When it comes to finishing something people are generally wired to think that finishing is a good thing. If you finish something, you can be done with it, you can feel a sense of accomplishment and most importantly you can move on. With almost all forms of projects finishing is a really good thing.
Finished is a word that can be used in a negative way as well. Those damn dirty Finish people! Only joking, no racial slurs here. Of course I was refering to the word finished as in done, dead, knocked out, down for the count. That is a pretty negative thing and generally is bad for a business, sports team or my late grandfather.
It turns out, that when it comes to the internet, being finished in the accomplishment sense is not really possible. Yes, you can finish you design, finish a site build, finish a widget or a feature but can you actually be finished with a website? Unfortunately too many people would answer this question with a resounding yes. The correct answer to this question is no.
I know others have been preaching on this subject for some time now, so it might not be a new concept, but think about it. Name a site that you enjoy checking out, it doesn’t have to be daily or weekly, but think of a site that has engaged you, made you think, shown you something awesome. I’ll will bet money that the sites that fit these criteria were not launched one day, someone breathed a sigh and said, ‘there, finished’ and they didn’t touch the site again until it was time for version two, six months or a year later. Essentially websites are not printed materials, the best sites are living breathing entities. When a site is actually “finished” it is likely on the way to the grave.
Sites that sit for long periods of time with no new content are less relivant, google knows this and weigh their search rankings on sites that are updating frequently. Google, which is actually a company made out of pretty smart people and not a giant scary machine, is taking a perception of an outdated site and putting that into their search engine results. The search engine is simply perceiving what a normal human would percieve, an old site that hasn’t been updated is likely old news and therefore less important.
What does this mean
The point I would like to make here is this. Launch your site before it is ready. Speed to market still means something and the sooner you are up and running on some level the sooner people start to notice what you are doing. Every feature you waited to add in the original launch is a value add to frequent or infrequent visitors when you release it down the road. The biggest companies working on the internet all knew this and started off very slowly. Amazon was a mere shadow of what it has grown into. Google has and will always be slowly adding features, their site is never finished, but they do it tastefully, little changes here and there that keep adding new value to their product.
Something I believe is useful is something generally refered to as a soft launch. A soft launch is a launch ofsite that you start having friends family and anyone else start looking at. Yes it is available to the internet as a whole, but you don’t start marketing very hard right away. I have made this part of my process when launching sites. Just this weekend I soft launched a site, http://pakkisteam.org. This site has no where near the amount of features I would like it to have, I am still working on things, tuning this and that and getting the site ready to be heavily marketed. However, in this state people I tell or any of the site owners tell are taking a look, getting an idea of what is coming. Also, the site owners are adding content, learning the admin panel and generally becoming framiliar with the site. When we finally do start telling the whole world about the site we will all have had time to iron out the bugs, add some final touches and really be ready to launch.
But, we wont call that finished either because finished on the internet is the same as dead. Don’t finish your sites, continue to work on them, your will start to gain traffic faster and those visitors will thank you for continuing to improve your product.