Guest Post: Planning the Perfect Inbound Website Launch
Congratulations! You or your web design agency have been awarded business to develop or re-design your client’s website. Pop the champagne and enjoy the moment, since it might be your last minutes of happiness for the next several months. I kid, of course.
Now, it’s been plastered all over the news that the launch of the Federal Government’s new healthcare marketplace website at healthcare.gov, well, let’s just say it hasn’t been the smoothest of launches and we’ll just leave it there. Aspiring and veteran web developers alike, take a look at this launch as your case study on what NOT to do when launching a website.
As someone who’s been on both sides, as agency and client, I know it's not easy. Drawing from my experience with client relations, I think I can provide a few tips on how to avoid a similar debacle than the launch we’re viewing in real-time on our televisions.
It’s extremely important to set the expectations when it comes to, not only launch dates (make sure it’s not a Friday), but also client involvement and changes through the process. The client has told you what they need and expect from the website. Likewise, you have let the client know your expectations from them and all is right with the world.
You have seen the client’s current website and your layout and ideas are what awarded the business.
As they say, ‘The Devil is in the Details’. It’s important that you have a skeleton layout of the website, project documentation detailing the exact details of what the project entails and what each section of the website is supposed to do in your scope of work.
Be clear and concise in the details. Also, make sure it’s clear on the content, files and other information you need from the client to avoid any roadblocks in development. Whether its image files, access to Google Webmaster Tools, or SEO information; it needs to be spelled out.
Communication and Transparency is Key
Once the process begins, there might be some bumps in the road or roadblocks if you will. There’s communication and then there’s harassment. It’s to be expected that the client will be in contact with you to see check on the progress of milestones. It’s another thing to receive calls every five minutes asking about a piece of content that’s missing in a test environment that hasn’t been created yet. This goes back to setting expectations from the beginning of the project.
If there are coding issues or image corruption issues that might prevent a milestone from being met, it’s important that is communicated immediately. Explain the issue to the client, let them know how long it delay a target date but express confidence that it will be fixed and keep them in the loop.
Detail any work that is out of the original scope of work and billable hours that could arise. It’s important to be honest and up front and, in most instances, the client will appreciate the candor.
QA, QA and QA Some More
Now, developers and even account managers, I’m going to be honest about this. Testing for quality assurance on your client’s website is probably the most monotonous part of the process. Yes, I know your code is perfect, so what could possibly go wrong? Again, review the debacle that is the heathcare.gov website.
Test every link, every form, and every search function and do what you can to possibly find a ‘break’ in the website. Take this time to find the bugs, because if your client does and when they call, they’re not interested in how the family is. Their first question will be, “Why wasn’t this caught in testing?”
Make sure to check the content for grammatical and spelling errors, as well. There’s nothing worse than launching a website riddled with spelling errors that make it look like your site was developed by a six-year old. It’s embarrassing and these should be corrected during testing.
The website has launched and all seems right with the world. You can go see your family, whom you haven’t seen in months and enjoy some well-deserved rest. Now, it’s a possibility that something can happen during the propagation or movement of files.
Unfortunately, there’s a different set of standards for the government than private sector businesses. Don’t pass blame or make excuses. No matter the size of the problem, make sure to reach out to the client and let them know of the bug and timetable for fix. If the client finds the error, best case scenario, they are calm when they call.
If it’s an error on your side, make sure to take responsibility and provide a reasonable (not a month) timetable for fix and let them know charges will not be incurred (it’s only good business).
Following these suggestions will put you on path to a successful launch, while saving you some ulcers along the way. Not every website launch will go off without a hitch, so always maintain a positive outlook on the process, smile and code on.
Do you have any other tips or suggestions for a successful website launch?
Author Bio: Mike Woellert is an Inbound Marketing Specialist with Experient, an Event Management Company. He enjoys music, football, more football, spending time with family and keeping up with the latest Inbound Marketing trends. Connect with Mike on LinkedIn.