CEO at Econsultancy
19 October 2000 07:45am
The big day is coming. Whether it is a completely new site, or a new section of a site, there is a finite point in time when the service will become available to the end users.
There are several different ways that you might want to launch your site. You might be launching with a big fanfare, with press, marketing and advertising campaigns to support the launch, or you might decide to set the site live without making any fuss to see how well it is received and develop it accordingly before you make the big marketing push. With more mature sites, where you might have been asking existing site users to test and respond to new site developments as you go, it is less a case of ‘launching’ and more a case of adding, evolving and improving. However, you would still expect to promote the new content on the site and to drive site traffic to your new sections.
The two main approaches to launching a site outlined above can be a called a ‘soft’ launch and ‘hard’ launch. With a soft launch you are much more understated and subtle about releasing your product. There are many reasons why you might want to do this: you may still be developing the full product offering and want to save your marketing spend until it is all ready, you may want to get user feedback before any serious marketing effort or you may be afraid that a big marketing splash would topple your technical infrastructure. The hard launch can follow on from the soft launch once you are confident that everything is in place, working and performing as best it can.
There is a grave danger that if you hard launch without a soft launch period, even if only a few days, you risk generating a lot of negative press and disappointed customers. It is easy to see why people want the hard launch as soon as possible to gain market share, not to ‘miss the boat’ and to raise their profile as much as they can.
Make sure that you that you have taken all the necessary launch precautions to help protect yourself against unwanted problems. Below are some suggestions:
Element: Search engines
Description: Make sure that you have registered the site with the major search engines so that when the client or client’s customers look for the site, they can find it
How long before launch: Some search engines can take up to 6 weeks to register a site so you should try and register at least a holding page well in advance of launch
Element: DNS entries
Description: Ensuring that the domain name you are going to use points to the server you are hosting the site on.
How long before launch: Get this done as soon as possible in the project. In theory, most ISPs should be able to do this for you in a couple of days. However, as it is out of your control do not take chances. Point the URL at a holding page until the site is ready.
Element: Meta tags
Description: Making sure that all key pages contain the relevant meta tags in their code for search engines.
How long before launch: 6 weeks for the pages(s) that you register with the search engines. The other pages you can do a day or two before launch.
Element: Legal / Compliance
Description: Making sure that a legal representative signs off the site so you cannot be held responsible for any legal issues
How long before launch: At least a week before launch. You can make text changes quickly but image changes could be less quick.
Element: Marketing / PR
Description: Make sure that marketing and PR initiatives are properly co-ordinated with launch e.g. press releases have been sent out
How long before launch: Depends on whether you are soft or hard launching. The marketing and PR is usually planned well before launch but the big drive might start 2 weeks after an initial soft launch for final tests, to get feedback, check systems etc.
Description: Ensuring any staff who will be maintaining the site post launch are trained as necessary
How long before launch: Will depend on the site but you will probably need at least 3 weeks.
Element: Stats software
Description: Make sure any traffic analysis software you are going to be using is up and running as the first thing everyone will want to know is the stats immediately post launch
How long before launch: At least 2 weeks in advance.
Element: Warn ISP
Description: Tell the ISP that you are launching the site and whether you are expecting large amounts of traffic. They can keep a special eye on the server and allocate more bandwidth if necessary
How long before launch: About a week in advance of launch. E-mail the server support teams and try to get the names of whoever will be around on the launch day should you need them.
Element: File sizes
Description: Scan site to make sure all graphic files have been properly optimized. You can use any number of sites on the web to do this is you don't already have a software tool to help you (e.g. http://websitegarage.netscape.com/ )
How long before launch: 3 days before launch
Element: Page names, ALT tags, graphic dimensions
Description: These are all small things that you can fine tune if you have time. Make sure all HTML pages have an appropriate title, ALT tags are given for all images as well as dimensions in the HTML so formatting is preserved during loading
How long before launch: 3 days before launch
Element: Final test
Description: Run through the site one last time, particularly areas which have caused problems during testing
How long before launch: 2 days before launch.
Element: Final sign off
Description: The client gives you express permission to set the site live.
How long before launch: The day before launch
Element: Early launch
Description: Launch the site before the given time in order to do a final fully live check. Do not specify a specific time for launch to avoid too large a traffic spike.
How long before launch: The evening before the launch day.
Finally, don't launch on a Friday. You risk ending up having to come in over the weekend...
Free market research on digital marketing
Daily Pulse: award winning newsletter
It takes 30 seconds to register