Website Design For Startups

When you deliver startup marketing services, you’ll inevitably get asked about websites. “Should I buy a template?” and “where should I start?” are some of the more popular ones. For the first question, the answer is simply “no”, but the second one is a bit more of a conversation. There’s no formula that fits for every startup website, but there are plenty of essentials that they should all have.

Here are my top ten things every startup website should have:

1.  Branding

a-clear-branding-messageThis is probably the most important aspect of your site. The instant the site loads, users should immediately know where they’re at, what they’re looking at, and who’s behind it all. Bland, identity-less sites do a disservice to your brand because it presents the message that you’re a step behind. Mismatched branding is even worse, as it confuses the viewer. Keep the branding consistent and strong and you’ll have the foundation for an effective website.

2.  A Clear Message

Once you’ve established your brand, the next step is to focus on your value proposition. What will people gain by engaging your startup? Is it an app, cloud service, local application, or something else? Strongly identified messaging ensures that there’s no confusion. Remember, you’ve only got a few seconds to grab their attention, so speak your message loudly and clearly.

3. Things That Work

We’ve all been to websites that try to load some fancy scripts or embedded video but ultimately wind up crashing — not just the site, but sometimes your whole browser. After your site is up and running, make sure to test it across browsers and devices, even checking for rare combinations (someone out there is a potential customer running Internet Explorer 9 on a Windows Vista machine). In general, go with reliable over new-fangled and clean over fancy when it comes to adding bells and whistles to your site. It doesn’t matter how cool a feature is if it breaks for half the people who visit.

4. Mobile Friendliness

About ⅓ of the Internet’s traffic is handled via mobile devices. That means that it’s important to have a site that can easily be displayed on small screens and doesn’t eat up bandwidth for people who are on limited data plans. Good web developers will build sites with mobile friendliness built in (often using a coding trick called CSS Media Queries) so that they automatically adapt to screen configurations and device browsers.

5. Clean Navigation

There was a dark and scary time in the history of the web — around the mid 2000s to be exact — when people added animation and odd navigation and flashing buttons on to everything. Then web developers finally understood that people hated all that fancy schmancy stuff and just wanted to find what they came for. Clean navigation and streamlined layouts will always win out over clutter and unnecessary visuals, so give functionality a slight advantage over aesthetics.

6. Search Engine Visibility

search-engine-visibilitySearch engines have moved past the point of simply using metadata to define and categorize your site in results. However, the title and description still impact Google: the title influences rankings and is displayed as your search result headline while the description fills out the paragraph in the results. SEO encompasses many things, but having metadata in place ensures that when Google’s spiders visit, they’ll know what they’re seeing.

7.  Demos

People are visiting because they’re intrigued about your product, but maybe they’re hesitant to commit to it. That’s not unusual, and an easily accessible demo will allow people to better understand what you do and why it’s better than the competition. Whether it’s videos, interactive, or screenshots, demos are invaluable tools for customer conversion, so be sure to include them.

8.  Social Proof

social-proofWho uses your product? Marketing is all about building trust with potential clients, so a list (or better yet, logos) of significant names who use or endorse your startup will go a long way in establishing trust for any new potential user or customer.

9.  A Call to Actions

What do you want your visitors to do? Download the app? Apply for a beta? Connect with your social media accounts? Whatever it is, work your content to funnel their visitor flow to the right places — and make sure it’s clear and easy so they know exactly what they’re getting into. Sign-ups are great places to collect user info, but don’t bog it down too much or you’ll lose their interest.

10. Ways To Get In Touch

Usually, it’s as simple as a Contact page or section — ways for website visitors to get in touch, whether it’s by email, form submission, phone, or social media. Whichever avenue you prefer, just make sure that it’s clearly available for users. After all, nothing’s worse than website visitors that want to get more info but don’t know how to.

What Else Do Startup Websites Need?

The answer to that question is, unfortunately, “it depends.” It depends on your goals, your audience, your schedule, and yes, your budget. To help you get a better understanding of your website needs and how you can market your startup, we created the Startups Guide to Marketing. It’s a free download that helps you define your message, explains how to use social media effectively, and  how inbound marketing can help your startup standout.

Download your copy of the Startup’s Guide to Marketing.