The Beauty of the Soft Launch

"We need the site to launch in two months."

It's a phrase that is familiar to all Web developers. Clients have an impending deadline -- a conference, a new program launch -- and they need the site to be ready by a certain date.

It's important for Web developers to be accommodating, but we also have to be upfront and realistic about expectations. On paper, when reviewing specifications for a  site, it can seem very easy to meet that deadline. When other factors come into play, it can throw a project schedule out of whack.

  • Review and approval of the site design
  • Setting up one feature makes someone think of another cool feature
  • Testing out the site uncovers an unforeseen issue

Enter the soft launch. Ah, just the shear sound of it is music to a Web developer's ears. It takes the pressure off of trying to have a perfect site on the "big day". Instead, you can test out the site with a smaller group of users without announcing the site to the public. In fact, it's the same way we launched this, our new Data-Scribe Website.

Here are some features and benefits of the soft launch:

#1: Test the site in a safe environment: With a soft launch, the key players get a sneak peek of the site. Having people outside of the project team test the site is a smart idea. They will discover bugs, flaws, errors, and missed items at this stage. That is the point. Expecting a perfect site is unrealistic no matter what the project budget. In fact, the larger the project, the more opportunities for issues. The best way to decrease the number of issues is via a soft launch.

Client Benefit: Nice discoveries of what the site can do and how their visitors will be able to interact with the site.

Web Developer Benefit: Use this time to discover how the site will work in a semi-real environment so that issues can be addressed prior to the real launch.

 

#2: An opportunity to prioritize what is necessary for launch: When letting the test group into the site, inevitably they will make note of things they would like to see on the site. This can be seen as a problem or an opportunity. The client and Web developer can capture those items and prioritize what to include for launch. Depending on how the contract is structured, items can be incorporated prior to launch or sometime after.

Client Benefit: Become more invested in the site and excited about the future possibilities.

Web Developer Benefit: Get a clear picture of the items that are critical to the site visitors.

 

We are going to continue including a soft launch phase in almost all of our projects. So, what can clients take away from this? Let your Web team know the absolute latest date that you would want a site to launch. Then, allow the team to propose a soft launch date that will help everyone achieve a successful project launch.

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About Data-Scribe

Data-Scribe, a division of VelaMira, Inc., is a business and technology consulting firm. Our nationwide team of degreed and credentialed professionals specializes in business analysis, project management, technical communication, website, and training services for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

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