January was awesome! We saw one of our largest client website projects for 2013 go live. To see the live site is fantastic, especially considering the overall effort was nearly a year in elapsed time and involved a number of talented Arke and client resources.

Expect the Unexpected

Even with the best laid plans for deployments, you have to be prepared for surprises. As a standard practice, we generate a checklist to handle all prelaunch, launch and post-launch activities. There are many factors that can change literally overnight that can turn a seemingly easy set of tasks into an adventurous “go-live.” A new release of a browser can wreak havoc, new page redirects can pop up, infrastructural differences between QA environments and production environments can cause challenges…and of course there can be massive ice storms that shut down cities and make onsite support next to impossible!

For us, and this specific project, we migrated all code and content to the production environment a full week prior to the “go-live.” We encountered a few challenges, but all were minor…and rain, sleet, ice and snow were not enough to stop the launch. As good as we are at building and launching websites, we’ll always get better. Here’s a very high-level view of a few considerations to ensure a website deployment is as flawless as possible:

  • Do all the basic functions work, especially as they relate to interfaces? Test that connectivity, double check the monitoring, etc.
  • Search – is it working? Are the pages indexed properly?
  • Do you have any complicated presentation? Be sure to test these presentation across browsers and devices when you migrate. With complicated HTML or CSS you don’t want to miss anything.
  • All content management systems (including Sitecore) have specific configuration files that need to be moved and sometimes edited when moving from QA to a production environment.
  • Is the “301 redirect strategy” fully implemented? This is the process used to map existing site pages to new pages. If a user has a page from the old site cached or tagged as a “favorite”, we have to make sure the user will get driven directly to the new content. This also helps keep the soundness of Google Analytics reporting intact.

There are typically between 30-100 items in our website deployment checklists depending on the type of migration we are doing. We can always react to obstacles, but obviously prefer to address everything possible before the “go-live”. For this particular project, the client was pleased, and so were we! Remember to expect the unexpected, work through your checklists and weather any storms that arise!