These steps won’t necessarily make your website a success, but ignoring them could seriously hurt your chances of making it in an increasingly competitive environment.
1. Operate in stealth mode until you’re ready to launch.
It’s a no-brainer, I know… but until your product is ready, keep quiet. Monitor blogs (via Google Alerts and Technorati feeds) to get an idea of how many people are mentioning your future product. And monitor your competitors while you’re at it.
2. Create buzz, make’em wonder.
Without giving too much away (see step 1), post a simple landing page on your website requesting potential user’s emails. Keep them updated when something worthwhile happens. A developer blog is another good idea. Again, exercise caution when divulging information about your product.
3. Hold a controlled, limited beta.
Use the emails collected in step 2 to invite a limited number of users to your controlled beta. Invite users who can give something back to you and your product. Controlled betas allow you to carefully grow your website, scale it, fix it and determine where the problem areas are.
4. Make it easy to use, easy to read, easy to share.
Make sure your product is usable without reading a manual or getting an advanced degree in rocket science. The user interface should flow from one action to the next. Information should be well laid out and easy to read. Get out of the user’s way. Make your product ready-to-use. Hire a usability expert and an information dashboard designer. Community oriented websites should let users share their information. Allow them to easily embed your product into their blogs, websites, Virb or MySpace. Make it easy to click and share. Let them import their address books. Let them save to del.icio.us, magnolia, digg, etc.
5. Go public (no, the IPO is a little bit later).
That’s it for now.
Easier said than done, but these steps need to be on your mind while you build your product. No, they don’t apply to every idea out there… but if it applies to yours, you’ll know it.
Step 6? What step 6? Oh, yeah… hire a consultant who knows this stuff. 😉