Definition: Soft launch vs hard launch vs beta launch

Lessons in web project management

One thing I have learned about managing projects in web development, or project management in general, is how important it is to manage expectations. Expectations management is basically ensuring that the expectations between and among the team is aligned. If expectations are high but delivery is low, then somebody will be disappointed. I hate it when clients are disappointed at the end of the project, particularly after we have worked so hard and probably given them tons of free hours because we’ve blown the budget (probably by exceeding scope and delivering more than what we had expected to deliver).

So, it is critical that everybody be on the same wave length, the same sheet of music, and speak the same language. Speaking of language and semantics, I would like to suggest some definitions around the concept of launch – web launch, that is.

  • Soft launch – definition: we have done the work, built the website, and moved it to a staging server where the client can upload content and/or perform user acceptance testing (UAT)
  • Hard launch – definition: there is a hard deadline when the website MUST LAUNCH because of an event, advertising campaign or some other strategic milestone or deadline
  • Beta launch – definition: we have done the work and pushed the website with known bugs and incompleteness to a live, public environment for the purpose of testing and feedback
  • Launch failure – definition: when something bad or unexpected happened during the launch and the site crashed or was delayed or some comedy of errors happened
  • Failure to launch – definition: it doesn’t happen.  The site didn’t get finished, didn’t launch, doesn’t work, ran out of time, ran out of money, ran out of patience, ran out of good will

Of course, we want nothing but a fantastically successful launch.  At inQbation, we strive for a perfect launch every time.  But, most important, is managing expectations and being transparent so everybody can make whatever adjustments are needed to mitigate risk and maximize chances of success and a perfect launch, regardless of whether it is soft, hard, alpha, or beta.

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