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I am now only a few weeks away from squeezing a new mini-Toon into the world and people are telling me to waddle away from the laptop and start relaxing.

So this will be the last of my ‘How to’ blogs for sometime, and what subject matter is more fitting than delivery?

The comparisons between the birth of a website and the birth of a baby are fairly clear if you think about it (well, at a push); here are some that spring to mind.

If only every website had a nice nine-month gestation rather than a three-week free-for-all. Put simply, the more planning and preparation you can do before delivery, the better; it makes things much easier in those early weeks.

Expert advice
You wouldn’t get your cousin Kevin to deliver your baby just ’cos he’s seen a few episodes o
f ER, so why do so many people use inexperienced folk to build their sites? Being a great DM designer doesn’t mean necessarily that you know your way around a browser. Not everyone can draw a decent site map, and just ’cos you can write doesn’t mean you know the subtleties of SEO copy. Try to use experts where you can.

Good nourishment
No blue cheese, no tuna, no booze; make sure you fill yourself with healthiness at every opportunity. As with web, no frames, no image maps, no flash intros. Fill yourself with cutting-edge ideas at every opportunity. Get yourself on
Twitter and read all those clever links that people are posting, ensure you know your avatar from your gravatar and take advantage of the latest best practice.

Testing, testing
During pregnancy you regularly have your pudenda prodded, your belly felt and copious amounts of fluid sucked from you into tiny test tubes – tests to ensure that everything is going to plan. So with your site – ensure you do, AT LEAST, the following tests:

  • Designer review – Ensure the design has made it from the PSD to the page.
  • Copy writer review – Coders have a naughty habit of ignoring those nicely keyword-saturated meta tags and alt tags.
  • Code review – Have this done by someone other than the person who coded it. (More on this in a forthcoming post.)
  • Idiot review – Does it fit in the browser? Does it work from browser to browser, from MAC to PC to iPhone? Can you scroll? Do the pages print? Does it take eight weeks to load? Are all the images clickable? Have you remembered your tracking tags? Yadda yadda – the list is endless but so often these basics are overlooked.
  • User review – Does the user know what they need to do? Can they find the content they want to quickly? Do they reach any dead ends?

All this tedious testing saves that embarrassing call from your boss two days after launch to ask why the Contact form doesn’t submit in Internet Explorer®.

Don’t launch prematurely
The launch is in a week, the DM is ready to go out, and the boss is going to the Bahamas on Monday, so the site MUST GO LIVE NOW! No, no, no. Never rush into pushing your site live. Even though you can tweak it after launch, every single person who has a bad experience with your site will tell their mates and then where are you? It’s amazing how rigid a deadline seems when it’s your issue and how easily it can expand when it needs to (e.g., client f**k up). Stick to your guns and launch when you’re good and ready.

Grow at your own pace
Life isn’t a competition. Well, it is really in advertising terms, but don’t get hung up on that. So what if little Johnny can already play the flute and speak Russian and he’s only two? Everyone grows at their own pace. With your site, ensure you’ve covered the basics before you go off trying to build that dynamic, Flash content generator with session variables and an integrated doodah widget. Even if your creative director thinks it’s a ‘must have’: you need to think about whether your target audience really gives a poop.

For life, not just for Christmas
It seemed such a nice idea when you were picking out names, deciding on colours and planning the future. And now it’s here, a kicking, screaming monster that demands your attention every minute of the day. The best website is the one that grows with you, and that you don’t have to change every five minutes. Check out the Marks and Spencer site, for which I built the ecommerce engine back in 1998. The structure, design and feel of the site is basically unchanged since then and yet the site still functions beautifully and has kept up with the latest developments.

Enjoy it
Sometimes you’re so busy dealing with website issues, you forget to enjoy it. Before you know it, your website will have a life of its own, someone else will come along to manage it and you’ll look back and wish you’d stopped to enjoy the moment.

You’ve delivered a beautiful, bouncing website. Congratulations!

See you on the other side.
Mama Toon

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