How to build your first startup website

Building a website might be among the first startup steps you take when starting up, and if you're not tech-savvy it can feel a little daunting. Luckily, nowadays there are tools that can make the whole process easier if you don't have the budget to hire a designer, or if you simply want to have a go yourself.

Ros Clitheroe is the founder of Carney, a stylish female cyclewear brand that transforms into hi-visibility when darkness falls. Designed to ensire female cyclists feel safe on the road, it's a brilliant way to ensure everyone can see you. We asked Ros a few questions about building her first website.

Has your website gone through many iterations?

Not yet. To start with however I built a basic landing page to launch the first product. I then embedded an e-commerce section into the website so that pre-orders could be accepted.

Did you do it yourself or use a designer or agency?

I did it myself - I'm not tech-savvy and had not built a website before, but it was straightforward (even for me) and there was no need to pay a designer or agency to do it.

What was your approximate budget?

I had zero budget, but was advised beforehand to try it out myself. It was very rewarding too.

What was the process of developing your first site like?

Reassuringly straightforward. The steps were:

  • Decide what functionality you need - for example are you using it to sell or just get sign-ups?
  • Choose a platform e.g. Strikingly, Squarespace, Wordpress
  • Choose a template - this means you don't need to start from scratch
  • Write content - message, photos, story etc
  • Embed additional functionality e.g. e-commerce platform (this is straightforward by following instructions). I used Celery (as good for pre-orders) and Stripe for accepting payments.
  • Buy a domain name (I used GoDaddy) and link to website
  • Check links work and get feedback from friends

What was the most important thing you wanted to communicate through your website?

The USP (lots of photos of the product), my story (why I was doing it), and how to pre-order the product.

Do you use analytics programmes, and are they useful?

Strikingly came with its own analytics for free, which showed me information such as the number of visitors at what hour/day/month, and what country they were from. These are useful when you are doing adword campaigns so you can see what is working, or what isn't.

Any other tips for startups setting up their first website?

  • Don't pay a designer or agency - you can do it yourself, no matter how few IT skills you have. Try it! You could build a functional website in a weekend.
  • Get feedback from friends.
  • Keep things simple - less is more.
  • Don't forget the customer. Building a website is one thing but don't forget 'the work behind the work', or the most important element of your business - communicating with customers.
  • Play around and have fun with the layout and content.
  • Make sure all the links work.

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