For all of the effort that goes into wire-framing, designing, and developing a Joomla site, you'd think the launch day would be a time of celebration and pride. But as just about any Joomla pro will agree, most site launches are characterized by little sleep, excessive caffeine, and terrifying calls with the client.
Fortunately, the site launch doesn't have to be such a scary cycle. In fact, with proper planning and a structure to the handoff, launching a Joomla site can actually be the idyllic celebration you'd hoped for. Keep reading to find out how you can get there.
First and foremost, what are the benefits of easing your launch process? How can you team expect to have their lives made easier by shifting your hand off steps? Here are a few things to consider:
- When a site is handed off to a client without proper education, you can plan on investing time down the road answering questions and training that client on the use of the site. When it's done upfront, the "break" is much cleaner.
- Great sites make happy clients, but great sites coupled with education make ecstatic clients. If you want to build a customer base of loyal clients who spread a good word about you, it's essential that you invest in their empowerment when it comes to managing their own site.
- The only thing worse than a needy client is a reckless client - you know the type I mean. This is the guy who makes uninformed decisions about the site, who will uninstall every extension on a whim and then expect your team to swoop in and fix it with no notice. When you provide training and information to your clients, you greatly decrease the chance of them eventually making a poor decision for the site that will cost everyone time and money.
With these benefits in mind, it's clear that it's worth your time to explore how you can optimize site launches and improve client participation at the handoff. Here are a few trusted tips to get you on the right track, from the start:
1. Conduct a Thorough Discovery Meeting
As so many other things do, the process of easing a site launch and conducting an effective handoff can be traced all the way back to the beginning.
The real key to a happy hand off is to be sure you're creating the right site from the start. Discovery meetings should cover all the things the client wishes to change about their current site, the reasons why, and how they'd like to convey messages on their new site.
Glossing over this process may save time at the onset, but it will be costly down the road when you present a finished site that doesn't meet your client's goals.
Take the time to really understand not just what they want, but why they do. You'll be surprised how often clients change their mind when you present them with an educated opinion and suggestions on the best ways to accomplish their goals.
2. Schedule Daily Check Ins
Speaking of accomplishing goals, why wait until the end of the process to find out whether you've missed the mark? The best agencies understand the importance of open client communication, and keep the discussion going all throughout the planning and development process.
This may seem like a lot of back and forth, but it's actually quite manageable when it's well organized. Most agencies find it easiest to block off a 15-minute break each day where they chat with the client about progress, address any questions for the next day, and ensure they're on the right track.
The benefits here are two fold: on one hand, you're ensuring the work your team completes is consistently building up to meet the clients expectations. Secondly, keeping interactions (mostly) in this 15-minute block allows everyone to focus on the task at hand and save discussions for the allocated time window.
3. Select Joomla Extensions Based on Client Needs, Not Development Speed
It's no secret that developers have favorite extensions for specific functions. These preferences are not random, they're established based on years of experience and thorough investigation into their capabilities.
Unfortunately, these preferences can sometimes be costly to the client. It's essential that developers consider the big picture when selecting add ons for a Joomla site, and make choices based on the capabilities of the eventual user, AKA the client.
No matter how beautifully an extension works, it won't matter if the client eventually breaks it because it's too complicated to make a small change. Consider the client's technical abilities throughout all aspects of development, and make sure your team is building a back end that will be manageable for someone with much less experience than you.
4. Make Time for Training
By the time you get to launch time, your team will likely be running low on energy and patience. Still, this is one of the most critical times to build a strong relationship with the client that will be invaluable down the road.
Before launching any site, schedule a few hours to review the basics with the client.
Start on the front end, explaining how each section of the site speaks to their goals and meets the criteria established in the discovery process. Then proceed to the back end, and provide them with basic information on making changes or updates to the site (as needed by the client.) I've found it works best to record these walkthroughs, since the volume of information will make it difficult for the client to retain intricate processes. You'll leave with the satisfaction of knowing you provided complete client education, and they'll have a very valuable, customized lesson in managing their site.
5. Be Smart and Strict with Your Launch Date
For a launch that is predicted to be a bit rocky, consider a weekend launch. The dip in traffic will be forgiving on any glitches, but you'll still be able to identify trouble areas of the site.
When you have your launch date on paper, it's important to be serious about making it.
Yes, things will come up along the way. No, you shouldn't launch an incomplete site. But if your team goes through the whole process with the assumption that the launch date is tentative, no one will have any sense of urgency to actually finish.
Take your launch date seriously, and be firm with your team and the client about the importance of sticking to it. This will help everyone stay on track, and will make managing the agency's overall workload much less painful
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