Designing and building a client website is a complex process full of dozens of moving parts and pieces – details that are difficult to keep track of as the launch date approaches. A website testing checklist is an ideal way to keep track of every component of your website and prevent errors. From the early planning stages to the last parts of development and construction, there are plenty of opportunities for mistakes, big or small. Launching a website rife with typos or non-functioning links is the last thing you want. Keep your agency’s reputation up to par with our website launch checklist – complete with the most important details to test prior to your website launch date.
Website Checklist: Content & Design
Read All Content Backwards & Out Loud To Look For Spelling & Grammar Errors
At this point in the website development process, any content that has been written has also been rewritten – probably multiple times. That’s why it’s vitally important to go through every page with a fine-toothed comb looking for spelling errors, typos, grammar issues, formatting issues across browsers and devices, and general accuracy. Proofread all content on the site, including titles, fine print, downloadable content, header content, navigation, footer content, captions, and pull quotes. Specifically look for formatting errors, errant pieces of code, and missing punctuation. Word processing software, like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, have excellent spelling and grammar checkers. If you’re launching a WordPress site, the plugin JetPack also includes a comprehensive spelling and grammar feature called “After the Deadline.” However, don’t rely on software alone. Reading the content backwards or out loud is a useful trick to look for mistakes you might not have noticed. Better yet, have someone else read the content too!
Test Media Functionality & Formatting Across Browsers & Devices
Check every image, video, and audio file to make sure they are correct, working, formatted, and optimized across all devices and browsers. At Liquid Web, we test for browser compatibility using virtual machines with different configurations of operating systems and browsers. For those that can’t set up multiple virtual machines, we recommend using the Browserstack tool – it’s a paid service that does a great job with browser testing. As for testing across devices, we recommend a browser extension called Web Developer, available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. This extension makes it easy to see how your website resizes for various screen sizes. However it’s also important to view the site on a variety of actual devices (i.e. iPhone, Android, etc) to make sure you discover all the possible idiosyncrasies of your design. Pay close attention to spacing and formatting issues, especially on mobile devices.
Website Checklist: Functionality and Code
Test Links with Google & W3C Link Checker
Click to make sure every link works and takes the user where it’s supposed to – but there are also a couple helpful tools to test any links you might have missed. For test sites that are publically viewable, Google Webmaster Tools will point out any 404 errors or broken links. There is also the free and highly regarded W3C Link Checker. While checking for broken links, you should also make sure that all external links open in a new tab – you don’t want to lead the user away from the website if at all possible! Link checking should extend to the often overlooked links in the headers and footers. For example, the company logo in the header or footer should link to the homepage and social media icons should be properly linked to their respective pages. Additionally, should page link issues crop up in the future, make sure you have a 404 error page ready to go.
Enter Fake Data In All Forms To Test Functionality
Fill out and test any forms on the site to make sure they are formatted correctly and easy to use. Look for any and all forms on the site – contact pages, shopping carts, newsletter or email list sign ups, etc. A form with a broken button or inoperable data field is useless to the client. Make sure the forms are submitting data properly, showing the proper “submitted” message or “Thank You” page afterward, and sending confirmations if necessary. It’s also important to make sure the form can’t be submitted empty. Always test each form to make sure they only submit after the required data is entered.
Concatenate & Minify Scripts, CSS, & HTML
Configure Google Analytics
One of the most important third party tools you can use is Google Analytics, and it’s important to set it up prior to launch. You should make sure all the analytics code is correctly added to your site and properly gathering data. You can also exclude relevant IP addresses from your analytics so your agency and your client aren’t counted as legitimate traffic to the site. This is also a good time to properly sync your analytics with Google Webmaster Tools and Adwords.
Website Checklist: Search Engine Optimization
Write Content, Page Titles, & Meta Descriptions with Keywords in Mind
Hopefully you’ve been writing content for your client’s site with SEO in mind since the beginning, but now’s the time to check for SEO optimization across the site. If you haven’t already done keyword research, then Google Adwords Keyword Planner, SEOmoz, and SEMrush are all useful tools to begin that process. For WordPress users, Yoast SEO is an excellent plugin that helps optimize on-page content. In addition to the content on your page, you should also make sure to write unique page titles and meta descriptions that include your client’s keywords. At this time you should also check all your page titles and meta data for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure it’s all properly configured for RSS feeds and social media sharing. Last but not least, double check that each of your images have alt tags.
Submit Your XML Sitemap to Search Engines
In addition to optimizing content and images for SEO, it’s important to make sure the website’s structure is set up for ideal search engine crawling. To get the most SEO juice for your buck, create an XML sitemap and submit it to all major search engines prior to launch – you can find instructions for building and submitting a sitemap using Google tools here. If you’re redesigning an old site, you should also check that 301 redirects are set up for all old URLs.
Website Checklist: Security & Compliance
Create Backups to Secure Your Site Before Launch
Launching a website is stressful – it’s best practice to have backups made of the old site (if applicable) and the new site prior to making the switch. You should also have a plan in place to take ongoing backups after the site is live, ideally through a robust, off-site tool like Liquid Web’s Guardian. Check out our blog for tips on how to properly backup and store your data.
Ensure Website is Compliant with Applicable Regulations
Be aware of any regulations your client’s website needs to be compliant with – particularly for ecommerce sites and those in the healthcare industry. PCI compliance and HIPAA compliance, for ecommerce and healthcare respectively, are serious and complex. Compliance with these kinds of regulations often require special considerations for hardware setup of the web server. Talk to your web host and make sure everything is ready to go for launch day. You can read more about PCI Compliance on the PCI Security Standards website and learn more about HIPAA from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Managing all the pieces and people involved in building a website can be overwhelming. Keep track of all the most important details and ensure a successful launch for your client with the above website launch checklist. If you have any additional details you think should be added to this list, let us know in the comments below!