Yesterday I was proud to announce the launch of Twin Cities Top 5. Today we launched the Denver Top 5.
We went from idea to launch in 4 days, and two of the days were on the weekend.
In this post you’ll learn how we did it, and how you can do it, too.
We pulled this off due to 3 main reasons:
- We based it on WordPress, which let us use templates and plugins to accelerate implementation.
- We had the right people with talent and experience.
- We had the momentum of excitement.
Like any project, this could have dragged on for weeks or months. We could have:
- Created a completely custom site design. But that would have set us back weeks and a couple thousand dollars.
- Waited until we had enough money to promote it big. Yeah, right.
- Built it custom on Ruby on Rails or something “sexier” than WordPress.
- Lined up giveaways and guest posts before launch.
But doing any of those things would add time and money to a project that needed to just get out the door.
Honestly there is a list longer than my arm of things I want to change or improve on the sites. For instance, I’m a bit of a design nerd, and it feels cluttered to me. We’ll definitely be addressing that when we do that awesome redesign in the coming months.
My point is: Just make it happen. There’s always more to do. Figure out how to get it out the door, and then start improving it.
How You Can Do It
1. Remember: Minimally Viable Product
Write out all the features you want, then strike out all the ones you don’t need. The goal is a minimally viable product — something that has all the functionality you need to launch, but not a single thing more. The day after you launch you can get started on Phase 2.
2. Use the Right Platform
The right platform will:
- Be popular and actively developed
- Let you build a site quickly
- Be easy to install and maintain
- Have design templates and plugins/extensions available
Depending on the type of site you’re wanting to launch, I recommend WordPress (blog or cms), Expression Engine (cms), Drupal (cms), Shopify (e-commerce), and the like.
3. Use a Template
Forget about doing a custom design for the launch unless it’s something you’re sure you need. It will set you back thousands of dollars (if you want it done right) and will add weeks or months to your timeline (depending on scope). Spend $50 on a nice template and be done. I do recommend customizing the header and colors, though.
4. Get the Right People Onboard
If you’ve got the time and talent to do it all yourself, congratulations. Even though I know how, I don’t have the time to do it all myself, and I need people who are talented and excited to help. Figure out how to get people involved. If you don’t have money, use commission, equity , ad revenue sharing, experience… be creative.
5. Find a Good and Reliable Designer and Developer
I’m lucky that I can do both design and development. If you don’t have those skills, you’ll need to find people who do (you can learn, but that will delay things and it’s probably a waste of time). Of course I recommend Rainsong Media but I’m biased since it’s one of my companies. But you can also use friends or outsource with services like Elance and Odesk (just be prepared for frustration in the communication department).
6. Register Your Domain & Get Shared Hosting Setup ASAP
You won’t need anything more than shared hosting at first. My favorite host is Site5 — they’re cheap and the performance and uptime is great. If you need something that scales more, VPS.NET is worth looking at but it will require Linux command-line skills.
7. Write Out Your Action Steps
Take 15 minutes and write out each action step to complete the project. Things like: Brainstorm and decide on name; register domain(s); setup hosting; install WordPress; have Hannah design header; etc. Then you can run down your list and get stuff done. This is far more effective than always re-thinking action steps.
Focus is a powerful technique. Distraction wastes too much time. Isolate yourself for a couple hours at a time and get as much done as possible. Turn off IM and email. Just get stuff done.
9. Don’t Neglect Fun
Even though I was very focused on getting these projects launched, I made time to go out to lunch, play racquetball, watch a movie, attend a party and play a long game of poker. Your brain needs a break. Work hard, play hard.
This is less important if you don’t launch things often, but when you’re in a continual state of launching things like myself, it’s a necessity to stay focused and excited.
10. Enjoy the Hard Work
If you’re excited about the project it shouldn’t be hard to enjoy the work involved in launching it. (If you’re not excited, STOP RIGHT NOW and do something else!) For me, launching and starting a new venture is one of the most fun parts. Make sure to enjoy it.
For those interested, here was our basic sequence of events:
Thu, Oct 21
- I tell Abraham Piper about our idea for city communities and ask if he wants to be involved.
- Abraham comes up with the Top 5 angle.
- Founders meet, discuss, and approve it.
Fri, Oct 22
- I purchase domain names.
- I setup a WordPress multi-site install to have one platform for the cities.
- I use a theme (Mystique) to get a jumpstart on implementation.
- I setup facebook groups.
- Abraham sets up twitter accounts.
- Abraham begins writing posts.
Sat, Oct 23
- Hannah, Rainsong’s designer, creates headers for the blogs.
- I setup the sidebar and customize the theme slightly.
- I setup feedburner for rss and email subscriptions.
- I update the DNS records.
Sun, Oct 24
- Abraham finishes 2 posts for both blogs.
- DNS starts resolving.
- We launch Twin Cities Top 5.
- We tweet about it and submit social media links.
Mon, Oct 25
- We launch Denver Top 5.
- We do more tweeting and begging for fb likes.
- I write this post.