As I got ready to launch GetDelight, my team and I created a last minute list of things we had left to do — we put it on GitHub and checked things off when completed.
Print Our Checklist
From programming to last-minute company tasks, we compiled a list of over fifty items. I thought I’d share with you some of the more general issues we thought to include. If you think we are missing something, please share about it in the comments section.
Complete Homepage Copy
One of the pages we left for last – and I know many new startups do – is the copy for the homepage. You need to write about whatever you’re selling in a clear, concise and engaging way. If you can’t quickly capture the interest of a visitor then you’re going to immediately fail. This leads to my next point.
Define Your Unique Value Proposition
If the visitor to your service doesn’t understand exactly what the value is to them and why they should use it, then they’ll hit the back button. It’s as simple as that. In one sentence, you should clearly define your unique value proposition for the type of customer you want.
Make sure that you list all of the different ways that visitors to your service can reach you. It’s not enough to simply provide an email address nowadays. Lots of customers want to connect on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks.
One of the things I like to leave to the last minute is writing the Frequently Asked Questions. If you write it too early, then chances are your service will have changed and it’ll become outdated. Writing the FAQ will also help put you in the mind of a customer right before launch. It’s a great last-minute exercise in making sure your app is clear.
Try to do this as early in the process as possible. You want to make sure you have a consistent voice and are writing blog posts that support the service you’re trying to promote.
Write All Email Copy
Another pet peeve of mine is when the emails from a new service I’ve signed up for are too cryptic to understand. If you’re going to send me an email, please take the time to make it an informative one, even if it’s just a “thank you for registering” email with my login details. Hammer home your message.
Draft Case Studies
It depends what kind of service you’re building, but before you go live you should be doing some type of beta test. During beta, ask some of your most dedicated users if they wouldn’t mind doing a case study. Prepare a few of these to have on hand or to put on your marketing website when you go live.
Do a Copy Sweep
I find nothing more distracting and off-putting than poor grammar and misspelled words in the copy of a newly launched startup. (I guess I’m setting myself up to get called out if I screw it up with my new startup.) It doesn’t take much effort to send the copy to a few friends to review it before going live.
Not every app is great for SEO, but if you think that people are searching with a problem you’re solving, then you should do the keyword analysis and build your site’s copy around it.
Model Potential Revenue
You should never found a company without a good idea about how you plan on making money. Even better, you should project how your potential revenue stream will grow over time.
Set Sales Goals
After you’ve modeled out your potential revenue growth, setting sales goals will give you a better understanding of when you can raise money on good terms or quit your day job and bootstrap. It’s great to have numbers to work toward that aren’t arbitrary. Knowing exactly how many users you need over a projected time frame helps to determine whether you’re matching projections.
Create a Sales Pipeline
Chances are that you know people who want to use your product. If you don’t, then you might not be building the product that’s best suited to you. Record the names and email addresses of likely users in a file and check them off after you’ve reached out to them.
Programming Form Validations
Form validations are one of those last-minute things that developers leave until the end. They’re easy enough to do, but just not all that sexy. Don’t forget to do them, as having an error on a form without a notification is a terrible user experience.
Complete a Security Audit
There have been a lot of security breaches recently if you’re a Ruby on Rails app, so be sure to patch before going live. Go through the routine checks to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything.
Schedule a QA Session
There’s always some little snafu that can set you back and can only be found when you purposely try to break your app. Sit down with your team (and maybe a few friends) and do all the crazy things you can think of to break your app.
Check the Site in Various Browsers
Oh, no! No developer wants to have to worry about Internet Explorer, FireFox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome, but you should take a look to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors. Sometimes things can be cleaned up pretty quickly.
Get SSL Up and Running
If you’re not using SSL then you’re not trying hard enough. SSL is fairly inexpensive these days ($69.99 a year from GoDaddy) and it’s really not that hard to set up, especially if you’re using a hosting service such as Heroku.
Audit the Admins
You should have an Admin section where you can modify user settings and the like. Make sure that it’s working and that you can do everything you want with it.
Intercom and CrazyEgg Setup
For starters, verify your site listing with Google and Bing webmaster tools — it’s easy to do and supposedly gets your website indexed faster. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? The more you help yourself with Search Engine Optimization, the better it’ll help you. Setting up and submitting an XML sitemap to Google and Bing will help them crawl you more efficiently. Set up the robots too. And to help with SEO plus get the word out, sign up your new app with Crunchbase, AngelList, StartupList, Listio and others.
Make sure you’re catching errors with Airbrake: Airbrake is great for catching code errors that users might be running into. It groups them all and notifies you when an error occurs. Great for debugging early on.
Track Goals and Usage
Goal tracking is easy to set up in Google Analytics. It’s helpful because it allows you to know when visitors are completing individual actions. Set up statistics to track usage: Something that should go inside the admin area of your app should be a record of your app’s pattern of usage. Track whatever are the most important statistics for your app and list them here. When I was at Carbonmade, we built Pulse to track our statistics. You don’t need to go that far, but high-level numbers are important. Up and to the right!
Audit Your App’s Routes
If your app is programming in Ruby on Rails, and I’m sure many other languages that I’m not as familiar with, you can modify the routes of your website. That’s like adjusting a name like “/users” to be “/members” or however you want it. It’s important to practice good URL structure, but not before you’re ready to go live, as things often change.
Set Up Error Pages
It’s not difficult to set up 404 and 500 pages, but it’s important that you do so.
Set Up RSS
Set up RSS with mentions of app name. Through Google Alerts you can easily get notifications when your app is mentioned on the Web. I usually set them up for a variety of terms, not solely for mentions of our app’s name but for surrounding industry terms as well.
Get all team members on the bank account.It’s up to you, but usually with a small founding team of three to two people, you’re going to want everyone to be on the bank account to be able to access it in case of emergencies. Also, sync Stripe with your bank account: If you’re using Stripe for payments, you need to activate your account before you can proceed. It’s easy, but requires a little bit of information such as your Tax ID # and the Social Security # of the person activating it.
I’ve been using the same amazing accounting firm for around six years now, and every time I start a new business they tell me to get on QuickBooks before things get out of hand. This time I’m going to listen to them.
Get all the @app.com email addresses set up with forwarding: Create a catch-all email address so that anything sent to your @app.com email address will go to a single address.
Plan the next set of features after launch. You’ll hopefully be knee deep in email and bug fixing during the first few days after launch, but you should also have a “what’s next” plan for the following few weeks.
I like to have something that’s going to add a lot of value for the initial customers and take fewer than two weeks to ship out the door. That way you show them that you’re iterating efficiently and quickly.
Every successful app has a great short term and long term press plan. However, right after launch you should ask yourself how much press you actually want. Do you want to reach out to blogs for coverage? Do you hope to get on Hacker News? Sometimes you might want to delay press coverage until you’ve had a chance to fix up the bugs.
Email Friends and Family
Last, but not least, you should email your friends and family about the new app you’ve built. Chances are that leading up to its release you’ve been so busy that you haven’t had time to update them. Now’s the time!
Reward Your Team
One great way to ensure all of these tasks gets done: reward their completion with incentives or perks — GetDelight.com lets you do that. Click here to get started.
This post originally appeared on my own blog.