If you wait for something to be finished, you will wait forever.
Case in point, my comics site rachelthegreat.com, which I launched a little over a year ago. It took me one year since I began building the site for me to open it to the public. I could have spent another month polishing it and making it prettier. I could have spent two months trying to figure out how I would use it after a year’s worth of posting old comics to it from my archive. I could have delayed launch for six months making things “perfect” instead of spending those six months actually using the site.
Part of the reason it took so long was that the longer I delayed, the easier the WordPress core team made it for me to implement things like custom content types and post images. Part of it was that I was a one-woman team doing the UX, development and design on weekends off my “real” job. Prior to launch, I did much research on how my readers read comics, and I used those studies to design a system that would facilitate those needs. Once I had it working and testing properly, I gave myself a deadline for launch: my 26th birthday. Without a deadline, I would have spent another six months poking and tweaking and redesigning the same home page a hundred times over. I have sketchbook entries from three years ago of that same home page that are no better than the ones I made two weeks prior to launch! After a point “ideation” turns into “masturbation.”
I released it into the wild before it was perfect. I released it when it was “good enough.”
And now, here I am, over a year after taking down the “coming soon page”, and I need to redesign the site. At the rate of posting one page with commentary per day, it has taken me this long to get through the bulk of my body of work. Now that the time draws near to post new content to the site, I’m re-evaluating how my readers and I will use the site.
For one, I won’t be posting a page a day or week. In fact, I can’t be sure when I’ll post anything. I refuse to hold myself to some ridiculous “every Monday and Friday” schedule when I have so many competing obligations. When I post comics, it will be because I was inspired to draw them. I’ll probably post them in lumps, entire multi-page story lines or one-page gags. But my visitors are accustomed to new comics daily now. I will need to give them a way to receive alerts when new comics go up so they don’t get fed up and stop visiting. I’ll need to make better use of my MailChimp, Twitter, and RSS feed resources. I’ll need the home page to show the first page in the latest story, not the last page posted. I’ll need the last page of every story to nudge visitors to share and/or subscribe. And I’ll need to interview all my readers again to make sure I’m going at this from the right angle and not imagining things.
If I’d taken six months to build the site instead of a year, I’d be posting new comics right now. And if I’d spent twice as long working on it, I would still have to redo it a year after launch because the situation has changed. But my readers would have had to wait longer to get to what they want, the comics. My readers won’t care if the background pattern isn’t quite subtle enough or the colors are a bit bright. They won’t care if my about page is a one-two punch. But there will be hell to pay if they can’t get to their comics!
Things change, nothing stays the same. Weigh your time, your manpower, and the needs of your users against your to-do list, and don’t shortchange the most important people in the equation to satisfy your own sense of achievement.
Note: There was supposed to be a cute comic illustration to go with this, but I spent all last night banging my head against a wall trying to get compass’s tests to run. And for the rest of the week I have “extracurriculars.” Taking my own medicine here and not letting the lack of cute illustrations keep me from posting this.