If you are a successful web based business there is a phenomenon that occurs with regularity at the end of your second year of operations — the necessity to rebuild your website from the ground up.
If you are not successful, you are out of business by then. Sorry.
You wake up and realize the following:
1. In your rush to launch back two years ago, you did not have the opportunity to develop a website as good as you wanted.
You also knew almost nothing about websites. You’re not a web developer; you’re a startup, founder, CEO, entrepreneur.
You are an aspirin or a vitamin.
You may have even used a developer to customize a fairly good piece of wizardry — talking to you Shopify, et al — and it was OK at the time. It worked.
Two years in, OK is no longer good enough. The bar keeps rising on the crest of your success.
Do not be too hard on yourself. Most of the people who are successful launch at 80% completion, lurch into Minimum Viable Product, and operate.
Plenty of startups are throttled in the crib whilst fighting good enough v perfect. If you wait for perfect, you miss the market opportunity and you die.
Being late is always fatal.
2. You cobbled something together that met the criteria of “good enough” but not perfect.
You knew next to nothing about SEO marketing and your website now feels like it was made using a chain saw and a wrecking ball.
It is a hard admission to make, but you’re a founder and you have grit and folks with grit do hard stuff 24/7.
3. With the passage of time and immense amounts of real world, customer feedback, you realize that your website is pretty weak.
You simultaneously realize you will never be Miss America or play in the NBA/WNBA. Deal with it. [Why is there no Mr. America competition? Get back to me on that, please.]
This is only possible because you have grown, you are more knowledgeable, and you can see the costs of not being better.
You realize there are new developments in the software, that there are enormous gaps in your web strategy, and that you know your business so much better than you did at launch.
4. You conclude that you must redo EVERYTHING. You pack a lunch with two sandwiches (fig tapanade on both of them) because it is going to be a long, long, long day — but you are one of the winners, cher.
Do not panic. This is a measure of success, not failure. This happens to everybody.
Think how Rent the Runway felt when they had to stop adding new customers.
So, there you have it, but the chore is actually harder than the original launch because you have to keep operating.
So, what do I do, Big Red Car?
Like everything, you crawl, walk, run meaning you subdivide the effort into where you are and where you need to be and what needs to happen to make it a success — all while continuing to operate.
How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Here are some tips:
1. Identify your slowest time of the year — if you have one. That is when you want to launch the changes. Work backward from that date.
2. Hire better developers than you used the first time around — you have made the change from AA to the Big Leagues, cher.
Know, also, that you are an infinitely better customer because you know what you want.
3. Figure out what building blocks you can subdivide the development into and get help with budgeting time and money to do each plus remember to budget time and money for integration and testing.
Testing is often overlooked. Hire some folks to stress test the new site.
Time spent on this phase of things — programming — can save tons of time down the road.
If you hire the right developers or a development shop, they will instinctively know all this stuff and be a huge help to you. Hire someone who has chops in your industry.
4. Take a Chinese menu approach — three levels of development with a list of features in each column. Schedule, budget, and estimate the time and money to do each individual item thereby building from the bottom up.
5. Use the effort as a bonding exercise with customers — ask for input. This is a way to develop brand loyalty, if it applies to your specific enterprise.
6. Communicate what’s happening and how it may impact your business.
Back in September 2019, the Rent The Runway problem was in the air, but they waited too long to communicate it to their customers. They should have started three months earlier.
Pro tip: Loyal customers will support your efforts even if you stumble a bit if you are transparent and make early contact, maintain contact, and let them know the progress.
So, there you have it, dear founder, CEO, CTO, entrepreneur. Perfectly normal, like getting chicken pox.
Hang in there, America. Get the vaccine. Get your flu shot. Be careful.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Happy New Year and let’s make sure to kill off 2020.