Opening your website to the public will be one of the most nerve-wracking steps you’ll take, as you launch your business online. It’s easy to forget something critical, especially if the world of online business is new to you or if you’re doing most of the website work yourself. Even if your website is being designed by someone else, you will still want to check everything to ensure nothing was missed.
Many of these checkpoints can be managed by anyone who is familiar with online shopping. They don’t have to be an expert. Consider hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) to help with the more time consuming tasks, such as checking links.
Website Launch Checklist for Canadian Small Businesses & Blogs
Run through this checklist before you go live. In fact, it’s best to refer to it throughout the design process so you have time to learn anything you don’t understand and get it all in place. If you’re working with a web designer or developer, bring the list to them as the launch date approaches. They’ll need some time to address issues.
_____ Review and edit all content, including website pages, blog posts and product or service descriptions/prices.
_____ Ensure images, fonts and other content have been properly licensed or cited. If any of the content isn’t yours, you must have permission to use it. Note that editing or changing a few words doesn’t make it yours, and adding a link to the source doesn’t make it OK. Stealing content from other websites will do you far more harm than good.
_____ Check contact information for accuracy. It should include your physical address, mailing address, email address and telephone number. Remember to make it clear you’re in Canada, as that’s a major key to online sales in this country.
_____ Check all of your website tools to ensure they’re working properly, such as a search tool, live customer support, or app.
_____ Test your shopping cart and payment options, including shipping and both Canadian and international tax calculations, if you’re selling products or services. Whether you process payments through a payment gateway or have an in-house solution, you’ll need to meet PCI Security Standards for account data protection.
_____ Test forms to ensure they submit and are delivered properly.
_____ Website security and anti-fraud measures are critical to protect both you and your customers. Read more about that in eCommerce and Online Sales Fraud Prevention in Canada.
_____ Do you know what the most common regret is for people who have email lists? That they didn’t start one sooner. Start your newsletter and add the form to your site. Customize all touch points in the signup process, such as the email confirmation letter and subscription confirmation. Familiarize yourself with CASL and the anti-spam laws of any country your subscribers might be from. That sounds like a lot but most of them are pretty much the same, with a few exceptions.
_____ Check website accessibility to determine if it’s fully accessible for those with special needs. Compliance Sheriff is a free tool for checking website accessibility.
_____ Check each and every link, whether it’s internal or it links to another website, and affiliate links if you’re using them. Internal links will include navigation menus. Run your site through a broken link checker to find broken external links.
_____ Make sure images and pages are loading completely and quickly. An optimizer can seriously cut load time overall with database optimization, image compression and cached pages. We use the WP-Optimize plugin for WordPress.
_____ Display membership to consumer organizations (like the Better Business Bureau), business organizations (such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce) or security certifications like TrustE.
_____ Disclosures and other legal obligations are determined by the countries your visitors reside in, usually revolving around privacy. Examples include storing personal or payment information, or tracking cookies. In Canada, that includes storing the personal information of Canadians in Canadian data centres.
The Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs offers an Internet Sales Contract Harmonization Template in Electronic Commerce, which covers contract formation, cancellation rights, credit card charge-backs and information provision.
_____ Browser & Device Compatibility
When I designed my first website more than 20 years ago, browser compatibility could drive anyone to madness. The design could look great on Internet Explorer, but be a mess on Netscape or one of the other browsers. It got to a point that some designers would just give up and add a message to the site like, “Best viewed with Internet Explorer.”
These days, we have templates and design tools that automatically ensure browser compatibility. More recently, the concern is how your website will be displayed on each device (such as a tablet or phone). Luckily, mobile compatibility is often built into templates, but make sure it specifies ‘mobile compatible’ to be sure.
All that said, testing how your site is displayed in different browsers or on a variety of devices is still a good idea, just in case. It will also give you the opportunity to check each page for security blocks from every browser, such as Google’s dire security warning that pops up on a potential visitor’s screen if you don’t have an SSL certificate.
It’s Never Done
Add your own notes as you prepare your website for launch, so you’ll remember when the time comes. Most of these tasks should be done on an ongoing basis, to ensure your website offers a positive user experience (UX) and is in compliance with the latest standards and laws.
Once everything is up to standard and you’re ready to go live, back it up! You don’t want to lose all of your hard work.
Any questions? Please post them in the comments below or join us in our Online Business Facebook group.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.