Apollo 13 Mission Rocket LaunchSo you’ve just received approval to launch your website redesign project. What’s next? I’ve built this list of items to help make your next WordPress redesign launch a smooth one!

Content

  1. Consistent typography and design throughout the site
  2. Proper spelling and grammar
  3. Search the site for test or filler content
  4. Consistent capitalization and writing style/tense
  5. Remove variations in words
  6. Typography styles and compatability with WordPress default styles. I always load this sample WordPress WYSIWYG content into a sample post to verify typographic styles
  7. Check for print styles, especially for information blogs
  8. Check that content in TinyMCE WYSIWYG is marked up correctly with correct heading hierarchy and no inline styles. I usually limit what content engineers can enter into the WordPress visual editor to make this easy for everyone involved
  9. Test forms and verify that notifications are properly sent
  10. Check search functionality (including relevance of results). I suggest the Relevanssi search plugin to sort search results by relevance not date

Design

  1. Check design consistency against style guide throughout the website
  2. If you’re using shadows or lighting effects ensure that the light direction is consistent throughout the whole design
  3. Check that link colors are consistent
  4. Check that variations in HEX values don’t exist and are consistent
  5. Remove uneeded or unused CSS from your stylesheets
  6. Add form validation styles
  7. Verify the design of all JavaScript/client-side behaviors
  8. Does the site follow usability best practices?
  9. Does the site function well using various screen resolutions and targeted mobile devices?
  10. Add a nice cross browser favicon to compliment your design
  11. Are there easy ways to send/save the website to social marketing sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Facebook, Stumbleupon, etc
  12. Is there an easy way for people to send feedback on the new design? Is is accessible from every page?

Development

  1. Check for hard-coded links to staging domain to verify that all links are absolute, relative or point to the proper LIVE url
  2. Check for CSS or HTML errors – I usually advise using the W3C as a guideline not a rule. I use the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox to speed this up
  3. Cross browser testing for consistency and gracefully degrade in all targeted browsers where necessary
  4. Check for and resolve any JavaScript errors
  5. Check PHP error logs and resolve any theme related issues
  6. Debug WordPress using the wp-config.php WP_DEBUG constant or the Debug Bar tool
  7. Obfuscate all email (mailto:) links to protect them from spam harvesting using the antispambot() function
  8. Removed unused, commented out, or legacy code to avoid software rot
  9. Add spam protection to all contact/email forms using a CAPTCHA system or equivalent method

SEO & Tracking

  1. Add Google Analytics to your theme
  2. Setup Feedburner for RSS feed tracking and analytics and test all public feeds
  3. Setup 301 redirects to inform search engines about any URL structures and to preserve inbound links. Depending on the size of the site, it may not be feasible to redirect all URL’s. I usually reference a list of top content in Google Analytics and setup redirects based on that. This ensures that the most visited pages are redirected
  4. Find a way to measure the conversion rate for the new design (Google Analytics is a good choice). Without that, how do you know the new web design is doing it’s job?
  5. Create a friendly 404.php template to inform visitors that a page is missing
  6. Monitor 404 errors after the launch. I track custom pageViews in Google Analytics for this
  7. Choose a solid SEO plugin, and optimize your top pages with keyword rich titles and meta descriptions
  8. Keep track of your pre-launch performance, including bounce rate, average time on site and pageviews/visits
  9. Setup an optimized robots.txt and sitemap.xml file for fast indexing. I let Yoast’s SEO plugin handle this for me
  10. Be sure to disable any search engine blocking under Settings > Privacy
  11. Setup optimization tools to ensure the new website is being properly by search engines. I suggest Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo! Site Explorer and Bing Webmaster Tools. Again, I let Yoast’s come to the rescue on this
  12. To take this a step further I suggest reviewing Smart Insights in depth guide to managing SEO performance during a launch

Backup, Security & Performance

  1. Download and backup all files from the existing website
  2. Backup the database using PHPMyAdmin or another database management tool like Sequel Pro before starting the launch process
  3. Be sure your installation is running the latest WordPress, plugins and follows security best practices
  4. If you’re website receives a notable amount of traffic it’s worth spending some time to speed up the front-end processing of WordPress
  5. Optimize your images by saving them for web with Photoshop
  6. After you launch the website setup a database caching tool. I recommend WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache

Moving WordPress & Domain Changes

  1. If you’re moving from to a new hosting setup review the official guide for moving WordPress
  2. Utilize the WP_HOME and WP_SITEURL constants to make moving to a new host easy
  3. Once you are setup on the live domain be sure to run a database find and replace to remove all references to the old URL from the database. This can be done using a MySQL query (thanks Lorelle) or by using a GUI provided by the Search and Replace plugin
  4. Do you have access to DNS settings for the domain? How is the companies email setup? If they host email be sure to colloborate with an IT manager to ensure that there is no downtime. Often times switching an A-record is the best way to do this

What suggestions do you have?

Is there anything you think I should I add? Please let me know by sharing your comments!