Ok, so I haven’t had kids yet, I’ve never climbed a mountain, and I’m not particularly medal-worthy at anything, BUT I am married and I have been a contestant on a PBS game show episode (subject matter: Mythology) that never aired, so believe me when I tell you that launching a website is magical! This week, the Save.the.Date FIELD 3 team launched our Website at http://www.savethedatecampaign.com/. We also (critically) redesigned our logo.
Earlier, our team decided to organize by function, assigning a Primary and Secondary owner to each area: Technology, Marketing, Product, Finance, Operations and Taskmaster General. The idea is that Primaries have passion for the role, while Secondaries have the requisite expertise. As the Chief Technology Officer, I’d never launched a website before or wrote much code beyond VBA for Excel, but I am really passionate about the impact of technology on the world, and especially wanted to use FIELD 3 as an opportunity to learn more about technology in an execution setting.
Our website is still very much a work in progress, but I’m not kidding, if you haven’t already launched a website or even just a landing page for your FIELD 3 business, I highly recommend it. Even if your business is “a fresh new twist on outdoor plumbing” and has nothing to do with the internet, do it anyway – just for the rush you get at 2 am when you push the publish button and your site goes public to the world. No matter how simple it is or how little time it takes to create, I promise it’s one of those rare “I’ll have what she’s having” moments in life.
I get it, though – lots of us HBSers are really nontechnical and have trouble with failing at things. So to help you out, I’ll share 6 lessons that, had I known before, would have made my experience much easier.
1) Just do it! Iterate later. I spent about 3 days researching different web publishing platforms, trying to identify the best one for our specific business needs. Then my teammate Ravi (a serial killer entrepreneur) said he’d heard about Weebly earlier that morning. Within 10 seconds, we went to the site, signed up for an account and picked a theme. We launched later that evening.
Check out Weebly here: http://www.weebly.com/
If you’re just looking for a landing page to gather emails, and not a full website, check out Launchrock: http://launchrock.com/
2) Domain registration ≠ Web hosting. Registering a domain name basically gives you the right to a unique address on the web. It’s pretty similar to a file path on your computer (which tells you where each file is located), only this address is for the Internet. Web hosting, by contrast, is a service that stores your site’s content and files. The two are related and both are needed to create and access a website. It’s particularly confusing because often, but not always, these services are bundled together or with web publishing sites. See below:
GoDaddy – Domain registry and web hosting: http://www.godaddy.com/
Hover – Domain registry only: https://www.hover.com/
Weebly – Web hosting and web publishing platform http://www.weebly.com/
3) Don’t put too many words or colors on your site. People who click on a Facebook or Google ad for a random site called Save.The.Date (see what I did there?) probably don’t like to read much. Too many colors can also be distracting. I learned this from my teammate and ex-Googler, Prem.
4) PowerPoint isn’t exactly terrible for making logos or other graphics for your site. Though my husband (a graphic designer) throws a tantrum literally every time I mention PowerPoint (daily, guilty, former management consultant), the images I created for our site using PowerPoint were pretty high resolution, easily saved as a PNG file and a cinch to upload to Weebly.
5) You don’t have to understand code to successfully implement it. Take for example social plugins such as the Facebook Like button. All you have to do is fill out a simple configurator tool on Facebook and it generates the code for you. Then you just cut and paste the code onto your website.
Facebook buttons: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/like/
Twitter button: https://twitter.com/about/resources/buttons#tweet
Google +1 button: http://www.google.com/webmasters/+1/button/
Another example is color references in the HTML & CSS code behind your site. Each of the colors of your text, background, etc. are expressed by a 6 digit hexadecimal. I naively tried to read about hexadecimals on Wikipedia to understand what this means, and it turns out there’s a website that converts colors to hexadecimals for you, so no need to look further: http://www.colorpicker.com/.
6) Google Analytics can be frustrating, but it’s useful. Set up a Google Analytics account by…Googling it. Once you have the account, be sure to paste the Tracking code (found in Admin) onto your site. This allows you to understand who’s visiting your site, from where, for how long and to do what. When you, your teammates and your moms are the only ones visiting your site, it can be frustrating to stare at 50 different cuts of the same data on sparsely-populated graphs, but once you go viral (and let’s face it, we all will, of course) this can be a powerful tool for e.g., assessing the efficacy of online ad campaigns, testing the usability of your site and measuring customer stickiness. See link: http://www.google.com/analytics/