So you’ve got this great idea bouncing around in your head. You’ve planned it all out and are ready to launch a great blog. Well… almost ready.
Maybe you’ve been pressed for time. One of these days, you promise yourself, you’re really going to buckle down and do it. But you tell yourself you need more time to get everything squared away before you start. To get your “house in order first”, so to speak.
I’ll tell you the secret of getting anything done in life. Anything.
Simple as that. Put one foot in front of the other. Each step will take you farther along than you’ve ever been, closer towards any goal you could have ever dreamed of achieving.
I totally understand if you’re not quite ready to launch your blog. No one is when they first start. There are things you have to learn by doing.
So, how can you launch a great blog when you need to practice at it first? And how do you practice at it if you’re not ready to launch it yet?
I’ll help you do just that with the help of a theme and a great plugin, both free.
The Key Launching a Great Blog (Or Anything, Really)
If a blog launches on the Internet and no one is there to read it… will it make a sound?– Click to Tweet
When launching anything (book, website, product, course, etc), its success will depend largely on the buildup leading up to it. How do you build buzz around it? One way is to set up a social media presence to promote it before you launch your product/blog/course. And by letting people know when the launch date is approaching.
When people know to expect something, they’re more likely to keep an eye out for it. Can’t wait for what you don’t know is coming, can’t you now?
When you put people on notice, it does two things:
1. It builds up excitement for your audience, and
2. It gives you a deadline to work against, which will serve to motivate you to finally get working on it.
How to Develop Your Blog While Building Up Towards a Launch Date
While you’ll be busy at first creating social media profiles you’ll use to engage people with, you’ll spend the biggest chunk of your time developing your blog/product behind the scenes.
You’ll need to develop content ideas, design your site, create the branding and a marketing plan to go along with it. I’ve done all on the fly before and while the fast pace is exciting, it’s better for one’s sanity to plan ahead.
A great way to get work done behind the scenes, is to put bring your blog online but restrict public access.
If you’re having someone else design or customize a WordPress theme for you, you’ll need to have something in place while work gets done. Enter the Placeholder Theme from WooThemes.
Placeholder is available free from WooThemes. It’s a fast loading theme that does what the name says: It’s a placeholder while your full-fledged site gets ready for launch.
Placeholder is very customizable. It allows you to set up different backgrounds, upload a logo, and change the welcome text. But my favorite features by far are the ability to add social icons and an e-mail subscription box.
Below is how the theme looks, with very little customization.
To get the Placeholder theme you must first register (for free) with WooThemes. You can either access it from the link I gave you, or search for it by name using their search function. After registering, you’ll be able to download the theme as a .zip file to your computer. Don’t unzip, as you’ll have to upload it “as is” for it to work.
If you know how to install WordPress themes, skip to the section below.
In your WordPress Dashboard, go to (1) Appearance, click on (2) Install Themes, then click (3) Upload to find the Placeholder.zip file you downloaded from WooThemes.
In the “Upload” section, click on (1) Choose File and find the Placeholder.zip file. After you’ve selected it, click on (2) Install Now. Let WordPress do its magic.
After you get the message from WordPress that the theme was successfully installed, click on (1) Activate to make the theme the default option.
Placeholder Theme Options
Once installed, you’ll see a new menu on the WordPress Dashboard labeled (1) Placeholder. When you click on it, you’ll see all the options the Placeholder theme has available. There’s a side-tab for (2) Social icons, one for (3) Newsletter subscriptions, and a (4) Countdown timer option too.
While the Placeholder theme is loaded with features and very easy to work with, I prefer a second option: The Launchpad plugin.
Other than the fact that it is a plugin and not a theme, Launchpad differs from Placeholder in another crucial aspect. Launchpad operates WordPress in “maintenance mode” as opposed to the “normal mode” that Placeholder operates in.
What is “maintenance mode” you ask? It’s a state that allows you to work on WordPress while restricting access to the public. In maintenance mode, all a user will ever see is a “Down for Maintenance” page (or any other page you set up), while allowing you, the Administrator, to see what the real site looks like in normal mode.
Basically, only the logged-in administrator of the site (you) can see all the pages.
This is great if you have already picked out a WordPress theme for yourself, but aren’t ready to show it to the world just yet. You can tweak and change all you want without fear that someone will see it before it’s ready.
To install the Launchpad plugin, just head over to the Plugins section of the Dashboard and click (1) Add New. Enter the name “Launchpad” on the (2) Search box and click “Search Plugins”
The plugin’s official name is “Launchpad by Obox.” Click “Install Now.”
After it’s installed and activated, you’ll see the an (1) option on the WordPress Dashboard to control “Launchpad” options.
As with Placeholder theme, you can also customize various components to jazz up your page. There’s a big switch (2) that turns on Launchpad. The main Launchpad Options page also allows you to set a (3) countdown clock and give you the option to (4) automatically disable to plugin then the countdown reaches 0:00.
Another cool option is the ability to set-up an intro (5) video on the main page, which can be any video hosted at YouTube, for example.
At the bottom of the main page, you’ll be able to set-up “Minimum User Rights”, which specify who can log in and actually see your work-in-progress. By default, only the Administrator will be able to see it.
You can also add someone else as a “Subscriber”, which will only allow them to view the site, not make any changes. It’s worth pointing out that this a WordPress “subscriber”, not “newsletter subscriber.” To add users, go to the Dashboard menu and look for “Users.”
You’ll know that Maintenance Mode is active and your Launchpad page enabled when you see the warning below on your WordPress dash-bar.
If you want to see the countdown page for yourself, you’ll have to log out of your WordPress Dashboard first.
What Are You Waiting For?
The Placeholder theme and Launchpad Plugin are great, low-cost alternative ways to get started and launch your platform at a time that’s convenient for you. Work at your own pace, set yourself a deadline, and stick to it. Baby steps will do, as what matters is that you move forward.
Update: Check out ColourYourLife, by fellow blogger Kerryn Hewson for a great implementation of the “Countdown Clock” concept. Can’t wait for the January 13th launch!
What is stopping you from launching a great platform?
Let me know in the comments below.