So you’ve just launched your brand new website design. You’ve gone through weeks or months of development and revisions, and you’re so excited to show it off to the world.
But then… A confused text from a client whose just visited your new site. “I can’t navigate to any of the sub-pages on my phone!” he says.
Your mind immediately drifts to a doomsday scenario with your business. If he can’t use the menu, no one can. And if no one can use the menu, no one can use the site. And if no one can use the site… You’ll never get new business again!
Now that your business can’t be saved, might as well get a head-start on that bankruptcy filing. Oh, and make sure you’ve told your realtor to list your house, and reached out to your family to see if they can raise your children while you’re living in a box in an alley somewhere.
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Not so fast there, Eeyore.
Everything is going to be okay. Your site isn’t ruined, your business will be just fine, and your children don’t need to be raised without parents.
The truth is, issues like this are extremely common, and possibly even inevitable. A website is an amalgamation of hundreds or thousands of different scripts and pieces of software, all written by different people, and interacting with tens of thousands of different types of devices with infinite combinations of scripts and software themselves.
Quite frankly, it’s shocking that websites work at all.
The point is, it’s impossible to test for every combination of devices and software, and also impossible for a site to work perfectly in every situation. Every website launch comes with its own unique set of issues that pop up, no matter who built your site. Perfection is impossible.
So what are we to do?
Luckily, a good web development company uses best practices and has loads of experience to help minimize the number of issues that come up. They know how to code things so that they work consistently across devices and browsers, and they have experience working with different plugins and scripts and have learned which ones play well together and which ones don’t.
And once they’ve encountered issues on the live site, a good website agency will be prepared and able to quickly remedy those problems. Experience has taught them that these are bound to crop up, and that they need a good system to tackle them.
With that out of the way, I did want to help explain what types of things you should expect after a website is launched, and what types of things should be more concerning.
Normal and expected issues after a website is launched
- Certain things don’t work on specific devices or display differently
This is probably the most common type of issue. A menu dropdown behaves strangely or breaks on older iPhones, a button overlaps on certain Samsung devices, a background loops itself on ultra-wide desktop monitors. These are all par for the course, and should be expected.
- Very specific issues that aren’t immediately obvious
Lots of things could fall under this umbrella. Sometimes sub-sub menus might not display correctly on any device. Maybe when you drag the browser and change its size, some things break. These things are difficult to test for on every page, and sometimes only go noticed well after launch time. Your web developer is human and therefor imperfect. They can’t catch absolutely everything!
- Contact form issues
Sometimes the recipients haven’t been set up correctly. Sometimes the intended recipient isn’t receiving the form submissions, because of an issue on their end. These kinds of things happen all the time. Sometimes it’s an issue with the live server as opposed to the staging server. Sometimes the developer forgot to switch the recipient to your address after testing it with their own. It’s not a huge deal, and usually is easy to fix. Most good web development companies use a contact form plugin that saves the entries to the site, so you’ll always have a copy. But even if not, if the developer received the email, they can always just forward it to you and then fix the issue for future submissions.
- Things breaking in the new hosting environment
Generally when we see these issues, it’s because a client insisted on using their outdated, cheap hosting plan over at Lunar Pages or HostGator against our recommendations that they upgrade. Sometimes when you move a site over to a different hosting environment, things don’t work right. Maybe the PHP version is too old, maybe it’s just too weak. Either way, every hosting environment is different, and things that worked at the test server don’t always work on the live server.
- Certain connections not set up all the way, such as Google Analytics or MailChimp
On the test server, these types of things don’t necessarily matter. But once you’re live, you need them to work! Hopefully you catch them quickly. They are very easy to resolve, however, so it’s not generally a huge deal. Checking these things is actually in our launch checklist, so we generally reach out around launch time to verify Google Analytics information and others.
- You had an expectation of the website, but never communicated it, and the site does not meet that expectation
I’ve had clients who were upset that they couldn’t use the website itself to send an email out to each of their 1,000 newsletter subscribers. It was never communicated to us that they would need this functionality, and unfortunately, our hosting does not support that kind of bulk email (very few, if any, reputable hosting companies will allow that). If you’re expecting to be able to do something, make sure you communicate that clearly with your developer!
Issues that are more concerning, and not to be expected
Not everything that can happen after launch is necessarily a normal part of building a website, though. The following things should have you more concerned and questioning the ability or motives of your website designer:
- Major issues that are not rectified quickly
Occasionally major issues do happen, such as the site being down, or major functionality not working at all. But your website company should fix them quickly. If they don’t, you might want to seek outside help.
- Your developer tries to charge you extra for things that should have been working to start
If they start charging you to fix things that should have been working, that’s a bad sign. At this point they are holding you hostage in a sense. Even if they don’t have a written or implied warranty, if the site just launched and things that they said would work don’t, they should fix them at no additional fee.
- Surprise fees
Up-selling you with additional services is one thing. But if you are finding out there are major fees that are required for your website to operate after it’s already live, you may not be dealing with an ethical provider.
- Your website designer goes dark as soon as they’ve been paid
If the minute your designer has been paid, they become unresponsive, you should be worried. Hopefully they are in your same country so that you at least have legal options if something goes terribly wrong. If not, you might be out of luck. Sometimes going cheap is not the best option.
- None of your old website pages redirect to the new locations
This is one that really needs to be figured out before your website goes live. Good developers know to set up redirects from all of your own pages, so that you retain all of your link juice for SEO. If people are coming to your site and get 404 errors, that’s a major problem. Speak with your developer and get that figured out immediately.
Things go wrong on the web. That’s unavoidable. But having an experienced and knowledgeable website development team on your side is key to making sure that these problems are as minimal as possible, and that once they do come up, they are fixed quickly.
As a rule of thumb: the more complicated your website is, the more custom it is, and the greater number of interacting plugins it has, the more likely you are to have issues.
One last note: you should expect to need regular maintenance on your website over time, especially if it’s complicated. A website is more like a car than it is a painting. Occasionally things will break and need fixing. Plan for it!