How to Launch a New Website: 6 Rules for Success
We make websites, and we make them well. In fact, we’ve launched so many websites that we have six rules by which we believe everyone should abide to make their website launch successful.
Rule 1: Do not launch on a Friday.
There are a lot of moving pieces involved in a launch, which makes it a delicate dance. In order to ensure things operate smoothly, the launch should happen when everyone involved is easily accessible and ready in advance.
This includes the web team, the client, the host, and the domain registrar. Since Fridays are usually a time to wrap up a week and plan for the next, not all these pieces may be in place. Trying to squeeze it in before the weekend may lead to rushing standard launch processes that normally take time, and we want to leave as little room for error as possible.
While we often have great intentions to plan well, it’s smart to acknowledge the planning fallacy, a term psychologists use to define things taking longer than originally thought.
Additionally, unforeseen problems can happen during a website launch. If the launch happens on a Friday, fixes from browser testing (and technical support in the rare case of emergencies) cannot be completed until the following week.
The best day to launch a website? Tuesday.
Monday is a day to catch your breath for the week. Tuesday gives everyone plenty of time to plan, check-in, and be ready for any issue that may arise, while also allowing for several days of time after the launch to address issues and fixes.
Rule 2: Prioritize true launch blockers.
To quote Albert Einstein:
“Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age.”
A website is a product of many pieces working together. It will not ever be pixel perfect.
Setting expectations that things must be perfect undermine the true goal of your website: to interact with your users! Every piece of software requires updates, new releases, and patches.
Can a website be improved? Of course. In fact, it should be improved, and it will continue to be improved as it lives within the internet.
Be careful when prioritizing what you would like versus what you need. This is especially true if you want to launch on time, under budget, and with as few bugs as possible.
It is better to launch with a few things thoroughly tested and of high quality, and communicate clear goals, than to try to launch with many things that are nice-to-haves, haven’t been fully vetted, and may detract from the true purpose of your message.
Listen to Albert.
Rule 3: Have a code freeze date.
A code freeze date answers a single question: when will we stop touching the site?
This date needs to be, at minimum, a few days before the launch and must be set in stone.
- No more small issues will be fixed.
- No more small bugs will be identified.
- No more features will be added.
- No more tweaks will be implemented.
This date and the rules it invokes should be treated as sacrosanct.
Having a finish line that is not the launch date allows for the launch date to focus on just that: the launch. Because a website is a product of many people’s efforts and many hands, having a period where no one is touching it is important to evaluate your success.
Post-launch fixes should be on the table and should start to accumulate during that code freeze time. In no uncertain terms, however, should you jeopardize a successful launch because you want to make that one additional change.
If a true launch blocker arises, then the launch date should be pushed.
Rule 4: Soft launch, if possible.
Because testing is a crucial piece to a successful website, soft launching is a technique that allows for real-world testing, albeit on a smaller scale.
In the real-world, it’s often referred to as rolling out to test markets.
Soft-launching means launching the website without any formal declarations via generalized marketing, social media, or distributed communication.
This is an effective technique because it gives you time to iron out issues. By controlling awareness of your new website to a select few users, you can concentrate on the initial batch of issues you may encounter.
These could be simple things, like misspellings, or even initial Analytics analysis to see if your new site improves your users’ experience.
Soft launching can be achieved either by loading the new site in a different URL, restricting access to certain IP addresses or parts of the country (something Amazon.com does often), or requiring some sort of access code.
Rule 5: Coordinate with your server provider.
A website doesn’t exist without the server on which it lives. These servers are maintained by very smart human beings. In order to make sure your site launches successfully and doesn’t crash under an intense amount of traffic, include these smart human beings into your launch plan.
As our previous steps advised against launching on Friday, keep your server provider, or server partner, happy. Keep these people well informed of your website goals, and help them help you be successful.
Ask questions about downtime procedures, backup plans, and change management processes. If possible, try to identify a single point of contact, both with your server partner and within your company.
If possible, find this person as early in your website development process as possible. Waiting until the twelfth hour to find a decent server partner can lead to some headaches at a very stressful time.
Rule 6: Be Patient. Be Happy.
You’ve worked hard. Your content is ready. Your team is excited.
Positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Sometimes all of the buttons don’t get pushed, and some of the levers don’t get pulled. While I won’t invoke Seinfeld’s rules for keeping calm, know that a website is not a lump of coal. The more pressure you put on yourself and your team will not yield diamonds.
Sometimes propagation takes a bit of time. Sometimes IP addresses are typed in wrong.
All issues can be fixed.
If all parties are calm and remain positive, your website will launch successfully….just NOT on Friday.
If you have any other tips or rules that you follow, let us know if the comments below.