Publishing a Website with Whole-Structure but Little Content

Here is an interesting predicament…

For one of my client’s, the overall project is dreadfully behind schedule. (The “project” being everything related to getting an online presence for the first time ever.)

Well, I hope to have the development and web hosting part done in a week or two, but ironically they are still behind on giving me CONTENT!!!

So my question is this…

Would you “go live” with a website that has a complete “structure” to it - similar to a CMS - but which has virtually no content??

Here is what I am debating…

If I wait another 4-6 weeks for the Business to finally give me all of their edited, web-ready content, it could be Memorial Day (that’s late May for you non-U.S. types!!) before their website is indexed on Google…

By contrast, if I launch their website in the next week or so, and have as little as 2-3 articles, it may look a little silly, BUT at least the spiders can start crawling it and by the time they give me substantial content in March, the site and business will already be indexed in Google.

To me, the second approach is better in the medium-to-long-term.

What do you think?

Make them wait, and tell them the website will look ridiculous empty.
It might be great if Google starts indexing, but you want people to come and keep coming back and if there is no content, wont make much difference if its indexed…

So too little content will scare off new visitors?

Well it depends on what is on the site as well, if its meant to be full of enticing articles and signup buttons, would you register or come back to a site that looks half built?

I don’t know…

The way I see it, if we keep striving for “perfection”, it will be 2050 before my client launches, and at that point it won’t matter!

Yes, my client’s website is content driven. And, yes, having 150 thought-provoking articles on launch day would be great.

But I am thinking that having even 5-8 articles would be enough to make things not look totally empty, but allow us to start getting indexed and found by people.

Think of it this way…

If you were starting a business building furniture, would it be better to have an empty store with two great pieces of hand-made furniture for sale with the promise of more to come, or waiting 3 years to open when you could build enough to fill up your showroom?

In that scenario, I think the first option is better. (If people see one or two things they like, I am thinking they will be patient and come back next week or next month to see what else you have to offer.)

But I can see it the other way too.

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Why not host what you have now in a non-published dev address and ask for opinions in the Content category ?

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Not sure that I’m following you - or that you are following me. :smile:

Right now, development is way ahead of my client’s ability to produce content.

I would like to go live with the website in about 2 weeks - with minimal content - in an effort to start the process of indexing in search engines.

It will take my client at least 4-6 weeks beyond this suggested “go live” date to have enough content to fill out the better part of the website.

So, do we go live in 2 weeks with maybe a handful of articles/pieces, or wait 2 MONTHS to have a more fleshed out website content-wise?

Like my woodworker analogy, I say you build a few pieces of furniture and catch people’s interest, then worry about filling up your show room. This, versus prolonging an open date - and risking the business as a whole - in an effort to have a packed showroom full of beautiful furniture.

History is on the side of “time to market”, but maybe that doesn’t apply here…

Analogies aside, what I meant was for you to host what your client has now at your domain (no-index no-follow of course) so that you can get feedback on whether or not the amount of content is worth a launch

Now is an ideal time to get your website online and if it goes without a single hitch I will be amazed. As @Mittineague suggested

Why not host what you have now in a non-published dev address and ask for opinions in the Content category ?

In my limited experience I have found that there are big differences to always resolve when uploading your localhost site. Once your “non-published dev address” is resolved then you will be confident to add content if your client does actually produce the goods in two months.

Also supplying the online link to your client will no doubt spur them on to ensure the the content arrives on schedule.

I think crawling spiders love active websites so you could actually reduce the available content and gradually update articles on a daily basis.

Procrastinate now.

I would launch it now, for a few reasons:

  • Visible progress can give your client’s team momentum, and the drive to actually finish the project.

  • If this is a brand-new web presence, they will have very few real visitors to start with, so it doesn’t matter if some pages are light on content.

  • Pages get re-crawled regularly by Googlebots, so while it might take a bit longer for search rankings to appear, partial content ASAP trumps no visibility at all. You can at least aim for branded keyword rankings.

