Designing a startup website is challenging for designers. The business is just getting off the ground and may not yet have a strong identity. Unlike an already established company, the site itself helps shape who it is and how the world sees it.
At the same time, it has to serve as a place to convert visitors into customers and tell the story of the brand and its mission. It’s a tall order for anyone to fill.
Here are approximately 200 million active websites, although the number varies by the second, according to Internet Live Stats. While not every site in existence is competition for your startup, they are all potential rivals for the attention and time of a limited pool of consumers.
If your site doesn’t stand out from the crowd, people are likely to skip over it or bounce away to something more interesting. You may not have a brick-and-mortar store to grab interest. Many startups get going with a website only, so yours must pop.
Build your pages for conversions. Driving traffic to your site isn’t very helpful if you don’t know what to do with the visitors once they get there. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true elements any website should have.
As a startup, there are eight factors you must consider while designing your site. Nailing these items ensures your conversions are high enough to help you excel in your first year in business and beyond.
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Start With a Message when Designing a Startup Website
Your first step is developing a brand message touting who you are and what you stand for. Think about the reasons why you started your company in the first place. Every company has a story. What is yours? Dig for the deeper meaning behind why you started this specific business model.
Don’t just blather on about yourself, in any case. You need to tell the story from the emotional standpoint of your target audience. Think about why they should care about your journey. If your target audience is small-business owners, how does your story impact them in some way? Make sure your message is compelling.
People love a good rags-to-riches story, so if you started with nothing, share the details. How did you get your funding? What gave you the drive to move forward with your idea and overcome all obstacles?
Houzz is an e-commerce startup offering just about anything you’d need to redesign your home. Husband and wife Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen founded the company when they became frustrated with the lack of available items while renovating their house.
One thing this website does particularly well explains the motivation behind opening Houzz without getting too lengthy. A couple of paragraphs sums up the business idea and the reason behind starting it. You can tell your unique story and share your message without writing a novel.
In this case, they explain their struggles and how they wanted to help other homeowners doing remodeling projects.
Study Your Competition when Designing a Startup Website
Look at other businesses in your industry and particularly in your local area. Use business mapping software to see which zip codes your competition serves. You can also gather information on the demographics of users in a particular area.
Find out which areas other businesses already serve and come up with underserved communities most needing your type of product or service.
Make sure you offer something of more value than other businesses in your industry. Find a unique value proposition (UVP) that stands out. If you can’t beat prices, maybe you can offer faster delivery. Perhaps you are small enough to provide one-on-one attention to your clients, and the more prominent company does not.
Consider your UVP not just through the view of what is best about your company but via the perspective of what customers will care most about. It doesn’t matter how you see your business. What is important is how the outside world sees you.
Take notes on the websites of the other firms. What do you like about their sites, and what do you hate? What can you do better? Pay particular attention to their landing pages. You can even study the keywords they use and where their traffic arrives with tools such as SEMRush.
The goal of studying your competition isn’t to copy what they do. You want to see where you need to rise to the challenge of being as good as they are, but also find weaknesses where you might excel—Hunt for niche areas or groups to target.
Gumroad is an unusual startup because it deals only with the digital goods of other people, serving as a gateway, similar to eBay. It wasn’t satisfied with the options for people wanting to sell directly to consumers on sites such as Amazon. Instead, it came up with a model for artists to use and sell directly to their fans.
Note how it highlights the amount people have earned selling films, courses, music, and books on the site. It may not be able to compete in terms of traffic, but it lets creators keep more money in their own pockets and gives them more control than other sites do. Check out their features page and decide if it’s beneficial for you to list the features you provide to your customers that make you unique.
Show What’s In It for Them
Your startup’s website must list the benefits of ordering from you. When designing a startup website keep that in mind. What is in it for the consumer? Why should they choose to do business with you? Think through the advantages of them ordering from you through their perspective.
Start by figuring out what the user’s pain point is. What is the problem driving them to your website in the first place? How does your product or service solve the issue? Even your headlines should reflect your understanding of their situation and then offer a solution.
