Sorry, We'll Never Finish Your Website
File This Under: "Tough Pills To Swallow"
This may be hard for all the perfectionists out there, but we have to tell you a secret: no website is ever complete or in its “final” form. To be honest, no digital experience ever is - and you wouldn’t want it to be! The beauty of digital spaces is that they are living, breathing, organic platforms and able to grow and evolve as our businesses do. The website that you publish when you launch your business is not the website you should have a year later. It shouldn’t even be entirely the same website a month later.
Websites Expand and Contract
Whether you’re getting ready to launch a new business or you’ve just recently worked on creating your very first home on the web, you may find yourself struggling with how much energy you should put into your website up front. While items like the underlying design, basic aesthetic, and general structure should be established early on, even these elements are changeable at any point. As you and your business grow, you’ll likely want (and need) to update nearly everything on your site. This is ok! Websites are living assets that can be updated at the drop of a hat (don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise) and so as you launch new products and make new services available to your customers, you’ll obviously need to make changes and updates. As your staff grows, location changes and hours adjust to the habits of your customers, all of these details will need to change on your website. And it’s not just the information. Pages can be added at any time. Entire layouts can change. Features like photo galleries, videos, and blog posts that didn’t exist on your site on the day you launched can be added. As your content grows, your navigation can evolve to account for expanded pages and features to help visitors get around your growing site as well. When in doubt, add a page for a product or service that you know you’ll be launching in the future and label it “Coming Soon” so people know that you’re actively working on making things better and adding new features that they will look forward to coming back to check out. Basically, it's all subject to change.
Similarly, your website can contract in size. If you’ve stopped offering a service or even just temporarily discontinued a product, the information or pages about those things can be removed. You may have set out with great intentions of becoming the world’s best blogger and then decided that blogging just isn’t for you. You may have decided that a simple contact form is better than the lengthy one you first had. You’re never stuck with the site you launched with and, as with new additions, your site’s navigation can be amended to reflect the changes that you can only learn to make after at least launching something.
Minimal Viable Products Have More ROI Than No Viable Product
Launching a website as you get your business off the ground, even if it's not what you imagined for your business in full, is more important than leaving a site unpublished until it reaches an idealized perfection.
As web designers, we witness the trepidation many business owners experience before launching their website. Actually, we don’t just witness it. We live through it with them. That’s because of the fear of releasing something that might seem unfinished, or not quite perfect, is deeply ingrained in our culture. We wouldn’t submit a report unless it was well-researched, well-written, and proofread, right? We wouldn’t open a cafe without first installing the espresso maker. Many business owners have a vision for what their website will be but don’t have the grace to allow themselves to accept that what their website might be a year from now is much different than what can work hard for them today. It’s better to build and launch a minimal viable product than to hold off on launching something altogether. This “minimal viable product” may not be your original definition of “complete” and may not have all the features, content or functions that your website of the future may have but trust us when we say that getting something out there is much better than doing nothing. A simple landing page with your business information and a photograph will do more to bring you customers than a growing, but never finished, website draft sitting on a server waiting to be “finalized.” If there is a better place to practice the mantra “progress over perfection” than when it comes to web design we don’t know it.
Long story longer: Just. Launch. The. Website. (You can thank us later that you did.)
Here’s more on why you should launch what you can as soon as you can:
Three Things A Website Can Do For You Immediately
Make You Discoverable Online
Your website is a business listing in and of itself. It tells search engines (such as Google and Bing) where you are located, when you are open, what you do/sell, and how people can buy from you. Even if you’re still getting up and running, getting this information out there sooner rather than later will help you hit the ground running.
Allow Customers To Contact You
Your website, in any form, should give your future customers a means to get in touch with you. Even the simplest of sites can include a form for customers, or potential customers, to connect with you through. Developing positive communications with your customers will not only begin to build your brand reputation but also your confidence when you see that people care more about connecting with you than they do about what is or isn’t on your website currently.
Develop Customer Trust
As a new business, you may rely a lot on word of mouth or referrals from friends and family to get started. But even those people are going to look to find a website to fully discover a new brand. Even if your site is small and straightforward, if it’s well designed, functional, and informative it will garner enough trust for a prospective customer to take a chance on you - or even share it with someone new!
Embrace a “Work in Progress” Philosophy
We often say that our design process is iterative. So is the life of your website. Your website will change many times over the life of your business. Embrace it. It doesn’t mean that you’re inconsistent, unsuccessful or that you’ve never finished the project. It says you’re nimble, flexible and responsive to your own business growth. To us, that’s more important than purposefully stagnating a website, or worse, never launching one.
While we don’t fancy ourselves as business coaches or life advisors or anything of the sort, years of experience working with entrepreneurs and business owners has taught us a thing or two about the psychology behind why some people freak out, stall out or never reach their fullest potential (both online and IRL). If you find yourself in this position, it may be worth it to talk with a mentor or advisor to help you understand why you’re not able to move forward. The hard truth is that it usually has nothing to do with actual web design or development. Roadblocking is very often symptomatic of a deep-rooted fear of failure common among entrepreneurs and checking out some resources (like this one or this one) to help you get over this mental hurdle can be super beneficial in being able to move forward.