A [Free] WordPress Launch Checklist You Can’t Afford To Miss

A [Free] WordPress Launch Checklist You Can’t Afford To Miss

Website launch day should be about celebrating and congratulating, not stressing and scrambling. To help you avoid oversights and embarrassing mistakes, we’ve put together this WordPress website launch checklist to ensure your (or your client’s) website stands out from day one.

The urge to rush a new website launch can be tempting.

The development stage is over, you’ve done the hard work, and now you just want to get the website out to the world already.

After all, you can work out the remaining kinks once the website has gone live right?

Well, yeah… but that sort of logic can get you into trouble.

Because Quality Assurance Isn’t Just For You

You can’t afford to ignore the importance of quality assurance (QA) checks during the development process. Before, during, or after.

Regardless of whether you have another team member or person in place to manage quality, as a professional you should have a QA step built into your own process before handing your website over to anyone else.

Especially live visitors!

Think Of Your Website Like Your Child On His/Her First Day Of School

You wouldn’t want them meeting their teachers, classmates, and future friends with their clothes on backwards, an empty backpack on their shoulders, or an unpleasant demeanor.

You’d want them to give off the best first impression and be prepared for anything and everything.

That’s exactly how you should treat your website, and that’s why a WordPress launch checklist is so important.

No matter how diligent you are in reviewing your work, QA cannot be guaranteed unless you have a formalized list of steps to follow or items to check off. There are just too many little reminders, tools, and nooks and crannies to remember to look into…

Luckily for you, we’ve created this comprehensive WordPress website checklist to help ensure your launch goes off without a hitch.

23 Essential Checks Before Launching Your WordPress Website

Here are 23 things you need to test before your WordPress website goes live:

1. Double Check The Statement Of Work (SOW)

When building a website for a client, one of the most critical aspects is making sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to the expectations and deliverables of the project.

Enough work goes into developing a website as it is… and you don’t want to give yourself even more work to do at the last minute.

If the owner of the website was expecting certain functionalities, a specific number of pages, or anything else outside of a standard website scope (hopefully you’ve already discussed these up front in the SOW), you want to make sure you’ve completed all of these additional tasks.

Once you’ve built the website make sure you double check the SOW and the overall expectations, and ensure everything has been ticked off.

After all, the last thing you want to do is not deliver what the client expected from you.

2. Complete Remaining Tasks or Change Requests

While you’re working on developing your website, there’s bound to be plenty of new tasks, notes, or change requests that pop up along the way. And it’s easy to miss them when you’re hard at work.

So before you get too far into the quality assurance of the website, make sure you’ve reviewed your open item queue and *verified everything has been completed.

3. Review Every Single Web Page

Before you get too far into the QA process, give yourself a break.

Go for a walk, watch some videos on YouTube, hit the gym – whatever helps take your mind off of the website you’ve been working on for days, weeks, months. Go do it.

Then come back to the staging environment and view it as a visitor… not a developer.

You’re going to need to do a full sweep of every single page of the website. Every piece of it will need to be checked for visual appearance, readability, and functionality.

This will include all the finer details such as:

  • Logos
  • Navigation bar
  • Images
  • Designs
  • Text
  • Header/footer strips
  • Calls-to-action
  • Links
  • Forms
  • Maps
  • Contact info
  • Sidebars
  • Callouts
  • Popups
  • Social media
  • Widgets
  • Logins/portals
  • And more

It’s one of the more tedious of the tests you’ll need to do, but it’s essential.

You don’t want anyone’s experience to be disrupted by something as silly as a broken link if you can prevent it.

4. Read Through The Written Content

The written content is arguably one of the most important pieces of a website.

For example, if a visitor happens to stumble across a typo, or placeholder text you’ve accidentally left in, this creates a negative user experience, and potentially even a lost conversion.

So you’ll literally need to make sure you’ve dotted all your “i’s” and crossed your “t’s.”

