Communicate throughout the project
Once a developer or team of developers begins on your site, the most important thing that you can do is be there when they need something from you. Trust us, it will happen. They’ll design a page and then suddenly realize the don’t have any content for it, the picture you provided is only 10KB large, or one of the millions of other things that could cause production to grind to a halt. Having an open line of communication is essential if you want to stay on budget and on schedule.
If checking your email is not already a priority, while you are working on this project it should be. Your developer probably does not want to call and bug you 5 times a day, so they’ll opt to email you detailed information about what they need from you. This can be anything from approvals on certain pages/designs or perhaps they need content for certain pages. Either way, don’t let these emails stack up or you could be looking at adding weeks to your initial schedule which is no-good for everyone involved. If for some reason email is not a viable option for you, be sure to discuss this with your developer before the project begins so that you can work out an alternative such as chat or regular status update meetings.
Review website with all involved
After the project has been completed (or at least when you think the project is complete), this is when you need to bring others in to review the website and iron out the final details if there are any. At this point, the days where changes to design or core functionality are gone, so essentially you’re looking for a review of the content and images used on the website.
If there are any changes to be made to the website, compile a list/spreadsheet/slide deck for your developer that includes: the URL of the page, the name of the image to replace, and marked-up text or replacement text. The key here is to be specific on what changes need to be made and to deliver all of the information in one packet. Your developer needs to be able to read your list and be able to execute the changes as quickly and easily as possible. Going back-and-forth can confuse everyone and again delay your agreed-upon schedule.
Develop process for ongoing website support
In most cases, once a website is launched there’s a brief period of time where no changes need to be made. After the freshness has worn off you will need to create a plan for updating and maintaining your website. You may want to blog, add events, or change out products, and all of these tasks take manpower and the knowledge of how to do this. You may want to discuss with your developer what a “support” plan might look like. You may be able to work out a monthly retainer fee or the developer may require pay by the hour of support provided, so it’s good to know ahead of time what you’re looking at.
You may even be able to have members of your team trained on how to make minor edits to the website, especially if they are tech-savvy. Keep in mind that even if they can change something does not mean they should.
Items such as CSS, page layouts, and themes should only be changed by the developer of the website as there’s a likelihood that something could go horribly wrong. Two other items to keep in mind are: plugins which will need to be updated regularly to protect the website from vulnerabilities and regular backups to prevent any irreversible damage from occurring. Plugin updates have been known to wreak havoc on websites, so it’s important to first backup a website before attempting any plugin updates. This is why these items are best left to the experts.
Monitor your website
There are a handful of tools (some free!) that you can use to monitor the success of your website and to make sure there are’t any huge issues:
- Google Analytics – this (free) tool is practically essential. If you don’t have GA setup on your site you’re missing so much valuable information!
- Yoast SEO – a common (freemium) plugin used for WordPress.org sites, at the very least it will help you write stronger Title Tags & Meta Descriptions but it can do so much more.
- Raven Tools – this tool isn’t free but it’s worth every penny! Pull in data from multiple sources (including social) to create cohesive marketing reports, monitor keyword rankings, perform SEO audits, and more.
- Google Adwords – once your site is all set to go, you may consider running Pay-Per-Click online advertising. This tool is certainly not free, but can help you gather quality leads and generate business!