Build it, but will they visit?

Editorial Note: this is an older blog post written back in 2014.

You may have heard the phrase “build it and they will come.”  But how true is that mindset?  In my experience as a web developer, building the project is only one very small part of the equation.  A realistic approach looks more like this: plan it, share it, get feedback, wireframe it, start building it, test it, fix it, test again, advertise it, get more feedback, create social buzz, engage users, test again, fix, and if all is going well, keep building.

While the catchline worked in the Hollywood movie Field of Dreams, in real life applications it is not so cut and dry.  For start-ups and internet companies, you should not solely focus on building the project and instead focus on the user experience your project will create.  Think about how the end user will benefit from your website or application?  If you are struggling to see the benefits, it is a pretty good chance others may not find the value either.

How do I improve value?

1. Find out what the user wants and how you can provide it to them.  Is your website going to solve a problem for the user, save them time or money, bring them joy, provide them information, perform a task, etc?  Each project will be unique in how the user will benefit, but every successful website or application provides a clear benefit to the end-user.

2. Research, research, research.  Are you entering into a market that is already saturated?  Do you have competitors?  What are your buzzwords / keywords? What will your upfront costs be?  Write out your business plan and detail your objectives and perceived obstacles before you start building.

3. Start small, stay small and work quick.  It should not take years and years to launch.  The best approach is to start small, launch quickly, get feedback and improve your existing features before expanding and bloating.

4. Learn from the success (and failures) of others. Find out what successful companies are doing and learn from their approaches.  Borrow some of the tricks and tips they use, and engage your own customers.

5. Improve.  There is one quote you can count on: that practice makes perfect.  The more you work, the better you become.  Your first iteration may look nothing like your last, but I can bet that it improved.

6. Don’t give up. You won’t get it right the first time, or the second time… Maybe not even the 1,000 time, but if you keep improving and learning along the way, your failures will have laid the foundation to your next success.

7. Recognize failure.  Not every project is destined for success.  Some projects need to be shelved to make time for new ones.  Recognizing failure is not the same as giving up, it is merely adjusting your mindset and allowing yourself to move on to a more viable, successful endeavor.

After finishing many of my projects, I found myself discouraged because no one came to look at my work.  I spent so many hours coding that I never thought about how the user would see my project and benefit from it.

I am still learning and finding my own path to success, but I hope that these tips help you in your journey.

tagged under:
web development,
Building a mobile app