I'm a husband and father and have a full time job. I'm developing a few web apps in my very little bit of spare time. I'm pretty sure I should have a website dedicated to each app. I want to keep each app's site simple and not confuse potential new customers.
One has already launched as a Facebook app. I expect it to grow to be more than just a Facebook app if it takes off, but not many people are using it yet. I need to add an invite-your-friends feature and a couple other things to get it going. For now, I feel that the Facebook app profile page is sufficient for that app.
The next app I'm working on is a Software as a Service system where the customers are small to medium sized organizations. This will be the type of app where the site's home/landing page will be focused on new user sign-ups with a small link to existing customer login.
These two apps use similar technologies, but they are targeted at totally different audiences.
I have a domain name that I'm planning to use for my company name, but I don't know what to put on a company site right now. Do I even need one yet? Should I just stick to a separate site for each app and not worry about a common site? I don't think individual users of my apps will care that they are all connected. If I were building iPhone apps, then I could see how listing all the apps on a company page would be beneficial because users who like an app could see what else I've built.
Does it make sense to wait until I'm working on these apps full time or have an employee or two before creating and maintaining a company site?
How important is company branding as a micro ISV? Is it OK to only do product branding? What would I be missing by not having a company website?
The rule of thumb that I hear quoted is to keep all of your products separated, unless they are complementary to each other, or targeted to the same audience.
I have a company site, instead of a product site, but that's because I have a combination of products that are complementary, and because I felt that my time would be better spent making my programs better, than trying to maintain a site for each product.
From a marketing point of view, what people buy (product) should have a stronger branding, than the company. At least while you are small. Customers will remember your product's name, more times than they will remember your company's name. I've seen this behavior from watching my web logs.
As usual, you will have to do what's best for your style of working.
I started in the reverse direction. First I created my company site, where I have information about me and my company. As I gained clients, I put up some information about the kinds of projects I've worked on, and the unique problems I was solving.
Recently, I started working on a few products. For each, I have a separate website about that product in particular. However, I keep a small link on each site saying that it's a product of my company, with a link back to my company website. On the company website, I don't talk about the product, just make a mention as if it were a client, with a link back to the product site.
Basically, the two need to be kept separate, as you say, to avoid confusing clients of a particular product. But at the same time, you want to show that it's a reputable company with several products under its belt, so to speak, that is building these applications.
You're not really missing anything, but I would create one anyway with links to each of the product sites. Your product pages can (if you want) have a company/about page/link that points to your company website. One can argue that it makes sense to have the company site linked to form your products because you can put all the common payment and policy and other content there, but that is probably not a huge issue for you.
Don't sweat it - you're fine without it until you decide to make a brand for your company.
For my first company I went the other way - a company name/site then the products (that is the order in which I did things). If I had made a product(s) first I would have done it the same way you did - product site(s) first. (Initially I was just consulting, that's why the entity existed before the products.)
I believe you should always have the big picture and vision in mind. I understand that you are doing this on your spare time but at the same time I see that you are considering working on these apps on full time basis and forming a company.
I believe keeping with the big picture and vision, having a company/corporate web site is very important as customers need to see and feel the credibility of the company that builds and stands behind these apps. (If you are wondering what to put on the company/corporate website I would be more than happy to help on my spare time, just send me an email).
Another big picture consideration would be having some consistency in the brands that you develop. Of course some more information in regards to your apps and their target audience is necessary in order to be able to determine how much consistency but its something to consider.
Having a company site will help distinguish you from the thousands of others hacking code together in their basement. It establishes an identity for your company no matter what size it is, and will give a bit more consumer trust in your product. However I would suggest reading Jason's blog entry on small company image here:You're a little company now act like one
Since one of your apps is a SAAS product anyway you are going to need a site for it. So go with separate sites. I would recommend a basic company site as well. Customers expect to be able to find out general company info from the web. It doesn't have to be complicated just a landing page, about us, products, and contacts -- You could use a template from a hosting site to build it, or pay someone as small amount to create the site.