I'm in the process of developing a desktop application and I expect the first version to be finished by mid-march 2010. I have purchased the domain name and I'm very happy with the one I've got. My dilemma: Do I put the website up now or do I wait until nearer the application development completion time?
The domain name I've chosen is www.smartcompanysoftware.com I know there are many questions regarding this sort of thing on OnStartups, and most of the answers seem to favor the 'Get it out quick' model, but I'm undecided. Initially, I was thinking that it would piss people off if they saw the website, but then were hit with the coming soon... line, but on the other hand, if people like what they see, they would probably get in touch and be prepared to wait, or even participate in some form i.e. suggestions.
I think that going live with the website is probably the way to go (I know it is, but I guess I'm just trying to address the potential issues by raising the question here), but if so, how much content should I have? I don't want to spend too much time developing a flashy website as it will take me away from the real goal, my application. So, should I have a simple one page affair that show a fews screenshots or something more substantial? And if so, what should I include i.e. Home page, contact page, screenshots.
I also think it can only help my motivation once I've announced to the world, a commitment on my part I suppose to deliver what I've promised.
I'm very interested to hear peoples' opinions...
Thanks in advance,
About 6 months out from your 1.0 release is perfect for launching your website. Building an online presence with the search engines takes months. If you wait until 1.0 is ready, you'll be quite frustrated looking for traffic and waiting for the search engines to start sending you customers. Here's my suggestion:
This process will not only motivate you tremendously as you reach those last agonizing details that of a 1.0 release, it'll help you naturally segue into your next job of sales and marketing of your software.
Absolutely, positively, unquestionably launch your website right now!!!!
On it tell people what you are producing and why your product will be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Then have a small survey asking them about what they use now to do whatever it is you'll be doing better and at the end of that, ask them if they'd like to be informed when it is ready, and get their name and email address.
This will start to build up a following.
It will also motivate you to work harder to get the product done.
I did this for 3 years before I launched my product and got the names of 800 people who were interested. When I released my alpha, I emailed them all and most downloaded the trial.
Start it as soon as possible, offer a beta sign up form or a discount to people who subscribe to your mailing list. Create a blog and regularly update it (once a week is fine) with screenshots and milestones, as well as other interesting topics that may fall into your overall category.
As for the pages, these should be sufficient to start with:
Homepage, Screenshots, Features, Blog, Contact
Don't forget to get "Placeholder" accounts on all the popular social media sites, you don't have to use them, but its good to get a hold of them and put links to your site in the bio.
Just my thoughts, and no I have not launched any software so take it with a grain of salt.
First, get the web site launched as soon as possible (it doesn't need much content yet - either design your own page or use a service like http://comingsoonapp.com Most importantly, don't forget to let people leave their email address and include your google analytics code on the page.
Second, start a google adwords campaign. Set a relatively low daily budget (even as low as $1/day) and every few weeks change the text of the ad. Track how many people 'react' to the ad and you'll get really valuable data about what is the best way to attract.
Third, a few months before release, change the text of the coming soon page to something like 'sign up for beta'. You'll get early adopters who really want to see your software. They'll be great both for testing it, and spreading the word.
Best of luck!
None of us can answer the question for you without knowing a lot more. But the process..
Look at it from the perspective of:
1) what are you trying to accomplish by putting up the site now? What are your objectives?
2) what's the downside? Competitor benefit from knowing? Possibility you extend way beyond ship date and lose credibility? Etc...
3) what's the upside?
Start to build a buzz. Start to generate prospects. Etc...
If you write up bullets for each of those, you'll have your answer.
Although I agree with the caveats expressed by others about the potential risks (and extra work), I tend to lean heavily toward the "start now!" camp.
It is very tough to develop a following for a software product (especially a desktop application), so the sooner you can begin building a community of interested prospects, beta users, and influential observers, the sooner you can begin building that momentum.
Obviously you need to avoid shooting yourself in the foot by over-promising in your messaging on the site, and I can see the risk of creating and managing the site being a distraction to your core product development efforts.
I also took a quick look at that "Coming Soon" service offered by Denis, and I think that merits serious consideration as a no-friction way to get started.
I've asked myself this very same question in the past and I found one piece of information that has really changed my point of view. In the past I wanted to make sure the site was 110% ready. I wanted all the links, content, pictures, logos, etc.
This is just paraphrased because I can't remember exactly how it went.
Google didn't wait until they had theI pretty much got nowhere real fast! I read this ONE blurb and now I'll put stuff out there that may not be quite done but enough for visitors. I do make sure though the information is accurate and factual because if not you'll lose your credibility.
whole Internet indexed before launching
and they're doing just fine now.
Hope this helps!
The downside to launching the site prematurely is that people might develop wrong impressions about your product. Ralph's strategy is a generally a good one; have a website presence but don't market your product on the site until 1.0 readiness is at arm's length.
That said, your specific product might be resistant to those problems, so adjust your strategy accordingly.