If you’re reading this, you know that I have a website (the server waves “hello”, by the way). It’s just a personal site, but I’m closing in on a million words worth of posts, so that alone puts me above a number of personal sites out there where people blog for a while and then stop. Plus I’m a bit of a planner, so I approach my site a bit more formally than the “creative” types. (Also explains why it has such a boring layout but that’s another story!). Which quite often means that if I see guides and things designed for businesses that can be applied to my site too, I click, read them, and go to sleep hunting for acorns of truth in a sea of spam and superlatives.
So imagine my surprise when I click on one and find that I LOVE IT.
An organization called WP-Engine wrote “The Ultimate Pre-Launch Checklist for WordPress Websites“ and I thought it was interesting enough to click-through. Sure, I had to surrender my email and look like a business, which I am a bit, and then I got the e-guide. They have it broken down into several headings and I’m going to talk about each one.
Content — replacing dummy content (words, images, video, audio), and proofreading and formatting, and a contact page are standard, but I like the rest of the suggestions for reviewing — page links, downloadable files, 404 error pages (rarely done, mine is pretty minimal), and redirections (from old sites), which a LOT of people don’t do.
Design — I was surprised at this one, as I thought they were mostly going to talk about layouts and themes, but instead they were more on the technical (HTML and CSS validation, optimizing images, FavICONs, and linking header images) and usability testing (previewing in different browsers and platforms, including mobile). However, I didn’t even know you could set up a Print Stylesheet (I tend to just use PrintFriendly) and this may be something to look into as I would like to be able to quickly convert some of the posts into downloadable / printable sheets or PDF.
Functionality — This one looks more like simple usability testing to me, with web forms, auto responders, speeds, social media, RSS, and third-party tools. However, I really like their inclusion of “accessibility guidelines”. Often missed.
SEO — I really hate stuff written about Search Engine Optimization, normally at least. Almost all of it is “I can put your site at the top of the Google results list!” Actually nobody can do that. Not without bot farms and a bunch of shady methods. Real SEO is not about having the perfect design, it’s about content. Always has been, always will be. If you’re a company selling widgets, unless that widget is unique to you, the only way you’re going to the top of the list is if people like your product and search for it or click on links that link to you. An optimized site with crappy products won’t do anything compared to an okay site with great products. The guide has all the basics of meta data, titles, taglines, keywords, and add a site map. It’s a good list, I just wished it focused on the content more…for me, it is more like “don’t forget simple things you can do to avoid missed opportunities”. But it’s not presented egregiously, just one more thing to do.
Marketing — Ruh roh, my alarm bells started ringing. Web marketing tends to be like the classic line about advertising — 50% doesn’t work, we just don’t know which 50%. Except in web marketing, it is likely closer to 90% doesn’t work. And honestly, most of the materials on the net are “Oh, you want to do web marketing? Here’s my tool at $x per month that will make it EASY to GET THE BEST RESULTS on the PLANET, maybe EVEN THE UNIVERSE”. This guide? Nope, it just mentions newsletters, email providers, social icons, and social profiles. Nice.
Legal — Up until this point, I would say the guide is clearly in the top ten of all the ones I have ever seen. Then they do a section on Legal? Nobody does that. NOBODY. Seriously, I’ve never seen it even remotely mentioned in any guide. And I don’t just mean put a copyright notice. They talk about showing the company details — trustworthiness, efficacy, sure, but also mandatory for some jurisdictions, along with tax registration. Ensuring you have all the required licenses for images, fonts, code, plugins? Nobody tells companies to review that! Privacy policies are de rigueur now, so no surprise to include it. Terms and Conditions are good, although I saw a post this week about the readability of them and running it through a barometer of how dense it is. Even cookie warnings and local requirements are mentioned. Awesome. Way beyond anything one needs to do on a personal site, sure, but awesome.
The rest of the guide is equally awesome. Moving the site to a new server, preparing for launch, backup and security, and then the launch. All with decent steps covering the big-ticket items. It even concludes with a bunch of cleanup organizational items.
But if you’re not convinced by my descriptions above, here’s the kicker…wherever there is a popular related plugin in the WordPress repository, they say, “You could use x or y to do this for you.” If you go off and do that, they don’t get a royalty or anything. There’s no click-through to do that. It is just them mentioning it. And most of their recommendations are relatively obvious ones, but it’s what everyone is using. They’re not saying, “Here, try this little plugin that one of our members developed.”
It’s just a great guide. You may have to surrender your email and get a marketing offer for the company to see if you want to hire a WP expert, but the content is awesome.