Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge your success and say ‘yay you’. Collaborating on a website redesign takes time, effort and a whole heap of internal resources and energy, so it can’t hurt to thank your team and yourself for making it this far.
But what now? Is that it? Next project? Well, not really. Let’s talk accounting (abstract, I know, but bear with me…)
Capital expense vs operational expense
Most organisations see their websites as a capital expense. This means that once every few years, the website is completely redesigned and rebuilt. At the end of that often time intensive, costly process, the new website launches and it is a thing of beauty, it’s perfect.
Well, perfect as it can be, in that your newly accessible website will have code without errors, it will load under 2 seconds, the images will be optimal and the content so up-to-date your support channels are not spending every minute responding to customers queries.
Then, over the next few months and years, the site starts to deteriorate, meaning that:
- things break and just don’t get fixed
- facts change and the content doesn’t
- tech keeps innovating but new tech isn’t implemented
- editors add images that are too big so the site starts to slow down
- marketers add colours that don’t meet branding direction or accessibility standards
- someone adds some PDF’s they made in Canva.
- people leave the organisation and knowledge of the site’s inner workings isn’t handed over
- you don’t have a content matrix, so out-of-date content goes unnoticed. .
- no one in-house knows how to actually update the content.
- your comms person can craft a mean press-release but hasn’t got to grips with writing for the web.
It’s basically a slow and steady demise until the next big website redesign. Then the whole cycle starts again. It sounds crazy, because it is.
So what’s the alternative to the big website redesign?
By switching your website project from a capital expense to an operational one, you can invest the same amount of money, over a longer time period, get the tax breaks sooner AND keep your site in optimum shape for longer.
It sounds like a good idea, because it is. 🙂
As a user experience consultant, part of my role is to help you allocate your budget wisely so that it supports a positive ROI and improved experience, for the people within your organisation and for the people you built it for (your end-users).
This will result in a stronger ROI and better user experience, for your organisation and for the people you built it for.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through how to launch your new site and what to do next. And why you should do all this (and more) on a regular basis, to keep your new website tickety-boo.
Things to do as soon as you launch your new website
When your site is launched, it should have some basic provisions. Start by checking that the list below has been taken care of:
- Submit your site to search engines, so they can crawl your site
- Submit your site to Google Search Console – check for any errors
- Set up necessary redirects (if your site was a redesign), so your users don’t get lost and Google know you did a good thing
- Set up/install Google Analytics, so you can track your visitors
- Set up goals in Google Analytics, so you can track your conversion rate
- Check your Google Business profile is up to date
- Check for broken links
- Check for missing image tags (alt text), for usability and for SEO
- Check your site loads under 2-4 seconds
TIP: If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to do a quick audit of the online channels and platforms associated with your website. Make sure you or the relevant people in your organisation have full ownership of/full access to your:
- Google Account (one account, for Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Search Console, Google My Business etc)
- Domain Names
- Hosting + DNS
- Website CMS login area
- CMS platform (like MailChimp, Hubspot or Salesforce)
- Social accounts
- Third party integrations (like live chat, booking systems, etc)
Once the technical business is checked off, we can think about post-launch
What to do after your website launch
The first advice I give my clients post-launch is to wait a minute. Give your site a few days to get settled in.
No matter how eagled-eyed you are, there will be things that got missed and need tweaking, content that needs editing and typos etc. It’s a good idea to get these little things ironed out before you start any launch campaign.
Think about who’s looking at your site, and how they’re going to find it
Whilst building a new website can be beneficial when it comes to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), it’s not a silver bullet. If your old site wasn’t getting a huge amount of (the right) traffic, your new site won’t fair much better overnight – it will need a helping hand.
If you sit back and wait for the phone to ring, you might be disappointed.
It’s a numbers game, the more people that visit your website, the more opportunities we have to convert them into customers, so if no-one is visiting, we’re stuck, and the best website in the world won’t help with that. It’s like throwing a party but not sending any invites. You might get some passers-by and they might tell their friends, but ultimately, you’re not going to get a great turn out.
If you’re a larger organisation and the number of people visiting your site was good before, hopefully your designer/developer/agency worked with you to ensure a smooth transition. Even then, you might experience a temporary drop whilst Google has a look-see.
As part of your launch campaign, you might consider investing in some digital marketing. Here are some of the ways that you can drive traffic to your new website:
PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, Google Ads
Around 50% of all search clicks are given to the top three paid ads in Google search results. So a Google Ads campaign will give you instant exposure to people already looking for what you offer on your site. There’s usually an initial set up fee if you’re using an agency to manage your campaign, but you only pay Google when someone clicks an ad to your site.
LinkedIn ads are a great way to reach the decision makers within a company. There are two types of LinkedIn ad: 1. Targeted advertising – highly customised to target specific audiences. 2. Sponsored content – helping you to build brand recognition and position you as the go-to in your industry.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is a long-term strategy to increase your organic (unpaid) rank in search engine results. There are many elements to good SEO which should have been taken care of as part of the new site build. After that, content is the biggie, so writing and publishing new content (articles) on a regular basis is a good starting point, as is getting reviews into your Google My Business listing.
