I've been project managing the construction and launch of new websites for twenty years. I've also found that, no matter how much planning we do up front, something falls through the cracks. Something always causes a last minute fire-drill. As a result, I've decided to create these three Website checklists for use before, during and after a the development of your next website. Where appropriate, I'll mention some of my favorite tools to help with Website development, in case you want to check them out. (Full disclosure: this post contains affiliate links for products or services mentioned in this article.)
This is for a basic, mostly content oriented website. Custom programming, eCommerce or highly interactive sites are likely to require many additional steps.
The Pre-build Checklist - This list includes the stuff you need to know before you get started on your new website. Note that we mostly reference website's built in Wordpress. Most of these steps don't depend on a specific platform and apply to Drupal and other platforms.
- Identify and review all the roles on the project (The Boss, Client POV Spokesperson, Sales Representative, Project Manager, Web Designer, Web Developer/Programmer, IT/Technical including Webmaster, Database Admin, SEO Specialist, Analytics Specialist). The Boss is the person who gets called if someone is dropping the ball in his organization.
- On the IT front, its important for the Designer and Developer to have access to the hosting area. In addition, make sure you identify the person who controls the Domain registration and the email system. This is really important to have in place before launching the website. You don't want to lose access to your business email because you didn't plan for this step.
- Establish regular check-in times and method. Whether you use GotoMeeting, a business conference service like freeconferencecall.com or just a 3-way phone call, meeting weekly is a good practice.
- Agree on a sitemap. A sitemap is an outline of the pages in your website. You can do something simple in PowerPoint or you can use a tool like slickplan.com to provide a framework behind every step in the website building process. Deciding on what's in, what's out before you start building will save you a ton of time!
- Agree on who will provide content, including text, images and any videos
- Agree on expected timeframes for the stages of the project
- Review example Websites that the Client POV Spokesperson and Sales Rep both like. This should inform your site's aesthetics.
- Provide the designer with high quality graphics for logos and specifications for color schemes. No logo? try 99designs for an inexpensive way to create one.
The Build Checklist - This list includes those steps you need to make sure you have a clean and successful Website build.
- Determine where the Website will be constructed and who will have access to the development site. Some Internet Service Providers, like WPEngine and SiteGround, provide built-in staging areas for Wordpress sites.
- Decide on your Calls to Action and where they'll be placed.
- Create wireframes of your home page and key supporting pages, like About Us, Contact Us, Blog Posts, etc. Balsamiq is a great tool for creating
- Have the Designer and Developer create some mockup pages using a Wordpress theme that they recommend. Themes are pre-configured designs that can be used to quickly create a high quality website. One of our favorite wordpress theme sites is Theme Garden.
- Have the Developer review the plug-ins that will need to be purchased. If you're building a Wordpress site (my favorite website platform), you have access to thousands of options. Yoast is a good source of quality plugins for SEO and Analytics. WooCommerce can help with sites that are using eCommerce to sell products. Security is important. I like BulletProofSecurity. And BackupBuddy is a convenient tool to ensure your site is always backed up
- Once the themes, colors, logos, sitemap and page content has been identified, the Designer and Developer can begin building the website
- Content is developed for each page in the website and integrated into the design
- The SEO Specialist and Analytics Specialists make sure that every page is configured for SEO and Analytics. I like Google Analytics. It's free and powerful, but some commercial web analysis tools claim they can provide even better information.
- Someone (usually the Project Manager) will QA the pages as they are deemed "complete"
- When everything is in place, the site is ready to launch
The Pre-launch Checklist - All done? Here is the checklist to make sure you have everything you need to complete this website and keep the Boss happy.
- Make sure the email has been properly addressed in switching to a new website. Not all website development projects have to worry about this, but its best to double check
- Make a backup of your existing site... just in case. This is an insurance policy that you can call upon if there is a disaster
- Make sure the Webmaster is ready to switch the old site out and the new site in, including any domain registrar modifications that might be needed
- If possible, plan for a soft launch day when the team can test the site and make sure nothing is wrong (e.g. a weekend or evening)
- Make any configuration changes necessary to robots.txt
- Move the new website from staging into production
- Do another Quality Assurance pass before announcing it to the world
- Announce your new website to the world!
I hope that armed with these checklists and a healthy dose of luck, you will have a smooth and pain-free website launch.
Let us know what works for you? Leave us your favorite steps in the comments and we'll add the best ideas to our post.