You came up with a business name, bought a domain, and signed up for a website builder. You played around with designs, started writing copy for a few pages, and then…you got overwhelmed and lost motivation.
Don’t worry — it happens. Launching a website is no easy feat, whether you’re building it for a new business or an idea you’re still testing out. It’s usually the first impression people get, so you don’t want a site that’s ugly, glitchy, or incomplete.
But the longer your website languishes in the “started but not finished” realm, the easier it is to procrastinate, especially if no one’s holding you accountable. As the famous saying goes, “perfect is the enemy of good.”
This list of hurdles will help you focus on how to launch a website successfully on a hard-stop deadline.
You’re stuck on the CMS or website builder you’re using.
Limited technical know-how is a big reason why people start websites and fail to finish them. If you’ve started using a CMS like WordPress, or a website builder like Weebly or Squarespace, but haven’t made a lot of progress, determine if:
a) you’re willing to put in the time and effort to learn the tool you’re using
b) you’re too frustrated to continue with said tool (meaning you have to switch to something else)
c) you’re only going to get your site done if you hire outside help (you may also want functionality that requires developer assistance). Luckily, there are plenty of crowdsourcing websites like Upwork where you can find freelancers quickly.
Decide on a next step and move forward — it’ll feel good! And even if you opt for outside help, try to learn the basics of the tool you’re using. The more you know, the easier it’ll be to make updates and optimize your site as your business grows.
You don’t have anything to sell or promote yet.
While you’ve ideally researched your idea and tested it for product-market fit, you don’t have to have your offerings 100% figured out before launching your website. In fact, it can be advantageous to launch before you have anything to sell.
Case in point: Will Barrios created a website for his toy company, Theatermaker, a year before he expects his product will be ready. Barrios knew he’d need to build a community around his business to gain support and get feedback early on. He now sends an email newsletter and has built an audience on social media.
“I began with an online customer survey to validate the initial concept of the toy and make sure it had a place in the current market,” says Barrios. “Once I could confidently say I had strong interest from my target customer, I decided to start a landing page, which has now come more of a full website.”
You don’t know what pages to include.
When figuring out your site’s structure, think about the most important information visitors are looking for, and make sure that information is visible up front or incredibly easy to find.
There’s a reason most websites have an About page, a Services page (if they’re a service-based business), or a Shop page (if they’re selling items). These pages are common landmarks in the online world and can quickly orient someone visiting your site.
Also, consider an FAQ or Support page that can be added to when your business is up and running. A Contact page is (obviously!) important, but this information can also live in your website’s footer or About page.
After you’ve covered the basic pages, think about other pages your website might need, such as a How It Works page to explain a tool or service, or a Where to Buy page if your products are sold in physical locations or other online stores.
If you’re lucky enough to have testimonials or press mentions, you can create a separate page for them or put them on your homepage for social proof.
You haven’t written copy.
Writing website copy from scratch can be tricky — especially if you haven’t researched your target market or figured out what makes your business different. Here’s where to start:
- Create 2-4 buyer personas, focusing on what motivates your customers and how you’re going to solve their problems differently.
- Do keyword research to find out what terms people are using to find your product or service. Try a free keyword tool or a website like Answer The Public.
- Write a simple mission statement that boils down what you do and why.
- Jot down a few adjectives that describe your brand and the voice you want to talk to customers in, e.g. friendly, casual, motivational.
When you’re ready to write, remember that website visitors are task-focused and easily distracted. Your copy should answer your users’ most pressing questions and include calls to action to prompt them to take the next step (buy, sign up, schedule a call, etc.).
You don’t have images.
If you’re an ecommerce site, original product photography is a must. Decide if you’re going to hire a photographer, or figure out how to take photos on your own (here’s an excellent guide to taking them on your phone).
Launching your site before products are ready to ship? Find inspirational lifestyle shots to show visitors what you’re about.
If you’re a service-based business or blogger, there’s a good chance you’ll need a professional looking headshot. You may also need photos to demonstrate your work (e.g. food you’ve made if you’re a caterer, rooms you’ve renovated if you’re a contractor). Make a shot list and either schedule a day for a photo-shoot, or see if you can dig up the visuals you need from past projects, editing them if necessary.
If you don’t require original photography, you can use a free images site like Pexels to populate your site with high-quality images. And remember: you can always update or add photos after you’ve launched!
You don’t have a logo or brand colors.
What’s in the top left corner of almost all websites? Yep, it’s a logo. Even if you’re launching the most basic of “Coming Soon” pages, a logo will put a professional stamp on what you’re doing and boost your brand.
After you create a logo — perhaps using an online logo maker! — apply your brand colors in other places on your website like headings or call-to-action buttons. (Our premium logo packages include a brand guide with color codes and fonts to guide your future branding efforts.)
You haven’t figured out pricing.
Pricing is a major stumbling block for many new businesses — and a big reason for delaying your website.
It’s a complex topic, but author Chris Guillebeau has a simple pricing method: Ask yourself what your time is worth in a dollars-per-hour context, then figure out the time it takes to make or deliver your product or service to a user, pricing on the higher end of what you think they’ll pay (more in this podcast episode). You can also check out our article on how to price a service business.
If you’re launching a website before your products are ready to ship — or if you want to incentivize people so you can get initial sales and reviews — try offering pre-order discounts or promotions.
You don’t feel like it’s 100% ready.
Let’s face it — there’s always going to be one more thing to add or improve on your website. The huge upside of pushing it live is that you have more incentive to optimize it because it’s out in the world.
If you’re certain your website is going to take longer to finish and you need a web presence ASAP, you can create a quick landing page with a tool like Carrd. Include your name, a quick blurb about what you do, and an email capture form so you can contact people who are interested when your website is live.
After your website launches (yay!), keep a list of the tweaks and wish list items you want to make and commit to making improvements and updates over time.
“I’ve had to pull back on being overly obsessive about what the website looks like,” says Barrios of the site he created for his toy company. “I do what I can knowing it may not be perfect. It’s an online visual tool to give a face to the company and brand, and I’m just starting — there’s a long road ahead!”