How long?

February 20, 2012

I’ve been part of several web application and website developments, as well as worked for numerous software companies. In all cases, we’ve spent a lot of time testing the new app/site/software in a test environment. There’s all sorts of testing that happens with the developers before the code gets put together for overall internal development testing, then it’s released to others in the company, before being released to a select group of beta testers (users). Only after LOTS of rigorous testing in several development environments (internal development, alpha, beta, user acceptance testing [UAT], and perhaps others), does the app/software/site get released to production and then to the public.

If it’s a website, then a copy of the site is worked on on an internal web server at first, and then in the real web environment, but that URL is never made public until it’s time for release.

Anyhow, that’s my experience over the past 15+ years. So I was surprised when a site I visit regularly had this on its home page about a week ago:

This message concerns me for several reasons:

  • There’s no date on it as to when the message was first displayed, therefore anyone visiting the site has no idea what ‘a few weeks’ means.
  • What’s ‘a few weeks’? One week? Two? Four? Ten? Never?…
  • Whatever happened to testing in a protected environment while keeping the existing site running (it didn’t seem to be broken when it was up)? Perhaps add a message to the existing site to say that a new site is coming soon, but leave the functionality up.
  • This site invited sellers to sponsor them by displaying a small ad on the left and right of the main content. There were a lot of sellers, all of whom would’ve paid money for xx weeks of ad exposure. What happens to them? Do they get their money back if their ad campaign was stopped before it had run its course?

If you’re going to revamp your website/app/etc., then:

  • test it thoroughly in a development environment, while keeping the current site up
  • perhaps let users know that a new site is coming, but DON’T take down the site entirely, unless you’ve gone out of business. You’ll lose paying customers (ad campaigns) and readers.
  • provide a way for readers/advertisers to be notified when the site is back up and running. If you don’t, readers will find somewhere else to go, and will forget about you — if you have to take the site down completely, as in this case, you need  have some sort of form where they can sign up to be notified when the site is back up. (BTW, this site had an option for entering your email address to be notified when it was back, as well as options to follow them on Twitter and Facebook for updates.)

[Link last check February 2012]

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