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Complete Website Redesign Handbook - Chapter 5

Pre-Launch

Quality assurance testing

Once the design, development, and content migration are completed, there is still a lot of work to be done before your website can go live. From testing, to search engine optimization, these less glamorous and strictly behind-the-scenes tasks are nonetheless critical to a successful website launch.

Search Engine Optimization

A successful website redesign isn’t just about design. It’s actually about giving your content a great place to live so it can engage your audience and grow your business. It’s not difficult to understand, but takes a lot of effort to deliver.

Adding an SEO firm to your website redesign team is a great way of sharing the project workload, but that’s not the biggest benefit. Engaging with SEO experts during your project maximizes the impact of your redesign by ensuring your content will perform strongly in search, and drive more traffic to your new website.

Your website is the digital hub of your business, and getting found is critical to staying in business. Having enough SEO expertise to perform well in search is always valuable, whether that knowledge comes from your team or a firm.

Search Engine Optimization

If you follow SEO best practices, you know that search engines don’t share too much knowledge, and a best practice one day (think meta keywords or Google Authorship) is meaningless the next. SEOs focused on discovering, testing, and mastering this evolving science are best equipped to assess your website’s needs, and deliver the most up-to-date solutions. This is especially true if you’re in a highly competitive market and your visibility is partly determined by the quality of your competitors’ SEO.

An SEO firm can be an invaluable partner in ensuring your newly launched site is ready to step up your online marketing game, and help ensure peak performance day after day, quarter after quarter, and year after year.

Integrating Other Marketing Tools

More than ever before, marketers are becoming masters of various marketing platforms and software designed just for them. You need to publish website content, measure website traffic, analyze the engagement of your social posts, send and track email campaigns, and find ways to test what’s going to make all of the above more effective.

Some of the third-party tools you might include in your website:

Whatever software tools you use for managing marketing automation, social media, email, and other digital marketing tools, they need to tie into your website to ensure that all of these efforts are conducted in concert.

While you need to ensure that your content management system allows you to integrate the tools used by your team before initiating the project, actually plugging them in usually happens later in the implementation process.

Many of these marketing platforms can inherit design styles from the websites they integrate with, but make sure you go through the tools you use and ensure the display properties of items like forms, buttons, calls to action, and banners all match the behaviors and visual appearance of your entire website.

Quality Assurance Testing

As confusing and contentious as other parts of a website project can get, there’s probably unanimous agreement on which is the least fun. Quality assurance testing your newly minted site is labor-intensive, repetitive, time-consuming, and it might make your eyes glaze over. It’s also absolutely non-negotiable and has to take place before you launch your site.

What Should You Check During the QA Period?

Every website is different, and what’s critical for one business might be less important to another. How you prioritize what has to be 100 percent complete prior to launch depends largely on your business goals. However, this short list should give you a good idea of the kinds of things you want to test before publishing.

  • Visit every page in the top 3 levels of your navigation (ideally, every page on your site, if possible)
    • Ensure all images and videos load
    • Ensure there’s a link to take visitors back to the homepage
  • Click every link in the navigation to make sure it goes somewhere
  • Click every global link (links in your header and footer) to ensure they work for each page template on your site
  • Click every link on every page within the page content to ensure they go to the appropriate locations
  • Test your website search to ensure it works
  • Visit the website on multiple mobile devices, or use the mobile preview in your CMS to see how the pages render
  • If you have downloadable assets, make sure the download links work
  • Check how iframe content renders within your pages
  • Look out for any behavior that looks like a glitch—there could be a script error happening
  • Read the content! Read out loud to force your eyes to slow down and spot remaining typos or errors

Divide and Conquer the QA

In order to ensure your website is truly ready to go live, you need to ensure everything works as it’s supposed to and that nothing is missing. It’s a lot of work, and you should reserve a few days for it. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.

While it’s the least interesting part of your project, QA is also the lowest-skilled part, and that means anyone on your team can do it. Most QA tasks involve just looking, clicking, and reading and can be easily assigned to a group of testers.

To ensure that errors are found and recorded in a consistent way, create a spreadsheet that represents your website information architecture, with one row for each page. Include the title and URL of that page, and assign each section or group of related pages to one tester. You can then create columns for different stages or aspects of QA: one for broken links, another for broken images, and one for typos, for example.

However you structure this spreadsheet, save it in a shared folder, or use a cloud app like Google Spreadsheets to allow multiple testers to access and update it at once. You’ll have a central location for all the errors and a comprehensive view that will enable you to make better decisions about the website’s readiness for launch, and to prioritize and assign necessary fixes.

Continue reading - Chapter 6 "Post-Launch"

You’ve heard the truism that a website is a fluid, “living” entity that is constantly evolving. With anything that is prone to frequent change, completing any quality assurance is a moving target. While this can seem discouraging, making it feel like the project is never truly complete, it also means that whatever is not working or meeting expectations can be addressed and changed.

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