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Here’s a question for you.
What’s a better option for your business during a website redesign process ?
(1) To keep your old, bad website up and running or
(2) To have a temporary site with a single “Coming Soon” page?
Hang on to that thought for a moment.
You know What Photography Sites Should Have? Photography.
A few months ago, a friend of mine decided that her website needed a redesign. She’s a photographer and decided that she wanted to rethink the value she was presenting to her audience.
I thought her site was really good. It had good information. It presented a good perspective on her personality. And there was a large inventory of sample photography in well-organized categories. As far as I was concerned, no redesign was necessary.
But, being the creative type, she decided that things needed freshening up.
A few weeks passed and she asked me to take a look at what she had put up so far. When I went to her site I was surprised to find a single page with a “Coming Soon” message, a form and one photo sample.
What’s Wrong With This Picture? Get It? Picture?
“Why on earth did you pull down your site?” I asked.
“Because I want people to see the new one and not the old one,” was her answer.
Except there was one problem. The new site wasn’t ready. In her mind, the brand new site was so much better than the old site that the old site had to go. Immediately.
Don’t Rob Your Customer
Was the new website better? It didn’t matter because no one could see it. My friend was robbing every visitor of a valuable experience and quietly encouraging them to move on. Sure there was a form, but what was the incentive for the visitor to fill it out? She was doing the equivalent of turning business away at the door.
I see this happen all the time. A customer will hire us to redesign their website and ask us to take the old site down and put up a Coming Soon page.
I always say, “No,” at which point the client usually responds with a variation of, “But I don’t like the old site,” or, “But the new one will be ready soon.”
It doesn’t matter. If you have a website up that has some useful information, that’s way better than a “Coming Soon” page.
“Ah,” you say, “But what if we put all of our contact information and some useful information on the Coming Soon page?”
Usually the answer is still, “No.”
Pardon Our Dust
You know how you go to the mall sometimes and find a store with a sign that reads “Pardon Our Dust” when they are remodeling or doing some construction? Your site doesn’t have to do that. Your customer never has to excuse your dust because they never have to see what’s happening behind the scenes. Ever. You can do 15 back to back redesigns and the customer never has to know.
That “Coming Soon” page tells your customer that you can’t get your act together. It’s an overt admission that you don’t have any meaningful content to share.
Which brings me to my grand point.
Never Use A Coming Soon Page
Unless your website has something earth shatteringly bad on it, just leave it up. It’s better to give your customers a mediocre website than no website.
Sure you can compensate by beefing up your Facebook page or your Google Plus profile or your LinkedIn company page, but all of those properties exist to supplement and support your site, not replace it.
Sometimes businesses that put up a “Coming Soon” page have that page up longer than they expected for a variety of unforeseen reasons. Having a potential customer come to your site and be blocked by a “Coming Soon” page is one thing, but having them come back repeatedly when they expect the new site is business suicide.
But What If You Really Hate Your Website? I Mean REEEEEEEAAAALLLY Hate It?
I once had a customer that wanted their website redesigned simply because their partner had been – let’s use the word “removed” – from the company. That former employee’s fingerprints – and pictures – were all over the site.
“Take it down,” the principle said, “Take it down!”
As it turned out, the site itself was mostly fine, but the emotional connection to it was not.
I offered him an alternative; we would go into the old website, make a few tweaks, remove any reference to the former employee, change up some content and change any site credentials. He agreed. In the end, the site never came down and the redesign project was cancelled and replaced with a broader marketing program that focused on search and social. Despite paying a bit more up front, the overall project cost less because they spent their money wisely in the pursuit of business goals instead of trying to soothe raw emotional scars.
It was a win for everyone. Except for the former employee.
When Should You Use A Coming Soon Page?
There is never a time when you should use a “Coming Soon” page.
Come On. There’s Not One Time To Use a Coming Soon Page?
Oh, all right.
What do the examples above have in common? They are examples of sites that didn’t need a redesign in the first place. But my opening argument implies that a bad website is better than a “Coming Soon” page.
So how bad is bad?
In my entire career, I’ve only seen a small handful of examples where an old site was so unredeemable that it had to be taken down immediately.
For example, a site with text written so poorly that it lacks any reasonable clarity may cost far more to the business in terms of lost reputation and credibility. In that case – a really really really bad website – it’s worth it to work up a decent “Coming Soon” landing page.
Hacks are also a good candidate. I’ve seen sites injected in one way or another with everything from porn to pictures of vampires. In almost all of these cases, it’s just not worth the time or expense to troubleshoot. Better to develop a security-hardened, single landing page.
Sabotage is another variation of a hack. These instances are when the site is not injected with unacceptable content, but instead all of the content is wiped out by a malicious attack. You’d be surprised how many businesses do not have a back up of their own website.
These are cases where a website is so bad that taking down the old site is merited while the new one gets developed. But be sure to create a landing page that has enough content and a call to action so that it at least has potential to convert visitors.
There’s Another Point You’re Going To Make, Right?
Outside of the whole “Coming Soon” matter is a grander point which is that usually there is a knee jerk reaction to put up a temporary page because, “That’s the way things are done.”
But that’s not how they should be done. When you hire me or anyone else like me, it’s my job to help you plan for what makes sense for your business, not to follow a script that has been around since the rotating 3D logos of the 90’s. There are lots of things that people do to their websites during a redesign that make no practical sense and are only done because, “That’s the way it’s done.”
While that’s a topic for another day, the ultimate lesson is that a “Coming Soon” page only serves to cut you off from your existing and potential customers.
Now you know what to tell anyone that says that a “Coming Soon” page is the first (or any) step of a redesign project.
Are there any other bad ideas or strategies that your business is implementing that feel like benefits, but may turn out to be damaging? My team and I would love to help you save yourself the agony and unnecessary expense. If you need help, give us a shout. If you’re not local to us (we’re on the Jersey shore), we can set up time to chat about it via Skype or phone. If you are local to us, maybe we’ll have coffee. Either way, we’re not putting up a “Coming Soon” page. We’re ready to help you now.