Random thoughts of a Maidenhead man

Website Live Launch Checklist

Posted in CMS Made Simple on Thursday 20 October 2016

Here's my list of actions to take before making a website live. Some actions may not be appropriate for your website, some you may have already done. Many recommendations assume the use of the CMS Made Simple content management system.

This blog post is based on my presentation at the UK CMS Made Simple Geekmoot in Leicester in October 2016.

1. Make a backup

Before making any changes to your website you should backup the database and file system.

2. Update modules

If developing the website has taken some time you may find that the modules you have used have been updated - so check and update them.

Site Admin > Module Manager > a tab will show modules needing upgrade

3. Upgrade core

Again, you might find the dev team have released another version of CMS Made Simple - check at the CMS Made Simple downloads page.

4. Compress images

Compressing images gives advantages like using less hosting space and giving a faster download experience for the website visitors. One way to compress images is using the TinyPNG website.

5. Pretty URLs

Pretty URLs are easy to add and give URLs that are simple to type, speak and remember - and better for search engine optimisation too. Setting up is normally a case of adjusting a couple of files, check the method here in the CMS Made Simple documentation.

6. Redirect any old pages

If you are redeveloping an existing site, consider redirecting old pages which may have existing external links to them from other websites. On a Linux system this is normally achieved by adding some lines to the .htaccess file. This is detailed in the CMS Made Simple documentation.

7. Rename admin area

CMS Made Simple installs the administration area in a sub-directory called admin. That's very easy to remember and fine when developing a website. But when it goes live I prefer the admin area to be hidden for one simple reason: if someone can't find it, they can't hack in to it! Security is all about having layers - and renaming the admin area is one layer that is easy to add. The method for renaming the admin area is described here.

8. Add canonical link

Adding a canonical link URL to your page templates is normally easy enough and helps Google determine the "master" page if you have duplicate content in the website. Something like this can be added to your templates:

{if isset($canonical)}<link rel="canonical" href="{$canonical}" />{elseif isset($content_obj)}<link rel="canonical" href="{$content_obj->GetURL()}" />{/if}

9. Add robots.txt

A robots.txt in the root of your website tells (well behaved) search engines which parts of the website they should spider and which they should not. Most of the time your whole website should be available to search engines, so a basic robots.txt file will do:

User-Agent: *
Allow: /

In English: All search engines; you are allowed anywhere on the site.

I always add a robots.txt file, if only to stop 404 not found errors occurring when search engines look for the file. More on robots.txt.

10. Add humans.txt

The humans.txt file, again in the website root, can be considered the opposite to robots.txt. It is a text file just for humans to read and is not formally structured. It can indicate the developer, designer, builder, host of the website and whatever else you might think will be of interest. This one is of no real practical use but worth adding for the geek value!

More from the humans.txt website. Oh, even Google have one.

11. Create sitemap.xml

The sitemap.xml file is an XML structured file listing every valid URL in the website. Useful for search engine optimisation. Learn how to get CMS Made Simple to create its own sitemap.xml from the very useful CMS Can Be Simple blog.

12. Check descriptions

Easy to forget but page descriptions are vital for search engine optimisation. Check each page has them:

Content > Content Manager > [page] > Navigation tab

13. Setup Google Webmaster Tools

Register the website with Google Webmaster Tools. This tool gives a good overview of Google's opinion of the site, you can point out the sitemap to Google, view search traffic being directed to it, see mobile performance and run a "fetch as Google" command amongst other useful features. Check out the Google Webmaster Tools website.

14. Give credit

If you have used images from sites such as Flickr, you should credit their use in the way that the creator has requested, it's simple to see from the image page. Often it requires a simple link back to the site in question. This one is a simple case of good manners.

15. Check links

Every link on the website should be checked to make sure it goes where you think it goes. It's easy to link to a page and then later rename or delete it.

I use a Windows program called Xenu's Link Sleuth which programmatically follows every internal link and checks that it returns a real page. It produces a report detailing any broken links.

16. Install Statistics

Statistics is a CMS Made Simple module that gives basic visitor statistics and shows popular pages and days and other interesting analysis. It is often enough for clients, some of whom find Google Analytics overkill.

17. Add developer in HTML

I like to add a link to my web development company website at the bottom of client sites - with their permission of course. I also like to add an HTML comment including this information as well, so that anybody viewing the HTML can see who developed it.

<!-- Website developed and hosted by -->

18. Add favicon

The favicon is that little icon that is used in things like browser tabs and URL bookmark lists. The icon follows certain specifications. One easy way to produce the correct format is using The site also offers other icons for other systems, e.g. mobile phone home screens.

19. 404 page

Users will sometimes try to access a page that doesn't exist. Instead of showing a browser generated error page, set up CMS Made Simple to produce your own formatted error 404 page. The website will still output the correct 404 response code but the user will see a page which could include an apology and links to other pages.

Content > Content Manager > Add new content > Content type: Error page

20. Test forms

Any forms on the website should be tested to make sure the information is sent to the right person. Simple, but easy to overlook.

21. Uptime monitor

I have an account with UptimeRobot which monitors websites, checking every 15 minutes that they are responding OK. If not, you are sent a notification (you choose - Twitter, email etc) so you are aware and can do something about it. If your client's website goes down, for whatever reason, it's best that you are aware of it before your client is...

22. Add users

Remember to add CMS Made Simple users for your client so they can login. Test them as well - sometimes you need specific permissions set for particular modules.

User Management > Backend Users
User Management > Backend Group Permissions

23. Add UsersGuide

UsersGuide is a useful module that enables you to set up custom help pages within the admin area. These can include images too and can be created to guide your backend admin users through the process of editing website content.

24. Login monitor

It's interesting to know when clients login to edit their site. It's also good to know, for security reasons, if someone or something is trying to gain access to the admin area but using an incorrect username/password. You can add code to CMS Made Simple to send an email on both these events. See this forum post for details.

25. Print stylesheet

Give some thought to how your website prints out; some people still like a physical record. A stylesheet is a great way to accomplish this. Perhaps set the background to white and text to black. Consider also showing the URL at the bottom of the page so people can see how to return to your website at a later date. Here's an interesting post on developing a print stylesheet.

26. W3C validation

It's important that your HTML is as correct as you can make it; browsers and search engines prefer code which validates. Head over to the W3C Markup Validation Service and check your website.

27. Google page speed

This is a service from Google giving your website a mark out of 100 for mobile and desktop download and rendering speed. Google page speed gives advice about minifying javascript, CSS, images etc. Submit your site to check for any suggestions.

28. SimpleSiteMgr

Simple Site Manager is a module created by dev member Rolf that allows you to remotely monitor CMS Made Simple websites and check on their version. Your "master" website can remotely interrogate "slave" websites and report on their CMS Made Simple version and the version of all installed modules. This gives an efficient way of checking which websites require upgrade work. Install Simple Site Info (the remote module) to enable your master to check up on it.

29. Update log

In a similar way to 28, I keep a spreadsheet log of all CMS Made Simple installations so I can track versions and the date I last updated the site and notes about special templates installed etc.

30. Invoice!

So, at last, you can make it live. But don't forget to add the new website to your own portfolio of work (if appropriate), switch off your test site, and set calendar reminders for downloading and any recurring bills.

Oh, and don't forget to invoice.  ;-)

So, you can see there's often a lot to do before you can finally launch a new website. I hope this list was of some use to you.

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