All designers experience it. If you haven’t yet, soon you will. You’ll spend months, weeks and maybe even years working towards this moment. This important moment is called the launch. It’s that very moment when you get to prove to the world that all of your struggle, commitment, sacrifice and hard work has been well worth it. You finally get to show them what you’ve created.
If you’re a student, the launch could be that moment when you’re getting ready to send off your first resume and portfolio to a company. If you’re a designer already working in the industry, it may be the first project that you get asked to be the new lead on. If you’re a product developer, it may be that moment when you attempt to convert your entire list of pre-launch emails into real paying customers. The launch can be exciting for some, but it can be a very dreaded experience for others.
I hope by sharing with you my own experience and what I’ve learned from launching a number of websites, businesses and other projects that you’ll learn how to overcome any struggles you may have and launch more often.
When I was in college, I always looked forward to completing a project, and then having the opportunity to share it with others for critique. I could show off my work, get some feedback and refine it. It was an exciting time for me. However, the older I got and the more established in my career I became, the more I started to experience the inability to launch things.
Since graduating from college with my very first portfolio website, I’ve started and unsuccessfully launched a personal portfolio site over a dozen times. This really became a struggle for me. No matter how many times I tried, I failed. Sure, some of this was because I was busy building Greenline Creative from the ground up. However, most of my problem was contributed to other things. I simply was just trying too hard. I was competing with my peers and designing for them, rather than designing for my target audience. It made me afraid to fail.
As soon as I let my fear go, the creativity started to flow, and I was able to start building a website that I was not only proud of, but most importantly was able to finally launch.
Version one of my new website actually launched two weeks ago and the new blog following soon after. The best thing about all of this, is that you guys are experiencing this launch with me. At least 90% of you have discovered this blog series through my website. As a bonus you all get to help me refine it based on the feedback you provide me. I could have waited until everything was exactly as I wanted it, but I would be losing out on a great opportunity to share my insight with you all.
Was I scared to launch this website and blog? Absolutely. The cool thing though is that I did it and you’re here to witness it.
What I’ve Learned about Launching:
- The launch is overhyped: One thing that I have learned about the launch is that you are probably making more out of it than others are. This feeling is normal. It’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Your mind wants you to feel like the whole world is waiting in suspense for you to launch something. This is because in order to stay motivated and keep pushing through the hard times to reach the finish line, you need that feeling of excitement. This is the same reason why some top athletes excel on the big stage vs on a smaller stage. It’s really motivating to feel like you have a chance to prove to everyone that you’re the best at what you do.
You should be confident, but know that not everyone is watching. Even if a thousand users all said that they will try your new product when it launches, you can bet that only a small percentage of those people will actually convert.
- The launch can be crippling: Because of the fear of failure, many designers never fully launch anything, unless they’re forced to. Launching something for the world to see opens yourself up for criticism and critique. It can be scary for all of us, but the funny thing is, this fear doesn’t apply to everything you are working on, only the projects that you feel like you have something to prove.
- Perfection only applies sometimes: As designers, we pride ourselves on perfection. Quality is the one thing that separates a great designer from a mediocre designer. With that said, it’s understandable that before we launch anything, we will want to make sure that every pixel is perfect and that the kerning on a headline is done. I’ll admit, I’m just as guilty as the next designer for having too high of standards sometimes. I’m learning every day that it’s very important for me to keep these standards in check. I do this by understanding what and who I am designing for. Once I understand that, I’ll be able to determine if that extra time spent on kerning is really necessary at all.
- Defining goals, having a plan and setting expectations is key: Without a clear goal, you can’t really measure if something is working or not. Having a clear plan ensures that you’ll account for all of the time that is needed to finish your project. Setting the appropriate expectations for what you are about to launch will help keep your emotions fully in check.
It’s important that you define what’s not acceptable, acceptable and what exceeds your expectations whenever you launch something. I have found by having this in writing and sharing it with everyone who’s on the project leaves no room for mystery or questions. Most importantly, this serves as a nice checklist to keep everyone motivated and working hard according to the plan.
- Don’t think to hard about it, just launch it: The number one thing that I’ve probably learned about launching anything is that after awhile you need to just launch it. Don’t wait and sit on it too long. Sometimes after working on a project too long, you’ll start to feel as if it’s not nearly as good as it once was. This feeling is pretty normal, but the truth is, for everyone who hasn't seen it they’ll get the same great first impression that you did.
- You can always re-launch: When it comes to launching something, we feel like we can only launch it once. I’ve felt that way for years, but it’s not true. You can always re-launch. I’m not saying you rush your ideas to just launch them, but focus on what you really need to do in order to launch something effective. Don’t worry too much about every tiny little detail. If you have a nice base and are painting the right picture, those tiny details won’t matter too much. Once you launch V1, you can then refine and launch V2. Since you really don’t know how successful your project will be until you launch it and get real valuable feedback, what do you have to lose by launching a little early? The alternative is that you spend a ton of energy designing based around assumptions and you could be totally wrong in the end.
Launching is stressful. It’s important to keep the stress down to a minimum. Keep those expectations in check and reference your plan. If your launch doesn't go entirely as expected, or you fail to launch the first time, keep trying. Don’t let outside distractions get in your way. If you have a fear of failure, try a soft launch with those you trust first. Remember to minimize the hype in your head and stay positive.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by launching. Opportunity and money is available to designers all over the world, so show the world what you’ve got before someone else beats you to it and takes your lunch money.
Communication and feedback is very important to me, so I’d love to continue the conversation with you all on Twitter. What did you guys think of this lesson? What struggles have you had when it comes to launching? How have you overcome them?