Editor’s Note: I published this late on 11/18/15, and at the time, we still had the starter theme. BrandId, our design team, pushed this interim theme on 11/19/15, which was faster than I anticipated.
We migrated this website to a new platform last week, and during the migration, we needed to rock a starter theme. I had people ask me why on earth I would run a starter theme, which, in case you didn’t know, is just not done on an established, live site that gets thousands of visitors a day.
It’s like riding around on a moped while your friends are riding Harleys.
Our migration to Rainmaker had a major hitch to it: our prior theme was so hacked together and contained so much cruft that it wasn’t compatible with the platform. After a week of valiant efforts by the Rainmaker support team, I had to decide whether I was going to push the migration forward without our old design or hold off on the migration until we got our design into a better place.
I decided to drive forward.
Dehacking and debugging a website theme takes about as long as starting from a clean code base. One of the reasons I wanted to move was to speed the site up. Between the plugins required to keep things running the way I wanted them and the aforementioned hacks, the website was running slower than acceptable limits. So starting clean made sure we weren’t pulling over the very thing that was one of the prompts for the move in the first place.
And since it’s not my first redesign rodeo, I knew that pausing to get the design just right would mean pushing out the migration until mid-January, given the holiday season. So the choice was really “migrate today” or “migrate in mid-January.”
And, most important, if we migrated in January, we wouldn’t be able to start building the resource library, courses, and products that are queued up, too. Realistically, those wouldn’t have been showable until Q2 of next year.
Since I’ve been working on more deliberately modeling my message AND I’ve told people that it’s better to show people what you’re doing rather to hold onto it until it’s just right, it felt out of integrity for me to not do it myself. It’s not that I didn’t have my fair share of fears and hangups, but all of the stories about what you’d think about me were, well, about me, not about you. We can choose which story drives us and I wanted to choose one that’s closer to my values, what matters, and the truth.
If you’re one of my yaysayers, you’ll be more excited about the progress and what you’ll soon see than about the website design anyway. And since you keep the lights on and make this whole thing worth doing, why not focus on you?
But what about the many thousands of people who’ll see the site for the first time? Again, ego aside, they won’t know how the site looked last week since, by definition, they’re new to the site. And if the words and content doesn’t resonate with them, they’ll move on anyway.
Going back to my why, yes, it’s true that part of the migration is so that the website attracts and serves new readers better. But it’s also true that there are a lot of you who have been hanging out for years who deserve more, too. Better to spend the time loving the ones we’re with rather than going out to try to get more.
As I was thinking about writing this post, I was going to say something about the fact that conversions and core metrics are down. But the thing is, that’s not true across the board. Conversions are about the same. Traffic is up. Pages per visit are down.
I’m not surprised by the metrics being down and I shouldn’t be surprised about them being about the same. From a rational point of view, running a bare theme for a few days or few weeks isn’t the end of the world, but from an emotional point of view, it felt like it would be. It’s a big deal to have a live site that gets thousands of visitors every day be under construction.
And yet … it’s not.
There are plenty of people who have fugly websites with great content on them that are doing just fine. Sites go down for a few days and people recover. Hell, through this process, I found out that our RSS feed wasn’t working properly and the emails that triggered off of publishing hadn’t gone out properly since August. Finding the broken RSS feed helped explain some other trends and metrics that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to, and were it not for migrating when we did, I may not have seen that problem until January. That would have been far worse than running a starter theme for a few weeks.
It’s so easy to fight with perfectionism or feeling like we’re just not cool if we’re on our own metaphorical mopeds, but the truth is, progress trumps perfection. Every time. For you. For me.
Some people might snicker, but this moped got me closer to you today instead of four months from now. That’s what matters. (Beep Beep!)