How To Build A Website That Works

Paul Gubbay, Chief Product Officer at Squarespace, has built a career around helping creators and businesses of all sizes build their brands, reach new customers, and sell more products. Here, he breaks down the essentials of why entrepreneurs should focus on designing and refining their websites to be as user-friendly as possible.

1. A website is the hub of your business.

Social media and marketing are essential, but your website is the ultimate destination. It is the one source of truth that an entrepreneur owns for telling their brand story and developing the most direct relationship with their customers. It also provides an excellent surface for creators to develop and merchandise digital products, which is something we see many new and existing entrepreneurs incorporate into their offerings. We know that a consistent brand across websites and social channels drives credibility for customers. Ideally, entrepreneurs should leverage the brand elements and content they create for their website across their social channels to create maximum impact. And as new products, services and content are made available on their website, they should utilize social channels to drive awareness and traffic back to their website.

2. Attention spans are short — layouts matter.

Web design, particularly for businesses, is heading in the direction of complete design control and flexibility over the page, so that entrepreneurs and creators can express their brand without creative limitation. Businesses need to be able to stand out, ideally without having to hire a developer to write custom code to achieve design differentiation. Businesses also, now more than ever, need to pay close attention to the mobile version of their website. With smaller screens and shorter times to establish trust, it’s no longer enough to simply rely on the seemingly endless scrolling responsive layout interpretation of the desktop version. Businesses should consider optimizing the mobile experience by adjusting the page layout and even reducing the amount of content.

When designing a site, creators and entrepreneurs want a design system that offers the freedom to easily experiment and stretch creative limits through an unrestricted canvas, but they also need guidance. Squarespace’s new Fluid Engine website editor provides a smart grid to fall back on. When we overhauled our platform with Fluid Engine, we asked ourselves: “Does this provide design freedom while providing layout guidance and consistency?” This is where we see web design going.

3. Use customer feedback to iterate and develop new products.

Building a successful business is predicated on identifying a meaningful customer set with a problem (market research), providing a product or service that addresses it (product market fit) and having a way to reach that customer so they know about your solution (go to market). A good entrepreneur will do the upfront work to ensure that the market size of customers with a shared problem is large enough to be meaningful for their business, and that they can ultimately sell their product for a profit. This holds true for both a new product and an existing product where you are planning on making a big change or a pivot. What’s critical is that you find a way to stay close to your customer so that you can iterate based on their feedback. Remember: Customers can’t tell you what to build or sell. That’s the job of the entrepreneur. What they can do is show you how they respond to your solution and provide feedback that you can use to iterate until you find the right product market fit.

4. Determine market fit for your product.

You need to work backward from the needs of your potential audiences, and there are a few key ways to do that.

  1. Consumers are looking for offerings that improve their day-to-day life, be it professional or personally. Ask yourself how you can uniquely do that.
  2. Look at the interests, groups and networks that your potential customers are part of — ask yourself if you could be successful at storytelling about your product using the communication styles and touchpoints where these customers live. If you can’t figure out the storytelling, you won’t be able to market your idea in an ongoing way.
  3. Ask yourself if someone would pre-order this product, or subscribe on an ongoing basis.
  4. Do you understand the community? Brands who build passionate audiences and come from a place of authenticity will win.

5. Pay attention to all UX details from start to finish.

Your goal is ultimately to create a compelling experience for your target audiences. This can mean many things, but as a starting-point on the content and ‘creative surfaces’ side, the outcome needs to look good everywhere — across all platforms — and needs to wrap your ideas in legitimacy. People notice details with a strong finish. Product videos with voice-over, an artful call-to-action section on your website, a unique layout for your email marketing.

We’ve seen massive community-building and growth opportunities for businesses when they incorporate new ways to sell digital content via a member area where their audience can get regular content, online classes, newsletters, and other gated experiences. Further, many of these business models are built around a subscription, meaning that once you’ve provided value for a customer, they are likely to continue their relationship and transact with you on an ongoing basis. We’re seeing endless opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs to engage and transact with their audiences online and are committed to providing them with the best platform to start and grow an online business regardless of how they choose to sell.

Author Profile

Sarah Meere
Sarah Meere
Executive Editor

Sarah looks after corporate enquiries and relationships for UKFilmPremieres, CelebEvents, ShowbizGossip, Celeb Management brands for the MarkMeets Group. Sarah works for numerous media brands across the UK.


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