Ready, set, launch! Do you have a plan?
Who doesn’t agree that ending a project brings a good feeling? A launch (and a launch party!) usually mark the end of a lot of hard work and a return to “normal” work hours. Actually, I don’t think we celebrate enough at the launch point. We should call more attention to the success we achieved and the support we got from many involved in a project.
When we relaunched the William & Mary website at 11:38AM on Thursday, July 31, 2008, I had two bottles of champagne chilled and ready. (Since it was before noon, I had some orange juice to go with it.) We were all in a room together with lists of what we had to do as soon as the new wm.edu was live. We popped the cork, filled the glasses, and then my whole team did the heads down back to work thing. I had to wave my hands, use a loud voice, and say, “Wait, we have been working on this project for a year, we are going to stop and smile and feel great about what we’ve accomplished.” They did, but for less than five minutes. Then, after work on that same day (despite the weeks of nearly 24/7 commitment), I threw a party for the team, spouses, significant others, and 40 or so of our strongest campus supporters. The summary statement for this bit of advice: Have a party right away, you’ve earned it.
We are often asked by our clients about a launch plan for a website redesign project. Besides throwing a celebration bash, here are some suggestions within a few categories:
Create a technology and support plan for go-live.
- Don’t launch a new website on a Friday. I also recommend launching before noon on whatever day you pick so you have a few hours left in the workday for the unexpected.
- Back up and delete old website content. (As a result, your search will be better over night.)
- Talk to your IT team (early on) about DNS entries, redirects, and more.
- Establish a process for providing support to new CMS users and responding to email messages about errors and mistakes on the new site.
- Finalize your CMS training program. People will immediately ask you about training options.
Measure the success of the project.
Gather up statistics that demonstrate that you met the goals of the project, including:
- On time and within budget launch
- Better copy
- Number of pages of new content migrated
- Number of new photos migrated
- Number of CMS users trained
- New features (e.g., blogs, social media feeds, video)
- Sitewide information architecture and global navigation
Make announcements before launch day.
- Tell the campus community what to expect in the first few hours after go-live. Make sure faculty, staff and students know that search results may be wonky at first. And, tell people what email address to use if they find an error in the new site.
- Send out a ton of thank you notes right before launch. Language like, “Thanks for taking a leap of faith with us. We know its been crazy, but here we go and thanks for everything.” Include even the people who weren’t all that supportive because you want momentum and, after all, everybody loves a winner.
Promote the new website.
- Involve your president and suggest a carefully crafted message to internal and external groups that discusses the importance of the project and gives kudos to all who worked on and supported the relaunch. I recommend including your alumni, donors, parents and board members in this communication.
- Use your alumni magazine for a feature about the new website, including stats from the period immediately after go-live. This will also extend the buzz for your new website beyond the initial launch day.
- Use social channels, student newspapers, and media contacts to highlight successes, results and announcements. (Don’t worry about getting scooped. It’s a good problem to have if other social channels and communication outlets are talking about your new website before you have the chance to say it all first.)
- Host a luncheon on the day of the launch and ask your senior leadership to publicly thank content contributors and project team members.
- Post an announcement about your new site to EDUniverse and submit your site to the eduStyle gallery.
- Identify someone to respond to email messages filled with kudos, comments and questions.
Protect the project team.
- Don’t ask a lot of the project team in the first couple of weeks after launch. True story: I told the William & Mary web redesign project team to sit at their computers and surf the web for a week. I also instructed them to work at half speed for the two weeks post-launch.
- Even though you’ve been working like a crazy person on your web redesign, people on your campus will ask you for new things on the day after launch. It’ll go something like this, “Hi. I didn’t contact you before because I knew you were working on the website. But, now that it’s live, I’d like to talk about a series of four videos and a new website.” You should establish a time period just after launch during which you won’t start any new projects and communicate that to those who call with requests. I recommend at least a week and two if you can get away with it.
How about you? What are your ideas for celebrating success and promoting your achievements? Discuss. Here.