Sandra Jaksić: How to Prepare for a No-Stress Website Go-Live

“Congratulations! Your website has gone live!” 

This is exactly the moment we have all been waiting for. After a few months of working on the project Intersport Norway, dealing with the requirements, gathering information, attending multiple meetings, and then doing the development, testing, sprints, deployments and hotfixes, the time has come to release the finalised product into production. 

What Is Go-Live and How to Realise It in the Best Possible Way? 

Go-live is the finishing line of the marathon we have all been preparing for months. The preparation for go-live does not begin when the date is set. It begins in the early stage of the project planning when the architecture and integration with 3rd party systems are defined, the information is being collected and the vision about the final product is being created.  

In this way, we leave less space for potential errors which can have a bad impact on both the functionalities of the product and cause team members to move the deadline in case the client is not satisfied with the implementation of the solution. 

Whether it’s about a new product, rebranding or moving from an old e-commerce site to the new one, go-live is an exciting moment not only for the client but also for the team who actively took part in its development. But, besides the fact that this is exciting, it also brings a huge responsibility with itself.

Sandra holding a lecture

In challenging situations, it is most important to stay calm and maintain the level of professionalism we all strive towards. Like in life, how we react in critical moments has a big impact on the way people perceive us. Losing focus and control, succumbing to pressure and making mistakes while under pressure can make you lose credibility that you have earned with other colleagues and clients. 

Here are a few tips and guidelines that we used to stick to when we were planning to go live:

1) Establish the team that will be responsible for making the website go live

Assign roles and define actions. All the assignments should be assigned to the members of the team, and one person should be in charge of controlling the quality of results. 

2) Set up a testing environment

In our case, this was a staging environment set in a way to be identical with the production. On the staging, you can post content and resources, test flow and the validity of the data as well as set configuration. 

When you are satisfied with the final result, set the replication of data to go into production in order to get the identical configuration in both environments.   

3) Collaborate with the client actively during testing 

Our client set User Acceptance Testing (UAT) team which actively tested all the aspects of the new website, using a clearly defined process of reporting defects as well as the method of their verification. The team took part both in manual testing as well as in the writing of automatic tests which helped reveal some of the mistakes that happened in the early stage. Also, the team helped clients understand how some processes in our system work, like inventory, prices, campaigns and promotions.

4) Test the integration with the 3rd party systems

Some things like integration with the 3rd party systems such as Order Management System (OMS) or the billing system should be tested on the production before going live. With some 3rd party systems, there can be a small difference in configuration between a testing environment and the production. They can make you verify that something is working during the testing phase. However, there may be surprises in the production phase. 

5) Make a go-live checklist

Define what tasks need to be completed before go-live. 

In our case, we should have completed 150+ tasks whose aim was to check the configuration on production environment including testing of individual processes related to products – from prices and inventories to the ability to order them.  

Considering the team size and how important the progress on checking this list is, it is crucial to update the list on a daily basis so that everyone would have an insight into the current situation. 

6) Prepare SSL certificate 

This is especially important for e-commerce websites where many different transactions happen and where you need to protect the website and give your users a certain level of security while shopping online.  

7) Connect your website with Google Analytics 

This will help you know more details about your website such as a demographic origin of your visitors, what pages are visited most frequently, average session duration as well the general performance of your website. All of this can help you determine what factors lead to increased visitors’ activity on the website and what can be improved. 

8) Implement your SEO strategy

Your website will be more visible through search engines if you implement SEO strategy. Pay attention to:

  • Keywords that describe a specific topic 
  • Title tags which need to describe the purpose of your pages 
  • Meta descriptions – make them concise

9) Make sure your website is optimised for a mobile phone 

The content should be available and on the specified place on the website. A navigation bar should be visible, and the links should be clickable with no error pages. Our experience tells us that today the majority of visitors, over 70% of them, use mobile phones to visit and view the website and do online shopping. This is why your website needs to be mobile-friendly so as to avoid losing potential buyers.

10) Schedule a go/no-go meeting 

Before this meeting, all critical and blocker UAT tickets should be closed, testing should be completed (or in the final stage) and configuration should be ready!

11) Note to remember: Don’t ever do go-live on Fridays! 

If it is possible, try to postpone go-live for the beginning of the following week so that you would have enough time to react and avoid working overtime and at weekends. 

All of the Things I Have Learned from My Go-Live Experience

Going live is just the beginning and there are numerous best practices to follow to make sure your website engages and brings in customers.

However, these are some of the practices we have established and which we follow each time we prepare for a new website going live. During the process of going live with this project, I found a quote which perfectly fits this context. It goes like this: “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised”.

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