Working with creative entrepreneurs since 2011, when I started wearing the community builder hat, it soon became obvious that most of you are Jack of all trades. You are in charge of a broad spectrum of activities—from creating the product itself (be it ceramics, soy candles, photography, recipes, videos, you name it) to paying taxes and bills, from building relationships to keeping up with your audience. In just a few words: from what you love to what you loathe.
Why this is happening is a more extensive discussion that I’ll maybe tackle another time. However, it’s a fact that impacts both your potential and how you run and grow your business in the long haul.
Doing a lot of stuff dilutes the echo of your efforts, making you blind to all kinds of opportunities. The same applies to everyone who’s juggling too many balls simultaneously. This trick should only happen at the Cirque du Soleil shows (save this link for later if you want to believe in magic again).
Everyone tries to give advice depending on the commercial interests they might have.
If it’s not your first time reading our gems on Upstairs, you already know that care is one of our core values at Pixelgrade, next to excellence and gratitude. One way of manifesting care through our blog is by packing our knowledge straightforwardly and offering advice from our first-hand experience.
Therefore, in this article, I aim to quickly untangle the core actions you need to take when reaching the phase of launching your website. By doing so, I hope to lend a hand and help you become aware of both your constraints and opportunities. You can start focusing on the areas where you have control and knowledge and leave the rest aside.
Let’s see if what follows compresses the essential in a digestible way or, on the contrary, brings even more gloom into your life. I hope not, but if you’re getting closer to launching your website, please share your thoughts in the conversation area at the end of this article.
To the North, captain!
Launching a website means different things to different people
While there’s a variety of opinions (some backed with solid arguments, some not so powerful) about where to center your attention when launching your website, let’s be fair for a second.
Everyone tries to push advice depending on the commercial interests they might have.
If you read an article about this topic on an agency’s blog that sells SEO services, there are high chances they’ll highlight the importance of a good positioning on Google. On the other hand, if you come across a resource from a freelancer-developer who’s creating websites for a living, you will hear quite often about mobile optimizations and performance, for instance. People preach their words, and that’s fine.
There’s no harm in such tactics since many of them are, in the end, valid. The information on these kinds of websites does not bring bad results or damage to your www. What happens, on the contrary, is that you will soon feel overwhelmed. You will no longer know which way to go, which strategy fits your goals, which tools get the job done, and how.
It’s not difficult to get there since your experience is crafting an innovative product or service, not unraveling the complicated avenues of digital marketing.
Remember how it feels to be responsible for too many things at once? Make yourself a favor, and don’t add more stuff to that pile. Choose to leave the badge of honor called Jack of all trades. It’s not an honor; it’s a trap.
Launching your website: the technical and non-technical quirks
Before hitting the publish button and celebrating the important milestone you’ve reached for your business, make sure you have taken an eagle look at both the technical and non-technical aspects of your website.
You need to be able to do the small yet repetitive and crucial tasks to reach new levels of growth.
We could go in super depth and offer you a complex blueprint about what you should follow, but this is not the goal. By doing so, we would add even more pressure on you, and that does not make sense since you’re already full of challenges of all kinds.
Instead, we gave our best to shrink the information to grasp the mandatory and get going. Once you settle a bit and you are willing to go in-depth in the digital playground, then you can take a step forward, but not the other way around. Make sure you have solid ground under your feet before taking things to the next level.
Otherwise, if you see the entire iceberg from the start, well, chances are you will get panicked and freeze everything. Our desire is on the opposite side of the spectrum: we want to accompany you to overcome obstacles, not throw more demands in your face. That’s not how care looks like on our side of the world.
If you manage to go through the below actions of launching a website, you’re in quite a promising spot. Even though the suggestions might seem obvious at first glance, please don’t underestimate the power of doing the basics.
We live in a world where we are constantly pushed to think big, achieve great success, accept the most significant challenges out there, go to Mars, burn all kinds of stages, and speed up processes in an unsustainable way (I wrote an article about how this approach impacted us, at Pixelgrade).
However, the world needs more entrepreneurs willing to just do the right thing in the right way.
Like a gardener who’s cutting the grass to keep the lawn clean and beautiful, the same thinking applies to maintaining a website. You need to do the small yet repetitive and crucial tasks to reach new levels of growth. You can’t shortcut without paying a massive cost at some point in the future.
Technical implies a few things:
1. Check your website links and simulate navigation flows
This means that you must first check all the links you have across the website and make sure they get the reader where you want. So, pay extra attention to the links you’ve added inside your pages or posts.
Since your website was in development, it often happens to have links that direct users to the wrong pages. If, for example, your new website was in development on a subdomain (e.g., https://new.example.com), you might find that certain links (e.g., buttons from Services page, text links from the Footer or pages like Terms and conditions) point to the subdomain instead of the main domain (https://example.com).
Other times, you might have changed your mind regarding the URL of a page (e.g., change it from /about-me to /about), but forget to update it everywhere you link to it.
It’s a quick fix but can make a big difference for users browsing your new website. It can mean the difference between someone sharing it to get the word out or becoming frustrated and forgeting about your www.
If you have an online shop, check the purchase flow from start to finish. Simulate what it would mean for a customer to browse your products, add them to the cart, remove/add new products, fill the details on the checkout page, and place an order. Please make sure the workflow is spotless, people can make purchases, and that you are registering their orders correctly.
Do the same thing for all the forms on your website. Replicate a regular visitor’s flow, from adding their email into the subscribe box or contact form, to getting a welcome email. Double-check that you’re capturing the submissions correctly across the board.
