A website launch checklist for beginners

A good website is designed well, offers good user experience and has strong SEO. If you’re starting out on designing a website or if you have employed a web designer but need to know what you need to look out for, here is a website launch checklist.

Design

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Colour

Ideally, you should decide on a colour palette for your website before embarking on the design. Your colour palette should complement your brand logo and it’s often a good idea to try out different colours before settling on a final palette.

Colours evoke particular emotions. In fact, as a web designer, one of the first things we learn is how certain colours should be used to achieve different objectives. Below is a colour emotion guide to assist you in deciding on the ideal palette.

Font

Choosing the correct and appropriate font for your website is crucial. Nothing is more off-putting than users visiting a website and having difficulty reading and understanding the content you have created. First and foremost, your text should be easy to read. But do remember that fonts can say a great deal and should match the tone and style of your brand. Sans Serif fonts are modern while Serif fonts are more classic. And for me, personally: Comic Sans is only used by kids, for kids.

Branding

Your branding is crucial to your website. Make sure it is used well and appropriately. Pay particular attention to the header – here is where you want to add your logo and social media accounts.

The footer section is also important – this is where you will have your business details (telephone, address, or even a contact form) as well, as your credits and copyright information.

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Social media

If you’re entering the online space, you should aim to connect with your brand followers in as many ways as possible. You want them to follow you on social media and keep up-to-date on all your brand’s news. You also want to use your social media sites to grow and build your online community/tribe. It is important to add your social media accounts to your website and display them prominently, yet subtly. Often the best place to have them is in your header section.

Favicon

A favicon is an icon that appears on a tab in your browser. This is the most commonly-overlooked little image among people who are still finding their way around web design.

It is important to ensure the correct favicon is displayed when you call up your website – it enhances your brand identity online.

Logo

It’s a relatively new trend, but it’s one that makes sense. Website browsers are becoming accustomed to and expect that if you click on your logo it will direct them back to the homepage. Because this is a type of web convention, it’s best to do it so you don’t cause any confusion for the people who visit your website.

Content

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Images and photos

Online users are all about speed and efficiency. They have little time for slow websites or ones that do not display images correctly. And considering how important images are in drawing users into your website, it’s crucial you get them right – in how you display them as well as how they are uploaded.

With regard to photos, size is crucial. Ensure every photograph you upload to your website is optimised for online use. Ensure you pics are the correct file type – this is often the leading cause of why images are of poor quality and size. Always resize your photos to the resolution they will display at. Programs like Photoshop and Gimp have made the optimisation process really simple. I use it all the time – even for the photos I post to social media platforms.

Text

Proofread, proofread and do it again

It’s crucial to also focus on the quality of the text on your website – you stand to lose credibility if users spot typos and the like.

Double, no, triple check your text. And check everything – blogs, page names, menus, footers … everything. It’s time-consuming but worth it. As a journalist who took for granted the newsroom sub-editors, revise editors and proofreaders, I now realise that in my one-man-band freelance business, I am all of that rolled into one. This means triple checks are crucial. And if I am still not sure, I have a circle of colleagues I can turn to cast that fourth eye on my writing. That together with programs like Hemmingway or Grammarly, there are loads of useful ways to ensure your text is free of glaring errors.

Buttons, hyperlinks and forms

Every hyperlink, form and/or button on your website must be tested. Nothing is more annoying to a user than something that does not work.

Call to action

Many newbies to website design are not aware of how crucial calls to action (CTAs) are. You are guaranteed to find at least one CTA on any website. Whether it’s a “CLICK HERE” button or a subtle hyperlink, you need to make sure it is placed for optimal impact.

You want a CTA to grab a user’s attention, but it must not come across as bossy. It’s a delicate balance of capturing attention but not yelling at or ordering a user to act.

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Mobile

In South Africa, most people are accessing websites from their mobile devices. So, it’s a no-brainer that any website you build must be optimised for the majority of users. For me, Instead of building a website for desktop first and then optimising for mobile, I strongly believe it should be done the other way round. I like creating websites for mobile first. Then adapting those websites for a desktop experience. The biggest concern with mobile sites is being able to read and experience content well as well as making them easy to use. With a lack of a mouse and a large space to manoeuvre, mobile sites need to be simple but effective. They need to deliver everything a desktop site offers, with the same convenience.

More and more website creators are seeing the value in adding quick action bars to mobile sites. Features like instant access to the most important sections of the website, or instant contact from cellphones are options.

SEO

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Links

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth stating again because of its link to SEO. If someone clicks on a link and it does to take them where they want to go, you can rest assured they will think twice about visiting your site again. So, check your links and make sure they work.

Keyword research

Search the text on your website for SEO keywords. If they don’t jump out at you, consider rewriting or add content so that you can place keywords appropriately. Of course, err on the side of caution – keyword-stuffing is a definite no-no.

Also, make sure your headings are formatted according to how Google scans content.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth stating again because of its link to SEO. If someone clicks on a link and it does to take them where they want to go, you can rest assured they will think twice about visiting your site again. So, check your links and make sure they work.

Photos

Adding alt text to photos on your website is very helpful for SEO. Add short, descriptive keywords to images that complement and enhance the keywords in the text.

Domain name

Your domain is one of the first elements search engines will look at. So it’s important to choose it correctly to encapsulate your brand and tone. It’s a good call to use a keyword in your domain name.

Page settings

Make sure you define the description and title of your pages on search engines. These settings are applicable to every page on your website, not just your homepage.

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