Launch It

by Adarsh on July 24, 2011

Launch © by jurvetson

Ok, you have a great idea for a new website or product that you think will revolutionize the world.  You have all kinds of ideas for new custom features that you think will set it apart from the competition.  Perhaps you’ve already been working on this product for a while, but it doesn’t seem ready for release yet, or the costs to get it up to par seem daunting.

My advice to you – unless you’re already an established company with brand identity behind you, get the product out there as soon as you can, in its simplest, usable form.  Don’t get me wrong – take the time first to make sure everything it promises it can do now works, but don’t worry about the custom redesign or advanced features yet.  Get users out there using it now, and use their feedback to improve the product further.

I launched the first version of Chinese Learn Online like this.  I used a default wordpress theme and recorded the first podcast in my basement and got it out there.  A few weeks later, I got my first paid subscriber, who sent me a cheque in the mail.  That slowly led to another subscriber, and another, until I had enough money to hire a graphic designer to redesign the site for $275.  And that’s how it began.

Since then, I’ve used a lot of customer feedback and sales from the early subscribers to reinvest in the site and improve upon it substantially.  As more services were offered, I raised the cost of subscriptions, but let early subscribers hang on to their original plans to reward them for their early support.  There have been two advantages to this approach:

  1. I was able to get started much quicker than if I had tried to raise the funds to build the site with all its features to begin with.
  2. Much of the changes that were made to the site later on came from customer feedback from early users.  This was feedback that I wouldn’t have been able to generate on my own.  These early users were happy to see the changes they suggested being incorporated which made them evangelists and help promote the site further.

I later used this same approach to launch my STL Contacts Manager app on the app store.  That app has gone through several updates and releases, mainly from customer feedback.  The funds from early sales helped pay for future updates, and the app today is much more feature packed than anything I could ever have come up with (or afforded) had I tried to do so in the beginning.

Do you have any projects that you have been working on, that have taken forever to launch?  Is there anything you can do to simplify it, in order to get a functional, early release out there?

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