I have an idea about a web application type of website. I am wondering if I should make a mini site and allow users to sign up and get information about whats coming up. I can use the numbers of sign ups and other demographics to attract potential partners and investors can't I?
I also want to use the mini-site for other stuff to get more traffic on the site. There will be contests and such too, just to get more and more Exact Traffic - Exact traffic as in people who are interested in the product and people who are referred on the site by friend or someone their know.
is this a good idea? I can also start some SEO and stuff like that if I have a mini site, and even keep updating on the progress of the project.
It doesn't hurt to have a site like that. However, I wouldn't expect much.
People are not going to give you their e-mail address just to know "what's coming up". There are exceptions to that (a highly anticipated service like rdio, that got lots of prior press coverage and attention from media) but for most of us, no one knows about our project and no one cares (yet).
Don't expect to get demographic data (gender, age etc.). If you ask for that, people won't tell you and if you require it for the signup, people will not sign up.
Contests are not a good idea to attract traffic for unknown website. You have a chicken and egg problem: people need to know about the contest in the first place.
It seems to me like a better idea would be to just start a blog and write about topics related to your web application, write about the progress building it etc. You can use feedburner to get decent stats on how many people subscribe to your RSS feed, which is a similar measure to how many people signed up for the news.
But even then don't expect miracles. Building traffic to your site or blog takes a lot of time even if you do have good content.
Finally, I hate to be a grammar nazi, but if you write website copy or blog posts, make sure that they don't have grammatical errors (your question unfortunately has plenty of them).
I disagree with Jeff and Kryzsztof (though I +1'ed them because those are good points too!).
It's true that you can't read too much into the value of such a mini-site, but on the other hand having that is way more interesting to potential co-founders or investors than having nothing.
Most people seeking investment have nothing but an unproven idea and a silly, completely-made-up business plan. It's best if you come in with traction (meaning: real users on a real system), but getting "social proof" that people would like the site, how much they would pay, and so on, that's much better than nothing.
Another place where many companies fail is in attracting potential customers in the first place. Great product, no way to find people to show it to. If you have this waiting list, you've already demonstrated that you can get in front of potential customers with a reasonably small spend. That's also a useful proof-point.
So don't overstate the significance of what the mini-site "proves," but I do believe it's better than nothing, and quite possibly better than trying to build the software first.
No. You are way off on your definition of mini-site. You have to be able to build a part of the application to give people a concrete idea of what it will do. This also demonstrate that you are someone who is capable of building such a site. This level of execution will go much further than some "billboard" of a site annoucing some future launch of your vaporware.
One way I have seen this micro-sites work is a simple "coming soon" message, with a description of what the app will do, and an email box so the user can be notified when it's available.
Then, you can measure the conversion rate (what percent of people that visit the micro-site have enough interest to at least provide their email address). Based on that, you get a rough idea of whether there is some market interest in what you're thinking about doing.