Published on January 6, 2020
The big day is finally here! Congratulations.
You’ve made it through website design, development, and testing, and now you’re ready for the day you’ve been planning all along: launch day.
Flipping the “on” switch on your shiny new WordPress site should be a day of celebration, success, and shamelessly posting screenshots to your Instagram feed.
To make sure you’re able to properly celebrate and consume champagne and caviar to your heart’s desire, we made you something really special:
The Reliable WordPress Website Launch Checklist
We cover what you should do before hitting the proverbial big red button, what you should do right after, and what you should do regularly to keep things in tip-top shape.
The list includes everything from SEO to accessibility, site speed, security and much more.
While the list may seem daunting, not to worry! Our team at Reliable PSD has worked on thousands of WordPress websites, and we’d be happy to help you dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s.
We’ll talk about your upcoming launch day and even help you decide if you’ll serve cupcakes or donuts at the big office party. 😉
And now (drum roll please!)…
The Reliable WordPress Website Launch Checklist
HTML / CSS / JS
Make sure your website is using modern, valid HTML, CSS, and JS that’s clean and error-free.
- Check for Valid HTML and CSS
- Use a code validator service such as validator.w3.org to make sure no errors are showing in your HTML and CSS.
- Check for Browser Errors
- Set Your Site Icon and Favicon
- Your favicon is the small version of your logo that appears at the top of your browser. In WordPress, you can set this by going to Appearance > Customize and uploading a PNG or JPEG that’s 512px square.
- Verify Your Meta Viewport is Correct
- Make sure your meta viewport is correct in order to give various browsers instructions on how to control your site’s page dimensions and scaling. This meta tag lives within the head tag of your header.php file in WordPress.
- Verify Your Site Title is Correct
- Verify that the site title (which shows up at the top of your browser next to your favicon) is correct as well as your site tagline. These can be updated under Settings > General in your WordPress Dashboard.
- Verify All Site Links Are Correct
- Broken links and 404 pages can be a drain on SEO, not to mention frustrating for your site visitors. Use a link testing tool such deadlinkchecker.com to find any links that need attention.
Accessibility is being invited to the party—inclusion is being asked to dance! Make sure your website is usable for everyone, including those with low vision or other impairments.
- Use a WCAG Checklist
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offers a great baseline for making your website meet the needs of people with disabilities. Use a checklist and a free testing tool like the one provided by webaccessibility.org to start making your website more inclusive and accessible for those with low vision or other impairments.
- Set Up Form Validation
- Form validation provides feedback to users about the results of their form submission, whether successful or not, and makes any errors understandable. Set up proper form validation by making sure any required fields are clearly marked as “required” and set descriptive text about possible form submission errors.
- Verify Form Labels are Present
- Make sure to utlize labels on your form fields—not just placeholder text. Even if the labels are technically “hidden” or not shown in your design, it’s important to have them in the code so that they can be picked up by screen readers or other speech tools. Without a label element, someone using a screen reader would just see a series of fields to fill out with no guidance as to what goes where.
- Check Your Color Contrast
- Proper contrast is a great rule of thumb for any design project, but it’s especially important to consider how someone with low vision may interact with your site if you have light colors on a light background, for example. If you’re designing in a tool like Adobe XD or Figma, you can use the GetStark extension to check your color contrast and use a color blindness simulator, or you can also test your color scheme using a tool like WhoCanUse.com.
- Write ALT Tags for Images
- ALT (alternative) tags help anyone with low vision who may be exploring your website with screen reader understand any images used on your site. You can write alt tags by summing the image up in a few words or a short sentence that describes the image accurately and succinctly. Check out WebAim.org for more helpful tips on writing alt tags.
- Install a SEO Plugin (such as Yoast)
- A SEO plugin like Yoast can be an incredibly helpful in making your website search friendly and optimized. After installing it, you can customize the plugin settings then use the green, yellow, and red signals to see how well your pages and posts are written and organized for search engines.
- Set Up Google Analytics
- Google Analytics is a free tool that provides valuable data about where your website visitors originate and what they do once they land on your site. Set up your free Google Analytics account, then paste the tracking code within the head tag of your header.php file.
- Google Structured Data Markup
- Google Structured Data Markup or Schema Data helps search engines more easily understand important content on your website, like your address and phone number. Who better to explain this concept than SEO guru Neil Patel who has written a full guide available here.
- Use Google Search Console
- Google’s free tool, Search Console, gives site owners even more ways to see how their site is performing. First, sign up for a Google Search Console account here then follow the prompts to place a meta tag on your website.
- Create a Robots.txt File
- Robots.txt is a text file you can use to tell search engine bots how to crawl and index pages on your website. Luckily for you, this is another task made easy by the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. Simply go to Yoast SEO > Tools in your WordPress dashboard to view and edit your Robots.txt file.
- Create a XML Sitemap
- A XML sitemap helps search engines easily navigate your website by listing your site content in a machine-readable format. Another task made easy by Yoast, simply go to SEO > General in your WordPress dashboard and visit the “features” tab. From there, just make sure XML sitemaps switch is turned on and you’re all set!
- Add Facebook Open Graph
- Facebook Open Graph data allows your website pages to become more closely integrated with Facebook. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress makes adding this easy as pie. After installing the plugin, go to SEO > Social > Facebook in your WordPress dashboard and toggle the “add open graph meta data” switch on.
- Twitter Cards
- Twitter Cards allow you to attach rich photo, video and media experiences to Tweets, which can help drive traffic to your site. Just like Facebook Open Graph data, the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress makes this easy. After installing the plugin, go to SEO > Social > Accounts and enter your Twitter username.
Slow websites can effect your search engine placement, conversion rate, bounce rate, and number of pages per visit, not to mention user experience!
- Use a High-Quality Web Hosting Provider
- Before spending any time on site speed improvements, make sure your server speed is up to snuff. WP Engine is a great, high-quality web host offering lightning fast speed and great support.
- Use Page Speed Testing Tools
- See how your website is performing by testing it with tools like Page Speed Insights, webpagetest.org and/or GTmetrix.com. Each of these tools will show you how quickly your site is loading and what can be done to improve load speed.
- Use a Caching Tool
- A cache is a collection of temporarily stored data saved for quick access. When used properly, caching can help speed up your WordPress site and boost performance. A number of caching tools and plugins are available through the WordPress plugin directory, including WP Super Cache which is managed by Automattic (creator of WordPress).
- Set Up Image Compression
- Image compression plugins allow you to easily optimize images in WordPress for better speed and performance. Many image compression plugins are available to help optimize your images by automatically compressing them and using the smaller sized version on your website, including Smush.
- Look Into a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- If you receive a large amount of website traffic, a CDN can help make your website performance impeccable. How does it work, you ask? A content delivery network (CDN) is a system of connected servers located all around the world that use geographical proximity as the criteria for displaying your website to end users.
- Keep Email Hosting Separate
- To save on email hosting, some people will attempt to use the cPanel mail included with many website hosts. This can cause a number of headaches including but not limited to email deliverability issues, slowed site speed, and blacklisting. Avoid this at all costs and use a dedicated email host like G Suite instead.
Reduce the chances of getting hacked while also creating a more trustworthy experience for your site visitors.
- Set Up a Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
- A secure socket layer (SSL) allows visitors to enjoy your website via a secure connection. Additionally, any data users enter on your site is encrypted and can be shared safely. Not sure if you have an SSL? Use whynopadlock.com to check!
- Get a Dedicated IP Address
- If you’re using shared hosting, it’s important to remember that all of a server’s resources are pooled together to host many sites without regard for who owns the site, how much traffic a site receives, how others are using their sites, etc. There are often hundreds, sometimes thousands of sites that all reside on the same server and therefore, all have the same IP address. To distinguish your website from others hosted on the same server, you can ask your host for a dedicated IP. This can also help prevent your website from being blacklisted if someone else on your server is sending spam or abusing server resources.
- Set Up Automatic Backups
- Sleep peacefully at night knowing that you have automatic backups happening daily or weekly. Many providers including Sucuri and CodeGuard offer automatic backups as well as one-click restore in the event something goes wrong.
- Look into a Web Application Firewall
- If your website is getting a decent amount of traffic or you’re especially paranoid about site security, it can be benefical to sign up for a Web Application Firewall (WAF) service like that offered by Sucuri. In addition to making your website infinitely more secure, it can help you better manage server resources.
- Don’t Use “admin” Username in WordPress
- The username “admin” is very commonly used, so it’s the first one hackers or malicious bots will try to use to gain access to your WordPress dashboard.
- Keep Plugins to a Minimum
- Imagine your website is a house. Now imagine every plugin used on your website is an exterior door. Hackers and malicious bots look for vulnerabilities in these doors in order to gain access to your site, so it’s important to limit the number of plugins you use and stay on top of keeping all plugins up to date.
Take a few minutes to observe how your website works and stay on top of future updates.
- Test All Contact Forms
- Visit your website from a private browser and fill out every single form on your website. Observe what happens—is there a thank you page? Did the correct person at your company receive the submission? Did you receive confirmation of your submission? Make sure the ideal process is set in place and works without issue. It can also be helpful to set a reminder to do this every couple months to make sure everything is still working properly.
- Verify Your Site Admin Email is Correct
- Don’t risk losing access to your new WordPress website! Go to Settings > General in your WordPress dashboard and verify that the administration email address is correct.
- Utilize strong password enforcement
- Weak passwords are the number one reason WordPress sites are hacked. Don’t let it happen to you—use a tool like passwordsgenerator.net and set all website passwords including WordPress, hosting, and FTP to 20+ characters.
- WordPress updates and plugin updates
- WordPress core and plugin updates often include important changes to code that improve upon security. Make it a point to check your website every month and take care of any updates (but make sure to have a backup in place first as updates can sometimes cause unpredictable things to happen).
This post was last updated on June 22, 2020