You’ve double and triple-checked the look and functionality of your website. You and your development team all agree that the site is ready to go. You’ve got a clear plan of action, and your launch date is scheduled for a day that complements other business activities and goals.
You’re ready to launch. So what happens now?
The QA process has been completed and the entire team has signed-off that their work is done. The double-checks have come back all clear. It doesn’t hurt to have the person doing the launch browse through the site one last time to make sure there are no obvious issues that would impede the launch process.
In an ideal world, prior to launch we would already have the DNS hosted at CloudFlare or another reputable CDN. In these cases, we are in control and can change any required DNS settings (such as the IP address for the new site). But for some of our larger clients, we require the assistance of an internal IT department or outsourced managed services company. In these cases, we will have already agreed to a launch window wherein the client’s IT team will change or add the required DNS entries, allowing us to proceed with the launch process as those DNS changes propagate.
Push From Staging to Live
We use staging environments on our server to allow us to work on new versions of sites in the background while the live site remains untouched. This has advantages because it protects the live site from breaking or encountering errors, which is common (and totally normal) during development. It also allows us to “push” staging sites live with the click of a button. This means we don’t have to worry about uploading the website files, folders, and database manually to a new serving or hosting instance. It also saves us the headaches that come with moving a site from one hosting environment to another. A lot can vary from host to host in terms of hardware and software, which has a big impact on sites, as well as on labour costs for the person launching the site.
The Site Goes Live
As previously mentioned, with a completed staging site, pushing a site from the staging environment into a live environment is simple from a technical standpoint. But a lot still needs to be done to ensure it goes smoothly. Unfortunately, this is where most low-end agencies and freelancers fail. They think the job is done when, in fact, it’s just beginning.
It is the few hours or days immediately after your site goes live that are the real crucial part of launch, and the reason why the process we refer to as “launch” actually takes a lot more more work.
The Post-Launch Process Begins
After the site goes live, that’s when we start setting up all the features that are going to help your website perform at its peak. There are a number of performance and optimization factors that can’t be fully realized in a development environment, either because we require data from a live environment to determine how they’re going to function, or because configuration involves direct interaction with browsers and search engines.
Things like image compression, caching, contact forms, and 301 redirects all need to be set up immediately after your site goes live — not before. When we’re developing a website, we make sure we set up the infrastructure to support these types of features, but in a lot of cases we can’t configure them correctly until the site is live and we can see exactly how they’re going to behave.
When you turn on a website, the entire internet needs to be informed that that website is now live and that it has a new layout, table of contents (sitemap), and so on. For this to happen, we need to submit the new sitemap to Google to make sure that Google crawls and indexes the site right away — rather than weeks after launch when Google’s spiders finally notice the change.
On the evening of launch, after we’ve confirmed that your site is live, we go through our launch checklist, one item at a time, in order, to make sure all moving parts are working in concert.