I had a great conversation this morning with Jeb from smallbox. (That's right, I madonna'ed him. If you don't know who Jeb is, where have you been?) Nevermind the fact that I accidentally ordered a double-shot, and I can't hold my hands still right now, I'm pretty sure that what he said to me would have seemed just as profound without the caffeine-driven high.
“So, who are your target customers?” I asked, expecting to hear about industry, size, and other niche descriptors.
“We are a company's second website.” Jeb told me. “They have to have gone through this process at least once before.”
Second? Does he want to follow other's coat-tails? Or is he just so confident that he's going to do better, he wants to out-shine the competition. Neither. He just likes working with a smart buyer. A customer who knows what they want, why they want it, and what didn't (and miraculously did) work the first time.
First of all, if you don't have a website, throw one up. Jeb's right. You could spend ages deliberating over your content, design, nav structure, conversion points, etc. And that would be swell. It would make for one heck of a fantastic case study for some college student's senior project. But after 3 months, you're going to learn that you were wrong. Now, you could be way wrong, or you could be just a little wrong. But you're wrong.
Don't worry. Being wrong is the fastest way to being right. Even the productivity expert, Robby Slaughter, encourages people to flat-out fail. To Jeb's point, once you've been wrong–even slightly wrong–now he can work with you. Now he can really help you and put the talents of his firm to their best service for you.
Now, let's say you already have a website. Is it working? Is it working the way you want it? Why not re-do it?
Far too often, people treat websites like they treated marketing collateral in the days before digital printing. Make it perfect first, because it costs so much to get “up to color” that you need to run 10k or more of these pieces to even justify the expense. And then, once it's printed, don't even talk about changing it for at least a year or more. Forget that. Websites are free scrap and re-do. Well, not really free. But the technology makes it feasible to keep this quintessential marketing tool in perpetual beta, never being afraid to re-do it.
The learning experience of launching your first website cannot be replaced. But, it's for this exact reason that your website, take II, will be the site that really makes a difference. Take 3, 4, and 5 can only get better. But you have to– HAVE TO–go through the process of take I before you can hit the stride you want. Ready, fire, aim. And then, aim again and again.