Polishing & Launching Websites

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Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we’ll look at the Polishing & Launching stage of building a website, including our 20-Step Launch Checklist.


Lesson Transcription

Welcome! I’m Leighton, your webmaster. In today’s lesson, let’s discuss the final step of building a website: Polishing & Launching. So think of building a home: It’s been framed, insulated, plumbing and electrical are installed, drywall is hung, walls are painted, but now what?  What’s left?  You’ve got mirrors, knobs, pictures, pillows, throws, lamps… basically, the finishing touches! Then, you’re ready to move in! Likewise, you finalize the website by polishing it up with minor edits. Then, you launch it by making it live on the Internet! Let’s explore these 2 processes, Polishing & Launching, with a 20-step launching checklist.

  1. First off in the polishing process, you obtain and fulfill the remaining edits from the client. You can say something like, “send over your final edits before we launch the website!” That will encourage them to solidify their final edits and stop making more changes. You’ve got to wrap up and launch the project eventually, and they’re likely anxious to finish the project as well.
  2. Once the client’s final edits are done, you can get started on your own. Before you launch your website, you should go through every pixel of every page to perfect it. Go ahead and fix whatever you see as you’re scrolling through the site. Here are a few things to look out for.
  3. Grammar — A polished, production-ready website cannot have grammar mistakes. Not even one. I mean, how do you feel when you browse a website and find a grammar mistake?  How does that reflect on the business who owns that website?  See, it’s unacceptable. Read through every heading and paragraph. Look for misspelled words and basic grammar mistakes. You can even use online spell checkers like Grammarly if you want to double-check your site.
  4. Speed Test — When you launch a website, it needs to load quickly. Definitely under 5 seconds, preferably around 3. Do you like waiting around for a slow website to load?  Nobody does! So how do you test this?  You can use the free tool at tools.pingdom.com to check your site’s load time and see if there’s any glaring issues. The biggest offender is images. Unnecessarily large, uncompressed images will bloat your website, increase the size and increase the load time, so review and optimize all photos.
  5. Mobile-Friendliness & Cross-Browser Compatibility — Remember how important mobile is? Consumers, businesses and even search engines love mobile. So when you’re ready to launch your website, you need to pull it up on your smartphone, tablet and whatever else you have. Review your website on every screen and Internet browser you own, and make changes to whatever doesn’t look right. Point is: the website should look perfect on every device, browser and screen.
  6. SSL Certificate — When you’re launching the website, you need to secure it with an SSL certificate. Do you remember how we did that?  If you’re hosting with IONOS, that means logging into IONOS and going to SSL Certificates. On the WordPress site, plugins like Really Simple SSL and iThemes Security help redirect all traffic to the secure site. We went over this in the Security Lesson of the Website Maintenance Plan section. Setup the SSL Certificate before you go live.
  7. Test All Links — Have you ever clicked on a link… and it didn’t work?  You landed on a broken or dead page?  Got a 404 NOT FOUND error?  That’s because of a broken link. These are bad for all kinds of reasons, namely, they’re really annoying and search engines penalize you if you have lots of broken links. So what do you do to prevent this? (1) Click every link on your site. The primary navigation at the top, the footer links, internal links throughout the body of the site, and external links going out to other sites. Click everything. This will only take a few minutes and it’s so worth it. (2) Confirm the social media links. If you have outgoing links to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, click them to make sure they land on the correct profile. (3) If you’re building a larger website that will continue to grow, you might enjoy the “Broken Links Checker” WordPress plugin, which checks all your websites every few days. You’ll get an email if one breaks or goes offline.
  8. Test the Contact Forms — So let’s say a business owner pulls up their website, fills out the Contact form… and nothing happens. They don’t receive the results. What’s the problem?  Likely, the form results are going to the wrong email. Can you think of any problems this would pose?  For one, the contact form is typically the greatest lead generator on the site. People nowadays are filling out forms more often than they would pick up the phone and call the business. So imagine the business potentially lost if the form doesn’t work! That’s why we need to test the form. I double-check the form myself through Divi, and I encourage the client to fill out a test form themselves, so that way they feel good about it.
  9. Favicon — Have you ever noticed the little icon in your browser next to each tab?  They’re really small?  That’s called a Favicon. Or Icon for your Favorites. You can upload this in Divi by logging into WordPress and going to the Theme Customizer, then General Settings, Site Identity, Site Icon. It’s usually your client’s logo symbol or icon, and it needs to be square. Create and upload the favicon when you’re launching the website.
  10. ManageWP — Add your new website to your ManageWP account so you can easily manage the site going forward! While you’re there, turn on Backups, Security Check and Performance Check. Run a Security Check to verify the site is clean. ManageWP is the backbone of your website maintenance services, and you’ll be in there quite a bit, so add your new websites as you launch them.
  11. Backups with UpdraftPlus — A major part of your website maintenance plan is the backups! You know how important those are, both in your personal and professional life, so install UpdraftPlus and configure your Backups when you launch your client’s website.
  12. Uptime Robot & Follow That Page — These services provide uptime monitoring and change detection for your websites. When you’re ready to launch, add the URL to your Uptime Robot and Follow That Page accounts.
  13. All-In-One SEO Pack and “Encourage Search Engines” — Do you remember All-In-One SEO?  That’s the SEO plugin I use on all my WordPress websites. It opens up extra SEO improvements like sitemaps and allows you to customize your Title, Description, Social Meta, and much, much more. Install All-In-One SEO Pack when you launch your website and spend a few minutes configuring it. One of the first things you might be prompted with is a reminder that the Search Engine Visibility option in WordPress settings is set to Discourage Search Engines. You definitely need to un-check that option when you’re launching a site. Once we launch, we want the search engines to come index our site, and All In One SEO Pack automatically submits your sitemap to the major search engines!
  14. iThemes Security — Do you remember talking about iThemes in the Security Lesson of the Website Maintenance Plan section?  This is one of my favorite security plugins, as it includes more than 30 ways to protect your website from attacks, such as locking down WordPress, fixing common holes, stopping automated attacks, backing up the database, strengthening user credentials, and much more. When you’re ready to launch, install this plugin and spend a few minutes setting it up. Review every module and turn on the recommended ones.
  15. Google Analytics — Remember this free service? We talked about it in the Management lesson of Website Maintenance Plan. This is a free tool from Google that tracks your website and reports on all kinds of analytics data. There is far more data in there than you will ever need to worry about, but it’s important to start tracking your website as soon as you launch. Add your site as a Property in Google Analytics,  add your IP address to the Filters so your personal traffic won’t be included, and embed the tracking code in Divi’s Theme Options > Integrations > Body Code.
  16. Google Search Console — We’ve mentioned this one a few times. This is Google’s official tool for webmasters, and you ought to Add Your Site when you launch. Add the site and verify it with a quick DNS TXT record. Once you’ve verified, submit your sitemap.xml file in the Sitemaps section.
  17. Review — Now that you’ve launched your website, it’s time to hit up your client for a review! Do you recall the “review.” Subdomain suggestion in the Off-Site SEO Lesson?  I totally recommend creating a review.subdomain on your personal domain name so you’ll give people a quick & easy way to write you a review. Don’t make this process difficult. It’s hard enough getting people to review you. You want to make this dead simple. That link strategy will take them DIRECTLY to the Google review form. Click 5-stars, type something nice and hit submit. Here’s what my review email typically looks like: “Thanks so much for letting me build your website! As you know, reviews are so important, both for credibility and SEO. It would make my day if you would write me a quick review. Here’s a link directly to the review form: review.pioneer.media. Thanks in advance!” See? Easy! Get a review and add it to your website.
  18. Portfolio — Now that the website is launched, you need to add it to your Portfolio, which includes your own website, your Behance, Coroflot, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever portfolio or social media sites you’re active on. Add it to every channel that has running copy of your portfolio. What do you think would be appropriate on a portfolio post?  Perhaps a link to the live site?  An overview of what services you provided?  What problems you solved?  All great ideas! Here’s what I like to do:
    (DEMONSTRATE My Portfolio and Dancing Bear Page)
    So while you’re launching your client’s website, take screenshots and post it to YOUR portfolio, which is an invaluable marketing tool for web designers.
  19. Final Payment — The final step before officially launching your client’s website! When you took on the project, you agreed to half down and half upon completion and launch of the website. Now, the time has come. They’ll have to make the final payment before their website goes live. I recommend sending a friendly email explaining your enthusiasm to launch the site but first you need the final payment. They likely have anticipated this and will have no problem paying the balance for the sake of launching their website. 
  20. Go “Live” — Now is the final step of LAUNCHING! You make the website LIVE! How do you think you do that?  I mean, technically, how do you “launch” a website?  Making it “live” means putting the new website you just built on the primary domain name. Live for everyone to see. Publicly accessible. No development site, no subdomain, no test site. If you’ve been building it on a test site so the public wouldn’t see your work-in-progress, then now, you map your website to the domain name. If the site was previously hosted elsewhere, now you update the Nameservers to point the domain to your IONOS server. If you’re trying to launch your website on IONOS and you’re using the OnlineHome.us testing site, you can login to your WordPress admin and go to Settings > General > Site URL. Change the URL to your live domain name. Make sure to include https:// instead of http:// once you have installed your SSL certificate. If you use https:// before you install your SSL certificate, you will break your website. A helpful plugin to convert all of your s#####.onlinehome.us/folder URLs to your real domain name is “Better Search Replace.” You can search for all instances of your test URL and change to your real domain. If you’re on Cloudways, you can launch your website by going to your Cloudways Admin > Applications > Select Your Application > Domain Management > Primary Domain. Since this is a managed solution, they will handle converting your temporary cloudwaysapps.com links to your real domain name.

RECAP: There you have it! A 20-step Launch Checklist! Let’s recap these 20 processes:

  1. Final Client Edits
  2. Review Every Pixel of Every Page
  3. Check Grammar
  4. Speed Test
  5. Mobile-Friendliness & Cross Browser Compatibility
  6. SSL Certificate
  7. Test All Links
  8. Test Contact Forms
  9. Favicons
  10. ManageWP
  11. UpdraftPlus Backups
  12. Uptime Robot & Follow That Page
  13. All-In-One SEO
  14. iThemes Security
  15. Google Analytics
  16. Google Search Console
  17. Ask for a Review
  18. Portfolio
  19. Final Payment
  20. Go Live

I’m Leighton, and now you know, How To Polish & Launch Websites!


Lesson Homework

Write down these 20 processes and save it as your Launch Checklist.


Lesson Notes & FAQs

  • Question: Hello just wanted to ask is their some kind of website or software you use to get the correct size screenshot of your finished website projects so you can import them into your photoshop portfolio templates?
  • Answer: Hey! I just use the Shift + Command + 3 on my Mac keyboard to take a screenshot.
    On Windows, you can use the built-in Snipping Tool to take a screenshot.
    On the Apple phones and tablets, holding the power + home buttons takes a screenshot.