You launched your site. Now what?
You launched your new website! Congratulations. Lucas has already offered some excellent feedback on how to weather the seemingly inevitable storm of feedback that will be headed your way. But politics aside, there are some very specific steps that you should take upon launching a website to make sure that all is running smoothly, and to lay the groundwork for the successful use of the site in the months and years to come.
As soon as you can:
Analytics. Immediately after your launch, verify that Google Analytics is collecting data, and collecting data in the way you want it. Don’t assume that everything you expected to happen is now happening. Run the reports that are important to you, and make sure that you’re satisfied with what you see.
Survey. If you have a way to reach out to your highest value audiences, now is a good time to do so. Fielding a survey is not the same as receiving phone calls with praise or complaints. Instead, this is a way collect feedback in an organized, quantifiable way. If there are real issues emerging, you’ll find them and can respond appropriately.
Continue. It’s not unusual for colleges and universities, museums, and non-profit organizations to launch new websites while thousands of page of content still exist in an old format. That frequently includes hundreds of pages that haven’t been accessed in the last few years, but must still be addressed in some way. If you have an ongoing migration plan, don’t let it slide. The new site is exciting, but an inconsistent design and user experience will undermine your efforts.
Correct. Even a very carefully launched website is going to mean a few (or more than a few) broken links. Check your 404 report regularly for frequently hit dead links so you can create redirects that will get your users where they’re trying to go. You should also regularly run the Site Integrity Check to find dead links within your content so that they can be corrected as well.
Six months later:
Test. Accessibility test. Standards test. Speed tests. Usability tests. Hopefully all of these were part of your quality assurance checklist prior to launching the site, so you have a baseline. After six months, run them again and make sure that you’re identifying and correcting issues or taking advantage of opportunities for improvement. If you’ve made changes since launch, ensure that they’re usable, readable, and understandable.
Check yourself. Way back at the beginning of your redesign, you very likely set goals for the site. Some may be web traffic related, while others may be tied to “real world” changes, like applications or ticket sales. Regardless, it’s time to start checking your success against those metrics. If you’re not seeing the changes that you wanted, you’re going to have to be brave. Take a cold, hard look at the new website and figure out why. You may still have work to do, but it’s not about finger pointing. It’s about doing whatever’s necessary to make sure that the website is serving organizational needs.
Re-set. With a website, you’re never really finished. Once you’ve achieved your goals for the first six months, it’s time for a new set of goals. And there will be more mountains to climb after you get past those. Technology changes. Institutions change. The alignment between the two never stops shifting. But don’t be discouraged—be energized! This is what’s great about working in the digital world. There’s always something more for you to explore.
P.S. LOTS of my colleagues contributed ideas for this post, and I thank Fastspot for the input. Getting help from smart people is another great way to keep things running smoothly!