The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Your new website isn’t ready for launch. And that’s OK.

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Jul 11, 2013

    

You’ve toiled for months. Your team has scoured every nook and cranny of your old website and spent hours making every pixel perfect for your new online home.

So, are you ready to launch?

Nope. And that’s ok.

The reality is that website redesign projects are never really “done.”  You simply move from one phase to the next. Launch is a transition from “beta” to “live.” A great example of this thinking is the site we recently launched for AAIDD who proudly declared on their homepage “Still under construction” (that’s their image you see below).

We tell clients “Launch when you feel your site is 80% ready.” So why not keep going until it is perfect?

AAIDD Launch Feature resized 600

Duplicate Content Management

Associations publish A LOT of content.  Newsletters, press releases, announcements and more are churned out every day.  While you’re working on the new site, your organization is continuing to produce content.  And someone is expecting this to go on to your association’s website.

While most of your content has been migrated there is still content being created daily and added to the existing website. This means that for every page you add to the old site you need to add it to the new site.  The sooner you launch, the sooner you can get off that duplicate content treadmill.

Content creation can’t stop. But you have to make a clean break.

We advise clients to stop publishing new content – referred to as a “content freeze” – on the current site for one to two weeks before launch. This gives you time to focus on that last bit of content that absolutely must be available in the new site at launch.

The reality is that if you don’t lock in your content freeze and commit to a launch date, you just keep pushing back your launch and have that much more content that needs to be migrated.

Not everything needs to be in the new site at launch

With thousands of pages in your site some pages are used only once or twice a year.  While it is nice to have every archived newsletter on your site, you don’t need them there for a successful launch. Make a list of content that can be moved after your launch on a more

Users live in “Beta”

Agile software development and other technology trends have trained internet users to expect things to be in a perpetual state of improvement – also known as “beta.”  We expect web based products to roll out with a limited set of features and know that there is a team working to improve the service and that new features will be coming soon.  Early Gmail adopters know this well as Gmail was officially in “beta” for 5 years!!

Most of the client sites we work with have been ignored for so long that members are clamoring for a change. Any change.

By launching something that isn’t quite “done” and communicating that you have an ongoing commitment to your website, you tell your members you are dedicating yourself to the medium that is most accessible to them – the web.

AAIDD is just one client that embraced this “beta” concept.  Others include the American Society of Transplant Surgeons who feature a big “Welcome to our new website” banner and PromaxBDA left their site in beta for 2 years!

So launch already!

Sometimes it’s just like pulling off a band-aid. Go ahead and launch when you feel you are close to ready. It will mark a shift of when you can stop putting effort into your old, outdated site and focus on making everything right in your new home.

It’s not perfect.  But as I tell clients, “It’s pixels, not concrete. You can tweak it whenever you want.”

Topics: checklist, web development, association website design, web strategy, association websites

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