Top Website Launch Pitfalls to Avoid
Launching a new website is a complicated task. Website launches, from small/medium businesses up to Healthcare.gov, run into issues every single day. The issues range from the technical to the human, and the issues at website launch are never the same twice. We here at fjorge have put together some of the top tips to avoid these website launch pitfalls:
1. Not Enough Research:
Most common root causes of website launch issues are tied to not doing the correct research upfront. This includes research into items such as:
- Which CMS to use?
- How do we want visitors to move through the site?
- What is the main objective of the website?
A lack of upfront research leads to problems that are often too large and complex to fix by the time they are discovered. It will be too late to change out the CMS, there may be other decisions that were made based on the CMS, or the issues won’t be discovered until after launch. Working closely with the project team to ensure all steps are thought through upfront will lessen the overall chances of a major problem cropping up later.
2. Scope Creep:
Scope Creep is the single biggest cause of website launch delays. “Scope Creep” is when a project adds features or makes majors changes/tweaks to the direction well after the total budget, features and resources are set. These changes mean that either an already-decided feature will have to be dropped, the budget will go over, or the overall timeline will get extended. To counteract this, set a “feature freeze” date during the kick off meeting, once the scope and budget are set. Tackle any changes/feature requests/etc after the site has launched. These days, constantly iterating over your website leads to better results than doing monolithic rebuild every decade. This also forces people to consider their request more – if it will require more budget and a longer wait, only the truly important will make it through.
3. Lack of Details:
Launches are a hectic time. There are many moving parts involved in the hosting and migration of a website, and there is a proper order to complete them. Not knowing key details at this stage can mean the difference between success and postponing the launch. As the project is being kicked off, create a spreadsheet to house all the key details. These include:
- Hosting Information, Credentials, and contact info
- Contact info for the launch team (including external agencies, IT, the developers, and anyone else who will be touching the launch
- A checklist for the launch, to ensure no steps are missed. Include the person accountable with the task.
Having the relevant launch details in one place will keep everyone on track and accountable.
4. Neglecting Mobile
Mobile device traffic currently makes up over 33% of the total traffic of the internet. Google recently announced that, starting April 21st, 2015, “… we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.” This date has been termed the “Mobilegeddon”, and companies who have not paid attention to the mobile side of their site are in for a gloomy morning.
There are 2 ways to tackle your mobile site:
- Responsive Web Design, where one site is able to be used across devices, and offers an optimized experience for each screen size. This is the method recommended by Google, but it is usually more expensive than having a mobile site
- Dedicated Mobile Site: With this plan, there would be a new site created that the desktop site would send mobile users to. This can be faster to setup, because it is independent from the desktop site, but requires a bit more work to make SEO – friendly.
Ultimately, the best course will be different for every business. Work with your development team and internal stakeholders to choose the best course of action for your situation.
5. Forgetting Digital Strategy
A website without goals is really just a poster. If no one can find your site, or if you do not have insight into how visitors are engaging with your site, you are missing out on one of your key sales channels. Spend some time at the beginning of the project discussing the plan for rolling out the site, ensuing it gains visibility, and tracking how visitors interact with it. Depending on the focuses of the company, it may be worth working with a marketing firm to flesh out the strategy of the site, what to track, and how to optimize it. However, there are a few best practices that will ensure a baseline level of effectiveness:
- Ensure Google Analytics (or your preferred analytics platform – Omniture, KISSMetrics, etc) and Google Webmaster Tools are setup. These will enable you to track what is going on with your site, fix any issues found by the search engines, and gauge the overall effectiveness of the digital channel
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals for the site, and make sure they are tracked. You can use your analytics platform to track the goals and measure the Key Performance Indicators, or an internal business intelligence suite. Review the goals and metrics regularly.
- Have your site tested by people from outside the company before launch. This practice will often surface issues that are related to the content used – it may be too dense or jargon heavy, or too vague as to know what the company does. (Note: If possible, have current customers or vendors take a look for you)
- Make sure you are answering the questions that your visitors are asking. Google is trying to move away from just simple keywords, and trying to focus on the intent of the visitor. Write comprehensive content that will answer the questions they are asking, and make sure to include the type of language they would use to describe your company, products, and services.
With proper planning, launching a new site can be a smooth and fun affair. If you are considering a new website, rebuilding an old site, or just putting up a fresh design, we have created a guide to help make sure the launch will go smoothly.