Hooray! Your new web site launches on Friday! After months of work and several checks written to your developer, designer, and copywriter, it's finally going to be visible to the whole world! You're probably going to email all your clients and prospects, blast the news on social media, and include a "check out our new web site" tag line in your email signature. Maybe you even have a press release prepared.
All of that is very exciting, and in the head rush that comes with so much activity, it's easy to forget that there are other things you need to do and have secure when your site launches. They're just as important, and their impact is arguably much bigger.
All the Passwords Are Yours
It's likely that, at some point, you had to set up an account with a web host. When you did that, you had to create a login and password to manage things like how they bill you and what the domain name associated with the account should be. In most cases, you then passed that information on to your web developers so that they could use it to install software and set up other technical stuff for you. When they did that, there's a good chance that they set up some systems with other passwords for you, on your behalf. Some examples are:
- Content management software (Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, etc.)
- Email accounts
- Host company help desk or trouble ticket accounts
- Template or theme club subscriptions
These passwords belong to you. Your web developer should provide you with a list of all the logins and passwords they have for anything connected to your name or your company. We recommend that you change every single one of them once your business relationship with your developer has ended -- even if you think you'll hire them again. This way, if anything goes wrong, you'll know that no one but you and your staff are logging in.
Extras, Doodads, Widgets and Modules: Also Yours
You should know the name of the content management system in use on your site (WordPress? Joomla? SquareSpace), but do you know if your developer has installed any third-party extensions to that system? As an example, Joomla comes automatically with a basic contact form, but we usually add a more complex form generator to our clients' sites. It's an extension called ProForms, made by a company called Mooj. To install it, we have to purchase it on our clients' behalf, download it, and then upload the installation files to Joomla using the Extension Manager. It's simple for us because we do it all the time, but if our clients ever have issues with this extension, they need the information we got during the purchasing process in order to log into Mooj's web site and submit a trouble ticket. This is the right of our client because it was their money that purchased the extension.
Always ask your developer for a list of third-party extensions. In the world of WordPress, they're called Widgets or Plugins. Other systems may use other terminology, but it shouldn't be your responsibility to dig around in your site's back end and try to figure out what everything is called and where it came from.
The Cost of Help
What does your web development contract say about things that come up after the site launches? You may be paying your developer by the hour, by the project, in percentages at various points of the project, or you may have paid for the whole thing already. However, once the site is considered "done," you still may come up with other things you need. Some examples are:
- Navigation labeling that you thought was intuitive, but your users can't figure out.
- Typos in system messages (Login failures, lost passwords, etc.)
- Images that turn out to be confusing
- Complaints about the site you could never have predicted, but your customers immediately start making
How will this be handled by your developer? Will you be billed by the hour? At what rate? Will any of these changes be made for free because they were overlooked before, or if you agree to launch, are you agreeing that you approve of everything? Is your developer available for the two weeks after launch, or is he going right to another project?
There's no right or wrong answer to those questions -- but you should know the plan before the issues arise.
Think of the top five things you are going to want to do to your site in the first six months you own it. Do you know how to do them? Some of the things our clients want to do are:
- Add a blog post
- Change the main image on the home page
- Change the background image for the site
- Edit the content of the footer
- Add additional social media buttons
If you know what you'll want to do, be sure you have a plan for getting them done. It may be that some of them can only be done by your developer, and that's ok, as long as you know and plan for it. For anything you'll be doing yourself, be sure you know how to do it before the site launches, ensuring that you're not in a blind panic on a Sunday afternoon, trying to post your Monday morning blog and unable to reach the person who built the site for you.
Launching a web site can't be all viral videos and social media blasting. There is a solid chunk of it that must be practical, useful, long-term planning so that it's more than a flashy brochure that never changes. Taking the time to include the above items in your launch plan will contribute to a healthy web presence for your organization, sustainable for you and your staff over the long haul.