I search Twitter profiles for phrases like "small business owner' and 'entrepreneur' and I start conversations with them everyday. I want to hear their struggles, know what they need for their businesses, and how I can help.
Often in these conversations, I end up talking to a young or early stage business leader about website creation. The website is often the first step to building the business. Sometimes the creation of the website is what is holding them back from starting their business.
The website shouldn't be a stumbling block. It should be the opposite. Once a business has a website in place they have a home base. Somewhere to be found. Somewhere to represent themselves. It's like having a front desk that represents your business perfectly.
So how do you create a great website when you are just starting out? Here are my best pieces of advice.
Be the MVP
Launch what you can afford right now. If you wait till you can afford more, you will miss opportunities to work, learn, and grow.
Start-ups and agile project managers often talk about the concept of an MVP (minimally viable product.) Dream up your ultimate beast of a concept for your website, and then boil it down to the essentials. What is the one thing you want your customers to do/know/experience on your website? Make a website that does that one thing, and, as Seth Godin says, "launch it." (If you need help with this, send me a note - I am an expert at documenting plans and then iterating them over time.)
Some other points to remember when determining the size and budget for your website:
Don't play with design
I like to say that over 80% of a viewer's perception of your online property is completely based on the visual user interface. Respect the aesthetics (look and feel) and user experience (ease of use, intuitive navigation.)
Design, user experience, and website building are 3 separate skills. Some website designers/developers can do them all really well at the same time. And, some really can't. If you are hiring someone to build your site make sure you are clear on where their strengths lie. Check out their portfolio, and know what role they have played in past projects. Don't assume your developer knows how to make your site visually appealing or usable unless you know he/she has done this type of work in the past.
If you are building your site yourself or through someone who specializes in website building find a designer who is willing to finalize visuals of your site. Allow him/her to standardize the graphics, layouts, and fonts. Then get some feedback from potential users on the usability. Watch people use your site, listen to their questions, and use what you see and hear to refine the layout, organization of information, and wording used in your links.
A few more points about design:
Launch it now, update it often
A website is a living, breathing customer service tool. Update your content as often as you can. Base new content on questions, feedback, and changing business objectives. Allow it to reflect your goals, priorities, and company culture today. Tomorrow is another day.
Do you have more to add? Want to add your tips or feedback? Please leave a comment below.