Sponsored Post: Designing a Website for Startups

Today we have a sponsored guest post* from Lorna McGary:

Deciding to start a new business venture is an incredibly exciting time; one which is filled with important choices and decisions needing to be made. Once the preliminary decisions have been made, one of the next things that you should take into consideration is your new business’ website.

In today’s digital environment, a website is a must for any business, but it is an especially important tool for entrepreneurs trying to get off the ground and spread the word about their new start-up. The website is often the first point of contact many potential customers will have with a business, so it is vital to get it right. An eye-catching, engaging and useful website can work wonders for a start-up – the better the website, the more likely people are to trust your brand, turning traffic into conversions.

Great web design is the key to a successful website, but a lot of people underestimate the amount of work, time, effort and resources which go into the creation of the best websites. To help you out, here are some helpful hints for web design, website optimisation, and a few digital marketing tips and tricks to support your start-up and make sure you are hitting the ground running.

Which Platform is best?

The platform is one of the first things that you should be thinking about when planning a strategy for your web design project. Enlisting the assistance of a digital design agency can be a great solution if you could do with a helping hand – web design can easily get complicated, leaving you struggling with all the technical ins and outs of the task at hand.

However, even if you are intending to employ the additional support of an expert, there are still a number of things which you personally need to decide upon and keep in mind. After all, it is your start-up, so you should always ensure that you are in charge and well aware of what is going on regarding every aspect of your business venture.

One of these things is the platform upon which your website will be hosted. WordPress-based sites are one of the simplest options, as they are relatively easy to design and maintain. There is also the opportunity to use pre-existing design templates on WordPress sites, which can really help when it comes to taking the pressure off the design process.

Alternatively, custom sites require a lot more effort in terms of creation, design and upkeep, but they also offer complete creative freedom with web design, allowing for a unique edge. At the end of the day, the choice about which platform you choose is totally up to you – all the different options come with their own set of benefits and drawbacks, so there is no perfect ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is a vital part of marketing a business, also extending into the realm of web design. Your start-up’s individual identity should encompass each and every unique aspect of your brand, right through from the layout of the website to the logo to the way that you present yourself on social media.

Therefore, it is essential that you begin your new business venture with a clear idea of the ideal brand identity you wish to portray in your mind. Beginning with a strong plan right from the outset can really help you to stay on track and keep you focused as you undertake the process of building your brand.

The easiest way to ensure a cohesive brand identity is to make sure that all of these separate aspects are tied in together as much as possible. Whether this is through deciding on a web design theme which can then be rolled out across your start-up’s corresponding social media channels or ensuring your website content is written in a particular tone of voice which you feel reflects the manner of your business, brand identity is a key factor to bear in mind.

Digital Marketing: The Next Step

Once your brand new website is all up and running, ready to go, the logical next step is digital marketing. Since you have put so much effort into your site, it makes sense that you will want to spread the word about it and get as many people as possible visiting your website. There are many different methods of digital marketing, so it is worth doing some research and deciding on the specific aspects that you want to target at first.

Social media is a great place to start, especially as there aren’t any initial costs associated with setting up social media accounts. Similarly, social media is useful for interlinking with your website and sharing any news updates or blog posts if applicable – perfect for working to increase your brand’s online visibility.

Designing a website and starting to direct increased volumes of traffic to your site is absolutely essential for boosting business and ensuring the efficiency of your start-up venture. So be sure to follow our top tips and get yourself a website that you can be proud of, in order to maximise success.

Lorna works for a digital agency and works closely with business owners to help build a website that perfectly reflects their brand and message.




* A sponsored guest post is a post for which I received a monetary payment. Sponsored guest posts are held to the exact same editorial standards as other guest posts. The fee paid by the writer is to jump the waiting list as non-sponsored guest posts are typically not live on the site until 8-9 months after submission while sponsored guest posts can typically go live within 2 weeks. 

