Stop reinventing the wheel

10 years ago, if you wanted a website and didn’t know how to code, you had little choice but to get in touch with a freelancer or agency, and pay a fairly sizeable budget to get something up and running. But these days, we find ourselves increasingly referring a lot of smaller projects to third-party, all-in-one services like Squarespace (for ‘brochure’ sites) and Shopify (for e-commerce ones).

Sure, we’re turning down somewhat easy money for every referral we send their way–but we’re in the business of trying to help startups succeed, and spending something like £2,000+ launching a static site (even even more, for an e-commerce one) when it’s not necessary, is just a waste of money for a lot of young startups.

We’d much rather people invested that money somewhere else for now, where it can make the biggest difference to their business, instead of spending it with us and regretting that massively in the future.

Setting up, maintaining and keeping an e-commerce site secure, is not a ‘one-time fee’ kind of thing–it’s something which requires ongoing involvement from a developer, which means it costs a not insignificant amount of money. If your business involves selling stuff online, and you have this single point of failure (that freelance developer or agency, who might not be available when your site has problems) then that’s a really risky position to place yourself in.

Sure, Squarespace and Shopify bring with them an ongoing monthly expense, rather than a one-time fee to get you up-and-running. But in reality, businesses and markets evolve, and needs change.

If your business does well, the site you launch today is inevitably not going to be the one you need in a few years, regardless of how well it’s built.

But it’s a powerful temptation–the allure of that shiny, powerful site, which has plenty of room for you to grow into, and covers all your hypothetical future needs. After all, everybody says you should invest in quality tools and great code, right?

But it’s also massively inefficient–and nobody likes inefficiency. By looking for something ‘bespoke’, there’s not only the financial hit to get it built and shipped, but also the cost of missed opportunities and reduced flexibility. In the vast majority of cases, it’s far more valuable to launch fast, and then to be able to easily test new changes and variations, and tweak your site (we call this iteration), than it is to have a beast of a site which is potentially more powerful, but in practice, is far less flexible.

To try and force this into an analogy here… if you wanted to take up bike racing, but hadn’t really cycled since you were 12 years old, when you sort of enjoyed mucking about on a bike, would you start today, by spending months researching and building a top-of-the-range custom bike yourself, by hand, picking out all of the best components? Or would you do a little research, figure out what seems to be a decent, affordable, entry-level bike, and give that a go for a few months, while you figure out if you’re actually any good at the sport?

You’ll get onto the road months sooner by choosing the off-the-shelf option, and then if and when you find that you’re getting decent, enjoy the sport, and actually need a better bike in order to step things up, you’ll have a far better idea of what sort of bike is going to be best for you. At that point, you can buy exactly what you need, not what you assumed you might need, back when you had no experience at all.

In the world of startups, speed and flexibility is almost always the goal. One of the easiest ways to burn through precious cash is to prematurely optimise–far better to instead keep things lean, use the most appropriate tools for the job, and allow yourself to move fast and experiment. You’ll be sure to thank yourself for it in the future.