with “about” descriptions and header and profile images that match the new look and tone of your site. The launch is just the kickoff of your brand’s online life. Help it to evolve so that the user is engaged for a longer period of time and continues to discover how amazing you are.

With these four steps, you’re ready to enter the final stage of launching your website. Honor your hard work by carefully checking all technical aspects, deciding how and when you want to launch your site, briefing your staff on site capabilities, and updating your overall web presence. Launching a new website is by no means easy, but with your launch strategy in hand, your public debut is sure to run smoothly.