Preparing your website for Christmas and the New Year

Yes, it’s that time of year, the “holiday season” as our friends across the pond like to call it.  Business owners need to make many provisions at this time of year for the break but don’t forget to prepare your website for Christmas (and your IT too).

There’s a number of things business owners often forget to do with their websites.  Some items on the list are a minor inconvenience.  One or two don’t cause any major problems but look embarrassing.  Some, however, can cause whole websites not to function until people come back into the office in 2018 – not good.

Our suggested to-do list

Here’s a list of items that website owners need to be careful of, in no particular order.  Make a mental “sticky” note to do these before you lock up for the winter break.

  • Ensure that your website clearly states your operating hours during the Christmas period.
  • Amend any automated messages to deal with any shutdowns you may have.  If your normal automated reply is “all queries are answered within 24 hours” it may be worth mentioning any breaks during winter.
  • If customers expect a regular service i.e. a weekly newsletter, let them know if they won’t be hearing from you for a while.
  • Add a call to action, banner, or clear marker to let customers know your website won’t be handling enquiries or orders.
  • When you promise shipping times i.e. Next Day, 3-5 days etc look to amend these so that the holiday period is catered for.
  • Check any repeat booking systems you have don’t send out non-sensical reminders i.e. your 6-monthly dental check is booked in for 25th December.
  • Be ready to update any text on your website referencing 2017 to state 2018 if it is related to business-critical information.  Especially website footers.
  • Don’t send customers on an external loop.  If your website says to ring customer services out of hours, make sure your phones have a relevant message.  Don’t send them back to the website!
  • Double check that any key services are renewed and paid for in good time.  Website hosting, domain names, SSL certificate renewals and other subscriptions can renew at any time within the year.
  • Adjust cost of items affected by any wholesale price increases.  Often suppliers increase their prices at the start of each year, so failing to adjust your costs can affect your bottom line.
  • On the occasion you publish time-sensitive information before Christmas, ensure it is removed or edited as soon as possible afterwards.  There’s nothing more embarrassing than a website full of Christmas offers shining brightly in January.
  • Double check the availability of your IT and Website suppliers the 2 weeks around Christmas and New Year.  Many agencies finish early or come back late so don’t assume they will be around.  Even more so for key individuals i.e. freelancers.
  • Hit the ground running.  If you know there will be things you need to do on your return then write them down, set a diary entry or leave a post-it on your desk for when you return.
  • If you spend money on Pay-per-click (PPC) or other online advertising, ensure you are only paying for the times you need with relevant adverts.  If you are paying for targetted pre-Christmas adverts, make sure they are suspended on the relevant dates.  It’s a double whammy to be paying for adverts which are now out of date.
  • If your website, systems or software rely on pricing or calendar information for each year, double check it.  Booking systems often need to be given prices or told when the Easter holidays are for each year.  Availability and slots are often set up a year in advance.

Finally, the best piece of advice is simple.  If you have time off this year then make sure you enjoy it.  The Digital world can be all consuming, but we all need a break some time.