Whilst there are many tasks you need to undertake during the development of a new Magento site, there are also a lot of steps you need to go through when a site goes live. This is also the case if that website is replacing one that already exists. So, whilst it’s not a definite list, here are a number of things you should make sure are on your radar:
Most likely, your development and even staging versions of your site don’t have caching turned on. Turn it on; if nothing else, you at least need your config caching activated.
Google page speed
Use the Google page insights tool. It’s probably worth going over this while you’re still on your staging site but obviously, some page speed issues are likely to be improved by your live server infrastructure. Make sure you check over your live site as soon as possible. Since 21st April 2015, Google have been more vigilant with websites’ mobile-friendliness. Use the Google mobile friendly test in order to ensure that your Magento store is ready.
If you already have a site – whether or not it’s on Magento, you’re going to need a firm 301 redirection plan. Google is clever, but why not make it as easy as possible for them? Provide it with a list of pages that you’ve moved from one place to another. Be as specific as possible and avoid double hops as much as can be helped. This might mean that you want to implement them at server level instead of rewrites within Magento where possible through something like Apache or Nginx. Redirect maps were built for this; if you have a large number of redirects, use them.
Update base URL
If you’ve been working on a staging site, or you’re replacing an existing site from your development version, make sure you update the base URL.
If you’re making changes to a site, this file is your friend. If you create this file (it doesn’t need any content) – then Magento will go into maintenance mode. It’s especially useful if you’ve got a lot of files to upload over FTP and you’re not deploying via GIT. Create the file and then deploy.
Switching payment methods from staging/test to live – and test your checkout!
A lot of things stop customers buying from your site. The most important step to get right is when a customer is all the way through your funnel and they’re trying to put in their payment details, and something doesn’t work. It’s not just going to call into question how reliable your site is, but also how secure your site is. Additionally, you don’t want customers checking out with a test integration and expecting you to ship your items!
Contact details and transactional emails
The most important things for your customer before and after purchasing goods from your store are a) being able to contact you and b) knowing that they’ve made a purchase from a reputable company.
Make sure you have contact details on your site. Magento makes this easy – find them in System -> Configuration -> General, System -> Configuration -> Store Email Addresses, and System -> Configuration -> General -> Store Information. Obviously, your template needs to show these details on the front end of the site – make sure you update them!
Transactional emails use a different logo to your main site. Ensure you have a “logo_email.gif” image in your theme folder if you haven’t already customised your email templates. When thinking about Magento, the sales order email is probably the only one that you can guarantee someone who purchases from your site. Make sure you test it – and that you’re happy with it. Make sure it’s packed full of information about the order and that you also take this opportunity to engage your customer as much as possible – highlighting promotions or upselling items, for example. Finally, ensure you test your emails with a testing system, like Emailonacid.
Newsletter subscription emails
Turn them off if you haven’t styled them. By default, they’re a one-line plain text email and you don’t want to spam your customers, do you? It’s best to check whether you can subscribe and unsubscribe at the same time – you don’t want your customers testing this for you.
You should have already ensured that all images have been uploaded for products in your store. You should be able to quickly run through the admin products grid to see that images have been uploaded, but creating a small script to double-check could be a good idea.
If you’ve missed any products, Magento has got your back. Placeholder images: where can you manage these? If you’re a developer, you could just create catalog/products/placeholder/small_image.jpg, catalog/products/placeholder/thumbnail.jpg and catalog/products/placeholder/image.jpg. If you want to help your merchant, you’re probably just going to want to take the easy option. Upload them in the admin system: System -> Configuration -> Catalog -> Catalog -> Product Image Placeholders. Here, you can set them for specific store views too.
Test your orders, customers and products
Don’t develop blindly; test everything. If you’re looking to make sure your site is ready for release, you’ll have added customer accounts, test orders and should have a large amount of products. Quite often, you might not have the finalised versions of any of these three.
To this end, make sure that you clear your database of all the test items you have before you go live. You don’t want to have to be trawling through lists of test orders with skewed reporting figures. You also don’t want to be sending automated emails to your test users or your customers buying test products. Furthermore, you don’t want Google crawling those products and listing them for the world to see.
Your 404 page
Make sure you have your 404 page customised for your store. Whilst the default 404 gives a nice “standard” interface, don’t go live with the default 404 page. It’s often overlooked and should be tailored to the experience your customers expect from your site. Be sure that as well as being in the correct design format, it provides relevant links to your customer journey and supports your site and brand.
Another thing that you don’t worry too much about in development or staging environments are your logs. However, once live, this could bring your entire site down if said logs get too large. Make sure you’re checking them in development to make sure that you catch anything that is likely to cause you issues when you go live. Once live, ensure you set up log rotation so that you don’t have to sift through logs in order to find the item that is causing you a problem. System -> Configuration -> Advanced -> System -> Log Cleaning is your friend. This is disabled by default, meaning your database can essentially grow continuously. For high traffic stores, you might even want to disable the logging module entirely.
If you’re making use of an SSL certificate, make sure it is in place. If possible, purchase a certificate for your staging environment so that you can test and make sure that all assets are available over a secure connection when required. Configure Magento to use this as the secure base URL as well. Some payment providers won’t allow you to go live until an SSL certificate is in place either.
Many modules require live and staging license keys. Make sure that you switch out the staging version for the live version when you go live. Otherwise, you might not have any shipping options, or perhaps your customers won’t be able to enter their card details! Make sure the keys are valid for your live domain when you make the switch.
Image Credit: The Four Island Tour