8 Tactics To Maximise The Success Of Your WordPress Project
Did you include a new WordPress project in your New Year’s Resolutions?
Building a WordPress site, like any other digital project, can be a traumatic experience. But the problems are usually self-inflicted: unrealistic expectations, over-optimistic deadlines and excessively elaborate requirements list.
Here’s 8 tactics to maximise the chances of your next WordPress project running to schedule, to budget and to expectation.
1. Know Why You Are Doing It
Before you embark on a WordPress project, you should have a clear idea of why you are doing it.
That might sound like an obvious statement but plenty of WordPress sites are built without their owners being able to clearly articulate why the site was required.
Define your site’s elevator pitch: the short summary of why it exists. It’s the most critical part of any WordPress project. A good pitch will keep you focussed and inspired whilst a bad or non-existent pitch means trouble ahead. In fact, if you have trouble coming up with a pitch then that probably means that the project shouldn’t even start.
Once you have your elevator pitch, set some goals. Goals can still be aspirational but they are a lot more specific than the elevator pitch and also lend themselves more easily to being measured. In fact, a good goal is one that can be measured – otherwise how do you know if you are heading in the right direction?
2. Share The Load
Your project is going to have a far greater chance of success if you put together a team to help you. How you do this will depend on your budget and your own skills but you need to make sure that you have your skill gaps covered.
Your team might consist of full-time employees, ad hoc consultants, knowledgeable friends, a membership with a WordPress support service, the author of a premium theme or even a WordPress forum. Knowing where you can go for help will be invaluable.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need every member of your team for every phase so you need to think about your project and work out what skills you are going to need and when so that you can make sure that they are available.
Most importantly, remember that managing a project is a big undertaking, so if you are performing that role, don’t go overloading yourself with too many other tasks.
3. Run Content As A Separate Project
Virtually every website project ends up waiting on the content. This happens because the focus is generally on the technical build and the effort required for the content is usually grossly underestimated.
Splitting the content component out and running it as a separate project, side by side with the technical build with dedicated resources will enable greater focus on creating great content for your site.
A badly designed site can be salvaged by great content but a nothing can save a site with poor content.
4. Avoid The Urge To Recycle
If your project is a redevelopment of an existing site, avoid the urge to recycle components from the old site. And, yes, that includes content.
There’s a reason that the site is being redeveloped. It’s either not meeting its goals or those goals have become obsolete. Either way, this existing site was built for a set of circumstances and an environment that no longer exists and any more time spent on it is wasted.
Make a fresh start and approach a redevelopment as if it were a new build. Your users will thank you for it.
5. Break Your Project Into Bite-size Chunks
Virtually all software and a good many products (iPhone, anyone?) are launched and then incrementally upgraded, so why wouldn’t you do the same with your WordPress project?
Splitting you project into a series of phases, with an initial easy-to-manage launch followed by a series of phases with each phase building on the previous will not only help you manage expectations but will also make the project easier to manage and easier to complete.
The biggest advantage of phases though is the regular opportunity they provide for reviewing the accuracy of all the assumptions that you will undoubtedly have had to make about how your visitors will interact with your site.
Keep those initial phases as simple as possible and enable the “quick wins” that do wonders for motivation and enthusiasm.
6. Stick To Key Messages
You’ll often hear the comment that a speaker “stayed on message”. That means everything they said conveyed and reinforced a core set of points or key messages.
Your WordPress site also needs to “stay on message”. To do this, draw up the key messages for your site and then make sure that each post conveys at least one. It doesn’t have to be explicit but it needs to reinforce the message both in the style and the actual copy.
Having key messages will not only ensure that every post is helping your WordPress site work towards it goals but can also be a real help in deciding whether a post is required at all. If it doesn’t convey a key message then don’t write it.
7. Let The Theme Drive The Project
Buy a premium WordPress theme and develop your site around it.
I know that’s not the accepted methodology. That really you should craft wireframes, maybe some HTML mockups and then hand these over to a developer along with the information architecture and a list of reference sites to magically come up with that awe inspiring theme but, really, how often does this happen?
Given how many amazing premium themes there are for WordPress, spending time searching for a theme that is close to what you want and then getting someone to modify it will be far quicker, far more productive and far cheaper than trying to develop a custom design.
8. Immediately Plan Next Phase
Many site owners think that the launch of their WordPress site is the time to sit down, relax and toast a job well done. The inconvenient truth is that the launch is just the beginning of what could, and indeed should, be a very long journey.
A WordPress site is really in a constant state of flux. Once launched, there is a constant flow of data that will test any assumptions that were made in the building of the site and will no doubt lead to updates.
Decide on a regular release schedule (perhaps every 6 months) and immediately start planning the first release. Having regular releases is a great way to better manage the requests that will inevitably come through once the site is launched.
The bottom line is that the simpler your WordPress project the higher the chance of success. You can make it simpler either by removing non-essential features or by breaking the project up into more manageable phases or both. Having regular launches provides great visibility, the opportunity to quickly respond to changing circumstances and will maintain enthusiasm and motivation for much longer.
Above all, though, never forget that there is an audience at the other end and ultimately they are the ones that really determine the success, or otherwise, of your project.
Have you recently completed a WordPress project? What were your challenges and how do you overcome them? Do you have any tips for expectant WordPress owners?