The Pain of Launching Your Own Projects

Ask anyone who has redesigned their own website or released an open source project, pushing something live can be painful. I think there are two primary reasons for this:

  1. concern about making a great first impressions
  2. the lack of constraints that are normally in place when working on client projects.

Launching and redesigning your own website is mentally tough. It’s rarely a technical problem. Since it’s your own site and no one paying you to build it, it can be very easy to keep adding features and polishing. Both of which delay the launch date.

Although they are often the source of stress, budgets and deadlines are useful. I’ve experienced if you embrace a constraint rather than ignore it, you will quickly re-prioritize the tasks and find innovative work-arounds for the largest tasks. We do this all the time when working on other projects, the trick is keep focused when working on your own projects.

Take this website for example. I went from PSD to Launched in 13 days (17 if you count the weekends). If this was a client project, that would be utterly horrible for this small site. However in the My-Project Timezone, that’s not too shabby. Don’t get me wrong, this site isn’t perfect, instead it’s littered with warts (none of which I’m going to point out). I didn’t focus on building the perfect site, I focused on good enough for launch.

Pick a Deadline

After launching a few projects, I’ve learned a few useful tips. Pick a deadline and keep your feet to the fire. If it doesn’t look like you can launch by that deadline, rip out features. One large wart for this site, is a missing portfolio section. That was a very intentional omission, one I have designs and even HTML/CSS for, but it was cut in favor of launching. If you’re not a fan of deadlines, set a fake budget and track your time against it. That may even provide a more realistic picture on how you much effort you put into the project.

Polish After Launch

Another tip I’ve learned: polish after launch. We can become consumed with polishing and tweaking to the point that it holds us back. One advantage our projects have over client projects, is that there’s nothing stopping constant polish after launch. If it’s the critical eye of peers and competitors forcing you to make it perfect, stop and relax. Making a good first impression can drive us insane. It’s important to remember projects don’t stop at launch, they evolve over time. Get it to “good enough”, launch it, then continue polishing.

Solve Simpler Problems

Finally, there are always going to be implementation issues that will get in our way. Our first reaction to figure them out, and that is great, but don’t get hung up on it. It’s okay to change course, alter the final solution, or even post-pone troubling issues. You’re going to be forced to adapt, and you can either take the timeline-hit in figuring out the original problem, or you can change the problem and solve a simpler one.

I’m not advocating shoddy or half-assed work, I’m pointing out that launching is more important than perfection.