There’s a lot to do when launching a site. Here are some of the less obvious things store-owners often overlook.
Every site owner has a list of things they need to get done before going live – skinning, adding products, setting up a payment gateway, etc… There’s also the purely technical stuff we tell you to do.
But for a site to be successful there are some less obvious, but no less important, things to do before you officially ‘open.’
Our C.O.O, Jo Benson, is big on SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and has done several webinars lately on the importance of properly optimizing your site.
She’s covered a lot of great information to increase sales once you know how customers are using your site but it’s important to remember that some SEO should be done before you start getting visitors.
For example, once the majority of your content is ready, submit your site to Google and Yahoo‘s sitemap services. Submitting sitemaps will ensure your site gets crawled and indexed, but it takes a while. So don’t wait until the last minute!
If you’re going to participate in affiliate programs or link exchanges, get those set up ahead of time. Most affiliate services allow you to specify when to start referring people to your site, so you don’t get visitors too early. You want these links ready when your site is to get those sales started!
Have your site tested completely before you try taking live sales. Every link, page, and button should be clicked and tested.
But, someone else should do this testing! Actually, get as many someone elses as you can find.
You want real feedback on the design, navigation, checkout process, and everything else from people with different habits, browsing habits, and levels of Internet familiarity.
Make sure you mix things up a bit. Try your site on different OS’s, different browsers, and different types of people.
Think about your target demographic and make sure you them to try your site. Listen to what they have to say, and make adjustments where necessary.
If one of your testers can’t figure something out, you can be sure there will eventually be thousands of other people who visit your site and can’t figure it out either.
Unless you’re working on a very large site, there’s a good chance your site has never had more than 1 or 2 people on it at a time during setup.
While the site may work fine with so few people, what about when you have 10 people on it at a time? Or 100? You don’t want to find out the day after you go live that your hosting environment can’t keep up.
Have some of your friends/coworkers all hit the site at the same time, and monitor it. Does it slow down? Are there any errors? Is the application pool resetting every few minutes?
A lot of hosts offer load testing services. There are 3rd party applications to do this as well.
It’s counter-intuitive, but sometimes your site traffic can actually be too slow.
.NET applications ‘sleep’ if they’ve been idle for a certain amount of time, and have to start back up the next time they’re accessed.
If your site is only being hit every few hours, a common problem with low-traffic new sites, each new customer is going to have to wait for the site to start back up when they visit. You don’t want the first visitor you’ve had in hours to decide the site is too slow and leave!
The solution is using a “keep-alive,” a services that hits your site periodically and keep it from idling. Most .NET hosts offer a “keep-alive” services to do this for you.
What are some of your “must-do” items before you go live with a new site? Do you have a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.