One of the hardest questions to answer in web design is “when is my new web site ready to go live?” and with good reason. Firstly a website evolves – there will always be room for improvement and it is never going to be perfect.
Websites aren’t a static piece of collateral
There may be content you would still like to add, layout tweaks you’d like to make, perhaps even some re-writes. But the fact is there will always be changes to make. Fortunately your new website isn’t a printed piece of collateral. That’s its beauty. You can change it!
Step back and admire
You also need to be cognisant that when you have been working on a new website for a long time it is easy to loose the momentum and focus that you had at the start – and as you work towards the end of the web build the majority of your time is focused on problem fixes. Working in the content management ‘trenches’ can stop you from appreciating what you have accomplished.
Get it out there and embrace the feedback
If it meets your core objectives, which should mean it better meets the needs of visitors than your current site, then why delay? Not only will users appreciate the improved site, it will also start generating a return on the investment you made to build it. After all until you put your website ‘out there’, accessible to your target market, it is impossible to know whether it is ready or not. It’s only by launching the site that you will be able to see what sort of reaction you get.
Of course the first audience to share the site with and probably most critical, is your fellow colleagues. Like it or not they will be far more willing to give you honest feedback and will often prove invaluable in spotting those broken links or typos you have become blind to.
How do you manage the ‘fear’?
Life favours the prepared – so make sure you have a plan of action in place for capturing feedback and continuing the development of the new website. What are the ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ elements of the website that have to be corrected or tweaked before the launch. Here is a great pre-launch checklist to consider http://boagworld.com/business-strategy/pre-launch-checklist/
For the ‘nice to have’ tasks divide these into manageable chunks of work that you can complete over the course of a few months. Making sure you build in time for any ‘unexpected’ changes that will need to be made, including any lingering compatibility issues with different browsers, operating systems and devices (this should be a continuation of testing undertaken throughout the build).
Remember you can use these improvements as excuses to publicise the site and generate further interest.
One note of caution
Don’t make any immediate changes to the website following visitor feedback. We are all creatures of habit and need time to adjust to anything new. Allow them to get used to the site and then see if the initial requests for change are still needed