How to Prep for Your Next Website Deployment

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In the digital world, deployment refers to the action of moving a website from a private workspace over to a live, publically viewable domain. It is a crucial step in the project process, as weeks of design and development can instantly be put to waste by errors made during the last few hours of deployment. It is important to have a procedure in place, or you will be setting yourself and your client up for a major headache. Over the launch of hundreds of websites and web platforms, we have compiled the following considerations for review before every deployment.

Educate your client

Professional designers and developers often forget that the industry terminology which comes second nature to them can sound like a foreign language to others. Being conscious of your word choice and providing a definition cheat sheet for clients (like the ones below) can help ensure that nothing gets lost in translation.

What is a domain name?

What is a domain name?

Web hosting provider vs. registrar

Web hosting providers generally provide a space for website content to go, whereas registrars handle the domain name associated with your business. Many companies provide both services now. However, if your domain is registered through a company different from the one where your website lives (is hosted), then changing one without the other can take a site offline unintentionally.

Be the expert

Proactively address things your client might not even consider so that they are fully confident letting you take the reigns when the time comes. For example:

  • Caching – There are a many “behind-the-scenes” steps you can take to make a site load faster. A client wouldn’t normally ask about caching, but not doing this properly can affect user experience and even SEO.
  • Analytics – If your client already has analytics tools (e.g. Google Analytics) on their site, ask for their account information. If they don’t have analytics in place, make sure you install a tool you trust to track traffic and behavior of their visitors. The last thing you want is to miss out on that post-launch traffic.
  • Favicons – Favicons are the little icon that brand your browser tabs and can be the icon that appears on your mobile homepage when users bookmark your site to their phone. Make sure you are adding that favicon at deployment; nothing is tackier than having your hosting server’s favicon show up instead of yours.
Have your ducks in a row
  • Notify all parties involved of the date and time a deployment will occur so that coding isn’t disrupted and clients know exactly what to expect. Make sure you detail what will change and what won’t.
  • Test your control panel and/or FTP credentials to make sure you have access to what you need and that a password hasn’t been changed (because we all know that passwords seem to somehow change right before something important).
  • Have a process in place for reporting any issues. A few dozen emails about minor tweaks or issues the day after launch almost guarantees that you’re going to overlook something. Give your client access to a request form or something like Zendesk so that they can report issues in an orderly fashion. We use Podio and let our clients know upfront that unless they follow the procedure, we can’t reliably respond to requests.
Allocate enough time for the little things
  • Cross-browser check – Your site needs to look good on every browser, but with the permutation of devices, browsers, and browser versions becoming more and more infinite, set realistic expectations of these limitations. If there are nuances between browsers, make sure you let your client know so that when that image looks wonky on IE6, you have forewarned them.
  • Click on your links and test your forms– This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to overlook one or two broken links on a website with multiple pages. So go ahead and spend the time to click on every single one and send test forms before and after deployment. You won’t regret it.

Deployment can be a nerve-racking process for both your team and your clients, but preparing for it ahead of time will ultimately ease stress and make sure that everyone is satisfied with the post-launch results.