Stuck on the Launchpad

Jedi mind tricks for getting your web site done

We see it all the time. Our clients hire us to get a web site put together. We build it, provide tools, training, and everything, and then it sits there on our development server, waiting for them to finish writing up those new pages they wanted to add. Weeks go by. Then months. And in a couple cases, years.

This does nobody any good. We want to launch your site so we can talk about it, and show our work to the world. Your customers are still visiting your stale, old, unmaintainable site. You've already committed the effort to start doing the web site--now it's time to see it through to completion. And, unfortunately, there's always a bit more effort at the very end than anybody expects.

It's not just web sites--we all have projects that languish on the back burner, none of which would take that much effort to push across the finish line, but collectively they make you freeze, make you get stuck. So here are three tips towards getting unstuck, getting that site launched, getting it done.

3. Create a launch checklist

Checklists are a great tool for building momentum on a project. Write down everything you can think of, that absolutely must happen before the site can go live. Get very granular in the details--add each page that needs fresh content to your list, and be sure to include the little things like copyright notices, site footers, contact details, and others. No matter who builds your site, ultimately it is your web site, and you should know everything about it. One task on your list should be to visit every page on the menu to make sure it's presentable and has the right information.

Check ListMake sure each item on your list represents a specific action. Vague tasks leave you hanging on where to start--find the specific action associated with the item, and write it down.

Once you have a list, start checking things off. If you're a little overwhelmed, start with the easy stuff--click links from the home page and start going down the list. And as you go, cross things off your list. Few things are as satisfying as the act of crossing something off a list. Before you know it, you'll have a good part of the work done. But if you're like most people, you may find that there's a couple very large tasks that just don't seem achievable without a lot more effort.

2. Re-evaluate your launch criteria if necessary

Don't let a desire for perfection stand in the way of launching a site that's good enough. We all like our projects to be as good as possible, and when you're working on a public image that represents your business, sometimes "good enough" is never good enough. But a web site is not a printed brochure--it can be changed after you launch it. The whole point of building a web site in a content management system is so that you can easily change it over time. The web is a living medium, and making changes to your web site makes it more effective.

In fact, if you can engage your customers in the design process, you might just get rewarded with more loyalty and more customers. People like getting asked for their opinions. And if you listen, and incorporate feedback from your users, you give them a sense of ownership in your site--which can result in more sales!

The launch of your new web site is the beginning of its existence, not the end. If you're not in there adding new content, interacting with your visitors, and doing things that make your web site grow, you're not making the most of your web site.

You're probably not going to get a horde of visitors when you launch your web site anyway. Very few web sites are runaway successes on day one. Most build up an audience over time, and today, the most successful web sites have active conversations and devoted users who do the hard work. Give these users a reason to like your site and some tools to help them promote you, and then get out of their way!

It's far better to launch an imperfect web site early to start building a following and find your users, rather than waiting for months or years to launch something that doesn't leave room for improvement. Your web site is going to be imperfect no matter what--may as well get it working for you as soon as you possibly can! So go back to your launch checklist and for those tough things on the list, ask whether they are really necessary to have a functioning site. If not, move them to a list of things you'll do some time after the launch.

1. Countdown to zero, and launch!

The mind is a funny thing. It forgets about crucial details until they become critical. It freezes and gets overwhelmed in the face of a daunting effort. It can also be relatively easily tricked, distracted by trivial things.

Shuttle launchIf you've ever gone skydiving or bungee jumping, you've seen the vast gaping nothingness below, and had to overcome all your natural instincts to jump. How did you do it? Almost certainly by having somebody do a countdown for you. 3...2...1...Jump! If you can focus on the countdown, you can distract yourself enough to do crazy things.

And let's face it. You've been working on this web site for weeks, if not months or longer. You have a lot of personal emotion invested in it. What if people don't like it? What if they think it's ugly? What if they don't like the writing style? What if they don't like me? That's what your unconscious is probably telling you. What if the parachute doesn't open? What if the bungee cord is too long? It's all the same stuff, irrational fears that may be legitimate, but if you've gone through the checklist, made sure all the necessary things are done, it's time to launch and let it go.

Set a launch date. Decide that on this date, the site is going live whether I've gotten my stuff done or not. Something magical happens when you do this--you make the launch inevitable. Suddenly you're adapting to the schedule, able to distinguish what needs to happen from what you'd like to happen. You may find yourself working a couple long days right before the launch to pack as much in as you can, but you've added a constraint that motivates you to do it.

And when you hit the launch time, launch it, whatever state it's in. There's always time to fix it up later.

0. Celebrate!

You've hit the launch date, and launched your site. Congratulations! Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, tell the world about your success, and feel good about your accomplishment. You've reached the first big milestone in your new site. Now it's time to start using it.

If you have a Jedi Mind Trick to add, please leave a comment on our site!


Customer Spotlight

This month we're highlighting one of our newest customers, and one of the fastest projects we've launched.

Client Spotlight


Booktrope's goal of getting online books to as many people as possible (for free!) was a project right up our alley, fitting nicely with our open source foundation.

Freelock News

What's new at Freelock?

After a fairly quiet spring, summer has been picking up. Our phone has been ringing quite a bit for the past few weeks, and we're excited to have some great new projects. We're always looking for more...

Right now, we're particularly interested in doing projects for medium-sized companies and organizations who value working with a company that has technical depth and experience. There's lots of other web development companies out there, and many of them cost substantially less. But when you want it done right, you can count on us to deliver.

This month we seem to be talking with a lot of clients about data. Checklists, collecting data from multiple sources, setting up dashboards and graphs to make data on a web application more dynamic, collecting data from people on a web site. If you know anyone who needs a web application to collect data, mash up data from multiple sources, or display data in ways that make trends apparent, put them in touch with us!

Thanks for reading this far, and if you'd like to talk, call me at 206-577-0540x20, follow me on Twitter @freelock, email me at john at, or leave a comment on our site.

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