Social Media Campaign
If you already have a strong social presence, that’s awesome. If you don’t already have a social following, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach people, it just means you’ll be advertising to potential customers, as opposed to sharing news with existing or pre-qualified ones.
You can share the news via post content, video, a launch competition or even user testimonials. Love it or loathe it, social media marketing works, and it’s a great way to listen to your current and potential customers. These insights can then be used to create more useful content and to continuously improve the user experience.
Unless you’re a start-up, you should already have some sort of customer database. Tell your past customers/clients about your new site via an email campaign. And I don’t mean send an email telling that you have a new site and maybe a new brand etc. Most people won’t care.
Focus on telling them why it’s better than the old one. What can they do more easily? How will it help them? How will it make their life easier? Provide links to key sections of the site and/or links to specific articles that will be of interest to them. In short, less focus on you, more them.
I have website traffic, what else should I do after I launch my new website?
If your launch went well , you told everyone about your new site, directed traffic to it and the world is able to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Now what? Well, now you need a plan for ongoing website management.
Technical Maintenance & Security
Most websites will require some sort of maintenance from a technical perspective. This might be platform related, and could include things like hosting upkeep or security monitoring. You’ll also want to keep an eye on things like site speed.
You can either allocate these tasks to someone on your team, or have a third party take care of this for you. Which you choose will depend on whether or not you have someone in-house with the time, resources and skillset to manage this as part of their role.
Most website design agencies will also be happy to include some level of training as part of the site handover. If you’re a small business owner, it will save you a heap of stress if you have someone you can call on when things go wrong. If you’re a large organisation, asses any risks and consider whether someone in-house has the skills necessary to take of this in-house.
Hopefully, you didn’t just take all the content from your old site and move it to your new one. 🤦♀️ So assuming your new site launched with new or restructured and improved content, you might think you don’t need to worry about that for a while, but that would be a mistake.
Now is the perfect time to set up a Content Matrix so that you can ensure your content stays useful and current.
If you’re a start-up or small business owner and you have a relatively small number of pages on your site, this could be as simple as setting a calendar alert to check your site each month.
If your site is more complex or you’re part of a larger organisation, then a spreadsheet with all the pages (or sections) on it, a month in which each of those pages should be checked and who the best person would be to verify that content, will ensure you have a manageable plan for continuous monitoring and improvement. This is your Content Matrix. Make it someones responsibility so it doesn’t get forgotten about.
Tip:Try not to put the same content in 2 places on your website. For example, if you have a physical shopfront, keep your opening hours in one location. If you’re an educational institution, ensure your terms dates are only on one page. You can reference this content from other pages, but having one source of truth will ensure things don’t get missed over time.
Marketing & Strategy
We already talked about marketing a little as part of your launch strategy, and much of that applies here too. You’ll need a plan to continuously drive the right kind of people (traffic) to your site and may wish to allocate a monthly budget to support this.
Having things like Google Ads ready to go means you can quickly turn on the tap if things go quiet. If you/your team get overwhelmed, you can hit pause until you’re ready again.
Ideally, your old site would have been tracking conversion metrics (visitors who did a thing that you care about, like making a purchase or filling out a contact form) and user behaviour (using tools like HotJar or Full Story for heat-mapping, user-research surveys etc).
Soon after you launch your new website, you’ll want to check in with Google Analytics or any other tracking software you have installed, to see how well the new site is performing. What constitutes a well-performing site will depend on what you set out to achieve, but improving these metrics is often a primary goal for post-launch optimisation.
User testing and improvements
Lastly, but by no means least, you’ll want to ensure you strive to keep improving the overall experience for your users. Your initial website redesign process would have included user research, prototyping, testing and iteration – to what degree would have depended on your project budget.
Even with this process in place, you and your team would still have had to make many assumptions as to what your users want and need from your website.
Regular user testing will ensure any major issues are picked up and fixed-up early. Best of all, you can carry out user testing yourself, for free with just 4 hours each month.
NOTE: With larger projects, there’s often something baked into your contract period post-launch that will take care of bugs and issues that got missed due to lack of testing, a tight deadline or just hard luck. This isn’t to be confused with continuous improvement, which focuses on the user experience and conversion optimisation.
The worst thing you can do is nothing
Consider the minimum you can do to keep your site working well and you’ll still reap the rewards, much like a well serviced and cared for car will be reliable and retain it’s value, a well-managed website should offer the same.
Following this approach, unless you’re looking to change the platform you created the site in, you shouldn’t need to do another big, expensive and resource-hungry redesign. And even if you do, everything you’ve learnt from testing and monitoring will help inform decisions for that project too.
It looks like a lot and in many ways it is. Creating and publishing a new website is really just the start of a successful and impactful or profitable digital presence. You might not tick off everything in this list and that’s ok. Every little helps.
- The launch of your website isn’t the end of the project, it’s just the beginning.
- You’ll need a plan for ongoing maintenance and management and know who to call when things go wrong.
- Keeping content up to date is key if you want to reduce support requests and provide a helpful experience to your visitors.
- Page speed and accessibility will likely deteriorate over time without checks in place.
- If done well, there should be no need for a big redesign project in 3-4 years time.