Tuesday, 31 August 2010

How not to relaunch a website

This weekend I received an email from a mail order company that will remain nameless. Its title was “New Website - Now Live! PLEASE READ”. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It gets worse: “The new website may take up to 24 hours to become available online while the new site registers across the internet. If you still see the temporary page this is because it has not yet updated on your ISP's nameservers.” Say what?

Followed by:“Unlike previous websites our new website is completely automated. Please ensure your orders are correct when you place them as we may not be able to change them at a later date if an error is made prior to goods being despatched.”

This is wrong on so many levels. First, if the website hadn’t updated “on your ISP’s nameservers” why was this company promoting the relaunch? Seems strange that it would publicise a launch when it wasn’t confident that the site was truly live.

Second, adding that the website is now “completely automated” seems redundant to me. What did customers do before? Did they shop online, realise that they bought the wrong size or colour and then call up to change orders after they were placed? It must have been a common problem for the company to address it in a serious-looking plain-text email.

Third, the tone is all wrong. You’d think that relaunching a website would be a happy occasion with plenty to shout about. But this email doesn’t tell me why I should buy from the new site. There are no details on the new site’s features, nor is there any sort of offer to tempt me to click through.

What I would have suggested is soft-launching the site. If the bank holiday is a key sales period, it would have made sense for the site to go live earlier but without fanfare. That would have given the retailer enough time to fix any bugs before the important weekend. It could then follow up with a much more appealing email complete with images and a bit of information on exactly what was new—something that was sadly lacking from this email.--MT


  1. As the person who wrote the e-mail I can only apologise for it's poor implementation. After almost two months of delays and missed deadlines we were working late when we managed to get the final integration to our system completed. We e-mailed out immediately, it wasn't our best announcement!

    Our relaunch was a happy period, mixed with a lot of relief after the problems we had. The response has been terrific despite our awkward e-mail. We hope to have many new features to e-mail about soon and will take your advice to heart.

  2. Thanks for responding, I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. I haven't yet looked at the new site, but as you have impressed me once before (see a previous blog post), I look forward to being impressed again.--MT

  3. Thanks, yes I did see that blog after this one and was glad you like the idea. We've run a mail order measuring service for years but it was very complicated. Also, it's quite staggering just what people get told they measure by shops.

    Customers have found a couple of bugs in what we've just done (namely if you're not narrow we don't tell you) and for some reason the brand recommendations are not popping up but we're working on fixing those issues this week.

    As a small family business we are taking a big step and i'm sure we won't have it all perfect. Customers have given us some great feedback over the past few days (including that email)and i'd be happy to receive yours too.

    Kind regards