Web Site Under Construction – Reputation Under Destruction

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by a potential web design client. They wanted help with site updates, but the site was so old and poorly built that I recommend a complete overhaul in WordPress.
I submitted a proposal and followed up on several occasions, only to be put off each time. Here was the running excuse: They were too busy bidding on projects to deal with it. Call back later.
Meanwhile, their web site hosting plan expired, and they've been left with the "Site Under Construction" banner ever since.
I'm no mind-reader, but I bet they're thinking it's no big deal. That they'll get back to it eventually. That their reputation is beyond damage from something as simple as a "Coming Soon" message.
They're dead wrong. The damage to a brand can be enormous when a web site is left in limbo. When visiting, people expect to see something – anything – other than a placeholder page. They'll tolerate it for a while, but not for long. Then they'll start to draw conclusions:
  • "This business is unprofessional. It can't even do a decent web site."
  • "This business must be out of business."
  • "This business must be incompetent in its field, also. I'll find someone else."
It's not fair, I know, but it is real. By leaving your placeholder page up, you've made a real impression – a bad one.
Protect your reputation
Here are some tips to handle the transition to a new web site without ruining your good name:
– If you have a web site, leave it up until the new site is ready. Your web designer should be able to make the switch within a couple of hours, so there should be no need to post the "Site Under Construction" banner for long.
– If your site is really bad (i.e. terribly ugly or hopelessly broken), have your web designer post a clean, attractive placeholder page that teases to the new site while offering current information about your company. A feed to your Facebook or Twitter page wouldn't hurt, either. One page should be sufficient for this temporary site. Include your logo, but don't worry about matching the style of the new site. Just keep it neat and clean.
– Ditto if you've purchased a domain name but your site is under development. Get something up there, fast. Don't let the "Site Under Construction" banner occupy your space for long.
Bottom line: Your professional reputation is tied to your online presentation. Don't let a simple "Coming Soon" message damage your good name.
Web designer Robert Pitts of Lakeland, Florida, is the owner of Web Designs by Robert G. Pitts, which specializes in the WordPress content-management platform. View the company's "No-Surprises Pricing" policy.
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