When you’re developing a WordPress site, it’s easiest if you do it on the server that it will be hosted on. That way, you can ensure that there are no compatibility issues when you finally go live. However, you don’t really want the whole world to see your site under development, so you need to find a plugin or theme that provides a landing page, or “Coming Soon” page.
That’s where Coming Soon Pro comes in. It’s a plugin that’s been developed for a while by John Turner and has now evolved into a powerful and complete coming soon plugin.
Once it’s installed and activated, it allows logged in users to the site as it will ultimately look, but will display a static Coming Soon, or Maintenance page to anyone who’s not logged in.
While in the situation I described, you’ve got more of a “Coming Soon” situation, you may also have a live site, which you need to take down temporarily to make some modifications. In order to achieve this, you can enable the Maintenance Mode, which differs from the Coming Soon Mode slightly by returning a 503 HTTP error, meaning that search engines won’t index your Maintenance Mode page, whereas you would want that to happen for a “Coming Soon” page.
The plugin has separate options for Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode, so you can keep distinct settings for reusing the different modes in the future.
In general, you have complete control over the layout of the Coming Soon page and the limits of design are only as limited as your imagination. You typically enter a Headline (such as “Bob’s Hardware will be moving in soon”) and some descriptive text about what the site is and what people can expect in the future.
You can also enter a logo, favicon, footer branding, footer link, and any HTML you want within the body of the page, using the standard WordPress TinyMCE Editor.
If you want to have even finer control over the appearance, the Advanced Styling options allow you to set background colors and images, font types and colors, link colors and even custom CSS. So you can pretty much do anything with the page’s appearance.
Collect email addresses
What really sets Coming Soon Pro apart is its ability to automate email address collection. It integrates tightly with your main email marketing providers such as Aweber and Mailchimp to allow you to collect the email addresses of people who want to hear more about your site, which is a perfect opportunity to let people know when your site finally goes live and lure them in with a discount, freebie or exclusive offer.
Another really nice feature is that, even if your site doesn’t look the part yet, you can link to your social networks, where you can provide updates on the progress of your site and start building your social following, even before you launch. Again, it’s a great opportunity to offer exclusive deals to people who follow you on Twitter, or like you on Facebook.
The plugin currently supports profiles for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. If there’s another profile that you absolutely have to include, you could always use the body of the page for that.
The plugin does all the legwork for you; just enter your social profiles and say whether you want large or small icons, and boom, there they are.
SEO and other goodies
Under the advanced section, you’ll find options for setting the SEO (or meta) title and description, which is useful for branding yourself to the search engines ahead of your launch.
Since this would be one of the first plugins you install, you have the ability to enter header and footer scripts while you build them into your site. For example, this is a good opportunity to enter any tracking script you may have, so that you can monitor what kind of traffic you’re getting.
The plugin also has a neat feature for allowing people to view the site in advance. Called the Client View URL, you can specify a particular URL, which will permit users to view the whole site without having to log in. This is useful for allowing your client to see how the site is coming together while keeping it hidden from public view.
Now it’s your turn to try it for yourself. John has kindly provided us with three lifetime developer licenses for you guys to win. Entering the giveaway is as simple as registering your entries using the Rafflecopter widget. It’s dead easy – you get entries for following me on Twitter, or on Facebook, or liking this blog post, or sending out a tweet. Take a look and put in your entries for your chance to win a developers lifetime license.
Even if you didn’t win, you can always buy Coming Soon Pro, or check out the free version (with more limited features), in the WordPress Repository.