Putting the cart ahead of the horse, don’tcha think?

That’s what went through my head when I decided to stop using the excuse “my site is in development” to not start publishing the content I have planned. It’s a variant on a common procrastination practice used by website owners— “the site is not ready yet”—and one that I firmly believe is harmful to the site, brand and company in the long run.

Try answering any of these questions without already having a website:

  • Who is the audience? Is it the same as who we intend to view the site?
  • What technology do they use to view the site?
  • Is the content engaging?
  • Are people reaching out via forms or social channels?
  • Where is there room for growth or improvement?

A custom website solves a specific and unique set of problems.

There is a lot more to a custom website than having something that looks good. Most importantly, the site needs to serve both the individual or company the site is representing and serve the users who interact with the site.

All websites are imperfect. Particularly right after the initial launch.

Companies are like people in that they grow and evolve over time. This means their needs for a website are not stagnant. Without a baseline understanding of where a website is at, it’s impossible to formulate a thorough plan for how a site can improve.

My official recommendation to companies and individuals who are truly starting out is to put up a simple website and/or blog (just like this one) instead of diving straight to a custom website.

There are two key benefits to this approach:

  1. 100% focus on content.
    • Custom websites require a lot of work and decision making which, for the truly new website owner, quickly becomes overwhelming or worse, paralyzing.
    • Launching a quick site with a handful of pages and a well-built but simple theme allows website owners to break down the responsibility of management into a single task—creating content—while the audience is small.
    • The role of the website owner will grow and evolve as the site itself does, not before either are ready for the additional responsibility.
  2. Quickly builds a baseline.
    • The questions posed at the top of this article will all be answered by simply having a website.
    • After a few months to a year of developing a rhythm of content creation and website management, the problems that need addressing to grow the site will start to show themselves by the site’s use by actual visitors.
    • The guesswork out of if a custom website is needed and what needs it would address is replaced by actual user statistics that guide the development of the site.

In short, having an imperfect website is the perfect first step in building the exact website both your business and your audience needs.