Change is constant. As technology and the internet have made their way deeper and deeper into our lives, change is something we have to come to terms with. We loathe the constant stream of app updates, but we also demand the latest features and information at ever-faster speeds.
This demand for regular improvement means people expect small business websites to be up-to-date as well. Often the launch of a new website is a significant outward-facing change for a business, so it’s important to recognize when it is the best time to show something to the world.
In the process of launching the Spence Digital website, I realized that the site would never truly be ready – simply because I kept moving the finish line. By the time I had a page completed, I already had a list of ideas on how to improve it. Eventually I knew the site just needed to launch, and then I could work on finding ways to improve it.
If we choose to accept that change is inevitable – no matter what, the website will never be “finished” – then the time to launch your site is as soon as it’s mostly complete. “Complete” means that it will serve the needs of the people who use it, even if you haven’t been able to implement your grander ideas yet. In the start-up world, this would be similar to the idea of a “minimum viable product.”
Constant improvement might seem like a lofty goal, but it has some real world advantages:
Save Time and Money
Why bother developing a 150 page website with lengthy details about each of your products if no one will actually read it? Starting small saves the effort and expense of building features and writing content nobody wants.
With that in mind, it’s important to strike a balance between planning ahead and regular website improvement. You may start out with a small number of pages, but a well-designed site will be able to handle more content as the site evolves.
Test Different Strategies
A common problem during website projects is a disagreement on how difficult issues are best approached. Often, these disagreements are over smaller details, like whether you should use a blue button or a green button or whether headline X or Y is more effective.
The great thing about the web is we can change things as often as we want – so why not test both options and measure their relative success? This way, you’ll know for sure which solution is more effective, and you’ll probably get a better grasp on your customers preferences along the way.
Sometimes, these disagreements are about a much larger issue – deciding whether an online store is a feasible option, for example. Building a fully functional ecommerce system is a significant investment, both in the dollar investment and the organizational commitment. Which shipping providers will you use? How will you calculate shipping costs? Will you ship internationally? Who will manage inventory? What taxes do you need to charge?
Answering these questions and making that investment may be difficult to justify without knowing whether people even want to buy your product online.
The solution? Gauge demand with some type of simplified version of your ideal vision. We could build a simple order form that doesn’t accept payment, and then call customers to get their credit card info, or perhaps they pay on delivery. See how people use the bare-bones version of your vision, and use that knowledge to inform your next iteration.
Listen and Learn From Your Customers
A “minimum viable product” solution gives you the opportunity to figure out more about what your customers want, without making a significant investment in something they don’t. Building a website for your business is exciting, but it’s important to know when it’s ready for prime-time. Launch it as soon as possible, learn from real visitors and then make it even better.