How to build a great website for less than £100

(...and why you should never do it any other way when starting out)

Ben Keene is the founder of Tribewanted, a Virgin StartUp business adviser, and advocate of funding your startup the lean way. While it might seem tempting to drop significant amounts of money on things such as business cards and snazzy websites, side-tracked by the excitement of starting a new business and wanting everything to be shiny and perfect, these are the things you should be saving money on. You don't need a website with bells and whistles; you need to focus that money on improving your product, rather than spending thousands on features that are decorative. Here is Ben's guide to building a website that will do the job on a budget.

So many of us have been there. We’ve received the quote for our website brief and looked at all those zeroes, all that time, all that work and then, without any real knowledge of the people we’re working with, let alone – heaven forbid – any genuine feedback from potential future customers on whether they actually might be interested in a plugin this or a tag your friend in this blog that, we reply and say:

"Sounds great, let's get building."

What. Did. We. Just. Do?

We don’t really have that much money to throw at this.

We don’t really know if it will work.

We don’t really know if anyone cares about our product (we do, they don’t).

Is this what entrepreneurship is all about? Taking a punt on building a website we have no idea will work.

The moment we engage a developer or software engineer to start building our big idea we’ve already crossed a big fat red line that rarely pays off. Its not about the fact that these people are not talented or cannot deliver on your brief – rather it’s the fact that you don’t need them, not at this stage, and not ever on day zero.

The good news is that times are a-changing – and these kind of mistakes should no longer be happening. Ever. But I still see people doing it over and over again. So here are a few quick tips on how to get your business off the ground online without spending more than it would cost you to eat a lot of pizza.

We are all (web) builders now, and this is my toolkit.

Landing Pages

For personal branding, user-testing, product launches or full-blown businesses.

RocketsparkBeautifully simple websites.

Strikingly: Slick landing pages your Granny could build.

Launchrock: Smart email-gathering product launch pages to help you build a mailing list and validate interest in your business.

Squarespace: The sexiest non-coding web-builder.

Divi: Putting the rest of the Wordpress themes to shame, Divi is a theme that gives you a simple, super-professional look.

Fiverr: Logos for a fiver. Designed by humans. Yes, really.

Feedback & Validation

Rapid feedback on ideas, prototypes and products is a huge help when it comes to quality market validation and future campaigns.

Twitter: Open a Twitter account with the name of your idea. Follow 100+ people or organisations in the industry that your idea is in. Check back 24 hours. If 20% or more followed you back, you have something.

User Testing: Get videos of real people speaking their thoughts as they use your website or mobile app.

Typeform: This is an elegant and fun new way to get people to give you online feedback. I use this a lot!

Google Forms: Simple, quick and all integrated with your Google world.

Survey Monkey: Old school, but still great for online surveys - a quick and useful way to grab people's thoughts.

Optimizely: This is a tool to A/B test your landing page, so you can figure out which one is more appealing to your audience. See also Parse.

Payments

Taking payments is a big one for most startups and this is where I’ve seen the biggest jumps forward over the last couple of years - here are some ways to take payments over your website.

Stripe: Finally - a decent alternative to paypal with actual customer service.

gocardless: Recurring payments by Direct Debit (EU only).

Moonclerk: More recurring payments integrated with Stripe.

Plasso: A great eCommerce solution.

Marketplaces

Share Tribe: Create a collaborative marketplace for you and other buisnesses.

Shopify: Sell anything, anywhere!

Analytics and Metrics

Once you've built your website, it's important to ensure that you can read the data, see where your visitors are coming from, what's doing well - generally keeping an eye on how stuff is going. And luckily there are lots of tools that can decipher this data for you.

Google Analytics: The original analytics app, but not that user-friendly.

Crazy Egg: Prefer pictures to numbers? Heat map visuals of where people click on your website.

Go Squared: Easy to use web analytics that bring a lot of information together into one place.

Mix Panel: A sleek analytics platform.

Kiss Metrics: Gives you the insights you need to optimize your marketing.

Webmention: Helps you keep tabs on who is talking about you.

Connect with Ben on Twitter, or find out more about what it's like to be a Virgin StartUp business adviser here.

 

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan