Startup Diaries: The Most Important Rule For Creating Your Website

Every business has a website. Years ago, it was an online version of a brochure but how times have changed. It’s now your marketing team, your sales force and your shop window. And the prize you're chasing is people`s time and attention. If you can be interesting and intriguing enough to keep people clicking around and (even better) coming back, you`ve got something right.

Zlimm123 is an online product; it’s a virtual product. No shipping, no postage and packing. Delivery is simple, as is the product. So, designing and writing the website should be simple too, right? But the reality couldn't be more different.

Rather than bore you with my painful journey from website concept to final delivery, let me give the benefit of the lessons I`ve learned along the way:

  1. Understand your target audience. Get inside their heads. Understand their problems and then tell them how you solve them.

  2. Don`t make the mistake of going with a design that you like. Test it with your target market first.

  3. Do select a provider who you can partner with - it’s a long term relationship and breaking up is hard to do.

  4. If you don’t have the skills yourself, delegate the project management to someone you can utterly trust. Putting right development mistakes is costly.

  5. Get someone unrelated to your business to proof read. You`ll never see all the mistakes.

  6. Start using Google Analytics from day one. If you don`t know how to use it, learn. If you don`t want to learn, outsource. Ditto SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). When you pay attention to the numbers, you will make better decisions.

  7. Insist that it’s built using an easy platform. You need to have editing control to minimise ongoing costs. Most websites can be built in WordPress.

  8. Get the messages right. Research shows that you have approximately 10 seconds to grab attention so make every word count. 

  9. The single most important thing to keep in your mind is `Don`t make me think'. The moment your reader has to think about something, you risk losing their attention. They should be able to look at your home page and instantly get it.

  10. If you’re struggling to describe your product simply, use this format:

    We help [target market] [benefit] even if [objection].

    So, an example would be ‘We help new mums sleep even if their baby doesn’t. (And, if you find out how to do that, then you really will have cracked it!).

  11. Less is more. Writing web copy is very different to writing a brochure. Draft your homepage, edit by 50℅ then edit it some more.

  12. Think about who you are trying to attract and think about what words and phrases they would use to find your product in Google (hint - think of this from their perspective; If you lend money, the phrase your customer would use is `borrow' money). You can use Google Trends for this.

  13. Use emotion. Emotion drives choice. Example - you can buy any car to get from A to B but you buy a specific car because it makes you feel good. As an example, L’Oreal sells beauty products but it really sells hope.

  14. If your product can help people save time, save money or improve a relationship, you`re onto a winner.

  15. On every page of your site, ask yourself what you want your customer to do on this page and then answer the question “so that”. Let’s take the ‘About Us’ page as an example: ‘on this page, I want the customer to learn about our team so that they can trust us. And, then write your copy with that in mind.

  16. Include a blog. Google loves unique content which is regularly updated. Get into the habit of publishing regularly. If you find it hard, use discipline to get you started. Motivation will come.

  17. If you need to take money online, PayPal is an easy first option. However, be careful. If you put all your eggs into the PayPal basket and you have a customer dispute, PayPal has been known to freeze accounts until the dispute is resolved. Invest time to research alternative payment gateways and do this as a priority. Applying and being approved can take a while.

  18. Here are examples of some websites which have got their messaging right:

37 Signals – the masters of simplicity.

Dropbox – lovely use of imagery

Moo - `we love to print`

Innocent – who can resist?

And, lastly, Six Revisions is the best site EVER if you’re building a website. Get some inspiration there.

Jackie Hutchings is founder of two online businesses. Scubadviser (a TripAdvisor for scuba divers) and Zlimm123, a ground breaking weight loss programme. Jackie has extensive experience in starting businesses in a career spanning nearly 40 years.  A qualified business coach and leadership trainer, she started her career in Rank Xerox, quickly realising that corporate life didn’t suit her.  She launched her first business in the late 1970s, taking that company public on, what was then, the Unlisted Securities Market.   

Sign Up to our Newsletter

So you enjoy The NextWomen. Why not sign up to our monthly newsletter?
You get a Letter from the CEO :-), the chance to catch up with the best of our recent articles - and some extra things we throw in once in a while.

We try hard for smart reading.