A Successful Website Relaunch Doesn’t Happen by Accident

October 24, 2016

Anyone who’s been through enough site relaunches knows that last-minute panic and varying levels of anxiety come with the territory. Site relaunches require perfectly timed coordination of various disciplines in order to be successful. Some pretty obvious things can fall through the cracks and have a dramatically negative impact on a relaunch. To minimize this, here are some things to consider for your next relaunch.

User Experience (UX) Considerations

One of the most overlooked aspects of a website relaunch is how the UX will be affected for all user types. Resolving some big questions ahead of time can avert post-launch disaster:

  • Will the users of the site understand the new layout with ease?
  • Will site editors be able to manage content effectively, considering the CMS has significantly changed?
  • Why is the call center blowing up with people looking for the “compare plans” section we removed?

You can measure these potential impacts by conducting a prototype usability study ahead of time. It’s important to note creating a usability prototype for such a study can be done without derailing the development team. We’ve found prototype usability studies to be highly efficient at rooting out potential issues that would otherwise ruin a website relaunch.

Pre and Post-Launch Training for Internal Users

You will need to train site admins and help desk staff on the new website and admin tool. We strongly recommend training these key users BEFORE the relaunch. The post-launch training can be chaotic and overwhelming to internal audiences. Keep it simple by training your internal users far ahead of launch using an interactive demo or video that shows how the new website will work. This gives them plenty of time to accept that change is coming, to ask questions, and to get familiar with the new website. Doing this will help ensure a smooth relaunch.

Bookmarks, Redirects, and SEO

The longer your website has been around, the more likely many of your users will have bookmarked key pages for quick access. With a new site, the page URLs will likely change causing “Page Not Found” errors. Obviously, those are never good for your brand or your users!

Don’t be shy about asking the development team if they are remapping old page URLs to new ones. There is also an SEO consideration here; remapping existing pages (via a 301 permanent redirect) will allow search engines to understand the page isn’t gone, it has just changed names. The SEO purpose is the page won’t lose its place in search engine rankings. If you skip this step, search engines will treat it as a new page just added to the web.

The new site is live here! (But not there?)

Sometimes when a new site is launched at a new host, there is a delay before it shows up for everyone. This is called “DNS propagation” and it’s such a jerk!

A useful trick is to point the DNS at the new host and redirect it back to the current host via a script. When you’re ready to launch, simply remove the redirect script, and you’re live! This allows you to avoid the dreaded and embarrassing 24-48 hours of DNS propagation that can occur when new hosts are used.

What happened to the fonts?

Relaunching a site sometimes includes changing the domain name. This can cause problems with your licensed custom fonts, video players, and anything else that relied on your old domain name for licensure. Hopefully this issue can be avoided by a solid QA process, but it’s amazing how often this comes up as the font and video licensing details aren’t always known to the developers.

Where did all our traffic go?

Another easily forgotten item is transferring of the existing analytics package to the new website. Be sure to ask if the current tracker with any custom tags and events will be recreated on the new site. It’s likely the new website will require the analytics tracker to be modified to continue working properly.

Don’t re-launch on a Friday.

This is just a bad idea. Friday is never a good idea as the window of opportunity to fix issues that arise is minimal. When planning your launch day, consider early or mid-week, and at a time when traffic is typically low. And don’t forget to make some good coffee.

Crux Collaborative helps clients relaunch complex, transactional, behind-the-login sites with great success. If you have a question about an upcoming site relaunch, please send us a note.

By Mike McClure
Director of Design + Development

Mike has been involved with user experience work since the early nineties. His experience spans the gamut, from strategy to UX development and front-end coding, to accessibility and animated guided tour videos.

View Mike's Bio


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