Filing that paperwork is a big first step. You’re in business—congratulations!
But if you’re like most startups, you’re about to do a bunch of stuff you don’t know how to do yet.
Sometimes that “stuff” includes building a website that’ll serve your current needs while also scaling up to the big plans you have. It’s hard to know where to start and even harder to know that a misstep here can lead to major headaches later. (Spoiler alert: it definitely can.)
Before launching your new business’s digital welcome mat, start with these tips.
Tip 1: Name well
Your domain name is going to be your calling card from now on. Make sure you find one that’s easy to communicate and remember.
In today’s intellectual property environment, this can be a tall order. If the perfect domain name is already taken, move on, and remember the following:
- If you speak it, can they spell it? Don’t try to outsmart yourself with a fancy sideways spelling (like “ylyxyr” instead of “elixir”) that you’ll have to stop and explain to people. See if a plain language variant is available.
- What’s the competition? If your brand name is expressed as an acronym, what other businesses or organizations also use that acronym? What other brands have a similar or less complicated name? Are you okay with sharing their audience? If not, look for a domain name with a clear differentiator.
- How long is too long? For the human memory, seven letters or fewer is best. But an easily understood word or two can also work well, so long as you avoid hyphens. Imagine you wrote your domain name on a billboard. Would a motorist be able to remember it after speeding by at 70 miles per hour? If not, consider an alternative. Think “JoeBmore” instead of “JoesRestaurantBaltimore.
Tip 2: Choose your CMS carefully
CMS stands for “Content Management System,” basically the software you’ll use to build, launch, and update your website. You’ll have a lot of options. There are plenty of services that make building a website cheap and easy for those of us still in the “for Dummies” phase of web development expertise.
The complex part of choosing a CMS is finding the right one for where you’re trying to go rather than where you are now. Why? Because an eventual CMS migration can be a challenging and costly project.
Before choosing a CMS or Website Builder for your business, ask the following:
- What can I afford? Many platforms offer starter options priced for the tight budgets of a small business. If you’re planning to scale your operation over time, check pricing tiers for higher-traffic and take a close look at functionality options you may want to implement later.
- What can I do? To launch a rudimentary site, you don’t have to be a web developer per se, especially if you’re using a drag-and-drop interface or prebuilt template. However, keep in mind, you’ll be limited on customization and if issues arise, having an expert to consult could save a lot of time and heartache.
- Is my website the point of sale? If you plan to sell products (or collect donations) directly from your website, you’ll want a platform that allows flexible, editable eCommerce or donation plugins. Website builders—like Wix or Squarespace—may be adequate for small, niche businesses, but a CMS—like WordPress—that is highly customizable may be more your speed.
Tip 3: Design for your strengths
Every business is different, so your website should reflect the unique strengths of your brand and products. Think about what makes you different from any other competitor, both in terms of the value you bring to the marketplace and your ability to showcase that value.
- Excel at customer service? Use customer testimonials across your website, share photos of your team, and find ways to incorporate reviews from third-party sites such as Yelp on your website.
- Know more than anyone about your business? Share your knowledge, just maybe not all at once. Instead of overloading site visitors with technical specs when they only want to know your hours of operation, set up distinct content sections to let customers easily explore areas of interest.
- Have a lot of great photos? Show them off. Choose image-centric design templates, and look into plugins that allow you to display your Instagram feed on your website. Just take care to choose meaningful images that help tell your story.
And keep in mind that as a (relatively) small business, you have one significant advantage over larger competitors: you’re nimble. You don’t have to run everything through a committee or a winding approval structure.
Update your site often. Fix typos. Repair links.
Use your website to prove how responsive you are to your customers.
Tip 4: Make friends with your data
Your website is more than just a digital business card. It’s also an engine for data and one of your greatest assets in understanding your customers’ preferences. By tapping into the functions available in your analytics platform, you can find out what your customers want in great detail.
As you design your website, keep in mind that you’ll want to use analytics to measure and improve its performance. That means building critical actions into your site, setting those actions up as “Events” in your analytics software, and ensuring there’s data available to learn more about who’s performing those actions and who’s not.
- Set up a “Thank You” page for users to land on after purchases, donations, or sign-ups. This way, you can analyze all the user journeys that involved a visit to the “Thank You” page and see what kind of content is persuasive to your customers.
- Use UTM parameters and vanity URLs for links in emails, social posts, and other marketing channels to better understand how your customers heard about you.
- Use data filtering to create different views of your user base, for example, by excluding ISPs of your employees and vendors to only look at external users.
- Explore Search Console to determine what internet searches your site ranks well for and update new and existing content to address these topics.
You don’t have to do everything right the first time. No startup business does.
But if you start on your website journey with an idea of where you’re going and how you’ll want to measure your progress, you’ll be less likely to take an extended detour.
Want a partner who can guide you with specific insights related to your business and goals? Say hello.