Launching a company website is a major milestone for any business, regardless of its size.
But creating a small business website is not as simple as putting all your content on a web page and hitting the “publish” button.
Your company website is your digital presence. In order to be effective, it has to be able to serve your customers the same way you would if they came to your physical store.
If you are careless with building your website, a broken link, a typo, or even a minute calculation error can be the difference between getting a sale or losing a customer.
Your Small Business Website Checklist
Remember the old adage that prevention is always better than a cure. Smart business owners should follow a pre-launch website checklist before going live to make sure the site is ready to serve customers.
Here’s what you need to evaluate.
Your website design is the overall presentation of your website. It’s responsible for giving potential customers their first impression of your business.
It is also responsible for those first crucial minutes when they make the decision to stay or move on to a competitor.
Consider the following points in order to make sure that you have designed your website for success:
- The website is compatible across all browsers.
- The website is responsive, i.e., compatible on all kinds of devices and screen resolutions. If a significant amount of your traffic comes from mobile, you need to make sure that your site works well and looks good on smartphones.
- Your website’s favicon is clearly and correctly displayed. The favicon is the small image that represents your website in the URL bar of the web browser.
- The logo is located on the upper left of all pages with a link to your homepage, and the search box (if any) is located at the right.
- Navigation is simple and functioning properly.
- You have optimized videos and images for the web, checked for pixelation, and assigned alt tags. Alt tags describe your image and help your site rank well in the search engines.
- CSS & HTMLs are clean and validated.
Proofreading/copy editing and testing your site’s content is crucial, particularly if you’re planning to host a blog on the site. Even if you’re not hosting a blog, your website copy should read well.
Strong copy should include a description of products and services, as well as calls to action for purchasing products and services.
It’s a good idea to have more than one person proofread your website so you can get different perspectives and catch all errors. Make sure that:
- All site content is based on facts and adds value.
- The site content has been proofread/copy edited more than once for typographical errors, spelling, and grammar consistency.
- Call to actions are placed throughout the site to encourage customers to purchase products and services (if relevant).
- The text is easy to read against the backdrop.
- Audio, videos, and images are correctly placed and properly licensed or cited.
- Hyperlinks to other relevant sections are available and working properly.
- You have removed all generic content and test content.
- You have hidden all scripts and functions.
For e-commerce stores:
- People can easily locate your return/refund policy.
- You’ve displayed the types of payment that you accept.
- Users can easily read product descriptions and customer reviews.
This section aims to ensure that every interactive aspect of your website is functioning properly.
This process involves extensive testing and retesting of any tools, forms, applications, or widgets that you have integrated and made available to your customers.
One important point to highlight is that if your website has an e-commerce store, make sure you have enabled it to accept credit cards.
There are a number of merchant accounts available to e-commerce business owners that facilitate online payment processing.
It is important for small businesses to understand how merchant accounts work. And to know how to choose a merchant account supplier.
It is just a matter of deciding which provider is best for you. Remember that the whole point of maintaining an e-commerce website is to convert site visitors into paying customers.
So setting up your merchant account properly is crucial.
Complete the following to check functionality:
- Test e-commerce functions, such as shopping carts and payment gateways, to ensure they are working properly.
- Make sure your acknowledgment page for after purchase is working as intended.
- User test all web forms, email captures, and popups to ensure they are working properly.
- RSS feeds (if you have blogs) should be functioning as intended.
- All links, both internal and external, need to be functioning.
- Do a website speed test to see that your website is loading within at least five seconds. For each second that it takes your website to load, you’re losing customers.
- Make sure you have tested your integrations with other software, such as your accounting software or CRM.
- Your 404 page (the error page that comes up when a customer clicks a link that doesn’t work) should provide a link to take customers back to your homepage.
4. SEO & Analytics
SEO (search engine optimization) and analytics go hand in hand. Proper SEO ensures that your website is ranking well in search engine results.
An analytics tool (such as Google Analytics) tells you how well your website is performing in terms of traffic and conversion rates. It helps you determine which segments of the site you can improve.
For SEO, make sure that:
- Each page title is unique and not more than 70 characters
- Each page description is unique and not more than 160 characters
- URLs are clean coded and rich in keywords
- All important pages are available for indexing
- Each page has only one H1 tag that includes the primary keyword
- All metadata is in place for social media content and RSS feeds (if any)
- You have assigned alt tags to all your images
- All meta title and description tags are unique
- You have specified a 301 redirect if people find the same content in multiple URLs on the website.
For analytics, make sure that:
- You have installed an analytics tracking code on your website.
- Your web design agency doesn’t own the analytics account. You want to make sure you have free access to your account and can make changes as necessary.
- Your analytics software defines your goals and funnels.
- You have properly integrated your analytics tool and webmaster tools.
- You have put filters in place properly in order to exclude visits from your own company staff.
5. Security & Backups
Don’t let your valuable data get corrupted or fall into the wrong hands. Putting some effort up front into website security and scheduling regular backups will help keep your website information safe.
Go through the following checklist to ensure proper security:
- Regularly schedule manual or automatic backups.
- All computers with access to the administrator account should be free of malware.
- Administrator passwords need to be strong and changed regularly.
- A site monitor and an automatic protocol should be in place to notify your administrator of any unusual event on the website.
- Confidential information needs to be in a secure database.
- You need to conduct a load test and make sure the website passes a heavy traffic scenario.
- Your website should be running on secure HTTPS protocol if you have an e-commerce store or if you store sensitive information, such as customer emails.
- Make sure you have installed an SSL certificate if you have an e-commerce store.
Internet laws in most countries require websites to observe certain standards. It is best to consult a legal practitioner to ensure that your company website is operating in compliance with any laws.
Here are some of the most common compliance guidelines for operating a website:
- The website is accessible to users with visual disabilities.
- If you have an e-commerce store and accept credit cards as a form of payment, your site must be PCI compliant.
Given the amount of planning and work that goes into creating a website, there’s no doubt that there are other checklist items to review pre-launch.
But planning ahead and working closely with your team with this list in hand will surely help your website hit the ground running.
Originally published 10/23/17; updated 9/28/21 to add resources and format better for mobile devices.
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