Or Why Not to Use a Countdown Timer
One of my more challenging recent projects involved setting up a website that included a members-only area. Now, normally building a subscription WordPress website is not such a complicated thing of itself. But there’s nothing like compounding the pressure by using a live count-down timer for the new site’s launch.
Part of the beauty of WordPress is the proliferation of third-party plugins. They can help allow your website do almost anything you want. Often – okay, most of the time – those plugins are open source and/or free. With a little elbow grease, you can have far more functionality than what you get with paid-upgrade websites offered by other platforms (ahem, GoDaddy. Squarespace. Shopify.)
Sometimes, though, I can get a little carried away with plugins. It’s okay, I admit it. I’m usually pretty good at reining myself back in, so it all works out. I generally like the idea of countdown timers on a coming soon page – or at least, I did until recently. But it turns out that might be one plugin I’ll ignore next time… When you have a growing audience anxiously awaiting the launch of the new website in anticipation of some pretty cool giveaways, you’d better be darn sure you know exactly what’s going to happen in that first Zero Plus One Minute.
The trick that I found with this particular launch was managing the payment gateways. You can run as many test and sandbox scenarios as you want while the website is still in “coming soon” mode. But once that site goes live, you have to simultaneously take the payment gateways out of “coming soon” mode too. Sound easy? Maybe. But you always need to account for weird little glitches.
All the followers who signed up for a notification of your site launch, and all the followers who knew exactly what time your site was set to go live, were ready to jump in and check it out. That’s a lot of people relying on your website working the way you think it will!
Even with extensive testing and prep leading up to this launch, I had absolutely set myself up for some launch quirks. Add the pressure of the countdown timer and the fact that hundreds, even thousands of followers had been posting and tweeting about the upcoming launch, I’m lucky I didn’t fall flat on my face.
Happily, the payment gateway issues were resolved within the first 10 minutes or so. (Ten minutes, by the way, is a very long time online!) Over the next couple of days we tweaked some minor details to improve and streamline. But those first 10 minutes were pretty intense and I think I’ll return to recommending a “soft” launch to my clients from here on.
The end result
My client has a subscription WordPress website that (in my opinion) is capable of doing even more than we’d initially hoped for. His marketing campaign is developing and evolving. His new website can handle all of his business as well as a huge potential for growth in his first year. And I have obviously learned to handle the countdown timer with great caution!
Please check it out at https://currentecg.com, and if you’re a paramedic or other emergency medicine practitioner/student, try out his podcasts! To see more details about the website design for Current ECG, click on my portfolio page here.