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Five Steps to Design a Website for a Lean Startup

Web Design

Jessica Marshall


The lean startup movement is growing in popularity as it shows its effectiveness. Basically, of course, it’s aimed to cut down on the guesswork with startups by using a build-measure-learn feedback loop. The entire lean startup principle is built around learning what an audience actually wants and then delivering, rather than going on suppositions.

Since a lean startup is based on giving people what they want, it makes sense that the website would be based on the same.


Of course, how each lean startup website is designed will vary depending on the startup itself, as well as the designer and the intended audience. But there are five steps to take in order to make sure that the lean startup principles are properly reflected in the “lean” website.


Let’s take a look.


Keep It Focused

Lean startups are very much about choosing a focal point — and staying focused on it to the end. There are different ways to go about this, of course, and that’s where the feedback loop comes in. But ultimately, the path that is taken can vary, while the endpoint should not.


A lean website should also maintain its focus, with the intended journey of the audience very much in mind at all times. If your startup wants to promote the traditional buyer’s journey, then each section of the website should be laid out in order to help the buyer move onto the next step.


It can be easy to end up with a lot of extraneous information on a site, simply in order to allow for more usage of SEO keywords or to bulk up the content or number of pages. But that extra space for SEO is better used in associated company blogs, rather than being included on the main page. Keep the focus where it belongs, and strip out anything that doesn’t push the visitor along to the next step.


Keep It on Brand

Branding is vital to any business, but it can be especially important for a new startup. With the lean approach, it’s important to make sure that potential customers know who you are right from the beginning — often before they even know that they are potential customers! If you own an online business then the first thing you need is to get a logo designed to act as your brand face on your website. 


Even while in the researching/learning phase, brand the content you create and the site you design, make sure to include vital branding visuals like the chosen color palette derived from your logo; brand the images you put up if they are your uniquely created visuals; and definitely brand your banners, emails, and newsletters. 



Keep It Simple

Simplicity is another key to a well-designed lean startup website. Startups which follow the lean principles do not tend to branch out rapidly, focusing instead on the core matters for which they were formed. Branching out can be addressed later on as the company grows.


The same applies for the website design. Just as we discussed focus, keeping the design simple and to the point is the best way to reinforce the message of the lean startup. Keep the format open and the layout uncluttered. Make sure that navigation and direction are both clear, and that the user interface is easy to operate.


Most importantly, make sure that content is well-written and easy to understand, with actionable content clearly obvious.


Keep It Adaptable

Since the principles for a lean startup involve changing and adapting as needed to ensure the success of the company, it’s best practice for lean website design to also embed adaptability within the architecture of the site. This is more easily done when the site is focused and simple.


An adaptable website design should not need a lot of work and revamp in order to keep it maintained and running well.


Adaptable design also includes designing for different platforms, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than relying on one overall design for all. This allows your potential customer to get the full effect of the site regardless of what device he or she is viewing it on.


Build It Lean

Just like the lean startup that the website is designed to represent, the site can benefit from the same principles that go into creating the startup to begin with: the feedback loop of build, measure, and learn. 


Of course, it’s a little different, since the product that is being designed is the website. But it’s beneficial to figure out from the beginning what is needed on the site, start it quickly, and adapt as necessary in order to allow for more information or features as you go. Starting the “machine” of your new startup requires an operational website in order to direct customers and begin gaining feedback to learn from — it’s a cycle, and the website is an integral part of it.


Long gone are the days of a months-long “placeholder” site, with nothing but an “under construction” image.


The lean principles guiding startups and websites alike motivate you to take what you have, put it out there in front of an audience, and learn from the process.