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The Deployment of a Website Design

Just because the web is a flexible publishing medium, don’t be tempted to throw the site online and just fix any problems after it’s live to the public. Users notice misspellings, broken links, and whatever other gaffes are left over from publishing in haste; they’ll be left with a negative impression of your business. Before you go live with a site, make sure you subject it to a rigorous cycle of testing and debugging (correcting errors).

Quality assurance in web design

So many details go into building a website that you’re bound to make mistakes along the way — and remember, no site ever looks the same on different browsers, computers, and devices. Plan ample time at the end of a project for a formal QA (quality assurance) period.

In addition to checking for misspellings, missing images, bad links, and so on, check your site on different platforms (Mac and Windows, smartphones, and other handheld devices) and different browsers (Firefox, Safari, and the multiple versions of Internet Explorer) to make sure that everything works and looks the way you expect it to.

The other thing to check is how fast various pages load. Rich media such as Flash animations, video, and audio — or (for that matter) improperly compressed images — can really make your pages limp along, even on fast connections. Notice how giving up a slight amount of image quality gains tremendous savings in file size, resulting in a faster load time — a better “user experience” as they say in web-design circles.

Over a slow connection, using 65% quality JPEG compression reduces load time from 36 seconds to 5 s
Over a slow connection, using 65% quality JPEG compression reduces load time from 36 seconds to 5 seconds; the image looks pretty much the same.
Only when you zoom in to the image do you see some pixelization around the text and in the image.
Only when you zoom in to the image do you see some pixelization around the text and in the image.

Website launch day

During development and testing, you don’t want the outside world taking a sneak peek at your site. So you can hide sites in many ways leading up to launch day — putting them on different servers, enabling IP blockers (software that allows only certain computers to access the server), or developing sites on a staging server that mirrors the target live environment. Ergo, on launch day, you need to take steps to undo all this hiding to make the site available for all to see at your prescribed moment.

For larger sites, you need to create a plan that chronicles the steps you and your team will take leading up to launch time. Tasks such as getting your new DNS to propagate throughout the Internet can take up to a couple of days — and should be part of your launch plan. Removing IP blockers and setting up redirects (sending people to different, specified URLs when they type a URL) are tasks and double-checks that you need to include in the launch plan.

Once a site is working in the real world on the servers it was designed for, a whole new set of technical problems can arise. Watch a site closely for the first couple weeks after it launches to make sure it settles nicely into its new home on the Internet and can handle the incoming traffic.

A word of advice: Don’t launch on a Friday, and keep the engineers close at hand in the hours after launch just in case!

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