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The Essential Checks Before Your Website Goes Live

By Michael Foster / July 24th 2015

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Website building is best left to the experts but this doesn’t mean that, as a client, you should be left in the dark about what is being done and why! Here I’m going to talk you through the checks that happen in the final stages of a website development, just before we put it live: it’s all about the detail.

<title> and meta data

From both an SEO and user navigation perspective, the page title is crucial.

  • Every page should have a title relevant to its displayed content
  • The HTML <title> element is required in all HTML and XHTML documents (pages)
  • Meta data is a requirement in XML documents
  • The meta data can describe the purpose of the data, means of creation, time and date, author and more

Favicon

This is the graphic icon displayed on your browser tabs, giving your brand extra visibility and reminding lovers of multiple-tabbed browsing that you’re still there.

  • As an example, Twitter uses its blue bird logo as a favicon; we use an ‘e1’ in our brand colours
  • The favicon is also used by browsers when making a bookmark or shortcut
  • These tiny graphics are usually only 16 x 16 pixels

Minify

This is good housekeeping: to minify a file is to remove all the spaces and returns on your coding and put everything on one line – this will compress the coding on the website by removing redundant data, for better website performance like faster loading.

  • Minification does not affect the operation of the code
  • You can get JavaScript specific compressors and CSS specific ones too

Cross browser checks

This tests your website’s compatibility to multiple browsers, regardless of the browser version.

  • If a user is unable to see your website in their browser they will blame your site – even if the fault lies with their operating system or browser
  • To avoid complications web developers test their current work in progress in multiple browsers to allow them to spot issues early on
  • For efficiency, we sometimes automate the cross browser checks to run at intervals using tools such as BrowserShots, IE or Adobe Browser Lab

Legacy 301

For a web development for an existing site, Legacy 301 is the implementation of search-engine friendly redirects for pages that used to rank well on Google, but whose content has been assigned to a new URL during the new build.

  • If you don’t take care of 301 redirects, your user will be sent to a 404 – Page Not Found
  • There is no worse user experience than a Page Not Found! Directing the user to something else, even if it wasn’t the information they wanted, is better
  • It’s possible to create rewriting rules to instruct the server to return 301 messages instead of 404 every time, which is known as a “permanent redirect”

Responsive testing

Your website should work well on all mobile phones, desktops and tablets. Rather than test at the end, responsive website design (RWD) is an integral part of the development process – but it’s good to remember to give the whole site a once over when it’s done!

  • Make pages look great on any sized screen – it works on three points: fluid grids, fluid images and media queries
  • Bootstrap is the most popular HTML, CSS, and JS framework for developing responsive code for the site
  • Google likes it. That’s good enough for us

Analytics setup and configuration

This allows SEO wizards and marketing mavens to track traffic, measure statistics and see how a site is performing in terms of conversions and return on investment. All business websites should be tooled up with analytics.

  • Track monthly page views and daily unique visits
  • Google analytics gives you a free tool to do this
  • Assess which pages and which content is converting
  • Use analytics information to develop marketing plans

Google’s Webmaster Tools tag should also be added, so that any issues with crawling and indexing can be identified straight away; plus you can add an xml sitemap to tell Google all about the new pages in your website.

Links

Each part of your website works should work correctly and effectively, and this includes embedded links. A link check will show any bad links – it is generally the last thing on the development site that needs to be done before it goes live.

  • If someone forgot to add http:// to a link for external websites, it may not work
  • On the page, are the links obvious to the reader? Are they underlined?
  • Here’s a handy W3C link checker

Change the domain from the development stage to live!

A sub-domain is used for the new website during its development process, so when all the checks have been completed it’s ready to go live by pushing it onto the correct domain.

  • This is generally changed in domain settings
  • Eureka! A swanky new site that everyone can see

And lastly /robots.txt

In development, robots.txt is used to prevent search engines from crawling and indexing the new build while it’s still in development – an extra level of protection. When the site is set to live, the robots.txt needs to be removed and folders put in place that don’t need to be crawled, such as admin URLs.

  • It’s possible to disallow them from visiting any or all the pages of your website
  • Also known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol
  • /robots.txt can not be used to hide information though, because the file is publicly available and people can see on the server which section you want to exclude from robots

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