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Web Design Tips for a Unique Internet Startup

The startup culture is geared towards expedient development time and viral marketing. There have been plenty of success stories looking into recent startups within the tech & Internet niche. Most of these newer successful launches all share one trait in common – a wonderfully appealing layout design.

Your website layout is necessary to sell any good idea on the web. Practical Internet users do not have time for going around and testing out all the newest web apps. So you need to draw attention with a solid product contained in a pretty outer wrapper. I want to share some design techniques I’ve observed which relate to new-age Internet startups. If you can practice just a little bit each day then you’ll quickly pick up on these trends and how we’re progressing forward.

Include Featured Examples

Depending on what your startup is creating you’ll want to showcase talent in a different light. For mobile applications it’s important to show off a bit and reel in any potentially interested users. You can accomplish this through screenshots and scale model iPhone displays.

iPhone Ketup auction sales App Store

One recent example is Ketup which launched in early 2012. This is an auction app similar to Craigslist or eBay where you can put up items for sale locally. Their product was originally created for iOS, however the web interface is brilliant for checking out recent postings. But they’ve also done a great job explaining the purpose of Ketup on the home page.

Each sub-page also has a button located directly at the top where you can download the app from iTunes. It’s a 100% free download, and I’m sure their interface has caught on to a few wandering eyes. When you can utilize demo screenshots and examples from a mobile app you’re practically marketing the product right from the first pageview.

Dynamic Media/Video Content

Text and screenshots are always great when used properly in a website. But why not also consider offering a small presentation to your visitors? An optional video, slideshow, or 3-5 minute podcast is such a unique method of drawing attention from passionate users.

Foursquare mobile check-in service - landing video page

Personally I think the new Foursquare homepage does an excellent job of portraying this technique. New users can land on their website and learn what Foursquare is all about within five minutes at most – all without having any background information. It’s also been made very easy to signup for a new account or directly connect through an existing Facebook account.

Running an open system like this often allows for rapid membership growth. Launching a newer startup you probably won’t notice such an explosion of results as compared to Foursquare. But even a smaller idea such as Dropbox is clearly benefiting from the use of video media.

Dropbox landing page - cloud hosting service

The Dropbox landing page is a much better example of combining branding with minimalism. You don’t need a big custom logo or vector mascot to sell your startup. Just a simple video presentation on a plain white background can do the trick, if your product has some value. It’s all about approaching design from the mindset of your visitors.

Going with the Flow

Often there is a great deal of misunderstanding when selling a product online. There are plenty of ponzi schemes and illegitimate products to catch you, but there are certainly just as many solid trustworthy products as well. And you want to design a website layout which doesn’t make anyone think twice about your authenticity.

Flow App tasks and to-dos in the cloud

I believe Flow does an excellent job with their landing page. At the top you get a quick signup form along with a brief explanation about their product. As you scroll down the page you’ll notice small arrows leading you into each new section. One area in particular which stands out to me is the collection of brands already using Flow – some examples being Apple, TED, Disney, and Grooveshark.

I have tried Flow for a little bit a few months back and also tested the demo with numerous friends. Their product is phenomenal and only improving over time. So under the assumption Flow continues for many years, I’m sure this is one startup which you’ll see around the neighborhood.

Selling Internet-Based Services

Along with Flow there is another interesting cloud-based startup made for collaborative online coding. The company is Cloud9 IDE which has drastically changed my opinion on code editors. Their product is another example of absolutely phenomenal work, and you can actually start using Cloud9 with a free open source account.

Cloud9 in the cloud coding and hosting

Their homepage design features some branding and official navigation links anchored into a top title bar. As you scroll down the page you’ll notice many similarities with Flow where they have a small demo video and further details for interested users. This may be a fairly specific example when talking about startups. But I feel Cloud9 demonstrates a prominent layout design for aspiring social networks based around services like Github and Bitbucket.

Crafty Product Design

Startups are not only limited to mobile apps and creative social networks. There are plenty of new tech startups which focus on selling real digital products to real customers around the world. I can immediately think of the premium WordPress themes retailer WPBundle.

Wordpress premium theme WPBundle retailer website

The whole website layout just screams professional e-commerce in every section. The designers have even included a small showcase gallery of websites running their themes online. This is a nice marketing tool for selling more of these products to potentially interested buyers. If your startup is offering similar digital products, this idea for a showcase is brilliant!

Another of my favorite examples is the website EmailCraft.com. Their whole layout is designed to be using paper textures, stamps, and envelopes. The interface includes some very glossy buttons, and their homepage even features a small sliding showcase of previous work.

EmailCraft PSD2HTML coding for newsletters

Aside from the layout their credentials and previous work examples are stunning. This is another startup combining exceptional design techniques with a truly valuable product. Interestingly enough the guys who run Email Craft also manage the infamous PSD2HTML layout slicing service. Having a solid reputation behind your company brand will put more first-time visitors at ease, and much more likely to purchase your services.

Final Thoughts

It’s definitely a crowded area to get started building your own company online. Most startups who are bootstrapped end up shutting down within 3-5 years. To keep yourself pushing forward it’s vital that you understand some of these basic design principles and how to incorporate them into your own projects.

Of course, the ideas I’ve shared here aren’t absolute solid rules to work by. Web design is so lucrative because new ideas can bring about tremendous emerging changes in a worldwide community of Internet users. I do hope these ideas can inspire young entrepreneurs while also helping new startups push the limits on their design philosophy. If you have questions or thoughts about these web design techniques feel free to share with us in the post discussion area below.


Author:

Jake is a digital researcher and writer on many popular design magazines. He frequently writes on topics including web design, user experience, mobile apps, and project management. You can find him all throughout Google and tweeting @jakerocheleau. Connect with Jake on google+