The launch of a new website for contest winner, HydroComp, concludes our Adventures in Marketing contest series of blog posts. The launch brought a few performance issues, which you can read about below.
A host of challenges
For our team, this site launch was somewhat different than other launches as typically, we do one of two things:
- Build a site from scratch at the live domain and make it visible to search and/or to the public when it is complete
- Build a site on a staging server and swap where the domain points to when the new site is ready either through an A record update or DNS change
With this project, however, we built the website on a new hosting plan specifically tuned for WordPress websites using a temporary domain, with the plan to change where the site domain pointed once it was ready for launch. However, all of the company’s email is stored within their original hosting plan, so they could have lost email or paid for two new hosting plans, one for the site and one for their email.
We don’t typically deal with a client’s email, though we believe having your company email hosted with your site can cause problems, as it did in this situation. Companies that host email with their website need to plan for the associated risks of tying the two assets together.
Once we discovered the email hosting challenge, our options shrank. We had big plans for how the new site should be switched to better hosting, but due to the email hosting situation, that would have been quite a bit more work than anticipated and/or budgeted for this pro bono project.
One of the things we do during the Discovery process with a client is create a technical requirements document that outlines the technical aspects of the site we’ll build and what and how it will connect to. Both parties agree to and sign this document. At the outset of our work together, HydroComp was guarded about giving our team access to the backend of their systems. Thus, we weren’t able to plan for this contingency. And, they didn’t have anyone on their side to lead us down the right path. The email hosting never came up in our planning meetings; lesson learned.
That meant we had to do a quick about face. We moved the new site on the new hosting plan over to their old hosting plan, and created a backup of the old site onto a temporary directory for safe keeping. We built requirement specs on a new hosting plan for the site based on plan offerings and WordPress speed, and unfortunately, we lost some performance and plan features that we initially specified.
Once the site moved and the domain pointed to the new website, we performed a round of quality assurance to ensure links did not reference the temporary domain.
Once the site launched, the client said it was loading slower than they wanted. It’s possible that using the older hosting plan with the new site was causing slower page load times.
We made adjustments to address the speed issues. Within Google’s speed-testing product, Page Speed Insights, a site gets terrible scores if you don’t do everything Google recommends. After quite a bit of tuning, our Page Speed Insights scores for mobile and desktop were strong. The only offending issue was the lag in server response time, which is most likely attributable to the old hosting plan, which is not performance tuned for WordPress sites specifically.
We want every client to be completely satisfied with a new site once it launches. This means there is typically some back and forth fine-tuning during QA and immediately post-launch. We always build sites with best practices and the client’s best interests in mind, and rarely do challenges like this arise. We want all parties to be proud of the end product.
The entire project delivered some unexpected bumps in the road, but we learned from each and every one of them. We’re proud of this new site. It is a significant improvement from what was in place before. The information has been organized and written with both Google and the users in mind. It sets HydroComp up for success on the web, providing they embrace the theory that launching a website is a starting point, not a finish line. To take advantage of this opportunity, we recommend implementing a content marketing program to both increase visibility in search queries and rankings, and to generate qualified leads. Of course, we would be honored to do this work with them but, should they decide to go it alone, we wish them every success.