Ask any freelance web designer or small agency owner why they got into the industry and I’d suggest that the majority would say it’s due to their love of design or development. Very few, although there are always exceptions, would say it’s because they love finding clients, writing contracts, doing deals and attending meetings.
However our ability to execute these activities well directly relates to the success of our projects. If we don’t possess or learn these skills then it’s unlikely that we’ll build strong, profitable and ultimately sustainable businesses.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet many successful web design and development entrepreneurs over the last few years. As well as being able to design and build great sites they also possess business savvy – much of which has been learnt the hard way. With this in mind our team at Shopify set out to collate these lessons for the benefit of everyone in the industry – Grow Vol. 1 is the result.
Aimed at anyone working in the web design and development industry Grow stretches to over 90 pages and 11 chapters touching on everything from branding and finding clients right through to contracts and pitching. Even seasoned professionals have let us know they have learnt something after picking up a copy. You can download your free copy from the Shopify Grow site.
Here’s an extract by Mat Mullen–a successful freelancer specialising in Shopify. As Mat explains he’s launched over 100 Shopify stores and is the perfect person to share his pre-launch checklist.
For the sake of convenience, we’ve also wrapped up this checklist in a few portable formats (PDF, Evernote, Markdown and HTML). Take a look at the Github repo and grab whichever copy you prefer!
Preparing to launch a new site is typically the most exciting
part of a project but it can also be the most stressful. It
took a while to really get a good feel for all the potential
things that could go wrong during a launch and try to
anticipate them ahead of time. After working on close to
100 Shopify stores over the past few years, I’ve come up
with a pretty good launch checklist that I use towards the
end of each project.
I work with a mix of clients. Some are brand new to Shopify and are
selling something for the first time, and others have existing stores
that just want an updated theme. Depending on the situation, I have
slightly different product launch checklists.
Here’s what I try to do before and right after I launch a new site. It
doesn’t always follow the same pattern, but it’s a decent checklist of
some of the more common things I try to take care of before a launch.
First off, has the primary domain already been added to the site? If
not, I need to make sure my client sends over their registrar info so
I can easily login when the time is right and add the CNAME and
A Records. I always try to make sure this happens a week before the
launch date of the site because for some reason or another, registrar
logins always seem to be forgotten.
Next, it’s time to QA the site to make sure that all the media queries are
working and the site looks good on an iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the
first things that a client notices so might as well make sure everything
looks good ahead of time. It can be tedious, but clients love to send out
their new site to friends and family, so better make sure it’s going to
look good. Chrome Inspector is a great tool to help debug any issues
you might encounter as you test your site.
If you’re building a new theme on top of an existing Shopify store,
you’ll want to make sure all the navigation links are pointing to the
proper places. This can be tricky when you’re previewing a theme
because there’s only one master navigation section, so sometimes this
needs to happen immediately after the site has been published.
Sometimes when I’m building a site, I’ll create custom page templates
which don’t automatically get applied when the theme is published. It’s
something I have forgotten in the past, so don’t forget to update the
pages to the right collection, product or page templates.
Don’t forget to do a test transaction to make sure everything is working
as planned with accepting payments and confirmation emails. With Shopify’s new responsive checkout layout, you’ll want to make sure
that you’ve selected the “show storefront logo” option.
Want to impress your client with better looking notification emails?
The default email styles for the Shopify confirmation emails are pretty
bland, so I like to use the free Email Template Creator app to create
better looking templates that are on brand with the store.
Once the store has launched, I always make a point of exporting
the finished theme and saving it to a Dropbox folder just in case
something happens to it down the line. I also recommend cloning the
theme in the store so that there’s always an easy fallback if something
goes wrong with the main theme.
Last but not least, I look through the original proposal that I sent over
to make sure everything we discussed has been completed. Every now
and then, you have to remind a client that some of the work they’ve
requested wasn’t included in the original proposal, so it’s helpful to
refer back to the original from time to time.
An important thing that I try not to forget is that my business has
grown because of the positive reviews I’ve received. To make sure my
clients are happy at the end of the project, I always try to make a point
of making sure every client feels empowered to update their own site
once it launches.
Once a site has launched, I schedule some time to either meet with
a client in person or through a screenshare to make sure they’re comfortable updating their site going forward. I always make myself
available to help with more complicated updates or changes, but I like
to leave the product updates up to the client.
Once you’re all set and done, don’t forget to send over a request for a
review! A good customer review is worth its weight in gold.
I’ve come to rely on a few helpful apps that I use during most
projects. Maybe some of these will help you.