Here are two additional tips to help you with performing this check:

  • Check each page in WordPress and make sure there are no misspellings or grammar issues that the spell check tool has picked up. (JetPack has this feature, if you don’t already have it.)
  • Visit the website on the staging environment and read through all of the copy on each page. This step will help ensure that text which exists outside of each page’s text editor (in the sidebars, widgets, testimonial sliders, forms, etc. ) is correct, and no longer contains placeholder text.

5. Verify Website Images

By the time you’ve moved into the website development phase, you’ve probably reviewed the site’s designs and images with the website owner.

Much like the purpose of this testing/checking phase, getting your client to sign-off on all the moving pieces of the site before development will help you save time in revisions later on.

So once you’ve received the go-ahead on all the site’s imagery, make sure to verify all images have been purchased and/or that you have the proper rights to use them on your website.

6. Verify The Favicon Works

The favicon (the little bug that sits up next to your site’s name in the browser tab) is an important piece of any website’s identity.

Many theme providers will include the Favicon selection, sizing, and implementation inside of their theme settings.

If that’s not the case with your website, you can use a favicon generator plugin to make sure it’s there and works on all browser types.

7. Set Up a Privacy Statement

It doesn’t matter what type of website you have, a privacy policy and terms of use documentation should be included.

It’s an extra layer of protection every website owner needs and it’s really easy to set up, so there’s no excuse not to have one.

The Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy plugin can help get you started.

8. Prepare For 404s

If you’ve reached this point, you’ve probably already reviewed every link on your website to make sure it’s in working order.

But what happens if a visitor types in a page name incorrectly, or somehow gets redirected to a “Page Not Found” error message?

You want to make sure you’ve accounted for this possibility and you know what the visitor will see if this happens.

Follow the steps below to improve your UX if this does happen:

  1. Create a custom 404 page message and page design. The 404page plugin can help you do this.
  2. Set up a plugin (like the 404 to 301 plugin) that will log all 404 errors and enable you to redirect any error to another working page on the website.
  3. Set up an automatic email alert for 404 errors so you don’t have to waste time sifting through boring log files.

9. Test Social Media Sync-Ups in Real Time

Social media is a huge part of everyone’s online identity these days… personally and professionally.

That’s why there should be a continual loop between someone’s social media identities and their website. This could be in the form of live feeds, links, or even automatic blog post promotions.

While you may have already tested to make sure social media links go to the correct pages, you may not have checked for the other functionalities.

The process of testing for this will need to be manual. If social media is set to promote new blog posts, you’ll need to publish a test post on the site to see if the message goes up.

If there are any social feeds, you’ll also need to see if new tweets or messages show up as they publish to social media.

10. Ensure Your Website is SEO Ready

If you want your website to get found, you need to make sure it’s optimized.

That means pages, images, and content for search and sharing.

WordPress does have a default SEO tool, but it’s not quite as “smart” or comprehensive as many WordPress users would like it to be.

A plugin like SmartCrawl can help take the guesswork out of your website’s SEO and ensure you’ve got page titles, meta descriptions, focus keywords, and alt tags applied to every single page and image you want found (as a bonus, it’ll also create a site map for you and send updates to search engines when it changes).

In order to get your website noticed on social and help users find relevant content, each page and blog post will need a featured image, keywords, and categories assigned to it for an improved UX.

You’ll need to check each of these within WordPress to ensure you’ve covered all your bases.

11. Check Your Robots.txt File

Having an HTML site map (as mentioned above) isn’t enough for search engines to find your website.

You also should make sure you have a robots.txt file in place so the search engines will know how to crawl your website (i.e. which pages to rank and which ones to ignore).

If you have any questions on this, Google has a comprehensive guide you can refer to.

12. Confirm All Site Processes Work Properly

If you have a form or purchasing portal on your website, then you have a certain process you expect visitors to follow in order to sign up for something, make a purchase, or get additional info.

