How many times have you received an email from an organization that needs you to know that their “new and improved” website is launching soon? How many times have you jumped for joy at this news? Rarely do site launches live up to the build-up and hype generated by a company’s excitement to complete a project.
Things we need to remember when we’re launching a site:
1. Our site is more important to us than it is to our users.
We spend hours and hours in meetings talking about our sites, analyzing the right thing to do, worrying that it won’t be just right. Guess what? Our users aren’t invested at the same level. Our site floats in the sea of billions of pages spinning around cyberspace. Our users come to us when they need to complete a task – find some information, shop, ask a question. Other than that, they aren’t sitting around wondering how our site is doing or when we might launch a new one. A note to upper management: It would be naive not to acknowledge that sometimes the request to announce our site comes from you and we do it to appease them. Please stop allowing internal politics to drive our external communications.
2. Just because we say the site is new and improved doesn’t mean it is.
A change in layout, images or functionality may be new but shouldn’t be measured in terms of improvement. What we really need to improve is our ability to allow users to complete a task online. If we want to know how well we’ve achieved that, we can install Google Analytics and watch the performance. But let’s do it behind the scenes and tweak things as needed to support our users’ needs. If we need to make an announcement, let’s do it on the site so people can see it within the context of why they visited the site to begin with. Better yet, let’s design sites so intuitive no announcement or explanation is needed. THAT would be an improvement.
3. Pre-launch announcements can have an undesirable effect.
Consistency is important. We repeatedly shop at the same stores because we like the experience and we know where to find what we need. We buy the same brand of jeans because they fit us well. Some of us use the same coffee cup every day because of how it feels in our hand. So, why do we want to make a splash when we’ve changed the place our users come to interact with us? We send an email that says “Hey, we’ve changed things you’re used to but we promise – you’re going to love it!” and one of three things can happen. First, users who don’t like change will get crabby and email their complaints about minutia. Second, users who don’t mind change will be disappointed because our new home page looks so similar to the old home page. They’ll email with complaints of inadequacy. Third, and this might be the worst scenario of all, we’ll hear crickets instead of users. Nobody will care enough to comment. And after we worked so hard. We’ll lament over how people can be so ungrateful.
The next time there’s a new site to launch or one to improve, let’s remind ourselves to keep perspective on the importance of what we think we should say. We can drive people to our site for a new product or a promotion, perhaps, but not for the idea that the product image will be shown in the upper right instead of upper left. Unless it’s a really great image. Of course our users will want to hear about that.