A website launch is a huge milestone in the life of an organization. It marks the completion of a major project and the compilation of a lot of energy and resources concerning what’s next and how to get there.
In an era in which websites serve among organizations’ most vital assets, a website launch offers a big cultural opportunity to celebrate achievements and announce the beginning of a new era — powered by a refreshed digital presence, greater efficiencies, and a brand new experience for both internal and external visitors to the site.
A great business case can be made for celebrating the launch of a new website, complete with a website launch announcement, some variation of an internal unveiling, and possibly the popping of a few corks.
Too often though, anticipation of launch day can be a nail biter, preceded by frayed nerves and a lot of uncertainty. Just getting the site launched on time and as planned can feel overwhelming in and of itself, leaving no room for planning festivities or any additional to-dos that feel ancillary.
We get it. There are multiple moving parts that factor into a successful launch, all of which need to line up. A detailed website launch plan accompanied by a website launch checklist, both of which need to be closely followed and serve as solid guideposts can serve as vital resources in ensuring that a website launches as planned and serves as a cause for celebration.
Groundwork for a Great Celebration
Committed to seeing website launches happen on time and without a hitch, we’ve mapped out the key steps that need to first be covered. These activities fall within the categories of:
- Launch preparation,
- Technology, testing, and contingency planning, and
- The official launch plan
Key to a successful pre-launch plan is the identification of the specific roles and related dependencies of the team members.
In our experience, the biggest fear we see surrounding the launch of a new website is that it simply won’t work as expected or the site will go down before it ever really launches. A solid testing plan will serve to build confidence and work out these uncertainties.
Thorough pre-launch testing is also critical. Pre-launch tests are usually performed on a staging environment that mimics the live environment, but isn’t live to the public. Changes can be made within this environment, behind the scenes, before a site is viewable to the public.
The staging environment is among the essential components of careful planning. We also prepare our teams for launch by:
- Completing pre-launch checklists, which outline everything that must be done before a site can go live,
- Getting commitments from team members concerning what they are accountable for and when it will be completed, and
- Conducting a pre-launch meeting with key players, during which time we confirm that every item on the pre-launch checklist is complete. We also take this opportunity to communicate any possible risks, and ensure that contingency plans are in place.
Make a List. Check it Twice.
Our team puts together a checklist that outlines the responsibilities of each team member and project partner. It provides the tasks that need to be completed and the deadlines for doing so. All team members are clear on the fact that completion of their task is part of a larger ecosystem of dependencies. As such, they are urged to speak up and report to the team on any factors that could weaken their link in the chain.
Here’s an example snippet of one of our checklists. Note that it has a clearly defined task, an area for the user to mark a task as complete, and a place to update a status or add comments.
Accountability and Alignment
As the scheduled launch date nears, accountability takes on a new dimension. We advocate a pre-launch meeting, about two weeks before launch, which serves as a high-stakes briefing for ensuring alignment.
Team members are expected to diligently prepare for this event and bring their A Game. Key components of the pre-launch meeting include:
- Confirm completion of the pre-launch checklists
- Review of any potential risks
- Coverage of any required actions that were not included on the checklists
- Discussion of required backup plans or anticipated workarounds
- Assurance that the original or revised launch is date is realistic with commitments from every team member
Onward to the Big Event
Once the launch date is confidently scheduled, it’s time to fully leverage the milestone. We advocate the creation of a company-wide calendar event concerning the launch. This calendar event, in and of itself, can serve as a courtesy that acknowledges the contributions of the marketing team and alerts the rest of the company to important new changes in the company’s online presence.
An additional pointer to help keep the launch and related activities on track: clear the calendar as much as is possible. Webinars, other marketing campaigns, interviewing of new team members, onboarding of new hires — the whole slate of activities that fill the calendar — all need to be relegated to the back burner to ensure that the launch receives the attention it deserves.
Part of the Initial Plan
Skipping the celebration is a missed opportunity that will likely be regretted at a later point. Considering the multiple moving parts that factor into a launch, we find that the most effective strategy for ensuring the event is adequately acknowledged is to build it into the initial plan for the design and development of the site.
A website launch celebration provides marketing directors with an essential opportunity to recognize the team, and to raise awareness and visibility companywide of the strategic importance of the team’s contributions.
Of course, the past year and a half have challenged efforts to pull off company wide celebrations. Many clients have gotten creative with special announcements or internal newsletters that emphasize the value of the new site and all of the ways that it will help fuel the company’s future.
Here at Solid Digital, one of the ways that we’ve managed to contribute to the celebration is to dress in our client’s brand colors, and send photos of us celebrating during launch day.
As we work hard behind the scenes to ensure that everything goes smoothly for our clients, we have found that these kinds of activities can spark some memorable and fun experiences during what could otherwise be a stressful time.
We’ve also created playlists for launch day inspired by our clients that are either related to what they do as a business, or simply songs that remind us of the project. The playlists have been a huge hit for us, because our clients can also share them internally with their teams and add more songs to them and keep the celebration going.
We recently had a client that invited us to join their virtual launch celebration in which all participants got to hear from the CEO and the team involved in the website redesign. Celebration gift packages had been mailed out and at a designated point during the call, we were all invited to open our box of shirts, stickers, and other goodies with the new branding.
There is no end to the various ways that companies can opt to celebrate a new website and effectively leverage the milestone. Interested in starting a conversation about web design and development work that’s worth celebrating? Let’s talk!