Since these are the conversion pathways on your site, it’s important to run comprehensive tests to check there are no glitches or confusion points along the way.

You’ll also need to make sure that success page redirects are in place and appear as you want them to.

Here are some additional checks for testing your site processes:

  • If you’re promising a download, does a file actually download when clicked?
  • If there’s a sign-up or contact form and the form is linked to a CRM, does the information import into the system?
  • If there’s a shopping cart, does the ordering process collect all the necessary customer and payment info, and does it launch the purchasing process on your end?
  • If a payment is required, can you confirm the payment was processed correctly? (If you use PayPal, they have a Sandbox testing tool that will help you verify this).
  • Do all of the form’s required fields work?
  • Do you, as a website owner or admin, receive an email notification after each transaction is completed?
  • Do any and all buttons/links in these processes work?
  • Once the action has been completed, are visitors directed to a custom “Thank You” page?

The collection of, and ability to process website conversions are an essential part of any online business – so this is a crucial test for every developer to have in their arsenal.

13. Confirm All Plugin & Customization Functionality

When you’re in the process of developing a website, you often use a number of plugins and make customizations of your own to get the website to looking and working the way you want it to.

Once you’ve reached the testing phase, you’ll have to verify this work has all been done properly (or double-check if you’ve previously tested it).

Special plugins or features that have a direct effect on UX can be tested as you make your way through the site during check #3 on our list. For example, features like a site search or infinite content loading.

However, for anything that has more of a focus on the back end (like measuring site analytics, adding layers of security, etc.) you’ll need to make sure those are all set up and working properly too.

14. Check for Mobile-Friendliness

Did you know that over half of all search traffic comes from mobile devices?

Unsurprisingly, this means search engines heavily weigh a website’s mobile-friendliness in their algorithms.

Regardless of how many visitors you expect to find your website via mobile device, you’re going to need to account for their ease in UX just as you would for desktop users.

Google makes this easy with their Mobile-Friendly Test Tool, so be sure to run this test and account for any errors before launch.

15. Review Cross-Browser Compatibility

On a related note, cross-browser compatibility is another must in your website development and QA processes.

Cross-browser compatibility checks will account for all browser types across all devices (including mobile). As a web developer you probably already have the most popular browsers installed on your computer for this purpose.

If you don’t, there are also tools online available to help test your website’s responsive nature and cross-browser compatibility.

16. Review The Accessibility Of Your Website For The Visually & Physically Impaired

Often it can be difficult for visually or physically impaired visitors to navigate and interact with websites.

In order to have a universally accepted website, you should test it to see if it can be accessed regardless of disability type. WordPress has prepared some notes on the subject if you need.

In order to properly test your website for accessibility, start by finding a free screen reader testing tool like NVDA, to help you identify problem areas and go from there.

17. Test Your Website Code’s W3C Compliance

Code quality is important for overall site health and there are certain standards in place (namely, the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C) that dictate which requirements need to be met in order for a website to be compliant.

For a quick test of your coding quality, you can use W3C’s HTML checker to see if your site is up to snuff.

Check that the markup on our site is valid with W3C's free service.
Check that the markup on our site is valid with W3C’s free service.

18. Upgrade WordPress and Verify Plugin Compatibility

Before launch, it’s important to check you’re using the latest WordPress installation.

The same is true of any plugins or themes you use with the website. This is important not only for security reasons, but also to ensure all tools remain compatible with WordPress.

There are two ways you can automate these updates:

You can do so via the wp.config.php file, a plugin like Advanced Automatic Updates, or if you’re lucky enough to be WPMU DEV member, you’ll have our Automate feature taking care of it all for you!

This way, if you’re handing your website off to a client, you can at least do your part to keep everything up-to-date and secure.

19. Confirm Your SSL Certificate

If your website has an SSL certificate (which it should, especially if you have an eCommerce site), test it before the site goes live.

