The holidays brings two things to online stores:
- Almost one-third of their annual sales
- Endless puns about freezing your code before winter (How to Survive the Freeze,, Bundle Up for the Big Freeze, Brace Yourselves: Code Freeze is Coming…)
Trendy puns aside, last-minute changes to your store’s code can disrupt the silky operation of your store. New code almost always mean new bugs, and the holidays are a time for forgiving people, not slow websites.
A good rule of thumb is to freeze your code no fewer than 30 days before Thanksgiving, which will give you ample time to squash any bugs. In 2017, that means your store should be holiday-ready and require no major revisions by October 24.
Minor tweaks to optimize speed or fix specific bugs are reasonable exceptions. If you can find a low-risk way to make your site better, go for it. Save things like anything below for January.
- CDN deployment
Rushed deployment can cause caching issues with dated content, or even crash your site
- Adding gift-wrapping
Coding headache and requires additional physical infrastructure
- Adding reviews
Another coding headache, but also needs time to build
- Changing shipping options
If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it. Broken checkouts, blown delivery dates, and missed notifications will send your customers elsewhere.
- Adding wish lists
Takes time to code, but even more time to get the UX right. “No wish list” is a better option than clunky one.
Mind you, I’m not selling the “30 day rule” as a magic bullet. If you’re deploying a complete re-skin of your site, then the code freeze should come earlier. Bigger changes mean bigger and nastier bugs, and you’ll need the extra time to tidy up your storefront. No one wants to visit a new restaurant and discover cockroaches in the chowder.
Once within your code-freeze and assuming you’re not eradicating roach infestations, here’s a short list of other ways to make your store awesome:
- Polish your content
Write content, not code. Refine your SEO. Tweak your web copy. Write a blog or a holiday gift guide. Insert
- Create incentives
Savvy customers want a deal. Provided you can do it code-free, give it to them. Spread the word in email, social media, or even a pop-up on your site. Magento users can create a discount-with-minimum-purchase rule from the admin panel; for instructions, go here for Magento 1 and here for Magento 2.
- Do live testing
Watch users engage your site. Where do they spend their time? How do they react to each page and the writing? What frustrates/annoys/entertains them? Take notes for next year.
- Interview your users
Use email or your preferred method to offer a small discount for the time it takes to conduct an interview. There’s no better source for “user experience” than asking users about their experience.
- Train up on SEO
SEO is a moving target. The code-freeze can be a fine time to brush up on SEO basics, keyword research, and analytics.
- Interview your support teams
If anyone knows the shortcomings of your site, it’s your customer service team. They interact with your users every day. Shelve your ego and mine their brains for feedback and ideas.
Why wait until the holiday cool-down to start planning? Sit down with your project managers or developers get to charting your objectives.
Thanks for reading, and may your store exceed your expectations, but not your bandwidth!Posted in: eCommerce