So your new website is finally ready - its been designed, built, and populated with content and you can't wait to show the world.
BUT - before sending that mass email or press release, here are a few tips to help make sure your new site is truly ready for internet stardom.
You website's development team should have already undergone thorough alpha testing. Alpha testing focuses largely on making sure that the website design and functionality are operating as planned. After alpha testing, the site should be free of the vast majority of bugs and glitches. Great - except that this is your site, and you may have unique insight into how it should look, feel, and function. That's where beta testing comes in.
The beta testing process allows you as a website owner to do a small scale test of the functionality and content on the site. Your test group can include key stakeholders within your organization and/or a slightly wider group that may include a sampling of customers or even a third party hired specifically for testing. Beta testing is less focused on finding and fixing bugs (though you will almost certainly find a few), and is more focused on ensuring that the site itself is clear and easy to use for all of your anticipated user groups.
As with anything, there are a few caveats to beta testing:
- Depending on your contract, you may discover the need for changes that are not "in scope." Be sure to ask for an estimate for implementing any out-of-scope changes or additions. You may also want to ask if the cost would be different if these changes are implemented at a later date. If needed, this can help you to prioritize your pre-launch needs to just the bare essentials - which will help you get up and running more quickly.
- Depending on the content previously provided to the web design team, you may see some filler dummy text and images. These are placeholders to show what your content may look like once implemented.
- Note the site may still be in active development. As bugs are reported and subsequently squashed you will no doubt see changes while reviewing the site. This makes the specificity of your feedback in what you are seeing all the more important.
- Keep in mind this is a revisionary process, and there will be many changes and updates made before launch. It isn't going to be perfect immediately, which is why the beta phase exists.
Cross-Browser and Cross-device Testing
At minimum, we recommend sites be optimized for a minimum screen resolution of 1024x768, and compatible with the following browsers:
- Internet Explorer 8+
- Firefox 3+
- Safari 3+
- Chrome 3+
- Safari iOS 4+
- Android (default browser) 4+
Your site may also have a responsive layout and/or an entirely separate site for mobile devices. Be sure to thoroughly test your website in as many different devices as possible to ensure the best possible user experience.
Nearly all issues can be fixed, however first they need to be reported. When reporting errors, providing as much information as possible will aid the developers in replicating and resolving issues as quickly as possible. Consider this checklist:
- Diagnostic information:
- Operating System & version
- Browser & version
- Internet Connection & speed (need to check your speed? try speedtest.net)
Send as much of this information as possible in an email to your project manager. They may recommend that this information is sent via email - or potentially through a ticketing system. After errors have been reported and resolved, be sure to retest to confirm and make sure no new errors have developed.
E-Commerce Test Transactions
If there is shopping cart functionality within your website you want to be sure to run a test transaction to ensure all the connections between your merchant gateway and payment processing vendor are processing payments correctly and any email notifications are being sent and received as expected.
You're getting close! There are just a few final items you'll want to double check before flipping the switch:
- How long will the launch take? Your developers will be able to answer this question. Depending on the development approach, launching your website could take as little as a few seconds or as long as several days to complete. You'll want to know this detail before scheduling any launch parties.
- Will the launch of your website affect your domain-based email? When you launch your site, your domain's name servers may be pointed toward a new server. This can cause issues with your domain-based email as well as any other websites, subdomains, or services associated with your domain. Be sure to discuss this with your developers as they may not be aware of domain-based services you may be using.
- Did you request a backup of your previous site for archival purposes? Your previous site and files are not always saved after a launch so if you want to make sure you have them remember to ask.
- Once the site goes live, do the developers plan to create/maintain a development environment to help implement additional changes and functionality without affecting the live website?
- Have all launch-critical issues identified in alpha and beta testing been resolved?
- Has all placeholder content been removed or replaced?
- Have all required third party tools (Google Analytics, ShareThis/AddThis, social media integrations, interactive plugins, etc) been implemented and tested?
- SEO: Have you optimized your content to help search engines understand and index the pages of your site? At a bare minimum this includes unique and descriptive page titles for each page, appropriate headings, natural use (not over-use!) of keywords within the context of each page, alternate text to help describe images.
- Have all stock images, web fonts, copy writing, and other third party intellectual property been properly licensed for use on your domain?
- Do you have any necessary graphics prepared to implement your new look across all your online presences at launch (social media, blogs, etc)?
- Do you have materials ready to notify your existing customers about the new site and a promotional plan to attract new traffic?
- Are you ready to be internet famous?