Free online SSL checkers will let you know if there is anything wrong or missing with your certificate.

For more info on this, check out our post: “How to Use SSL and HTTPS with WordPress.”

20. Double-Check Your Website’s Security

While your hosting provider will help you maintain certain levels of security for your website, hackers are becoming more savvy in getting around any firewalls you might have set up.

That’s why it’s important to have your own security standards in place, especially as they pertain to making eCommerce sites PCI compliant.

A good place to start is installing a WordPress security plugin like our own Defender. You’ll then want to use this checklist for testing and covering all your security-related bases.

Get regular security scans, vulnerability reports, safety recommendations and customized hardening for your site in just a few clicks with Defender.
Get regular security scans, vulnerability reports, and safety recommendations for your site in a few clicks with Defender.

21. Test Your Website Speed

Site load time is an important factor for user overall experience.

For example, a three second wait time is often too long for many people, so you’ll need a way to test your site’s speed pre- and post-launch.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a great tool that can review and provide you with insights and recommendations regarding your website’s load time.

You can also use plugins like Hummingbird which help optimize your website’s speed directly within WordPress.

These kinds of plugins can help in identifying problem areas and assist in minifying CSS, Javascript files, and more.

22. Stress-Test Your Website

Many developers don’t consider this, (especially when starting with a brand new website) but it’s important to know how much traffic your website can handle.

What if suddenly a huge spike of traffic hits your site?

Is it okay to let the site crash (even temporarily) and lose potential sales if it’s just a one-time occurrence?

No, of course it’s not.

That’s why you need to test your website’s limits upfront.

Check that your PHP memory limit and max_file_size match the size of your website. And make sure to optimize your website when you have a lot of plugins or files across multiple networks and sites.

Then you can follow these steps and conduct the stress-test on your website to make sure it can withstand an overload of data or traffic.

23. Revamp Your Website Logins

This may seem insignificant on the surface, but prior to launch you’ll want to:

  1. Update all usernames and passwords that have access to your website to stronger formats.
  2. Test them before handing them off to anyone else.

Once the website goes live, you’ll then be ready to hand off workable and safe login credentials to users.

Ensure Your Next Site Launch Is A Roaring Success

Be sure to save this listicle and keep it by your side the next time you’re launching a new website.

The QA and testing process is going to be fairly lengthy, so make sure you have enough time allotted in post-development to conduct the tests, fix any potential issues, and re-review before the site reaches the website owner or admin.

And if you can’t handle it on your own, or you’re not comfortable reviewing your own work (since you’ve spent more than enough time looking at it already), bring on additional team members to assist with the testing phases.

A Few Important Notes To Remember With This Process:

Your reputation isn’t just going to be judged by people who visit the website once it’s live.

It’s going to be judged by the people who work with you and see the quality of the product you deliver.

If they’re the ones spotting errors and having to tell you how to do your job, your reputation as a trustworthy expert and professional may seriously diminish.

Always, always, always make sure you have the client, your boss, or the website owner review the website before launch.

You’ll want their signed approval to safeguard against any backtracking or additional (and unpaid) work requests once the site has gone live.

Remember Pre-Launch Checks Are Only Half The Battle

You’ll also need to do another round of QA post-launch to ensure everything carried over properly to the live site.

As well as taking this time to set up any necessary tracking or advertising tools.

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Brenda Barron
Brenda Barron Brenda Barron is a freelance writer from Southern California. She specializes in WordPress, tech, business and founded WP Theme Roundups. When not writing all the things, she's spending time with her family.
Rick Crawshaw
Rick Crawshaw Rick is a copywriting and marketing fanatic who calls the beautiful land of New Zealand home (yes, it's as stunning as you've heard). When this kiwi's not making words sing off the page, you'll likely find him stuck down a weird YouTube rabbit hole, or bingeing throwback 90's sitcoms.
What's on your pre-launch checklist? Feel free to share your pre-website launch hacks below.