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Are you really ready for the launch of your new site ?

By Marc Bissonnette
Internalysis

There are two big mistakes in launching a public websites that are made by companies big and small

  1. Waiting until everything is "just perfect" before launching at all
  2. Launching the site on the same day that press releases and radio/print/television/email ads go out, announcing it.

At first glance, those two reasons seem to contradict each other, so let me explain the pitfalls of each:

1. Waiting until everything is "just perfect" before launching at all

Some people absolutely refuse to put anything at all up on their website unless every single bell, whistle, dotted "i" and crossed "t" has been designed, implented and reviewed by fourteen departments.

The problem with this is that the web is a constantly evolving entity. People expect information to grow and change as they come back to your website and by holding off until you've got a year's worth of content to post means your website sits, stale, with nothing new for people to read while you're re-writing the equivalent of the Ilead for your site.

Remember: The key to a successful website, no matter what your industry is, is getting people to come back. If you are putting information up about a new product or service, but are waiting for your technical writers to finish all the chapters and details: Post the précis! There is nothing wrong with adding "The next installment will be available on March 2nd, bookmark this page and come back for more" or "Click here to be notified when the next chapter of information is available" or "If you need additional details right away, click here to email us or call us at 555-555-1234.

Note: Do NOT use this as a permanent tactic: Don't post a teaser and expect that to lead people to call or email you: This tends to annoy people more than anything. For example, a BIOS company lost my business when I submitted a page full of information about my computer in order to determine the proper BIOS update and, instead of being immediately led to the download/purchase page, I received an email saying "Please call us, we have a question about your computer". Cheap sales tactics that work in bricks-and-mortar retail do not necessarily work on the 'net.

People expect to be able to find the information they want on your site: They don't want to be forced to pick up the phone or send you an email. If you don't have all of the information posted right away, give a date when it will be available and offer to notify customers when the information is up (Which further brings traffic to your site when they return).

2. Launching the site on the same day that press releases and radio/print/television/email ads go out, announcing it.

This should be obvious, but some people just don't get it: We do not live in a perfect world. We do not have perfect talents, nor do our employees with whom we entrust to build our web content. This is normal. If you've just spent a whack of time and money to build or rebuild an entire website, do you really think it's a good idea for the general public to first see it during a press conference ?

Your first temptation to answer will be "Um, yeah, that's the idea of a press conference, dummy..." - But what happens when there is a URL over looked ? A Flash component that works on MSIE but not on Opera or Firefox ? What about that one component of the website that everyone though the other guy was going to take care of? What about the domain name itself?

At the very, very least, a new website should be posted to the 'net 24 hours before your press releases go out. If you're smart, that will be 72 hours ahead of time, which is the recommended propagation time for new DNS changes, should that turn out to be your issue. I cannot tell you the number of times a client has registered a domain name with a registrar, built a website or section around it, issued the press release and then called me the same morning to say "Make this domain work now". You've got to point your A record (or, in some cases, your primary and secondary DNS records) from your registrar to the machine hosting your site. The webserver itself needs to recognize the domain being pointed to it and itself point all such requests to the right directories and applications. Even when you do all that work yourself in ten minutes, it can take three days for your new domain and site to be accessible around the world.

There is also simply human error to account for: Before you use the newswire to announce www.foo.com : Have you actually typed in "http://www.foo.com" in your web browser and received what you expect to receive ? If you haven't, you are inviting disaster. What about the email addresses and forms used within the page you are announcing ? Has someone actually sent email to each of the addresses and confirmed that they are deliverable ? What about your forms ? Has anyone filled them out and clicked submit to make sure that they actually work ? How about phone numbers: I don't mean just looking at them to make sure they're there, but actually dialing them to make sure that it connects to the right person and place on the other end?

All of the above can save you a lot of ambarassment on press release day or even worse: At the trade show with five thousand people watching you get the "404: Not found" on the thirty foot screen behind you.

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

InternAlysis - Customized, specialized, dedicated eMarketing specialist
CanadianISP - Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) list and comparison web site

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