Simon Miller Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

Final to-do list for when you launch a new website

Simon Miller Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

After riding the web development rollercoaster for well over a decade and a half, I’ve come to notice that when it comes to crunch time on a website, the same minor (and not so minor) pre-launch items are forgotten, or at least left until the last minute. Here is a handy list of some of the things all developers should be aware of before handing over the keys to the client:

Purchase and install an SSL certificate

If your site takes transactions, it most likely will require an SSL certificate. These are digital certificates purchased from approved authorities (VeriSign, GeoTrust, etc) to encrypt traffic between the web server and the end user, and are of maximum importance on pages that the user enters credit cards on. Certificates tend to range from $99 to $1999 and offer various additional bells and whistles, but as long as you buy a 128bit encryption SSL certificate and code your website to utilise it, you are all good. They need to be installed on the server – if you don’t have access to it, your host may need to install it – and, most importantly, usually take a couple of days to be processed by the authority. So don’t buy them on the morning of launch!

SMTP server setup

If your website sends emails (and what websites don’t), you need to specify in code the SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) server to route the outgoing mail through. Important to note is that not all web hosts provide this service, or if they do, some will charge extra. You may be able to get away with using Google’s SMTP server to send email, if you are not expecting to send many. Determine your SMTP server when you initially purchase hosting.

Payment gateway setup and purchase

If your website transacts then you need a payment gateway to handle the finances. In simple situations this could merely be a PayPal button on the website. However, if you want to accept credit cards and offer the user a seamless e-commerce experience, you will want to use a credit card gateway to take user details from the website and transfer money directly to your bank account. Setting up a payment gateway can be the most time consuming part of development – aside from API integration, the waiting time for a bank to approve you for accepting transactions can take weeks. Wiliam recommends the services of eWay for the simplest payment gateway setup.

Google analytics

All clients want to know how well their website is performing, so make sure that all tracking scripts are included in the code before you go live. The most common tracking code these days is Google Analytics, however some clients also use Google Adwords, Yahoo, Mirin and others. It would be worth suggesting Analytics to the client if they don’t have any pre-prepared scripts for you to include.

Buy the domain

Hopefully nobody forgets to buy a domain before attempting to host a site behind one, but if the your new site is replacing an old one, access details to the domain registrar may be lost with the old development firm or a former IT administrator that has since moved on. Be sure you have access to the host records and DNS entries prior to the final launch day.

The hosting itself

As surprising as it sounds, on more than one occasion I’ve reached the end of the project and been asked “where are we hosting this?” The hosting of a website and associated costs can vary wildly, so be sure that your client has shopped around for the best deal and prepared early for deployment. Windows or Linux? .NET or PHP? SQL Server or MySQL? One server, two servers, three or more with load balancing? Once you have the server credentials, as a developer, be sure to test a deploy days (if not weeks) before the final push. Hosts are not guaranteed to have installed everything you require to make your site work and you absolutely do NOT want any surprises on that final day. Test all aspects of the website and arrange for a temporary hostname so that the client can access the test-deployed site before their main domain is.

This list is by no means definitive! There are many gotchas that are forgotten prior to site launch. Did you test all the current web browsers? Did you replace test payment gateway credentials with their live counterparts? Have you performed any load testing on the website in the live environment? Use this list as a starting point and keep track of similar issues you come across during your next crunch-week on a project!