Building your startup website can be a lot of fun. It’s your opportunity to decide (and test) how the world will see your brand, how you will explain your product, position it within your industry and make a first impression on prospective customers. Fortunately, we live in the golden age of web development, so you have a lot of options in terms of how you go about building your website. There is a continuum of tools and platforms you can use ranging from products for total novices to experienced software developers. So even if you have no technical skills at all, you can definitely still make your website!
Here is a quick snapshot of various tools you can use and a brief description of when you might want to use them.
Landing Page Builders
ClickFunnels, LeadPages, Unbounce
These three platforms are all great options if you aren’t technical and would like to quickly build a landing page to drive traffic to. I wouldn’t choose these options for more advanced websites that have a lot of different pages, but they can be a great choice if you are focused on marketing a product and want to quickly be able to test different themes, make changes and capture leads or sell a single product. They all offer drag and drop editors and a great selection of well designed templates so you don’t ever have to start from scratch and you can make sure to have a good looking page.
Full Website Builders (No Coding Required)
Squarespace is a good option for a non-technical founder who wants a nice looking website with a robust layout and some additional supporting pages. The benefit of Squarespace is they have some beautiful designs and also have a very restrictive set of tools so it’s difficult to mess anything up too badly. The downside of squarespace is also that they have a very restrictive set of tools so you don’t have a lot of flexibility.
Once upon a time, Wordpress was the most popular kid on the block. That time has since past but many people still choose to use WordPress to build their website. Wordpress is accessible to non-technical users, but also offers very powerful technical tools and plugins for those familiar with all its bells and whistles, Based on that description, you might think I am advocating its use. However, that would be wrong. One of the most common problems I see with companies that start building their website on WordPress is that they later run into a brick wall in terms of flexibility and being able to continue to build what they want. Then they are forced to completely rebuild their site on another platform. So in spite of its robust ecosystem of plugins and templates, I’d be careful before choosing to go this route and think about your roadmap and what type of custom functionality you’ll need out of your site.
Wix is a cool idea with practical usage if and only if you also happen to be a great designer. It’s a pixel perfect editor so you can drag and drop your web page assets to exactly where you want. It offers the most design control for a non-technical user which can be great if you have strong design skills. However, if your design skills are anything less than very good, do not choose this option. Your site will look embarrassing. Feel free to play around with Wix…but when the time comes, don’t launch a 90s style geo-cities site because you have deluded yourself into thinking your stylistic sensibilities are “on point”.
If you are building an e-commerce site, Shopify is likely your best choice. They offer a great combination of templates and advanced tools to customize your site. They also have a very robust marketplace of plugins giving non-technical users the ability to add cool and interactive functionality without writing a line of code. In short, Shopify is an outstanding product and company. Strongly recommended for e-commerce.
Website Tools & Technologies (Coding required)
This is effectively a modern incarnation of Wordpress. It’s popular with people who have used WordPress or other “CMS” (Content Management Systems) in the past and are comfortable with the concept but want more design flexibility and less of a clusterf*** of plugins, tools and confusion. This can be a solid choice if you want to have a lot of control over the look and feel of your site, but don’t want to (or have the knowledge to) spend a lot of time developing the backend of your site.
Bootstrap is an HTML, CSS and JS style library which was created by Twitter. It can be a great tool to use if you have some basic web development skills and want to be able to customize from the code editor but don’t want to spend too much time writing CSS. The styles generally look good “out of the box” so it’s much easier to quickly create nice looking pages. There are also a ton of free and affordable templates you can buy on sites like ThemeForest or WrapBootstrap.
Ruby on Rails, Python & Django, PHP & Laravel