You may not be the only organization able to solve the problem. Why should the consumer choose you as an option over the other ones available? Why do you offer benefits your competitors don’t?
Starry does a fantastic job of outlining the benefits of its internet service over other providers. Note the icons to signal each pro and then detailed information.
For example, there is an illustration of a rocket ship and the subheading “Blazing Fast.” It then explains that customers can reach 200 Mbps speeds and stream 4k movies easily. Each advantage is listed and follows the same structure, giving the page some cohesiveness.
Find three or four benefits your customers genuinely care about. If you aren’t sure, poll them and ask what features they love. Sum up the advantage in a subheading but go into more detail in the body text.
The layout hierarchy of a subhead and then smaller words allows readers to skim and get the gist of the product or service. If they care the most about a particular element, they can dig more deeply into the details.
Plan for Marketing
As you design your site, think about the types of marketing campaigns you’ll utilize and how your website ties into them. For example, if you plan to post links to articles on social media, you’ll need a blog section. When designing a startup website have a plan for marketing the site.
How can you tie social media into your website? Should you include links to your social pages? Can you install an app, making it easy for users to share articles from your website directly to their wall? Think through some of the different efforts you plan for your first year and tie them to your site in various ways.
Simple Habit is an app startup helping people develop a new habit with consistent actions. One thing it does to market itself effectively online is keeping an updated blog with information on mental and physical health. Each post offers tips but ties into how the app can help provide relief.
Add value for your readers by talking about topics that address small parts of the pain points, driving them to your site. If someone wants to know how to save money on energy costs, offer a tip or two, and always circle back to how your gadget or service saves even more.
Gain Their Trust
As a new company, you don’t have a proven track record to fall back on. When designing a startup website think about creditability and trust to support your position. You must gain the trust of users and assure them you’ll fulfill their orders on time, protect their information, and stand behind your product. Some trust factors include:
- Contact information
- Memberships in industry organizations
- About page that shows who the owners are
- Links to social media pages and an active presence there
Think about what you’d need to see before you order from a company. Some people want a live chat option, while others need to see a toll-free telephone number.
WeWork offers shared office space for small-business owners. This startup began when the founders decided to lease extra space they had in an office building and open a coworking space. They eventually expanded, sold the first model, and opened a new company called WeWork, which grew to 500 different locations worth billions of dollars.
The website features many trust factors. Customer success stories are shared on the homepage. By utilizing testimonials from big names such as RBC Royal Bank, Standard Chartered, and General Electric, it shows it’s worked with more prominent corporations and met their needs. It also makes contact information easy to find and includes the number to its headquarters, as well as a live chat option.
If you’re just getting started, you may not yet have testimonials to share. Instead, look for other trust factors to include. Join the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and add its emblem.
Provide clear contact information. Give examples of how you’d handle different situations. Share news stories about your startup on your press releases page. As your business grows, flesh things out with customer reviews and a list of awards you’ve won.
Go Mobile First
About 48% of webpage views around the world are via mobile devices, and experts predict the number rising at least through 2022. Every website must consider how many people come to them via smartphones and make sure their page loads correctly on all screen sizes.
If your startup is tech-based, it becomes even more critical to ensure your site is responsive. However, even a food product startup benefits from mobile-friendliness.
Smartrap is wearable technology for athletes to help them safely work out at maximum capacity. The sensor is also a smart garment and offers compression while reducing the potential for a leg injury during exercise. Elite athletes will know how hard to push and when to back off. The company has several other biomedical-type products in its repertoire, as well.
The desktop website and mobile site look precisely the same. Images and text optimize for a smaller screen without sacrificing the quality of the photos or readability of the words.
Test your site on several types of devices to make sure everything is responsive. How do your pages look on a laptop screen? Does it adapt well to a tablet or smartphone? Check out the smallest screen size possible to see how everything looks.
When you blow the website upon the largest screen size, do you lose any clarity? You may need to adjust coding accordingly to meet the needs of an audience using different products to access your site.
