In startup land you can’t swing a stick without hearing this advice: be scrappy! I want to take a look at what that even means and if you can apply it to setting up your website.
Scrappy - what it means to me
The definition of scrappy doesn’t really work for startups: consisting of disorganised, untidy or incomplete parts. When I think of startup scrappy, I prefer to go with the urban dictionary:
"A person / company who is little but can really kick some ass."
That to me is the base of startup scrappiness. But, how does this little person or startup get to kick some ass? By being fast on its feet. To me, this means that while we may want to think through every detail, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. As a startup you need to be agile and act fast. You need to be able to quickly test, scrap and start again if needed. Would you agree?
Scrappy website foundations
You are never going to pull up one iteration of your website and be happy with it forever (or even for the next two quarters). You will have several versions, small and large design changes, copy changes and may even redo your SEO depending on your target audience. It should grow over time as you add more pages through your blog and new landing pages with offers. You will want to test what buttons have the best conversion for you. In fact, there will be a lot of testing and changing elements quickly if they don’t work. For startups it makes sense to have scrappy websites.
To make a scrappy website work, you need to lay a few foundations:
1. A CMS that works for you
There are a lot of Content Management Systems (CMS) out there like Wordpress, Elementor Page Builder for Wordpress, HubSpot, ExpressionEngine, Drupal and more. While Wordpress is probably the most used right now, it may not work for you. I’m not great at HTML and CSS, and I find it pretty hard to build new pages myself in Wordpress. So while I can edit easily, I find it pretty hard to wrap my head around creating a new page for a site from scratch. I prefer HubSpot for that. Then you talk to some coders and well, I don’t want to repeat what they say about that tool. They swear by something else. You see where this is going.
Be scrappy when your site is up, but don’t mess up the foundation and choose a CMS that works for you.
2. Know your target market
Knowing your target market or buyer persona is another piece of the foundation that you have to nail down to a large part before you start building your site. You may change direction at a later point and go after another audience. But, trust me, without knowing who you are targeting, you will have a really hard time creating a UX that works for potential customers, copy that speaks in their language and offers that they can engage with. After all, if you don’t know who “they” are, how will you attract “them”?
Knowing your target market well will not just inform your website but essentially everything you do. Although your market may evolve over time, make sure not to be scrappy with this step.
3. Be organised
Especially if you are working with a designer (internal or external), make sure you are organised. Layout what you expect each page to look like (I tend to draw out boxes with a pen and paper), label the content you want and your images according to the page they should appear on. Save all elements in an easy to follow fashion (e.g. one folder for home page that holds the wireframe / layout, copy and images, one folder for about….). Think this is OTT?
Be organised, so that you save time on the build and there is no confusion about what you expect and where content is meant to be.
4. Get an editor
Your website is going to be your shop window. It’s often the first impression you give. Not sure about what your mum said to you, mine was adamant that you always should aim for a good first impression. Typos and broken links can always happen (and will). But, you should aim to have as few of these as possible. Lots of mistakes will affect your professional impression negatively. When you write your own copy and build your own site, you are naturally very close to it. Then, it gets hard to spot even the most obvious mistakes. Get a second person to read your site and test all the links. This editor can be in your business, be a friend or former colleague. It doesn’t matter.
Be scrappy, be fast, but ensure your first impression is a good one.
Scrappy websites are not perfect
You need a web presence up fast. At BusinessBrew, Nikita and I just experienced this. You are starting to talk to people, potential clients, investors and others. Often, they ask: “What’s your website? I’ll check it out.” You need a site up and fast.
Accept things don’t always work
Go on, check our site on mobile. The homepage works and it is responsive - great! Click on the menu. Fail. It doesn’t work. We have problems getting this fixed properly and had a choice to make: do we go live with a desktop version that works or wait for a perfect site? We took it live and here’s why. Our persona is most likely to check us out from desktop and we needed something up now.
So your images are not perfectly aligned, your form CSS doesn’t quite match, your logo isn’t done yet. So what? Be scrappy. Accept things don’t always work and ask yourself: does this have to work right now or can it wait?
One good one is better than ten mediocre ones
You might feel that you need a blog with multiple posts, a great about us page, product pages to beat the band and so much more. And yes, you are right, you will eventually. Even if you work scrappily, a website build will take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month or two. To be scrappy, get a one good holding page up there. What it needs to do is:
- Tell visitors who you are and what you do (think elevator pitch)
- Outline how they can contact you (ideally a form but contact details will do)