12 essential elements to check before launching an e-commerce website

Launching an ecommerce website

An e-commerce website launch can be intimidating.  In this post we ask the question on your behalf: “Is my e-commerce website fully ready and set up for growth?”

Be sure to check out our earlier post where we introduce a growth framework to categorise all your growth initiatives for your online store. We mentioned that every online store must answer 6 crucial questions, each of which will be the focus of several blog posts in this series.

In this blog post however, we have put together a comprehensive list which covers various aspects to assess whether your website is set up properly. The list also includes pointers on what you need to do to ensure that your website is ready before it goes live.

Of course, most web development companies are thorough in testing a website before launching, but this checklist is a good reference point for those that want to make sure everything is in order for a great launch. The points covered in this blog post focus on the quality and functionality of your website. It excludes the business processes, inventory, and appointments necessary before a big launch.

When to use this e-commerce website launch checklist

See the picture below to understand the roles and responsibilities of the client and the web development company. This list could be used just before your website goes live and then periodically to make sure nothing is broken or underperforming on your website.

Where does this checklist fit into the process and roles.

e-commerce website launch check list

12 elements of an e-commerce website launch checklist

1. Design and website architecture

  • The design, UI (user interface), visuals, and experience flows well for all customer segments.
  • Check your Home page:
    • Your Home page should be a clear summary page of who you are and what you do.
    • Is attractive and easy to navigate.
    • Design should attract and cater for different customer segments.
    • Has at least one paragraph of text.
    • Navigation is simple and uses familiar terms.
    • Your brand logo links back to the Home page across the website.
    • The design is clean and simple with ample white space, and it uses corporate colours and fonts consistently across the website.
  • Test your functionality and forms: Make sure all the forms on your website flow properly and are fully functional.
    • When someone submits an order or form, they get an auto-response email.
    • Submitting an order or form leads to a thank you page.
    • Test the ordering process from beginning to end (i.e. placing, calculating shipping cost, making payment and confirmation page and emails).
    • Your website software stores each form submission in a database.
    • Your analytics software (like Google Analytics) records the submission as a conversion.
  • Pretend to be a customer and make sure hyperlinks across the website work and take you to the correct and intended page.
  • Check to see that your vertical and horizontal linking are in place. Ensure there are no orphan pages to allow search engine spiders to crawl effectively. To explain further:
    • Vertical links: Home page links to category pages, category pages link to su-category and product pages as appropriate.
    • Horizontal links: Category pages link to other relevant category pages. Product pages link to other relevant product pages.
    • Ensure there are no orphan pages (in other words, pages that are not linked to a higher page). This is an important element in order for search engine spiders to crawl your website effectively.
    • Your 404 (error) pages are set up. Here are some examples of fun and creative 404 pages.
  • Check for broken links – a link that leads to a non-existent or wrong page.

Tip: Link Checker and Xenu are good tools to assist with broken links.

2. Content

  • Your website has real and unique content.
  • It is checked for spelling errors, typos, and grammar mistakes.

Tip: Use a tool like Grammarly.

  • Formatting is consistent.
  • There are strong calls-to-action in place with engaging text to convert visitors to customers.
  • The content is ‘scannable’ using H1 (Heading 1) and H2 (Heading 2) formatting or tags.
  • If you are going to blog (which is highly recommended), the ideal is to have 10 blog posts ready for when you launch. These should be optimised for search.

3. SEO: On-page optimisation

  • Every page on your website has an unique title tag with your keyword and brand name for improved click-through rates.
  • Every page has a well structured meta description as it is visible below your search engine listing.
  • The text on each page is optimised with the primary keyword or key-phrase and its variations.
  • The primary keyword phrase is in the H1 (Heading 1) tag.
  • Image file names are optimised to include primary keywords.
  • Alt text is optimised to include the primary keywords.
  • The URLs of all pages are clean, short and descriptive.

Tip: Our Comalytics B2C software can assist you with the basics of SEO on your e-commerce website.

4. Images

Image optimisation is both vital for search engine friendliness and web accessibility.

  • All the images on your website should be optimised and compressed properly to speed up page load time.

Tip: Page Size Extractor is a tool for checking the overall size of a webpage, including content and images.

5. Site speed

This point ties in with the above and influences user experience, conversion rate, and search engine ranking since page load time is a web search ranking factor.

  • Review page load time for key pages.
    • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML by optimizing your code.
    • Reduce redirects.
    • Leverage browser caching.

Tip: Comalytics’ e-commerce websites are search engine friendly right out of the box.

Tip: Analyse your website’s speed on GTMetrix.

6. Responsiveness and mobile friendly

In SA more than 50% of Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. 67% of mobile searches begin with intent to purchase. Therefore ensure that your website is responsive and mobile friendly. Comalytics build mobile-friendly, responsive e-commerce websites – ask us for a free consultation!

7. Some technical points

These points are quite technical, but we include them for you to discuss with your web development company:

  • 301s are being used for all redirects.
  • Bad redirects like 302, 307, meta refresh and JavaScript redirects are avoided.
  • Flash is used sparingly and does not hinder crawling.
  • Canonical version of the website established through 301s.
  • Canonical version of website is specified in Google Webmaster Tools.

Tip: Google Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console) will give you a good list of technical problems that are encountered, which you can discuss with your web development company.

8. Security

  • Is your website secure and includes an SSL certificate?
  • Is your website professionally backed up on a regular basis?

Tip: Comalytics now covers your entire website with an SSL certificate on your full website – not just your shopping cart. In addition, we professionally back up your website every night.

9. Legal requirements

Your legal team has:

  • Reviewed your website content to check for copyright / trademark infringement / plagiarism.
  • Your website has a privacy policy, terms of service, returns policy.

Tip: if you don’t have a legal team you can look at Terms Feed to generate policies for your store at a small cost.

10. Indexation

Can search engine crawlers access your website and index it? To enable this, ensure the following questions are answered:

  • Is your website registered with the search engines?
  • Is your website verified with Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools?
  • Have you generated HTML and XML sitemaps on your website and submitted them to Google, Bing, and Yahoo! for indexing?

11. Analytics and other services

Web analytics helps understand visitor browsing behavior and conversion data. Request your web development company to make your website live with a “Coming Soon” page at least a month before you launch. This way, Google Analytics will have some data by launch-day.  Services to consider include:

  • Do you have web analytics set up? We recommend Google Analytics.
  • Is uptime monitoring set up?
  • Do you have retargeting and remarketing pixels from Facebook and Google on your website, on all of your pages?
  • Do you have Google alerts set up to monitor any mentions of your brand name?
  • Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools can reveal errors on your site. Check them frequently.
  • Do you have SEO tools to track your rankings?
  • Are your social and web profiles set up? Claim your preferred username early and ensure consistency across all your profiles (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, StumpleUpon) and any of the other platforms that specifically speak to your target audience. Instagram is growing very fast for South African retailers. Well before launch day, start building social media followers. Build an organic following.

12. Prepare your launch ideas and campaigns

  • Spread the word about your website launch via email, social media, and PR.
  • Put your website in key, niche directories before launch.
  • Sign up with Google +, Yelp, Best of the Web, Bing Places and for South African directories, see the tip below:

Tip: For South African specific directories, take a look at these suggestions.

  • Do a series of press releases.
  • Create YouTube videos and blog posts ahead of time.
  • Send products to bloggers to review before launch.
  • Invest in pay per click (Adwords and social media most likely) until organic traffic has grown.
  • Think of campaigns that can build your email list whilst  ‘coming soon’ page is up.
  • Plan email marketing campaigns ahead of time.

Tip: Comalytics B2C software comes standard with a MailChimp plugin, protecting you from being labelled as SPAM. Ensure that your site has a system for collecting email addresses.

  • Get in the press by pitching your story to editors.

Tip: Consider Help a Reporter for international coverage.

  • Consider Facebook shopping, Google shopping and affiliate marketing programmes.

Tip: Comalytics B2C software comes standard with Facebook shopping and Google shopping plug ins plus affiliate functionality

  • Beat your competition on comparison websites.

Tip: Comalytics B2C software comes standard with PriceCheck and BidorBuy feeds

  • Consider wholesale sales to other businesses with the help of Comalytics’ B2B systems.
  • Network on forums.
  • Get known in your community.
  • Think about contest or game campaigns (with discounts and giveaways).
  • Use your social media platforms well and constructively.
  • Ensure that there is a reliable shipping solution in place. Our SmartFreight integration can help with this.

Once your team and your web development company have worked through the points above, consider testing your website one last time through a ‘soft’ e-commerce website launch. A soft launch can be as small as sending your final website to friends and family before you officially go live, or if you’re part of a big company, sending the website URL to other teams in the company for feedback. A soft launch will provide additional feedback from an objective test audience on your website’s usability and content and enable you to fix any issues before the final go-live date.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series about Google Analytics. In the meantime, do get in touch with us to learn how our e-commerce solutions and range of e-commerce products can help you grow your business.

Alternatively, request our team to perform a website audit if you have an existing website, to suggest improvements.

What is the most important step in the process when launching an e-commerce website? We’d love to hear from you, talk to us in the comments.

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