Web Process: Rapid Launch And Iteration

The Take-away

Website projects of many different shapes and sizes can often benefit greatly from a “ready, fire, aim” approach of rapid launch and iteration rather than a traditional print-based process.

Websites are Alive

A website works best when it has fresh relevant content and is constantly evolving to the changing needs of its owners and visitors. In other words: a website should never be “done.” Ever.

Does that ring true?

If so… why do we spend so much time trying to “get it right” before we launch a website?

The Web Mindset

Let’s get in the web mindset: perpetual evolution through iterative improvements. And if we’re going to adopt that path then we can start anywhere and move forward.

If a company has no website, they should have a website as soon as possible with bare-bones “who, what, where” and contact information. The detailed “why and how” can come later. The customized look and feel can come later. The additional functionality can come later. And it can all be adjusted while live for the world to find and see.

If a company has a website that is a liability (visually, technologically, functionally, etc) it may be best to immediately replace it with a clean modern bare-bones site that functions well on mobile devices. Then iterate.

If a company has an okay site but wants a re-design, let’s ask these questions: Does the site really need to be overhauled? What are the real issues and how can they be addressed incrementally? Are the needs based around content, architecture, functionality, data structure, or something else? How can the project be broken down so we can get improvements out into the real world faster and address the most important issues first?

Not “Coming Soon”

To be clear, I’m not talking about launching a “coming soon” page while the big web project takes months and months (and months) to complete. I’m talking about “this is your website — maybe it is currently only one page — now what is the next thing we need to do to it to make it better?” Then building out from there, continuously publishing improvements and additions. Get it out there. Your site is already here.

This way the website owner gets a functional website much MUCH faster and then revisions can be based entirely on real-world needs and feedback. It’s empowering and exciting and motivating. It creates momentum.

Critically, this also helps the website owner get into the right mindset: “my website is meant to be changed and added to, little by little, over and over again.” It isn’t something to build, forget about, and then completely uproot every 3 - 5 years.

This approach is made much easier by using a modern online site builder. In capable hands a website can be built out and changed extremely quickly. There’s no need to speculate on what might work when you can build something immediately and put it out into the world right away, then iterate periodically.

But it also can be adapted to work on custom designs with modular front-end code and a modern content management system that uses structured data. There are many sites and site owners that really need a specialized visual design and functionality, custom input forms for their data, and advanced scripting and logic. If anything those demands make it all the more important to take a flexible approach that can adapt over time.

It all starts with having the right approach, right from the start.

Notes:

  • Ironically I rewrote and reframed this post many times and sat on it for quite a while.
  • In writing this I came across a business book called “Ready, Fire, Aim”. Haven’t read it, but I bet the ideas are pretty similar.
  • I keep thinking about Anne Lamott’s book on writing, “Bird by Bird”, in which she encourages “shitty first drafts”. Pardon the language.
  • The software development book “Getting Real” by 37 Signals is a major influence on this idea. All websites, even brochure sites, can be thought of as apps: they serve a purpose and provide functionality (however basic).

Earlier Post: Website design mindset: art directing responsive images

Later Post: Procrastination Hacks for a Better Today (and Tomorrow)

All Posts