2. Optimize your website for fast loading
It can seem like a topic complicated for you since your skills lie elsewhere. But you don’t have to be tech-savvy to nail the basics of making your website load fast:
- Optimize your images: avoid uploading huge images because they will lower the speed of your website or offer a poor experience. As a rule of thumb, use the .jpg format as much as possible (use .png only when transparency in an image is necessary) and don’t upload pictures with a resolution above 2000px. To better understand how to tackle this issue, read this article written from our experience.
- Leverage website caching: caching means temporarily storing part of your website in your visitor’s device so that it will load faster when they revisit your website. If your website is on WordPress, we recommend one of these two plugins: WPRocket (paid) or W3 Total Cache (free version). Here’s a good blog post we wrote on this subject that can help you understand it better.
3. Connect your website to an analytics service
You can go with Google Analytics—it’s the most popular solution with enough features to accommodate your website’s future growth. If you prefer privacy-focused software, you can go for Fathom (paid but with a lot of care towards privacy and customer experience) or Matomo (free and open-source).
These solutions are great for measuring your website’s activity, understanding who your readers are, how much time they spend, and where. With time, you can start making decisions based on the traffic you get.
4. Setup the basics for proper search engine indexing
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a vast domain within the marketing realm, and most people are scared to dive into it. And for the right reasons—while doing an SEO audit last year for Pixelgrade, we spent about two weeks working on the action plan alone.
The good news is that you don’t have to do that at the beginning of your journey. All you have to do is check a few SEO settings to get started. From our own experience, here are the most vital things you need:
- Use an SEO tool: if you’re using WordPress, install the Yoast SEO plugin and follow the configuration wizard (here’s a step-by-step tutorial). The best thing about this plugin is that the default settings are good enough for most websites.
- Add your website to Google Search Console: again, this might sound daunting, but if you can figure out how to create a page on your website, you can nail this as well. With this tool, Google will index your website faster and discover potential errors along the way. If you follow these steps, you’ll have this up and running in no time.
- Optimize title and meta descriptions for your top three pages (e.g., home page, shop page, services page). If, for example, you create personalized illustrations, make sure you add that to your home page title and mention it in the description. This helps people understand what’s your website about. You can do that using the Yoast SEO plugin—here’s a great video tutorial.
5. Make sure you have technical help near
Even though you’ve tested everything, some things might go wrong right before or during your launch—software can break, nasty events can occur, so it’s best to have someone to rely on in such moments.
It can be a friend, or someone recommended to you who can jump in and patch things up in the event something fails. They should be aware of when you are launching your website to respond and take action quickly. If this option is not within your reach, you can choose a reliable hosting and WordPress theme provider such as we are because customer assistance should be enough for most cases.
To be safe, once you verified everything, don’t do any major updates on your websites (like theme or plugins)—sometimes updates can mess things up, and you don’t want that right before going live.
On the non-technical side, things can get fuzzy concerning where we should draw a line in the sand, but there a few must-do principles.
Non-technical means (at least):
1. Make sure the content is flawless
It’s essential to verify the content on your website both in terms of spelling and language. Nothing is more frustrating than typos or misleading information.
On top of that, keep the same tone of voice and attitude for every word on your website. No matter if it’s the story on your About page or micro-copy on various sections, you need to offer a consistent experience. You’d be surprised to notice how many websites use us in one paragraph and I in others.
We wrote an in-depth article about the About page and why it’s crucial to pay attention to how you construct a narrative that makes sense. You can also take a look and discover more about the importance of micro-copy as a way of gluing all the pieces together.
2. Announce to visitors that it’s a new website
You can do it either through a promo bar that’s discretely placed, through a news section, or an email to your existing database. Whatever the strategy, make sure your state clearly that this gem is fresh from the oven.
Depending on your availability, you can take a step further and pack this information in a small communication campaign where you share more than the URL of your website. You can put together a story about the reason why you created the new www in the first place, how was the journey along the way, what did you learn, in which way do you think it matches your current needs.
Just pressing the publish button does not mean that the work is done. It takes a bit of involvement and commitment to properly spreading the news about it authentically. For some, it might be recording a video and sharing details about this experience; for others, it can be an in-depth newsletter for the current database.
Don’t keep the surprise to yourself, and share this thrilling moment on social channels; you can ask your audience or ambassadors to lend a hand by spreading the news within their circles, too.
3. Collect feedback continuously
Such a launch is an excellent opportunity to receive valuable feedback. Write down impressions you get, words used by your readers, any input you receive because you can address them later on and improve the overall experience.
Think of these people as testers who take their time, maybe their money, to visit all corners of your website. It’s a massive chance to collect ideas about what people don’t get right, how to twist and turn the language to make things straightforward, which pages are broken for whatever reasons, or why they get confused on the checkout page.
If you’re keen to have a more structured way of collecting such insights, you can create a quick survey via Google Forms or Typeform. You can think in advance about what you want to find out and fine-tune the questions accordingly. After launching the website, you can ask people to fill the survey and have all the answers under the same roof.
This way, you can take one struggle at a time and find solutions to enhance the experience and make your website even better.
By walking through these steps, you’ll be in good shape for launching your website successfully. The work does not stop here. It barely begins, so we encourage you to have an open attitude towards the suggestions from people visiting your website and buying your products and services.
As with many other endeavors, it takes time, energy, continuous iteration, and a learning curve to bring consistent results in the long run. It’s no piece of cake, but it’s not mission impossible either. It depends on your website’s role within your business and what kind of investment and commitment you are willing to put on the table.
If you reach this particular stage, it means that you will at least get the chance to finish the puzzle and celebrate the completion, which is a great feeling to have. If you don’t trust me, then feel free to read this story of a local business that successfully launched its new website during the pandemic.
Photo taken by Katerina Nedelcu at our office.