Many aspiring entrepreneurs choose to take the route of getting their websites live as soon as possible. This does have some benefits, admittedly: it allows the domains to start building up trust with search crawlers, and starts building up brand recognition. And since websites are innately flexible (being digital entities), they can simply build them up as they go.
The problem with this route, though, is that first impressions are massively important in the online world. If you roll out a website that visitors dislike (or even hate), they might not ever return, no matter how much you overhaul what’s there or add new content or features.
Consequently, you need to find the right balance between promptness and polish. Starting with a rock-solid foundation like WordPress is certainly useful, but what comes next? In this piece, we’re going to look at 5 steps you can take to get your WP site ready to launch. Let’s begin:
Choose high-quality plugins
WordPress is world-renowned for its vast and powerful array of plugins and themes. They save huge amounts of time, add invaluable features, and help shape websites that can be favorably compared to expensive sites (built using custom platforms) while costing significantly less. And while it’s possible to create a WP site without using plugins — why would you?
If you make a priority at the beginning of identifying the plugins you intend to use, you’ll have more time to figure out how you can use them optimally and how they’re going to fit together. You might need to compare numerous options, too, which can take a while. Once you know exactly what you’re going to use, you can focus on everything else.
Put time and effort into your content
There’s no shortcut to creating great content, and make no mistake: your website needs great content. The internet is littered with websites that look good but offer thin and/or dull copy, and almost as many that offer useful copy but look like they were made decades ago. You need both: visuals that draw attention, and text that keeps it.
Don’t make the mistake of launching with placeholder content, imagining that maybe people won’t really notice. They will. If you’re not a writer or designer, then don’t be overly reluctant to bring in assistance in the form of freelancers or even agencies. Your content is worth some major investment — it’ll pay off in the long run.
Complete a comprehensive checklist
Before you consider your website feature-complete and ready for user testing, you should do more than just informally assess it. You should use a checklist to ensure that all the elements — from major to minor — are accounted for. Consider this list of website checks for WordPress sites, for instance: it encompasses aspects such as security and browser testing. If there are elements missing, you can add them in before you proceed.
There may be other things you need to check, of course, largely depending on your intentions for the website. If your WordPress site is being extended through a plugin like WooCommerce to serve as an ecommerce store, you’ll want to confirm various retail-specific things. I suggest cross-referencing several lists to increase coverage: for example, use a list specific to WooCommerce alongside another list built for Shopify. That’ll give you peace of mind.
Run representative user testing
Once you’re confident that everything’s working well from a technical standpoint, it’s time to subject the website to real-world scrutiny. The problem with in-house testing is that you clearly understand how the website was designed and what all the content means, so there’s no need for you to pay close attention. It isn’t representative of what your users will experience.
Representative testing involves using the site on mobile devices and weak connections (limited in speed and even reliability). Someone in an area with low signal should still be able to use your website. Even with today’s design standards, there’s no good excuse for not having a website that loads quickly and efficiently. If your testing finds any issues, work on optimization and/or upgrade your hosting.
Use rival websites as points of comparison
By this point, you should feel ready to launch. The design is done, the plugins are in place, the content is polished, the features are present, and the performance is adequate. Good to go? Technically, but at this point I think it’s a good idea to use rival websites as points of comparison. How does your website stack up against them? If you were a user, which would you pick?
You could do this at the start of your project as part of the process of getting inspiration, but even if you do, it’s still worth going for direct comparisons here. Now that you’re comparing one finished website to another, you can truly gauge which provides the better experience — and if yours falls short in some major ways, you should delay the launch and make improvements.
The launch of your WordPress website shouldn’t mark its peak. Throughout the weeks, months and years following that step, your site should only get better: growing and changing to not only catch up with the industry but also get ahead of it.
Even so, you shouldn’t treat it as inconsequential, because first impressions of your website will heavily affect how people view it. Take the time to prepare as thoroughly as you can and get your website into a great position by the time you make it live. The right combination of investment and post-launch commitment will get the results you want.