For over 10 years we've been launching websites for associations. In the late 90s we let it slide. But no longer. We have to give the best, most vital advice regarding website launches. And we need to give it now. There is a right time and wrong time to launch a website and if you want to ensure that your next website is a success. You may want to listen up.
1. Before a Conference
This is by far the most classic misstep. The challenges of launching before a conference are many. In essence, you've created a drop dead date, which you really never want to do with a website launch. Sure you want to make a big announcement at your event. What could get people more excited? But by creating this urgency to launch before your conference you could jeopardize quite a lot.
What we tend to say to our clients who want to launch before a conference is this: "Sure, we can launch before your conference. Well...we'll launch something. Not sure if it will be your completed website, but, yes, you'll have a new online presence of some nature." Why do we say this? By putting such pressure on launching before the whole world at your event, you've left no room for error. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Well, you as the vendor should be able to deliver on time and to scope. It's your fault if the site isn't ready by the conference."
Of course, we completely understand this, but the truth is more like this. "Hi, yeah, we'd like to test all that great stuff you put on our new site, but actually we're ramping up for conference and we're really, really, really busy. Not sure if we'll be able to take a look at it. Let's just launch as is."
One day after launch: "What happened to the site? It bombed at our conference and it's your fault. How could you let that happen?"
Get the idea? Enough said.
2. First of the Year
Same general idea as #1 above. It sounds great to start the year off with a new site, but the fact is that no one is around from December 15 to January 9th and the same testing situation arises. We've been made every promise from here to Sunday that people would be available to test "over the holiday," but of course, it never really turns out that way. Don't get caught up in the "first of the year" concept in August. It always sounds good in the summer.
3. On Monday or Friday
This is assuming already, of course, that it's not the first of the year or just before your conference. But if you launch on a Friday you run the risk of having something go wrong over the weekend with no one around to fix it. Monday's are usually the busiest days of the week and inevitably some comes up either on our side or the client's side that waylays the launch.
So When Then?
Make it a Tuesday. Make it during the quietest time of your association's year. Try a soft launch first. Push it out there when nobody is looking and see how it goes over. Ask a small group of people to review it while it's live. Then, after the dust has settled plan to launch it to the world in style. Make it before the conference by a month or two or even after. Make your website it's own event. Why try to piggy back it on a time when you already have your membership's attention? Use the website launch to grab their attention one extra time during the year. That's how we'd do it.
I know this post may seem a little jaded or blunt, so forgive me for that. But the message is clear, no? Sometimes you just need to have someone knock you over the head with the facts. Cut away the diplomacy and niceties and just lay it out for you. That's the motivation and intention behind this post.
Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson