Starting a company is an exciting time. You’re bringing the idea or service that has kept you awake at night to life and your focus is on creating the product you believe will change a market and make your fortune. Now depending on the type of product/service you are offering and your own skillset will depend on how you approach the next aspect…your website.
For some, the website is as integral as the product itself and is lovingly created with just as much passion. For others it is important but not something they are comfortable doing so creating one is a bit of a chore. But there is a final group who prioritise their product/service offering and neglect the website entirely…which is a huge mistake.
So why when you’re juggling an early stage company should you make time for a website?
1. It’s a first impression
In really basic terms the difference between an idea and a business is more often than not a website. Having a website shows you’re committed, serious and ready for the world to know about you. If you fall at this first hurdle it’s likely the person interested enough to Google you will have switched off and you may have just lost your chance of a customer, mentor, partner or investor.
2. It’s a business card & marketing brochure
The value in networking as an early stage company cannot be underestimated. You must get out and spread the word about your new business. However, as most networking is done at events with a drink in one hand, a plate of food in the other and limited time you can really only expect to plant the seed about your business. The follow up is your website where someone can digest your offering and easily find your contact details. If you don’t yet have a business card or a website how is anyone supposed to find you?
3. It’s budget friendly marketing
Your website is the most flexible marketing tool you have and once you’ve covered the hosting it really can be very cheap to maintain and update a website through the various user friendly DIY platforms now out there. In the early days when your offering is being constantly refined and maybe even pivoted these changes can be reflected on a website in a matter of seconds. If you go for printed materials these can quickly become outdated, and you have the responsibility of getting your material into the hands of a prospect. A website is available to anyone.
So hopefully now we’re agreed you need a website! If you or one of your team doesn’t have the experience of creating one in house, fear not as there are plenty of options available. Everything has a price but with websites it doesn’t have to be a case of you get what you pay for and when you’re a new business with limited, or more likely, no money you can still get a really functional and professional looking site for around £100. Not bad so there’s really no excuse for not having one! Of course you can go for a bespoke site which can be in the thousands but for a new business I would say it’s pretty unnecessary and not the best use of your resources.
I am not a techie, have no coding background and zero experience of html but I’ve been able to make a few websites myself using the following platforms. So if I can do it so can you!
WordPress is a website giant that has really made websites accessible to everyone. I’ve developed two websites using purchased themes which came with page templates and pre-formatted fonts and colours to keep your site looking clean and professional. Both themes were around £30 to purchase but offered very different degrees of flexibility in terms of how you could customize pages. One offered very little (a bonus for simpler sites or those with less confidence) while the other was completely customizable based around a drag and drop page builder that was really intuitive.
Examples of WordPress themes for $59 from Total Theme, one of the thousands of theme developers online.
Everything is online so you can log into your site from any device and the dashboard setup is really easy to navigate and get to grips with. As WordPress is one of the most common platforms there are literally hundreds of thousands of different themes to choose from which are constantly evolving. There’s also a huge online community so if you have an issue Google’s bound to have the answer.
You will need to host your site somewhere and nearly all hosting providers are fully set up for WordPress. This means you can buy a theme online and integrate it with your host all in one click. This was always the bit that scared me but when push came to shove and I had to set up a new domain, host and theme from three separate sources it was actually super easy as I was prompted the whole way by the providers. Now that’s understanding customer needs!
So on the whole I’ve been pretty happy using WordPress and purchased themes definitely make things a whole lot simpler. There’s so many options available it’s a great choice for a first timer who wants the security of a theme but the freedom to make their website unique.
Challenging WordPress’s crown is Squarespace who can’t rival WordPress in terms of available themes and customization, but in my opinion they can beat them on aesthetics. Squarespace sights have a crispness and elegance about them and I would even say look more modern than most of the WordPress sites. So if you have a premium offering you should definitely check out if there’s a Squarespace theme for you.
Examples of templates directly from Squarespace. Price dependant on hosting package.
Squarespace is also built around templates and while there’s still flexibility to customize the layout of a page you do feel slightly more constrained. However, this I believe is how the sites look beautiful…they give the novices like you and I enough room to create our own story but not so much that we can turn a bestseller into a bargain bucket read.
The menu is quite different from the WordPress dashboard which I’ll be honest took a bit of getting used to as it’s slightly less intuitive but once you’ve cracked it it’s fine.
If you are still scared by the prospect of setting up domains and hosts, Squarespace offer it all which is why I think Squarespace may have the edge for total beginners. The interface is more like desktop publishing and they have set widgets that even allow you to set up an online shop really easily.
As there’s less third party add-ons and widgets there’s also less to go wrong which also gives this platform the edge for beginners who need a simple, well performing website minus the fixes and patching that I have encountered on WordPress.
Whichever route you choose will depend on what you need your website to do and the personality of your brand. WordPress is fantastic but Squarespace has shown that there are now other options which may just suit your needs better. In true BBC style I must also say that other brands are available. The important thing though is to get on with it and get your web presence felt!