Here are a few best practices for building your startup’s website. This list is composed of both things I wish I did and things I’m really glad I did do, when I managed development of my current startup’s website. After completing your own website build, you’ll probably have your own list.
Disclaimer: this isn’t a comprehensive guide. There are many awesome comprehensive guides online. Comment below if you have additional suggestions.
There’s a ton of free material on the internet about proper SEO. I highly suggest you do a lot of research (if you’re new to SEO). I’m not an expert. But I have a few tips from my experience:
Mike Volpe of HubSpot wrote a really awesome short guide to SEO my colleague pointed out to me. In short: find your keywords and put them in your page URL, the page title, the meta description and your H1 text. Here is Mike's guide.
There’s a few things you might not realize affect your search rank. For instance, make sure your website is responsive (works on mobile), use HTTPS connection for your site if possible, and make sure your site loading speeds are fast enough (test here).
Your best performing keyword will most likely be your company name or product name. Don’t be surprised. That probably correlates with good branding awareness.
2. Contact Page
Every business should have a contact page. Websites ranging in size and sophistication from a local restaurant to a Fortune 500 company, have contact pages. At my current startup I’ve seen a wide range of requests… from the pizza delivery guy letting us know he was at the front door to potential investors looking to speak with our management team.
When you’re setting up your contact page (and receiving the traffic volume of a local restaurant) you might not be thinking about how to manage your contact requests when site traffic increases. But you should.
Think about setting up automation that alerts support, sales or other stakeholders in your company when a contact request comes through. You can create a dropdown field in a form for types of contact requests. You can set up logic in most marketing automation platforms that sends email alerts to the appropriate resource in your startup based on what type of request the viewer selects.
I was buried with contact requests after we launched beta. Being a cloud-based product I saw many product support requests. So we mapped form submissions on our contact page to create support tickets in Zendesk.
You also want to set up redundancies so contact requests (important ones!) don’t get lost in a single recipient's inbox. You can alert multiple recipients, create reminder emails, or trigger automatic replies to contact requests with information that might solve their problem. This is all very easy to set up with all-in-one marketing platforms like HubSpot.
3. Site Search
Websites that host great sums of content deserve powerful search options for visitors to find what they’re looking for. There are many options out there for website search. Google Custom Search is perhaps the most common. However, Google Custom Search isn’t perfect. At my current startup we used Google briefly, but ran into the confines of a tool that lacked flexibility. We currently use a search tool called Inbenta. This semantic search tool indexes our website, our help documentation in our browser based product, our user forum and video library. It’s powerful, user friendly and most importantly finds relevant answers to our visitor’s questions.
There are many integrations you might want to consider. If you’re building a webinar program you should try GoToWebinar. If you’re going to invest in video marketing, think about Wistia. There’s also really cool testing tools like Optimizely. And don’t forget about reporting. Google Analytics is the best website performance data out there (and very easy to setup)... plus it’s free! Another great reporting tool is Salesforce which integrates with major CMS platforms like HubSpot and Wordpress.
My suggestion is that you spend time penciling out what types of content you’ll be hosting on your website, what testing you’ll want to do, and how you’ll report website performance. There are many great tools that will enhance your website (and marketing).
5. Organizing & Planning Web Development
One issue you’re guaranteed to run into at some point is bug reporting. At my current startup we use JIRA for both bug reporting and web development planning. It’s not the right solution for every startup. It’s robust; possibly to a fault if all you want to do is simply report and fix bugs. But it’s valuable when you have multiple contributors, many projects going on at once and complex pages with many moving parts.
You can also manage website development in Google Sheets for free. Set up a bug reporting Google Form and share with employees, contractors and others involved in your startup. The information in that form can be routed to a spreadsheet where you track bugs. Add fields to your form to add context around issues: what browser was the viewer on and what operating system? Add a field for uploading a screenshot of the issue. Collect key information your web developer needs to fix the bug.
6. Design Consistency
Since most software startup products run in a web browser these days, there’s added importance to discussing design consistency between product and website. A branding guideline is helpful, but won’t automatically mean your website and product have a similar aesthetic. I highly suggest you sit down with your UX team, or lead designer of the product before you start design work on your website (perhaps even use the same designer for your website). Just mimicking your product won’t be sufficient. There’s many deliberate design choices you will want to understand before you start work on the website.
What’d I miss? What should I elaborate on? Please comment below.