Launching a new website can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. You want to show off what you’ve been building, what you’ve learned, and the creative solutions you’ve come up with. You can already taste that first celebratory taco. You go live.
At first, you get a lot of comments from your friends saying, “Hey, that looks great!” Then the bug reports come in. A feature isn’t working as intended. A bit of CSS is playing merry hell with the live content in ways you couldn’t foresee. A link is broken. And worst of all: you have typos. So many typos.
Okay, most of the time, it won’t be as bad as all that. Veteran designers and developers usually have processes in place to reduce the amount of errors that go live. New designers usually build smaller sites, so the number of errors is reduced in any case. Still, if you’re new to web design, and you want to spend as little time fixing things post-launch as possible, we can help.
As you are the designer and/or developer, you are the first and last line of defense against mistakes. However, even the best of us can just plain forget things. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to use a pre-launch checklist for every website you build. The checklist would include things like making sure all of the links work, making sure the contact forms work as intended, making sure your hosting is set up right, and so on.
You can write your own checklist, and as you develop your own way of working through projects, you might want to. In the meantime, you can adapt any number of pre-made checklists to your projects. Here are a couple to get you started:
And there are a few more here: 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires
For clarity’s sake (and because this is the Internet) these eyeballs should remain attached to their original owners. What you want to do is get some people who aren’t experts in computing, be they relatives, friends, or passing salesmen, and direct their eyeballs at your design, before you launch. Get some basic user testing in by asking these people to perform basic tasks on your site.
This has the double benefit of providing you with some usability testing data, as well as an easy way to find out if anything important is broken. After they’ve followed the main calls to action, ask them to click around on anything they find interesting, to help you check other links.
This may not be feasible for projects with smaller budgets, but if you have the money, it couldn’t hurt to hire a professional or two. For example, you could hire another designer to check for common bugs, peek at the source, and so on. Have them test how the layout handles on their devices, and give you feedback.
If you want to take this further, there are services that will test your site under myriad conditions, in all sorts of browsers, on all sorts of devices. Given that most of us lack a browser testing lab, and these services generally aren’t expensive, they can be worth it.
Here are some of the more popular options (as defined by Google search results):
Lastly, consider hiring a proofreader and/or editor, if your website is text-heavy. They can drastically help you to improve the quality and clarity of your writing, as well as help you to avoid the dreaded typos.
One of the biggest contributors to screwing up is stress. Launching websites can be stressful, especially if you’ve been working on the same thing, day in and day out. For future projects, it might be a good idea to schedule in a break before launch time. And I mean a proper break, as in one day as a bare minimum. Giving your brain time to think about other things is a known and proven tactic for creativity, but it also works for spotting mistakes.
Take that time off, come back, and run through your pre-flight checklist when you’re rested, and can think straight. Your brain, your heart, your users, and your clients will thank you.
You should also run your HTML and CSS through the validating services provided by the W3C. These services won’t catch every bug, but they can help point out potential problems in your markup.
So what happens if you do all of these things, and still miss a few things at launch? Realistically, the world just keeps on turning. We’re imperfect creatures, and we’ll never get everything right, all of the time. And that’s fine. When mistakes are inevitably spotted in your newly-launched site, fix them fast and move on.
Constant perfection will have to wait until our robot overlords get here.