So, think of your website as a constantly evolving entity. Your ideas may change, your technology may change. You may have a seasonal change, you may have a content change. Your decisions today aren’t set in stone; they actually have an expiration date.
Bottom line: It’s an ongoing process and, ideally, you’ll want to make micro-adjustments over time. The way you do that depends on your site. So…
…If you can afford to make real-time changes, consider a clean slate. You can temporarily put up a well-designed, well-communicated one-pager. Most of the time, it’s better than a complex, multi-layered website that doesn’t work. Of course, that one-pager must look good and actually communicate something to your audience. Just saying “under construction” or “coming soon” is like saying “I’m not ready to do business with you.” You can, in fact, make a good impression with simply a landing page (as long as it’s done well). Then, you can make another good first impression with future sections as you release them.
If you don’t already have a website, but know you need to get something up, take a moment to write out, on paper, what you want the site to communicate and what you really want the site to do. Get a designer to express that idea in one page, with really nice graphics. Then, start working on the rest of the site…well, Phase One of the site, anyhow.
If you have a very active site (or an e-commerce site) and can’t afford to be offline for so much as a day, consider bringing on a specialist that can analyze your current site and make suggestions to maximize its profitability. For example, search data may be used to uncover what users are looking for but can’t easily find. The result might be some skillful re-arranging that can increase traffic to your less-traveled pages.