Prep, Test, and Launch: Analytics Best Practices to Guide Your Website Launch
When you launch a new website, it’s easy to want to step back, take a (well deserved) sigh of relief, and consider the job done. However, there isn’t too much time for rest. It’s important to ensure your site is delivering on its goals, while providing your visitors the experience that they want and expect.
At Rise, we’ve helped a number of clients launch or relaunch their websites (including our own!). By taking a data-informed approach to design and focusing on analytics before, during, and after launch, we’re helping clients deliver a positive and engaging customer experience.
While each project is different and specific goals will vary, there are several analytics best practices that should be considered throughout any brand’s website launch process. Below, I’ve listed a few of these, as well as our team’s approach for ensuring success.
1) Launch Preparation
As with most major initiatives, planning and goal setting are key. We recommend having an agreed upon project plan with frequent check-ins, as well as a dedicated project manager to keep your site development on track from beginning to end.
Before your site launches, your team should have a clear understanding of what success looks like, an infrastructure in place that allows you to capture and measure the right data and metrics, and stakeholder alignment to ensure a productive process and a clear division of roles and responsibilities.
Here are just a few questions we typically ask as we prepare for a site launch:
Current Site Performance
- How does the current site perform from an SEO perspective?
- How are visitors currently navigating through the website? What pages or content are big influencers/drivers to conversion?
New Site Features
- How will we measure the performance of new features that were not present on the old website experience?
- Have important pages been mapped to one another?
- Are we considering a light switch (launching the full site at the same time) vs. a light slider (launching smaller sections of the site one at a time) launch?
Goal Setting and Measurement
- What is our baseline for current key performance indicators (KPIs) and what will we use to compare post-launch performance? What new data points will we be reporting on due to the redesign or other factors? What will change, and why?
- What is the relative priority of the tasks needed for measurement?
- Which stakeholders should be involved?
- What types of issues will be considered critical and how will those issues be addressed?
- What will we do If something “breaks”? What metrics would it affect? Is there a contingency plan?
- How will updates be made and what is the protocol for development and staging, prior to implementation?
2) Quality Control and Testing
Don’t set it and forget it. It’s important to have a core team in place to monitor and assess the health of your site and mitigate any potential risks. This most likely involves a combination of automated alerts set to track “showstopper” issues – such as the code double-firing, or not firing at all – and oversight by a team of trusted experts to make sure you’re catching and resolving issues as quickly as possible. Using site crawl tools, such as ObservePoint, to monitor the site after the launch can be a useful addition to the established QA process, enabling you to uncover web pages and tag issues as changes are made to the code.
3) Post-Launch Analytics
In the weeks and months following your site launch, take some time to evaluate where you are in terms of KPIs, goals, and benchmarks. Here are a few questions to consider:
- How are we measuring against baseline organizational and website KPIs?
- What is the impact of the new features of the redesign?
- Are these changes enhancing the user experience and improving site performance against site goals and KPIs?
- How is traffic getting to the new site?
- Are there any major changes compared to the older site?
- How is the website performing from an SEO perspective? Is this what we expected?
Use this information to help guide your next steps and catch any potential glitches early on, while keeping in mind that it takes time to truly realize the impact of the redesign. Some areas, like SEO, may need months to truly take effect. If your metrics aren’t where you hoped they would be after a month or two, it doesn’t necessarily mean the site is broken or the redesign failed. Patience is important; avoid rash decisions at this critical time.
4) User Experience Testing
Ideally, user experience testing is done before, during, and after a new site launch to surface your old site’s defects and uncover what the new site should achieve from an engagement and conversion standpoint. This will help your team understand and prioritize current and future opportunities, maximize impact in the shortest amount of time, and identify and resolve any points of friction in a visitor’s digital experience. During and immediately after the launch, it is important to maintain behavioral research methods including session replay and heat mapping, as site bugs are being addressed by the development team. Quantitative testing and optimization programs, such as A/B testing, can begin as the site starts to stabilize post-launch and all testing programs ramp up.
By working closely with your subject matter experts, setting clear processes and goals, understanding how issues will be dealt with ahead of time, and having the right partners in place, you will be positioned to best deliver on your goals and create more meaningful experiences for your users.
For more information and additional considerations about launching or relaunching a website, reach out to Rise.