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Launching an Online Store Takes a Village

Coming Soon page

One of the expressions I love is that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I’m not even too sure who said it first. Perhaps it is one of the adages that sort of preexists us all. My latest experience of this is in my work on getting our online store live and kicking.

My role in our team at this point is to focus on getting our online store live. In fact, my fulltime job is working for Automattic in the WooCommerce marketing team — my contribution to Fajr is voluntary, and a side slice — and so it made sense for me to tackle building the online store, on WordPress and WooCommerce with which I am the most familiar. In fact, WooCommerce is how I connected with Liezl in the first place, but that’s a story for another post.

Building the website has required really diving in and understanding what it is like for so many WooCommerce store owners out there. The learning curve is fun and I am enjoying figuring it out as I go.

Coming soon page

Before you launch a site, you really want to have something live so you can start capturing email addresses. Also, if you have your domain, you may as well use it, especially it you have printed labels or social media accounts that a website makes sense on. In the lead up to our store launching, we were hesitating including our new URL on any notebook labels, and then I suddenly twigged I could just set up a Coming Soon page!

We had one of these running pre-launch to capture email addresses:

It is powered by this plugin: Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode, which I knew about it because I worked on a blog post: How to set up a Coming Soon page for WooCommerce with the plugin author. It was pretty simple to set up, MailChimp make it super easy with their pop-up form builder:

Despite not knowing much html and PhP and being pretty intimidated by all things ‘code’, I was able to edit the look and feel and get it looking acceptable.

The thing that was a bit trickier, and stumped me for a while, was how to set things up so that when the website URL is shared on Facebook, it pulls in a nice image etc. This takes you into the realm of something called OpenGraph.

Setting up OpenGraph for WordPress

I knew from various marketing bits the OpenGraph information was what I needed to edit. You can do this by adding code to your theme file — which I didn’t want to do — or with a plugin, like Yoast. I wanted to add this plugin anyway for SEO, so I installed it and added all the info it prompted me to. This didn’t fix the link, though. I ran the debugger, and that didn’t fix it either.

I did a fair amount of tinkering, and Googling, and added meta data to the homepage and a couple of other things. Eventually I wondered if it might be to do with the Coming Soon page being activated, so I deactivated that, then ran the debugger — and it worked!

Spreading the word on Facebook

This was a fairly satisfying moment. I reactivated the Coming Soon page and wonder if it might break it. We’ll see!

Next: Taking some beautiful photos with Kate

eCommerce photography is key. You can have beautiful products — and we do! — but if they aren’t photographed well, they won’t translate well when you create products. Working on the site, I realised we’d need some strong photos for the site and pages, and reached out to my friend Kate. She’s a graphic designer and has an incredible eye for detail, and style. She also has a husband with a great camera, and they live in a beautiful flat. Hello, photoshoot!

We will be shooting photos this month, then I will get busy creating our products and getting ready to go live. I am currently planning our shoot shot list — a bit like one would for a wedding — to make sure we have everything we need (portrait shots, individual pics of the notebooks, category shots, etc).

As I reflected on it, I realised that for me to build this website, it is taking input from friends — and from strangers. Some of the articles I came across while trying to set up the OpenGraph stuff were written by people I’ll never meet, but who helped me on my way. Grateful for this.

Stay tuned for more stores on the website building adventure!

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