Proactive, then Reactive - How to launch a new website

Delaying the launch can cost your business

Once upon a time I was developing a nice new Drupal website for a client of mine. The template design was functional and clean, fitting their corporate branding perfectly, and the site was well structured with good imagery and solid content.

The client's existing website was pretty bad (for a company of their size and standing it was quite awful really), so this new website was going to be a massive improvement in so many ways. I had seen the analytics for the old site, and whereas the visitor numbers were good (due to a solid domain name and the company's standing in the industry), every other number was really very bad. No retention of visitors, no engagement, no conversion etc etc.

However, the person in charge of managing the project for this client (no names!) was what you might call a 'stickler for detail'. Combined with the fact that they were also extremely busy on a day-to-day basis, this meant the website was eventually launched about 3 months after it really should have been.

In my mind, every day that they delayed meant their business was losing out, but in their mind everything had to be perfectly in place before launch.

Spotting the tipping point - when is the new website better than the old website?

As I mention in other posts on this site, your average business website performs many different tasks, but in the main it should act as a shop front for your business with a focus on attracting new visitors and converting those visitors into customers.

The very fact that a business has commissioned a new wesbite means that they are aware their existing site is not performing these functions as well as it could. Reaching this conclusion, and commiting to improving the situation, is what I see as a 'proactive leap' - with the costs and hassle involved in developing a new business website, it's not an easy decision to make.

There are many decisions to be made during the development process as well, but the most important decision is probably 'when to unleash the new website on a live audience?', and for me this decision should be completely based on when the tipping point is reached - at what point is your new website doing a better job than your old website?, or to look at it another way, at what point is your old website doing more damage than your new website?

Going back to the example of my old client - the tipping point for their website was pretty much as soon as I saw it. I could have put up a holding page with a few words and a contact form, and it would have done less damage than their existing website. However, they continued with their old website for many months (despite my protestations) until their new website was perfect in their eyes, and I can only guess how much business they lost out on during that period, never mind in the months and years leading up to the new website being launched.

React as soon as possible for the best results

I've been developing websites for a wide variety of businesses for well over a decade, and I still don't know exactly how visitors are going to react to a new site. This is because every business offering is different, every customer base is different, and every industry is different. Visitors to your site will respond in their own unique way, and the important thing is for you is to react to their actions as quickly as possible.

By studying the website analytics I can tell you how people are finding your website, what information or product they are looking for, and how they are navigating around your site. What might have been important to your visitors last year might not be so important this year, and what you think the customer wants to see might not be what they want to see at all.

Your website has to be tailored for the experience of your visitors, not to reflect your own personal view of your business. Finally, all of the little things (the small details that can seem so important) can usually wait. Your friends, family and business colleagues will soon let you know if they think something is not right, and you can react to that feedback and start to improve your new website straight away.