You’ve given up the 9 to 5 and taken the plunge into self-employment. You’ve secured funding (or you’ve dipped into your savings) to make your new venture happen.
And now, as a budding new business ready to take on the world, you need to produce a website that’s going to help you sell your mission to the masses.
But if you’re entirely new to web design for start-ups, where on earth do you begin?
I’ve put together a quick guide to creating a website for a new start-up. Follow my 7 step process below, and I promise you’ll save time, avoid costly mistakes, and create something you and your team can be proud of from day one!
1. Choose the right domain
Your domain is, quite simply, your online address. Most people include their company name in their website URL – designfxstudio.co.uk, for example! – whereas others like to add in their core product or service instead.
Regardless of what you want to ‘call’ your website, you first need to make sure that your ideal domain name is available.
You can do this by searching for your favourite domain with a provider such as 123-reg, Name.com, GoDaddy or InstantDomainSearch.com. All these portals have access to the same database. Type in your preferred URL name, and you’ll be able to instantly see whether it’s available – and, if it is yours for the taking, how much it’s going to cost you.
Fees for domain names range from as little as 99p through to thousands of pounds. Remember that you will usually need to renew your registration after one or two years, so you’ll need to factor these costs into your overall budget. And if you buy the .co.uk version of a domain, it’s often advisable to purchase the .uk and .com extensions, too. This will stop your competitors from purchasing them and using them to claim business that’s rightfully yours.
2. Consider your hosting options
Once you have registered your domain, you’ll need to decide who’s going to host it.
There are lots of hosting providers out there offering all kinds of attractive packages for start-ups and new businesses. Most of them will charge you on a monthly or annual basis. The price you pay will usually depend on the size of your website, and how much server space it needs in order to load quickly and run efficiently. Be aware that many of hosting companies will offer lower fees in the first year or two to get you onboard; the price may rise after your initial settling-in period.
If you need help choosing the right hosting company, give me a shout. I have a good understanding of what’s on offer from all the major suppliers, and I can review your website’s requirements to makes sure you’re not overpaying for this vital service.
3. Choose a web design company that understands your vision
You’re going to be placing a lot of trust in your web designer – so you need to make sure they’re a good fit for your project.
You do of course need to make sure your web designer has proven experience in his or her field. Most credible designers will be happy to provide you with examples of their work, or a link to their online portfolio. A select few design professionals will happily provide you with contact details for their existing clients, so you can get testimonials straight from the horse’s mouth. Always do your research before instructing a website designer to make sure they really do know their stuff and they know how to look after their clients.
In my experience, though, having a good personal rapport with your web designer is just as important as their technical expertise. Your start-up is precious, and you need to work with someone who is just as passionate about your new business as you are.
For more help and advice on choosing the right designer for your start-up website, check out this article I put together a little while ago, which contains a handy checklist you can follow to ensure you get the best results from your chosen provider.
4. Know your budget – and stick to it!
I’ve heard of countless instances where start-ups and new businesses have had to either revise their website design budgets or cancel the project entirely because of lack of funds. This is why it’s so important to consider ALL of the costs involved in the design and deployment of your website.
As well as confirming the fee for the initial design and build, you’ll need to think about how much it’s going to cost to register your domain; host your website on a monthly or yearly basis; and carry out ongoing maintenance to the site (especially if it’s built in WordPress, which needs to be updated regularly to protect you from hacker attempts and other security threats). Some designers will also charge you for their time if you need them to make changes to the website’s content, images or page layouts.
If you’re not sure how much your start-up business website should cost, this blog might provide you with some of the information you’re looking for.
5. Develop your brand guidelines first
If you want to create a professional-looking start-up website that’s going to set you apart from your competitors, I would recommend creating – and implementing – a clear set of brand guidelines straightaway.
Have a read of this piece from April 2019, and you’ll see that I’m passionate about ensuring my clients explore their brand identity BEFORE they move their design project to the next stage. In my opinion, it’s the only way to ensure your start-up is going to come across as professional, capable and serious about its vision. You only get one chance to launch your venture in style – so why settle for something half-considered when you could make a bigger impact on your audience with a stronger, more developed brand instead?
It usually makes sense for the same person to work on the development of the brand and the design of the website. As someone who has plenty of experience in both fields, I can help you create a unique logo, come up with a bespoke colour scheme, develop custom graphics and implement all these wonderful new assets into the finalised website. Trust me – doing so will give you a professional edge that will be invaluable in today’s competitive market.
6. Make sure the site is accessible to all
This is something that start-ups often overlook. When you’re about to launch a new business, it’s easy to get caught up in the creative side of things – but you also need to consider the overall usability of your website.
If somebody lands on your site and they find it hard to read, difficult to navigate or just plain overwhelming, chances are they will hit the ‘back’ button and look elsewhere for the products or services you’re offering. Truly accessible websites need to display all information clearly and contain a well-defined path for your users to follow, so they can find what they need quickly, easily and without any confusion. A web designer with practical UX knowledge will be able to help you put together a platform that’s been designed with the end user’s experience firmly in mind.
Remember, too, that your website needs to work just as well for people who are not as digitally-savvy, and users who are audibly or visually impaired. You can ensure this part of your audience is catered for by selecting colours carefully, backing all your page elements with alt text, and paring back any technical content to make sure it’s simple to read. For more information on inclusive web design practices, click here.
7. Think about how you’re going to promote your website once it’s gone live
If you’ve followed all the advice above, you’re going to be left with a beautiful, functional and fully branded website that your customers will love. But your journey doesn’t end here!
Next, you need to focus on promoting your website to your desired audience.
There are a number of ways to get your website in front of the people who are likely to buy from you. But the three most popular – and arguably most effective – online marketing methods are organic search engine optimisation (SEO), paid search marketing, and social media marketing.
Each of these approaches has its own pros and cons. Many new businesses see great results by focusing on one channel, while other start-ups spread their resources far and wide to cover all bases. You can learn more about what’s involved in each digital marketing technique in this piece from earlier in the summer, then make up your own mind as to which strategy you should pursue.
The key takeaway is this: you need to be prepared to invest in the ongoing marketing of your website. Better search rankings are not going to happen overnight. You’re not going to generate tonnes of leads and sales from your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn profiles in a matter of days. For your start-up to truly succeed, you need to be prepared to hammer away at your digital marketing campaign for weeks, months, and even years.
Given the fact that you’re going to be busy growing your team and servicing your clients, you may want to outsource the marketing side of things to a company that knows what they’re doing. Contact me to find out how much it would cost to hire an SEO and digital marketing specialist.