The web 2.0 world has brought with it the idea that in order to stay competitive you must release in beta. If you wait until your product/ service are fully developed you are going live to late is the view. The problem with this view is that you end up launching a product that is not fully featured then end up having to double your efforts as you manage the day to day of the new service while continuing to develop the full service/ product.
It is a crucial point to figure out when is the right time to launch and make sure you have enough value to offer. On the other hand going live gives you invaluable feedback about the service and you start to learn more about your service then ever before. For example, I tend to navigate through Sportingo by subject. I go to a specific section of interest and hardly ever use the Article feature on our site which gathers together all the different articles on the site.
We are now learning that more and more of our users actually prefer to click on the Article section and navigate their way to specific articles that way. This changes the whole layout of the article section as it was intended to be more of an archive then the main place for people to search for content and requires us to redesign this section.
An important lesson to anyone building a website never expect other users to behalf the way you do. We are all individuals and have our own preferences. A good site lets different people use it in different ways to find what they want and does not require everyone to do the same.
So did we launch at the right time? Were we do early? Although I am not pleased with parts of the site I believe we made the right decision to launch. It provides us with better feedback on the site use and has opened up a number of partnership opportunities. My conclusion launch as early as you can add value to an important part of your target market. BUT be prepared to the operational requirements of going live and treat your beta site as the website that the whole world will see.