This all assumes that you’ve already been paid, or that you’re regularly receiving milestone payments — if you’re invoicing once the site is live, make 'em wait!


I wouldn’t launch until it has content - you’re unlikely to impress any visitors or Google with a site that isn’t ready. With a new site you get a honeymoon period with Google and you don’t want to waste that on a lack of content. Fwiw, in every website development project I’ve been involved with over the last 20? years it’s always always the supply of content that is the holdup.

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What does the client say?

You can advise them, but at the end of the day, it’s their site and their decision.

Agree TechnoBear, but the flipside is that a client also hires people to give them good advice :smile:

And whilst they might not want to hear it, putting up a half baked empty site without content just isn’t doing a job properly. It’ll disappoint every person that finds the site and who might very well write it off as rubbish, it’ll give lousy clickthrough stats to google and if Google bothers to index it, Google will more than likely think it’s rubbish! All for a short term gain so the marketing person can report back that the site “is up”.

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You can try to find some middle ground. It is unlikely that they will have all the content but at least they can add enough so it is worth to publish.

Content changes with time, anyway

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I agree with you @ingleslenobel. But I’ve had clients insist on having their half-finished site published, despite my best efforts to advise against.

@mikey_w: I presume you have the content for the main area of the site - the e-commerce part - and that you’re just awaiting additional content in the form of articles, etc.?

Great discussion guys and gals!! Lemme respond to your thoughts!! (P.S. Nice dirty jokes, John!) LOL


Except what makes this dilemma even more challenging is that I built my client a home-grown website that is part CMS, part Forum, and eventually part e-Commerce site.

So once we go live, visitors can choose to start creating accounts and profiles and even posting their own comments on things like the website’s content.

Because of that, I feel compelled to wait until we have substantial content.

But to your other points, I think we need to get a web presence now!

And, of course, I am just one IT guy trying to wear 10 different hats - with a client that needs a kick in the butt!



Yeah, money is not an issue.

You have a very valid point there!!

“What should we do, Mikey??” :smile:

I really like my client - good people - and I don’t entirely blame them for being behind on content. (This is a start-up, and just like me having to wear 10 IT hats, my client is putting in 16-hour days trying to make their dream come true. I’m sure if they could have had their Content done by the end of last year they would have done so. But the owner spends most of his days trying to get the business off the ground as far as financing, legal, filings, partnerships, etc.)

In the end, I am just trying to figure out how to reduce the time before we “go live”, because if we don’t do things correctly, it will be the “dog days” of Summer 2015, and that will DEFINITELY hurt this start-up…

This time it is me that is pushing to “go live”.

If I left my client to their own devices, it would be late October 2015 before we had a live website with substantial content… roll eyes

Right now the website is CMS and Forum. (The e-commerce part will come later this spring, and be based on premium content along with other more traditional e-commerce offerings.)

So what we have now is similar in many ways to SitePoint itself, i.e. one part is articles/content and the other part is social media-esque.

The second part will fill itself out, but will also be driven heavily on the first part.

So back to my analogy… We need enough “furniture” for people to take us seriously and want to come back, but I don’t think we need to have a mega-sized store full of furniture to start taking orders and getting regular traffic.

The questions is “Where is the line in the sand?” (And, of course, no one knows that for sure?!)

I do have the ability to yank some “Sections” from my code base.

So maybe - thinking out loud here - I could reduce things from say 20 Sections to 3-4, and insist that my client provides top-notch Content for those couple of Sections by mid-March so that things at least appear to be full.

(I remember where I grew up there was an art gallery that used fake walls and even bed sheets to block off their 2,000 sq. ft gallery and make it appear to be some quaint 500 sq ft. “boutique”. Maybe that is one way that I could help buy my client some time?)

BTW, if I ever survive this project, my bill rate just went way up!!! :smile:

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