How to build a startup website
As mentioned in our other guides on Designing an Outstanding Logo and Perfecting a Professional Business Card, we recommend you hire a design company to come up with a decent website homepage and sub-page template.
An amateur-looking website will put off potential customers as they will not take you seriously as a professional.
It’s likely they will perceive you as a less than reputable business, and avoid ordering any goods or services from you. This in turn means they will not recommend you to other people.
Looking professional is therefore vital from the outset in order to keep your business reputation intact.
Splurging on expert advice on the design and build is certainly worth it if you are able to make your budget stretch.
If not, it’s a good idea to wait until you have built up enough funds to spend on hiring a professional.
Unfortunately, website design is more expensive than most people realise – a homepage design alone is likely to set you back at least £500 if carried out by a reputable company.
Having said this, there are professional designers out there who are freelancers and will do the job for less, especially if they are trying to get themselves established.
There are also the technical costs involved such as getting the new website design live on the internet, implementing a content management system, plus any general support and maintenance expenses.
Depending on exactly how much work is undertaken, the final bill could reach up to £1,000 including VAT. We recommend shopping around as the best way to go
How to find a web designer
First of all, always look at their portfolios to check you like their work before approaching them.
Look carefully at their previous work – are their designs user-friendly? Do the pages look easy to navigate? Do the designs convey the brands well? Are the products and services communicated well?
Another way of gauging design effectiveness is to look at the designer’s own website. Does their website really sell them to you?
You can also try browsing the web for any websites in general that you like the design of, and pick out 5 or 6 that you feel market themselves particularly well.
Usually the website will credit the designer so that you can find them and get in touch. If not, try contacting the business directly and ask them who designed their website.
Once you know who’s behind the design, take a look at their portfolio to see whether you like their other work too, then ask them for a quote.
Another way of finding a web designer is to use your contacts. Networking can be a good way of throwing up professionals you are looking for. Do you know anyone in the web design industry? Or know someone who knows someone else?
Try family, friends, work colleagues and any other associates who might be able to help.
LinkedIn is worth trawling if you have a registered account there.
It's more likely you will have success with a personal recommendation (if you can get one) and it could also result in a reduction on the normal rate, so it's worth asking practically everyone you know.
A third avenue you could explore is to search UK web designer directories. There are quite a few you can look through, and some of the largest ones include:
Web Design Directory UK
UK Web Design Association
Putting the design together
To help your designer produce the design you want, you need to provide them with as detailed a brief as possible.
This means sitting down and typing out exactly what you require. For example - colour palette, fonts, location of navigation bar, where you want images/text, information you want people to see and how the page should look as a whole.
There are some basic things to keep in mind when briefing your web designer.
Make sure your company name and logo are clearly visible. As soon as people land on your webpage, you want them to instantly see who you are.
The colour scheme should be in keeping with your logo and brand - stick to either 2 or 3 colours so the page doesn’t become overbearing and a headache to look at.
If your logo is yellow and orange for example, use the same shades of these colours on your website to ensure consistency.
Use a maximum of 2 fonts – don’t go overboard or your website will look messy and unprofessional. Your visitors may also have problems reading or finding the information they want.
The navigation bar should ideally be close to the top of the webpage. This way, users can automatically see what information is available on your website.
Some websites choose to have their navigation bar on either the left or right hand side of the page instead, but horizontally across the page near the top is probably better.
People aren’t going to bother searching far for what you have to offer, and if they have to scroll down the page to see what’s at the bottom of your navigation menu, the chances are this content won’t get much traffic.
Consider your revenue streams – think about pay-per-click and other forms of advertising.
You will need room somewhere on your website (preferably at the top and at the sides) to place Google adverts, direct adverts or any other ads you wish to place there.
To make it easier for your visitors to find what they are looking for, make sure you include a search box somewhere obvious on the homepage. Most websites have them either just above or below the navigation bar.
Think about using social media to promote your website and business too.
Many websites these days have buttons on the homepage that users can click on to follow a company on Twitter and/or 'like' them on Facebook.
Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be extremely useful for marketing your goods or services, helping you to reach a wider audience than you would normally be able to.
Keep your site updated regularly so visitors can see what you have been up to in terms of improving and expanding the company.
A good way of making this clear is to have a dedicated page to company news, linked to from the homepage.
Most businesses will have a box on the homepage of their website where people can view a snippet of the latest news story, which they can then click on to read the news story in full detail.
Overall, your website should be simple, uncluttered and easy for potential customers to navigate.
Remember - if people can't find what they are looking for, they will look elsewhere, so avoid scaring your customers away to your competitors.
Also, make sure the website design has all the features that you need as a business owner, such as the ability to add more content easily and areas for social media buttons, Twitter feed, company news feed, and anything else required to market your brand effectively.
Once you are happy with your choice of web designer, and have got an initial mock up of your webpage, you should also think about technical support for your website.
Things will not always run smoothly after your design has gone live, and if you’re not happy with dealing this aspect of the website yourself, then you need to consider getting a professional company to help you out.
Most web design companies offer technical support for websites they design, but if they don’t, or you are hiring a freelancer designer, then you will have to do some more shopping around.
There are certain things you should look for in a company that provide website technical support. These include:
- Who exactly is providing the support: is it the company themselves or a third party?
- Can you get support over the phone?
- How long will it take them to respond to your questions?
- Is the support system based in the UK or abroad?
- Will they upgrade your web content management system for free?
Make sure that whoever is designing your website and providing your technical support is open to communication.
If they don’t seem great at answering emails or phone calls, then this is probably a sign that they are going to be difficult to work with.
If this is the case, politely tell them you are no longer interested and look elsewhere.
Whatever route you choose, it’s important you have back-up in place, preferably before your website goes live or shortly afterwards.
The last thing you want is to lose visitors and therefore trade because your website has crashed and there is no one on hand to get the problem fixed as quickly as possible.