You’ve done a lot of hard work to get to this point. Now, it’s time to launch! Unless you must do a hard launch on a specific date (e.g. for a product launch that just can’t wait), I suggest you first do a soft launch, and then a hard launch. A soft launch will allow for real-world testing prior to announcing your website to the world.
During a soft launch, your website is live, and you focus on sharing your site with partners, stakeholders, employees, and maybe a few select clients and customers for the purposes of
(1) identifying any flaws or bugs that need attention and
(2) getting critical feedback to fix any issues that may not have been discovered during the testing phase. There is nothing like taking the live site for a test spin to find hidden issues.
During a soft launch phase, you can gather information on your product’s usage and acceptance before making it available to the general public during the hard launch phase (or grand opening).
Your scope of work or contract with your web designer should include things like simple bug fixes for a short period during the launch phase.
As always, maintain good communication with your designer.
Identify a date when you will do your official (hard) launch because at some point you need to stop tweaking and editing the site so you CAN launch. Select a date a few days prior to the hard launch date. This date is set in stone. No more small issues will be fixed. No more edits or tweaks will be done. You need to have a finish line prior to the launch date because you need time to focus on the launch.
During your website design project, you may have thought about how to promote your newly designed (or re-designed) site. Now is the time to visit your marketing plan and get ready to implement your strategy. No marketing plan? Then, take some time now and think about how you want to promote your site.
Your promotional strategy may include:
Social media. Give people a reason to visit your site besides the fact that you have a new site. Do you have a new product or service? A cool success story or video? Write an intro for your post and then link the intro to the specific page of your site. Don’t have a link that sends visitors to your home page because visitors won’t take the time to find the rest of the story. It will frustrate visitors and they will leave your site. Also, give staff a template message they use on their personal social media accounts to further promote your new site.
Press releases. Send notices to authors and writers that you have relationships with and ask them to share with their followers and readers.
Signature line. Add information to your email signature line that is included with all outgoing emails.
Newsletters. Announce in your newsletters and ask partners and stakeholders to announce in their newsletters.
Launch time! Congratulations!
During the hard launch phase, you will be implementing your marketing strategy to promote your site as well as gather feedback that you may receive by email, telephone, or your website contact form. Be sure to write everything down. You will be using this list during your website maintenance phase to enable you to continually improve your website for visitors.
by Paula Mottshaw