Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Having a website is as essential for a successful startup as business cards used to b
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Having a website is as essential for a successful startup as business cards used to be a few decades ago. But creating a website for your organization is only half of the task. Beyond what business cards used to do, your website is not only a place to share contact details and hope for prospective customers to get in touch, but it’s also where you inspire users, draw them in and begin to turn them into customers.
Do-it-yourself or hire a professional?
One of the main decisions small-business owners need to make is whether they want to hire professional help or create their own website. DIY website templates and builders are excellent for personal blogs, and their functionality is constantly improving. Initially, they are also a cheaper option than working with a professional web designer. However, they have a few drawbacks.
Your creativity will be limited by the number of designs included in your package. While not impossible, you may struggle to achieve a close fit with your brand. This can lead to problems with brand consistency.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is vital for your business to be found by search engines but can be tricky to get right initially without expert support. Achieving great rankings also means regular updates.
As a founder, you are already spread thin. If you are not an expert in web design, can you afford to commit serious chunks of your time to the creation of a website? It may save you money today but will likely cost you in the long term.
Working with a professional or a marketing agency allows you to focus on your existing priorities. Your web design and UI/UX will be bespoke and on-brand, increasing your site’s chances of standing out from the crowd.
How professionals approach the website-development process
Marketing agencies or professional web designers have a strategic process in place. The workflow will vary from agency to agency but often includes determining project scope, creating a strategy and developing site structure and wireframe.
- Project scope: scoping out the project means gathering information about your business and its competitors. One of the most important points to determine is what your website needs to do for your business.
- Strategy: considering target audiences and keywords can be part of this stage as well as thinking about how users will move across the site.
- Site structure: time to think about content. While Google ranks websites that deliver high-quality, problem-solving content to their users, more is not always better. Consider what is important for your brand and stick to that.
- Wireframe: also known as mock-up design, this is one of the early creative stages to help you get a feel for the layout of the site. If you are using the DIY approach, this is often the first thing you notice about your template. Once you start moving drag-and-drop elements, you start adjusting the look, but there will always be limits to your creativity.
Approaching the website-design process
With the website development well underway, it is time to consider the main areas of the site’s design, including:
- Brand guidelines.
- Goals and strategy.
- User Experiences (UI/UX).
- Visual appearance and content.
A successful startup needs a website that is more than subjectively beautiful. Your organization’s website needs to represent your brand. That means anyone who has visited your social-media accounts or met your team in person should instantly recognize it as yours.
User experience may have become a bit of a buzzword, but it couldn’t be more important. Creating a positive user experience starts with building a website that loads fast. Statistics show that pages that load within five seconds have the highest conversion rates.
Apart from being fast, your site needs to be optimized for mobile devices. The majority of website traffic today comes from mobiles, and according to Google, 60% of mobile-phone users have contacted a business directly from mobile-search results. As a new business, you cannot afford to lose those opportunities.
Related: Vrooom! Why Website Speed Matters.
Your website’s structure and content are crucial to its performance on search engines. Text continues to be the main foundation of searches, making it the focus of SEO work. However, remember the value other assets on your website have: Descriptive text around images and graphics will help them rank. Clear calls-to-action (CTA) make it easy for your customers to understand what you want them to do.
The visual appearance of your site needs to match your brand image. Compromising your brand to fit in with a DIY template is not worthwhile. On the other hand, you may be able to source a template that allows you to follow brand guidelines while offering creative options.
Choosing between the professional or the DIY route when creating your business’s website involves numerous considerations. Time, cost, technological know-how and more all play into the decision.
What should not be up for debate is whether or not your business does need an outstanding website. A well-designed, well-performing website is crucial for the success of a small business or startup. It may seem like an afterthought when you are busy building all other areas of the organization, but it can make the difference between securing those critical first clients or not and convincing investors for your next round of funding.