Monday, August 29, 2011

It's not 1994, please stop using "Coming Soon"

I'm constantly looking around the web for interesting, inspiring and occasionally funny things to post on my Tumblog so I look at dozens of different websites each week. In the world of Web 2.0 Web 3.0 and HTML5 I find it utterly ridiculous when I find a "Coming Soon" page.

Missing Content Example: Market Garden Brewery. Screenshot taken August 26th, 2011 at 10:43 pm.
Sure, I used some terrifically terrible animated gifs back in the day, but if you were on the web in 1994 you were most likely there for some sort of technical or scientific data. Or porn. Either way, form followed function and it was perfectly appropriate to have some sort of flashing graphic toting that you were under construction and open 24 hours!

But today, well, it's just too easy to make a good looking website. No, seriously, between the free website services, tutorials and code libraries anyone wiling to devote a bit of time can build themselves a pretty sweet and mostly free website.

I seriously can't believe that I actually used these.
My anti-"coming soon" pet peeve breaks into the following categories:

Missing Content
Simply put, you're advertising that content is missing from the page, as with the Market Garden Brewery website above. It's not altogether obvious that the lunch menu is missing, so why draw attention to it. When I first visited the Market Garden Brewery site a month or two back nearly every page was listed as "coming soon" and I have to admit I'm amazed they filled in as much as they did. Still, why advertise you failed to post specific content? It's not missing if you don't say so.

Theoretical (Re)Launch Example: Everywhere We Shoot. Screenshot taken August 219th, 2011 at 2:09 pm.
Theoretical (Re)Launch
Still building your website? Think you need a coming soon page? It may sound like a great idea, but basically, you're saying "Hey everyone, thanks for coming, but I don't have anything for you. You'll need to remember to come back and visit me again soon." If you are trying to promote yourself, but don't have a website yet, build one. Seriously, stop reading and go build something. I'll wait for you to finish.

It's even worse if you had a website, but took it down and replaced it with a coming soon page. This makes absolutely no sense at all. Websites don't (generally) expire and HTML code doesn't magically stop working after the 10,000th load. Even after 19 months, just leave it up. Even if it's not indicative of who you are today, at least it's something. Again, if you're actively promoting yourself, but your current website reads "coming soon", seriously, stop reading and go finish it. This blog post will still be here.

Missed Deadline
Okay, this is the worst. I've (sadly) seen this on the websites so many graphic designers. The site reads "New Site Coming in May", but it's already June. Listen, I understand how it goes. You work all day doing "real work" and when you get home you don't want to do more work. A few days turns into a few weeks and then a few months. It's happened to me dozens of times. But let me translate the message you sent to your website visitors: "I can't meet a deadline." Not the message you really want to share, is it?

Want to break the cycle? Good.

Missed Deadline Example: Fran Rosz Portfolio. Screenshot taken June 22nd, 2011 at 3:53 pm. Thankfully Fran has updated her website since then, albeit only to a better form of coming soon, but at least it's functional.
Use Existing Solutions
A custom website is sweet, but any website is better than a website that's "coming soon". Sign up for a free web service that is easy to manage and allows for easy, quick updates. There are so many free services out there, just pick one, upload your profile pic, add your contact info and start posting. You can always go back and tweak the design or build from the ground up later.

I love Tumblr for quick, easy posting. Blogger offers reasonably easy customizations to the layout and it pretty easy to use too. If you've already got your own website host you could go with Wordpress. Designers should check out portfolio sites like Behence or Cargo. Don't want to point people to a dozen different websites? No worries, use to connect them all.

Make It a Habit
It's easier to do something if you do it regularly. Try to post something once a month if not once a week. Took a new photo? Post it. Designed a new thing? Post It. Include the key details about what it is, then move on. Try as I might to follow this, I've fallen off the blogging, tumbling and tweeting wagon dozens of times. Sometimes you just overload.

That's fine. Say you overloaded and pick right back up. I just lost all motivation to post here on my blog for the last two month. I had started, but not finished nearly a dozen posts and I've been going back and finishing them this past week, with more to come soon. Acknowledge it, then more forward.

Remember, everyone's on the web now, every day, all day. We've got it at our desks at work, on our phones and on our tablets at home. Someone is already out there looking for you - or someone just like you. When they find you, don't give them a reason to move on to the next person.

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