A Story of A Soft Launch

Too many people don't put things out there until they are 100% ready, myself included, you will never be 100% ready.

What is a soft launch?

A soft launch is a launch that has no real launch date, you just put your site or application live without announcing it. This has many benefits from being able to hone the website or application without having a lot of users and traffic. At some later stage, you may decide to do a launch, especially if your product is commercial and you intend to monetize. For more on a Soft Launch jump over to Wikipedia.

Why I did a soft launch

There are many reasons why I did a soft launch. I will outline the main reasons why in this article in the hope that I can inspire you to put your site live so you can also hone your skill.

It can be daunting I know and we bash ourselves up over not being good enough. I have listed 6 reasons below, some of them are related to each other but I have listed them separately as they are unique in some way. These are not the only reasons but seem like the main reasons. The order they are in has no meaning apart from it being the order they fell together, let's take a look.

Work out My Direction

Not only did I want to concentrate on how I wanted to present myself and my expertise since I have a broad range of skills, but I also wanted to make sure that I was on the right track before I went all-in on something.

The initial collection of articles on this site has allowed me to find a direction and a topic or subject area. This site as I wrote in What is this design kojo thing anyway? is a place to put experimental work and I may syndicate some of it to more specialised domains in the future. The general topic area is front-end development but I have also been building out a small Drupal 9 get started guide to share my experience in developing this site and also so I had some different types of content to design for. That leads to my second reason.

Wanting to re-focus on front--end UI/UX development I needed content to design for.

Without Content You Can't Design

Due to not actively sharing my work for the last 10 years I had no content to design for and was unsure what type of content I was going to produce. In a way, I still don't know what content I will be producing in the future.

Since I now have content on this site that needs better presentation I can design content types and also content elements. Also by having a bunch of content on the site I can now write about the UI/UX process while building the new front-end.

Advocate for content-first design

As a side note, in the past I have built sites for business' with no content, I built a brand and then the content was filled in, this is somewhat reverse of what should be done and I guess I passed a lot of value to those clients in the past. Some of my most successful projects have either come with content or I have included to get it written and created. In a normal design process, the content should be supplied to you by the client and if they don't have it then they really need to get to work for you.

I will be writing about this in more detail in the coming months and I will be sure to link to it here. However, let's have a quick look at what content types and elements I have identified.

Content types I have identified

The types of content I have are; thought and or theory pieces, technical guides or coding pieces, and design pieces. These pieces can be broken into other smaller parts or elements.

Elements I have identified

I have identified elements such as

  • code samples
  • code demonstrations
  • images
  • text
  • video

And HTML Semantic elements such a

  • article
  • figure
  • aside
  • li
  • ol
  • ul

These content types and elements also need to be thought about for mobile, desktop, dark, and light.

Since I have real content to work with I can now design.

Not knowing what content I would produce

This is related to the previous point.

As I got started I realised the content I was writing doesn't really stand alone, every time I write I see that I either need to write one or 2 supporting pieces or add aside content.

This means I need to design the aside content, add notes to remind myself to link to the forthcoming content, and create a process and system. This will always be the case I have learnt but when starting out it was hard to see this aspect of creating content.

What is aside content?
It is supplementary content that isn't needed for the main article but adds the necessary explanation for some readers. This content should be designed in such a way that it stands out as separate from the main content and mark up should also indicate it.

So to summarise the first 2 reasons, I really didn't know what type of content I was going to write, how it would need to be presented, or what styles would be needed to present it. Therefore I needed to write a variation of content with a variety of elements that I may create so that in the future I can produce high-quality articles at a faster pace. This generally is not a problem when someone else is supplying the content, as the content brings with it these elements and also a voice, a tone, and a whole lot of design hints that can be used.

Workout a publishing process and hone my writing skills

When I started out I hadn't written for a while, I had written reports for business partners and clients, I had written blog posts for travel websites but writing tech & design related stuff was new to me, well for 8 years I hadn't written openly and for that reason I wanted to make sure what I putting out is adding value to my readers. I am still proofing and reviewing some of the content written back in August 2020 as I work out the design for various types of content but I also feel now my writing and process is allowing to produce better quality, this takes time.

Part of writing also means you should develop a voice, a tone, and vocabulary. A great case study on this that I recommend to any business trying to distinguish themselves is the Mailchimp tone and voice style guide, you should be able to find that with a search of your favourite search engine.

Writing Style and Voice I hadn't been writing for a bit, so even though I was publishing the content wasn't up to a high level. This is somewhat related to point one in needing content to design for.

Create a Voice and a brand

The way your voice is created can then be used in all your marketing. This may come naturally for some but for me, I felt like I need to develop a personal brand and then stick with it. Having a few small rules just makes it easier in the end.

In creating this voice and tone you need to write, it's a bit of a chicken and an egg thing, so part of this process is still underway but I also studied some writing courses to help out.

For me this was important as I am an extra extrovert if there is such a thing so putting out quality content that speaks for itself is important, I don't feel I am there yet and possibly never will be but to start by doing a soft launch has allowed me to at least get to a standard I am proud to put out there.

I Wanted to Create My Own Platform

This is more due to being a designer and an off-the-shelf solution isn't what I wanted or needed.

If I am going to talk about UI/UX and front-end design and aesthetics then what a better place than my own site to put into practice what I am talking about, as I talk about it. You may say you are using Drupal though, and that would be right. However I do believe there is no point in redesigning the wheel and Drupal gives me the flexibility to build an awesome front-end without worrying about the back-end, yep even a JAM Stack needs to have an API, that's the A in JAM.

Final Thoughts

That's about it. In this article, I looked at what a soft launch is and then some of the reasons why I chose to do one. Some of the reasons I made are illustrated in the fact that I don't have the content types ready even for this piece, some of the ideas discussed such as not having supporting content ready, and not being that great at writing are also well illustrated.

Over time as I find more focus I will possibly do a hard launch for a section of this site. Hope you learnt something and if you'd like to follow on with the redesign and other thoughts as they come, I'd be stoked for you to sign up to my newsletter and get first access to my content. Yes, that's right, you will get first access to most of the content plus I have a few other things I will be launching very shortly so to be first on the list and in the know you know what to do. 😉

Thanks for reading.