- Sep 04, 2021
- by A2 Dev Team
Co-Authors: Greg Krabach, Andrew Jones, and Peter Shackelford
Our expert developers here at A2 Hosting got together and wrote this amazing checklist to help web developers working on eCommerce sites prepare for Q4 and the holiday season. If you’re trying to maximize your website’s value to your visitors and get ready for the coming holiday traffic, follow these steps!
1. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan
Having a disaster recovery plan in place before you need it is critical in recovering from any unseen website disasters that may occur. At the very minimum, you’ll want local backups of your database and the site files. If you’re able to get offsite backups too that’s even better!
The second half of your recovery plan is knowing how to restore the backups. It’s just as important to know how to restore your backups as it is to make sure you have them.
Recommended Plugin: BackupBuddy
2. Code Freeze
Your site should be well developed ahead of time to accommodate any changes you want to see during the holidays. By implementing a code freeze, you increase the reliability of your site by reducing the impact of your changes to the underlying system. This will require some advanced planning regarding what you will want from your website.
3. Stay Up to Date with Updates
Be sure to have all the latest updates installed – both for the CMS itself and any plugins/modules/addons that you already have installed. Automatic updates for major and minor releases of WordPress core and plugins are available, or you also have the option to receive email notifications anytime there is a new release available.
These updates will provide additional functionality, performance boosts, and patches for known security vulnerabilities. It’s important to verify these updates for compatibility with your combination of plugins and server configuration before updating your production site.
Security is a must if you don’t want your site becoming unresponsive, or worse, displaying undesirable content. Aside from running updates on the CMS and plugins, removing unused plugins and themes from your site will help reduce potential vulnerabilities.
All traffic that provides users a way to send any type of information to your site should be secured over HTTPS with a valid SSL. A2 Hosting offers both free and paid versions of different SSLs. To learn the pros and cons of each read this blog. Using an SSL Certificate will help protect your users’ information and provide assurance to them that their information is in good hands (it also avoids the nasty “Unsecured” message that browsers display that makes users worried).
You’ll also want to check on your list of authorized administrators/content editors. If you’ve had turnover at the company or previous contractors who have completed work on your site, double-check that their permissions have been removed by reducing their permissions, or deactivating their accounts (this applies to the CMS, as well as any server access that you may have given them). If the system provides for 2-Factor authentication, be sure you update your staff about these settings. Making sure they are aware of the new requirement, that they have their authentication setup, and that each user account is configured to require 2FA.
Recommended Plugin: iTheme Security
5. Traffic Control
How many visitors can view your site? Only as many as your server will handle. Ensure that you have fast and reliable hosting. If you frequently experience drops in connection or other general server issues, now is the time to switch to a fast, reliable server. If you’re looking for 99.9% uptime, turbo speeds, and 24/7 guru crew support check out our plans available at A2 Hosting.
Recommended Plugin: A2 Optimized
6. Make Sure Everything Works As Expected
Testing your key systems to make sure everything you are relying on to go right is a critical point. If you’re in eCommerce, double-check your payment processing is running smoothly. You most likely have email notifications from your site either to customers (sending out updates, responding to contact submissions, order confirmations, etc) or to your staff (notifications of contact submissions, orders received, etc) – you’ll want to make sure these are being received by their intended target. Just because your site says it’s sending the message, doesn’t necessarily mean the customers are receiving the messages. All notifications should have some way of retrieving the same information (contact submissions should be stored in the CMS as well as the staff email notification). Here’s our Knowledge Base section on web testing and development to help you get started!
Recommended Plugin(s): GravityForms, Contact Form 7 & Contact Form 7 Views, WP Mail SMTP
7. Go for Mobile
Many years ago – designs of websites changed to be designed mobile-first because of the shift to mobile devices so this one is likely already covered…but if not, you’ll want to work on this. If your site is not accessible from a mobile device, you will be missing out on potential users. Mobile-friendly sites do not need to replicate 100% of the desktop content or features, however, mobile users should not be missing out on anything critical. All the same, information should be able to be gathered and should be able to do so just as easily. Navigation around the site should be smooth for mobile users without having to do complicated gestures. Here’s a blog to help you through the steps of testing if your site is mobile-friendly.
8. Schedule Your Content
Can’t be around for the holidays? The “Schedule post” feature in WordPress will allow you to queue up as much content as you need to keep your site fresh. If you’re not familiar with this feature, A2 has a quick Knowledge Base article on how to schedule it.
9. Support Your Users
Users came to your site for one thing – they are looking to get something from you – that is either information or a product. Your job is to make that as easy as possible. Hopefully, by now, your site is fast, reliable, mobile-friendly, and you’ve checked to make sure everything is working as planned – but sometimes you just can’t predict what your users are going to need. Adding a Support/Chat feature to your website gives you an easy way of allowing users to contact you and receive a timely response. Users don’t have too much patience when it comes to getting feedback and the Chat option gives them a way to contact you on their own terms.
Many users don’t like phone calls, or can’t call while they are on your site and the chat option allows them to do what they need to do, but still reach you in an interactive method. The chat option should be readily available, but not in your face (if it pops up after 30 seconds and says “Hey it looks like you need help with something”, that’s the 2020 equivalent to a used car salesman popping out from behind a car. Nobody wants to relive that.
Recommended Plugin: Live Chat
Keep coming back to our blog this week to read our experts from all different departments of A2 Hosting advising you on how to get your site ready for Q4! We’re also running a sale on all of our A2 Turbo products so check out our website today for deals and discounts you don’t want to miss!