You’ve put in long hours of DIY web design time and now you’re ready to launch your new WordPress website? So how do you do this launch thing anyways? Well, here is a thorough launch checklist of vital tasks to prepare your site to be released into the world.
Disclaimer: this article assumes that you have basic working knowledge of plug-ins including where to install them and how to figure them out.
Big picture tasks
Review your website goals. As projects prolong, we often lose sight of the core reasons that drive our website goals. Take a moment to reflect on the project and ask yourself:
Does this website have the features needed to achieve the goals I set out at the start of the project?
If you find that you’ve gotten off track, don’t worry about it. It’s perfectly normal. Add whatever is missing to the very, very top of your priority list and keep working!
Ensure visitors know what to do. Is the action that you want people to take super ultra clear? In other words, if you want to sell an e-course is the design and layout such that visitors will instantly know and be encouraged to interact with with your sales process? Is this process obvious? Does it function beautifully? You often only have one shot at this so make it count.
Doing some quick clean up can not only help keep junk from building up in the backend but can also make your website safer.
- Delete all unused plugins.
- Delete all unused themes.
- Trash any posts or pages that you will not need on the live site.
- Turn comments off on all posts, pages and settings: unless your website goals center around creating online discussion, you’ll need to turn off commenting or else suffer the plague of comment spam.
To turn off comments on already existing posts or pages:
- View your whole list of pages
- Scroll over the page you’d like to edit. Links will appear beneath the page name.
- Click the “Quick Edit” button
- Uncheck “Allow comments”
To turn off comments on all future posts and pages go to: Dashboard > Settings > Discussion > “Allow people to post comments”. If you do want comments, then you can configure them here.
- Turn off under construction plug-in(if you have one turned on).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Do you want extra search engine juice? If so install All-In-One SEO Pack (free) or Yoast SEO (not free to get the best features). That will go through each page and/or post to define keywords and phrases. For a basic primer on SEO, check out our post Power Up Your Website With SEO.
Monitor website traffic. It’s incredibly helpful to know who your visitors are, how many pages they view and what content is popular or completely ignored. For basic monitoring, install Jetpack and walk through the free registration process. For more sophisticated tracking, set up a Google Analytics account and install Google Analytics Dashboard. You’ll need to connect it with your Google Analytics account.
Speed up your site. Some themes or photo heavy websites can take a long time to load, particularly on mobile devices. Improve website loading times by installing a caching plug-in like W3 Total Cache. Jetpack also has streamlined caching options that are super simple to enable.
Backups. For the love of all that is good, back it up! Maybe your web host runs backups, maybe not -who knows?! Protect yourself by setting up your own basic backup system using the UpdraftPlus plugin. Configure the settings to do regular database and full backups, either weekly or monthly, depending on how often you update your website. On a regular basis, download a full backup to your computer. This is by no means a perfect solution but it’s miles ahead of nothing.
Security scanning. Malware, DDoS, hackers, oh my! Like hungry digital wolves, they love unsuspecting WordPress websites. Please secure your site with a plugin like Wordfence Security (free with premium options) or Sucuri Security (free plugin with monthly subscription service for truly stellar support).
Passwords. If your password doesn’t look like M!dDd38y&060$ then it’s a security risk. I know it’s a pain but having your website get hacked can be a total nightmare. Here are some tips to generating strong passwords:
- Use WordPress’s built in password generator
- Use at least 12 characters
- Include small and capital letters, numbers and symbols
- Don’t use words that are in the dictionary
There are numerous resources on the web with suggestions for creating strong passwords that are easy to remember.
Whew, almost there!
Settings. Once all the above is done, check the following settings:
- Dashboard > Settings > General >Site Title: this should be an SEO friendly version of your business name
- Dashboard > Settings > General > Tagline: this may or may not display in your website, depending on your theme, but Google will definitely see it. Make it keyword rich.
- Dashboard > Settings > General > Site Address URL: make sure the URL settings show the correct domain, i.e. change from your dev site (ex. mysite.com/dev) to your live site (ex. www.mysite.com).
- Dashboard > Settings > General > Timezone: be sure to set the correct city so that all time related activities on your website are in sync with your primary location.
- Dashboard > Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility: make sure to uncheck “Discourage search engines”. If you don’t do this, Google won’t crawl your website and it won’t show up when people use a search tool.
Domains. This is where the launch actually happens. If you’re building your new website on a development (dev) site then you’re either going to need to point your domain to the dev site or move your site to your host. The exact steps for this depend on your hosting setup and, unless you already know what to do, I would recommend investing in some help. The hour or two that you’ll pay someone else will surely save you many hours of research, troubleshooting and cursing silently (or not so silently) to yourself.
We’re here to help, too! If you’d like us to help you launch your website, you can request assistance using our Help Desk.
Final task: celebrate!
Enjoy your new website! Look at it often and tell your friends. Congratulations!