How Good Should Version 1.0 Be?

Posted By Debbie on December 16, 2010

I recently heard a few people say that if you’re not somewhat embarrassed by version 1.0 of your website, you’re doing something wrong. I can’t think of a reason to not make the first thing the public sees from you as fantastic as it can be.

An old commercial has the timeless line of, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I was thinking about that again when I saw answers to a Facebook question about why the search engine Cuil failed. People explained the early tech problems they had, which then made search results junky. People got fed junky search results, and they didn’t want to come back or give them a second chance. Cuil wasn’t enough to make them stop using Google or whatever they had, and that was it. Impression formed, decision made.

To me, version 1.0 should have been thoroughly tested, especially with a focus group made of up people from your target audience. Launch something you’d be proud of. Sure, it won’t be perfect, but why not shoot for close to perfect?

I recently saw a startup that has plenty of competition already launch something that I felt needed more time in the oven. The UI was gloomy and dreary whereas competitors had designed “brighter” happy cartoon lands like Twitter or Skype. Their UI was dark and plain. I found things hard to use and counterintuitive in places. How will they bring people over from competitors? Why not show me something compelling and amazing so that I stick around and tell friends?!

This also reminds me of what I once heard Seth Godin say about the Microsoft Zune, which was being developed when iPods were already all the rage. He basically said that if MS is not developing the iPod killer, then what’s the point. If you’re not developing the product that will make people throw away their iPod, what do you really have.

I ask that to startups who are launching sites, products, or services, that may not be ready. You often only get one very short chance to make the impression people will always have of you. Show them the best you have in that moment. Don’t show anything that’s not quite ready. Show them the iPod killer for whatever your market or vertical is. If your company is not so hot that people will drop what they are already using, then what do you really have?