Costa Rica’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem – Ricardo Arce Interview

Ricardo Arce is the co-owner of InterGraphicDESIGNS and Quazar Web Design as well as co-organizer of BarCamp Costa Rica. He fell into entrepreneurship after college when he was doing freelance programming work, loved the freedom of freelancing, and his business took off to the point that he needed to hire employees and build a company. At the time Ricardo started his business, Costa Rica didn’t have a lot of high-quality web-design companies so Ricardo and his partners -Steven Guzman and Pablo Barrantes- were able to develop a solid reputation quickly and build InterGraphicDESIGNS to 35 employees (a mid-size company in Costa Rica). Computer science and programming are where Ricardo’s expertise lie so he has been learning how to be a entrepreneur as his company has grown and merged with others and has a unique take on the tech entrepreneurship world in Costa Rica and some of its issues.

According to Ricardo, Costa Rica has very high-skilled and well-educated people so it’s been attracting companies like HP and Intel who want to access its human capital. This has resulted in competition for programmers – and a steep increase in the expected salaries for those programmers – that’s forced many of these small web design firms out of the market. In fact, Ricardo says, many Costa Ricans who were entrepreneurs are now employees of these larger, mostly U.S.-based companies.

“The competition now is not for clients anymore, but for human resources…Web design is a matter of talent, of skills, so it’s important that you have the best designers.”

This competition has led Ricardo and his business partners to adapt their company’s growth strategy and has shaped the way they do business:

“[Big companies] can hire a lot of people with good salaries because they are selling in bigger markets. So we can do the same,” he says, “but we need some international presence, we have to change our business model, and we are at exactly this point…Some years ago, 90% of our clients were from Costa Rica and now it’s just 40%.”

While international expansion may sound like any entrepreneur’s dream, it also comes with its own set of hurdles. Until now, Ricardo has built his business by reinvesting the profits back into his company, but he’s currently exploring the possibility of raising outside funding to expand his company’s international presence and he’s noticed that access to capital isn’t so easy in Costa Rica.

For one thing, he says, Costa Ricans just aren’t as educated about or comfortable with the concept of equity investing. This seems to be the case in a lot of the Latin American countries I have and will be exploring, but Ricardo thinks Central America is even less educated about it than Mexico or South America. He says:

“If you look in the Latin American ecosystem as a whole, you can find more opportunities, but if you stay just in Costa Rica you will not find a lot of opportunities. You have to go to Colombia, to Mexico, to Argentina, to Chile.”

But while he sees Costa Rica as not on par with Mexico and countries in South America, he does identify Costa Rica as standing out from the rest of Central America:

“I think Costa Rica is a little bit different [than the rest of Central America] because of the talent. We have the same quality of talent as the countries that we’re talking about [Mexico, Colombia, Chile,etc.], but things with funding and investment are a little bit different. We have not developed that type of culture and ecosystem.”

But that culture is beginning to change as organizations like Startup Costa Rica and Carao Ventures try to fill in the gaps in Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem (stay tuned for interviews with leaders from both organizations).  Ricardo sees this progress as good and wants multiple stakeholders to be involved in the ecosystem’s growth because – as he sees it –  journalists, the government, investors, and entrepreneurs all have a role to play. But he doesn’t see this growth happening quickly enough. The culture is changing, he says, but too slowly.

“If you grow slowly and the other countries grow faster, you will always have less even though you’re growing. So yes, we are growing, but we are growing too slowly.”

One sign that Ricardo says shows that entrepreneurship hasn’t taken it’s spot as a highly desired career choice: in Latin America there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are entrepreneurs because they have to be, not because they want to be. In Costa Rica right now there are a lot of multinational companies hiring and offering good salaries and benefits, so people are becoming employees and get comfortable not having the risks associated with building a business. This is happening so much that Ricardo predicts Costa Rica will actually have fewer entrepreneurs (as a percentage of total population) over the next few years.

As a lover of entrepreneurship, I can only hope that Ricardo is wrong and that entrepreneurship in Costa Rica continues to expand, not to contract.


Do you have experience with Costa Rica’s entrepreneurial ecosystem? Let me know your thoughts on what Ricardo had to say in the comments below. 

Our next interview will be with Jose Callaso of Sabor Studio.