Why startups should (not) build their own websites

12 minutes

Startup beginnings are full of twists and turns. You've put a lot of hope, effort and sometimes a lot of money into your project and you need to push it on all fronts to scale it quickly. But product development eats up all your team's capacity and there's virtually no time for anything else. How do you avoid the situation where your team's attention is fragmented by the need for your own website, how do you avoid frustrating your marketing teams and save time and money?

There are currently around 2,100 startups in the Czech Republic and they are constantly disappearing and new ones are being created. According to an analysis by Česká spořitelna analysts, on average one in ten succeeds. Half of them end in the fifth year of their operation, the ones with the hardest time are those that operate in the IT sector. The share of unsuccessful projects there is up to 63%. One of the most pressing problems is the lack of qualified people in the team - according to the Deloitte Startup Environment in the Czech Republic 2021 survey, 59% of startups lack employees. According to Česká spořitelna's analysis, 14% of the failures are due to poor marketing, which in the first months has only one task, to win over customers.

9 out of 10 startups founded in the Czech Republic fail. The lack of a quality team and poor marketing are to blame.

How to manage everything that is expected of a startup from the perspective of all co-founders, customers and investors in such conditions? If a startup has a development team, it is very unlikely that its members would not have something to do. In most cases, they focus all their efforts on developing a product that should have been ready yesterday at the latest. This product addresses a need of the target group, which must first become aware of its existence. It is therefore important to manage the communication channels through which the product is presented to the world in parallel with the development of the product. This is best done in a timely, consistent and long-term manner. A company simply needs a tool at hand with which to work towards this goal. We talked to experts who have extensive experience in consulting and mentoring (not only) Czech startups about what the path of startups to their own website should and should not look like.

Pavel Bartoš – startupbox

Pavel Bartoš

co-founder of Startupbox, Google Certified Trainer for Design Thinking a Entrepreneurship. He works as a consultant and mentor for startups and has consulted, mentored or trained hundreds of startups in the Czech Republic and abroad.

Jan Kříž – Unicorn Army

Jan Kříž

co-founder of Unicorn Army, works as a consultant in the field of marketing and communication, helping to develop the Seed Starter program, was previously CMO of the UP21 incubator and co-founded the first virtual startup summit WeAre Virtual.

You're at the very beginning. Do you even need a website?

There are two good reasons not to get into more complex website work at all for now. The first is that you're really just starting out and haven't yet verified who your customers are and whether you're bringing them a product or service they're willing to pay for. The second is that you're further along, you have a verified MVP, your first sale is taking off, but it's working through completely different channels than the internet. When a startup gets to the next stage and starts to operate on a more solid foundation, there is usually consideration of acquiring a website. So how do you go about it when you come to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to have one?

"For start-up projects, it is usually enough if you start with as simple a website as possible in the form of a one-page presentation. Focus on introducing the benefits, showing the product, and most importantly, conversion. And make it as easy to create as possible. Within solidpixels, there are many professionally pre-built concepts or individual parts of the website that will make creating your first web presentations as easy as possible." says Jan Kříž.

"For start-up projects, it's typically enough if you start with as simple a website as possible in the form of a one-page presentation."

Dead End

Let's briefly look at what it actually looks like when startups overestimate their strengths and decide too early to split their team's strengths between product development and developing their own complex website.

"If startups go the DIY route, they are unlikely to be flexible and quick enough to reflect changes in the value proposition, product description, branding, etc. Which are changes that happen all the time in the first stages of a startup.

When a startup finds itself in a situation where it cannot reflect changes in its purpose, targeting and forward movement on its website in real time, it usually starts to resign itself to change in general. At that point, it runs the risk of no longer evolving fast enough to respond to market and customer needs. Yet this is absolutely crucial in the early days." says Pavel Bartos.

"If startups go the DIY route, they are unlikely to be flexible and quick enough to reflect the changes that happen all the time in the early stages of a startup."

It takes an outside perspective

Startups are about testing, optimizing, collecting and evaluating data and feedback, and making changes. Both in the product itself and in communication. And changes need to be made quickly. That's the only way to recruit customers fast enough to avoid running out of funds on your account.

"You get into a spiral that you need to manage. You have to be able to make a return on the cost of marketing. In doing so, it's easy to make marketing a black hole for money and team capacity," warns Kříž. "If your website is part of the customer journey and not the product itself, build it on a no-code solution. Let your programmers and coders focus purely on the product itself." He adds.

"Having someone external on hand to help build the site is healthy. Even if it's just handy tools instead of an expert or consultant," says Bartoš, adding, "In my opinion, the core of the problem is focus. Product-market fit (i.e. finding the right customer and developing a product for them) is and always will be a priority, which is why there will never be the capacity to build your own website. The consequence will be a scrappy website that reflects neither the needs of the startup nor the expectations of the customer."

"Having someone external on hand to help build the site is healthy. Even if it's 'just' handy tools instead of an expert or consultant."

End of the punk era

It happens to virtually all startups, and it doesn't matter if the pressure comes from customers, founders or investors. The bird needs to leave the nest. The resources are already there and you can afford top market experts to go over your proposition, business strategy, sales and marketing with. The outcome will likely be a transformation of the entire company, including rebranding.

What does the proper startup do? It doesn't forget that it is necessary to remain flexible.

"If the project has grown and the website needs to fully match its branding, I always use solidpixels to customize the styles and invest in creating specific elements on the website. However, the complete manageability and especially the low-cost service remain with me," says Kříž, describing his experience.

At this point, we need to focus even more on site performance. It is important to have fast loading times, linking tracking tools, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Facebook pixel, setting up conversions or the ability to instantly create landing pages for your campaigns.

A little strategy never killed anybody

Let's summarise what has emerged from everything you have learned so far and what the ideal possible solutions are for you.

  1. You are a startup. Ideally, you should use your own resources and build a simple website quickly using a no-code solution. With solidpixels, you can do it with one hand tied behind your back. You don't have to depend on the capacity of your developers and you'll be able to change practically anything in minutes if needed.
  1. You are a functioning startup, but you need to put your time and money into product development. What about using the power of an external expert with the necessary experience who knows how to build conversion paths and apply best practices? If they build the site on a no-code solution, they can easily hand the site management back to the company so it can update everything easily.
  1. You scale-up, you have enough resources, but you don't want to be dependent on a team of developers in the future even with trivial adjustments. Rely on an experienced agency that has all the necessary experts and will build you a professional customized website. The no-code tool will guarantee you virtually unlimited customizations and a long-term efficient service.
  1. You are a different sized startup and your product is also your website. None of the above applies to you and forget everything you've read so far.

Actually, no... even if in your case it's impossible to detach your own website from the product and therefore needs to be developed internally, there are situations where you may find it useful to be more flexible than ever. Landing pages for campaign needs or career pages for a quick recruitment process sometimes need to be created really quickly, and being dependent on a programmer definitely doesn't pay off in these cases. So don't be afraid to have a no-code tool at hand that allows you to respond in a timely manner.

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