Ultimate Website Checklist for Launch

Somedays I wish designing and coding websites was just Photoshop/Illustrator and a code editor (I like Coda at this time), but it’s not. Once you understand how the whole system works (Best Practices are changing everyday in this industry…) and you work at a place that has clients based on relationships (therefore valuing quality over shipping bad product), it’s a varied list of technologies to provide optimal performance, social sharing, error checking, compiling, and general quality assurance.  There are many of these lists out on the web. Mine is targeting the WordPress CMS, but should be applicable to most content management systems and probably most websites. Remember, it’s sometimes about removing a feature instead of adding one.

For the actual checklist management, I use a spreadsheet in Google Docs that highlights green when an ‘X’ is placed in the field. I looked into other checklist/todo websites–like Evernote–and they seemed too cumbersome or required installing software. Feel free to adapt this list to your own situation.

Theme Setup

  • Create page with sidebar -
  • Create page without sidebar (full width) -
  • Create 404 page – Insert targeted copy from copywriter
  • Create search page -
  • Create blog template: main feed -
  • Create blog template: tag -
  • Create blog template: category -
  • Create blog template: single – Includes post dates, author name, title, tags, categories
  • Create blog template: respond and comment -
  • Create related posts – Based on category or tags
  • Create blog template: author – Biography about the author
  • Style links within content -
  • Make footer and HTML background match – If the content has a small width, the footer will move up and show the background.
  • Check line height of headings -
  • Create Internet Explorer style files – Loaded via conditional tags for IE hacks:.lt-ie9.css , .lt-ie8.css
  • Author biography for blog authors -
  • Make sure site title isn’t duplicated within <title> -
  • Add site icons (Favion, iOS, etc.) – Icons requests are redirected and saved in theme assets folder
  • Include HTML5 boilerplate .htaccess file -
  • Create login-logo.png and add logo to login screen -


  • Social Media (post to) – AddThis or Share this
  • Create open graph image and define in admin – Twitter username, Facebook image and description
  • Add social widget permissions per domain – Twitter, Facebook, etc. (OAuth)
  • Social Media (visit) – Links to social profiles


  • SEO/Page Titles/etc. considered/added -
  • Copyright / Privacy text exists -
  • Does RSS feed link exist -
  • Add no-follow / no-index rules to header if on test site -
  • Is content a rich snippet, author/Google+ profile / microformats. – http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets
  • Request preferred permalink structure – Possible URL structures: ‘/sample-post/’ or ‘/2013/03/sample-post/’

Security and monitoring 

  • Hide directory file listing with .htaccess -
  • Redirect installation scripts – If database is empty, prevent installation on production server (install.php)
  • Create maintenance/database error page – Error page will send an email when failing. (.maintenance and db-error.php)
  • Create uptime monitoring for domain – uptimerobot.com is a good choice


  • Test page with dummy copy (Headings and classless tags) – Test all insertable HTML tags in the content area
  • Image align classes for WordPress -
  • Remove any debugging CSS -
  • Create Alt text for images – Flag images without ALT tag with CSS
  • Create print media CSS styles and check printout -


  • Set WP_DEBUG to false to remove notices -
  • HTML5 validation -
  • Feature detect and create polyfills with Modernizr -
  • JSHint run on JavaScript -
  • CSS3 validation (loosely validated) – This is a joke to some extent with all the hacks and prefixes out there.
  • Test forms -
  • Check if search is working correctly -
  • Check if social media buttons are posting links -
  • Test without images, Javascript, or CSS -
  • No Lorem Ipsum text on site -
  • Redirect non-connonical domain in htaccess to prevent SERPs duplication -
  • Contact Business Analyst to filter out analytics for test site – Filter analytics for the test site and the IP address of the company


  • Clean up content drafts/revisions and optimize database -
  • Run Chrome’s PageSpeed analysis -
  • Enable deflate/gzip compression and far-future expires – htaccess edit
  • Cache busting process for CSS, JS, and fonts (if custom) – Setup filename suffix to use last modified timestamp
  • Minify CSS to decrease size of file – Use a preprocessor like CodeKit, LiveReload, or a website
  • Combine and minify JavaScript to decrease size of file – combine via PHP file include or locally via CodeKit
  • Check image compression – Javascript and images are the largest downloads usually
  • Create sprites of background images to decrease HTTP requests -
  • Add DNS pre-fetching of external domains to HEAD – http://www.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/dns-prefetching
  • Only load social scripts when needed, internalize 3rd-party Javascript – Prevent Javascript loading where it doesn’t need to be
  • Do not use query strings in cached resources – Example: ?ver=1


  • Update 3rd-party plugins before launch -
  • Install plugin recommendations into theme – Create a semi-automated way to install plugins that are always used
  • Activate SEO plugin -
  • Activate Google Analytics plugin and setup account -
  • Activate Revisions Remove and clean up revisions -
  • Create XML Sitemap -
  • Remove Formidable Forms CSS file requested in plugin settings – Include CSS rules in main CSS file
  • Activate WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache Plugin [OPTIONAL]

Domain setup/transfer

  • Setup production server -
  • Use Virtual Machines to direct IP to production server to test setup – If the current site’s domain is pointed to another IP, don’t wait for the DNS refresh to test the site.
  • Start PHP script to reload until IP has changed and emails notice – Monitor the DNS refresh


  • Change email recipients of forms to final recipient -
  • Test login (including login redirects) -
  • Enable robots.txt if being blocked by meta tags -
  • Add Akismet key to the Akismet anti-spam plugin – 94a9e8248ebc
  • Validate owner, add others to Webmaster Tools. Fetch as Google. -
  • Submit to Google, Yahoo, Bing Indexing -
  • Setup manual deploy to production hooks – Beanstalk is convenient, but git can do it.

One Response to “Ultimate Website Checklist for Launch”

  1. Lorenzo C. says:

    Check out GtMetrix. It will run a quick test on your site and return recommendations for speeding it up based on information from Google Page Speed and YSlow.

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