Getting a new website is a lot of work, from hard design decisions to the struggle for decent pictures of the staff and building. However, the last day, the website launch, should be a day of joy and celebration for everyone. Right?
Well, most of the time. Website launch day is often just the start of a new phase in the website’s life: bug fixing.
Even when a website’s been tested thoroughly, tiny annoyances and glitches are common on launch day and afterward. A perfect, buttery-smooth launch rarely happens. And that’s okay. Web designers are not NASA technicians and small business owners aren’t astronauts. Though if any astronauts out there need a website, Roundpeg’s number is 317-569-1396.
There are two basic types of website problems on launch: downtime and broken links or glitches. Here’s what to expect from each.
When you’re replacing an existing website with a new one, there will be a transitional period when some web visitors see the old site, others the new site, and some will get errors. This is downtime. And it can’t be avoided and it’s tough to explain.
Basically: your website exists in a thousand copies on a thousand servers across the globe. When you change the original, it takes time for all of those stored copies to be updated. Not a long time, but some time. And if you changed the location of the original, by switching to a new web hosting company or maybe just a different machine at the same company, there’s typically a new IP address for your site that has to be communicated across the globe as well.
An infinitude of other variables will affect your website launch and downtime. Chaos happens. How much depends on your website host, the server’s proximity to Jeff Goldblum, and the number of raptors in in your neighborhood. So hang tough, be patient, and raptor-proof the kitchen.
Most downtime can be minimized to one or two hours for your website visitors in the United States. Overseas visitors might see the old site for a little longer, up to 72 hours. The best way to deal with it is to schedule your new website launch for off-peak hours when your traffic is low and your customers and staff won’t need to use the site.
Broken Links and Glitches
Healthcare.gov is a legend for being a disaster. When that site launched, the news media reported on glitches like they were giving an urgent weather report every eight minutes. A small business website is not nearly as complex as the government’s online healthcare hub. Nor is it under the same kind of scrutiny. But it is subject to similar types of launch-day problems in smaller quantities.
Regardless of the skill of your web designer, there will be bugs. Images go missing. The e-commerce checkout and online forms might not work right immediately. A responsive web design often needs tweaking to clear up alignment and design issues that only seem to appear once real visitors start using the site. Real people, reading your site on hundreds of devices, kicking the tires, is chaos in the flesh. And chaos brings out glitches in the best laid-out websites.
Minimize your glitches by planning ahead, expecting the best and preparing for the worst. Ask for your web developer’s policy about post-launch website support and troubleshooting. Test thoroughly, launch quietly and just stamp out the bugs for a while. Then tell everyone about your awesome new website, keep fixing bugs, and repeat until it’s time for the next redesign.