Perfect Your CTA and Designing a Startup Website
Your call to action (CTA) is your chance to grab site visitors and convert them into leads. If you place it in the wrong location or don’t use the right wording, your conversions suffer. Some of the things you must test with your users include:
- Color of the button and how it contrasts with the page
- Placement on the page
- Other information surrounding the button
- How much white space surrounds the CTA
What works for one site may not work for another. You must try what you think will work best with your buyer personas. Conduct A/B tests (or multivariate tests) to see if you are right and make changes as needed. Eventually, you’ll hit on the perfect combination for your CTAs.
Nanit uses a coral color for its CTA. The shade matches its logo but also contrasts sharply with the grays and whites on the landing page. The first thing the user notices is a button reading, “Buy Now.” It also offers a “Watch” button to view a video explaining how the baby monitoring device works. Everything on the page points to the action it wants users to take.
Think about what colors contrast sharply with the background on your page. Should you place your CTA above the fold, or do your users need more information before the invitation to buy?
Try different wording on the button and perform split testing or multivariate tests. When designing a startup website your must test different elements. The words “Buy Now” may not sit well with your users, so think about the pain point they face and what words offer a solution.
Use Unique Images
When businesses are new and you are designing a startup website, it’s tempting to grab stock photos to get the design just right. Unfortunately, you run the risk of another site using the same pictures. Besides, the images may not be 100% relevant to your business.
Invest in a professional photographer and gather visuals highlighting your product or service perfectly—the more striking the photograph, the better chance you’ll grab user attention.
Look for opportunities to tie the pictures to the colors of your overall design and company color palette. You can do this through the use of filters or look for photo opportunities matching the overall color scheme.
Ritual has a brand color palette of yellow and dark blue. Note the big, gorgeous photograph on its landing page and how it highlights the yellow. The image is particular to the brand, featuring its vitamin bottles and clear pills spilling out from them. It fits with the content on the page and does not distract from the message.
The images you choose need to be well thought out with the rest of the design. If you plan to use the photograph as a hero shot and have a big headline overtop, where will the negative space occur within the visual? A professional designer and photographer can work together to find the perfect solution.
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Start Small and Expand when Designing a Startup Website
When designing a startup website you should start small and build. Getting the design and messaging right from the get-go is an integral part of building a startup’s online presence. Focus on the message and style of the brand. You can always add additional features and pages as the company grows.
A website shouldn’t be a static entity you create once and forget. As a startup, things change rapidly in the first few years, so start small and add as you go along.
Your website is the face of your brand. Keep changing it and testing it until you hit on the perfect combination that drives visitors to you and converts them into leads.
With a little attention to detail and a bit of forward-thinking vision, your site will help your branding efforts and pull in new customers.
Have something to say about your thoughts on designing your first startup website?
Lexie Lu is a web designer, digital nomad, and UX fanatic. You can find some of her work on Marketo, Website Magazine, and Business.com. Feel free to check out her blog, Design Roast, or connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
A startup website is a newly formed entity that offers a product/service via a website where they search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Design, messaging, UX/UI, and SEO are critical before launch.
How do I create a startup website?
Here is a step-by-step plan
Step 1 – Plan your website.
Step 2 – Choosing a domain name.
Step 3 – Choose a hosting provider.
Step 4 – Ensure it is mobile optimized.
Step 5 – Design a logo.
Step 6 – Choose a website builder.
Step 7 – Decide on content for your website.
Step 8 – Design your website.
What should I put on my startup website?
Five essential things that your startup website must have
1. Present your value proposition clearly and concisely.
2. Have a clear call to action.
3. Show a good web design and an excellent user experience.
4. Contact information.
5. Clear and well-written texts.
How much does it cost to launch a website?
Depending on your needs, building a website can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $18,000. If you need a feature-rich, custom-built website, it can go as high as $30,000 or more. To build a small site, you’ll need to have a budget for the domain name and web hosting too.
Starting a Website Project?
Give us a call at 303-351-1645 to discuss your new website requirements. We can talk you through the process.