12 lean startup lessons for your web design business

Beat your competition to market

In the traditional business startup model, you write a business plan, pitch it to investors, assemble a team, introduce a product, and start selling. This requires lots of time and research before you can start selling products and seeing a return on investment. This isn’t always the best startup model for a web design business because the web changes too fast. A good solution for a web design business is the lean startup model.

When you base your business on a lean startup model, you’ll reduce risk and get your product to market faster.


Lean startup reduces risk and helps you get a product to the market faster. It uses experimentation rather than heavy planning and develops the business through customer feedback. It breaks the design down into smaller components and creates a minimum viable product to expand on later rather than designing everything up front.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 12 lean startup lessons for your web design business.

12 lean startup lessons to integrate into your web design business

Here are some lessons learned by owners of successful web design businesses:

  1. Start with project management.

  2. Create your company hypotheses.

  3. Write an understandable value proposition statement.

  4. Use agile development methods.

  5. Get your domain and hosting.

  6. Build a basic website.

  7. Customer development.

  8. Get customers to your website.

  9. Test your business idea using customer data.

  10. Improve your website.

  11. Price effectively.

  12. Set up pre-orders.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Start with project management

Building a business is a project. It doesn’t have to be complex, but the project needs to be managed correctly to ensure that it sets clear goals, it keeps focus, and stays within budget. This means having a basic idea of project management. If you create a team, use tools such as Slack, Skype, etc. to ensure proper communication.

Lean Startup Design

2. Create your company hypotheses

The typical business plan looks at a five-year forecast and tries to answer every question before work is started on the business itself. It isn’t always possible to see every outcome with web development. The web changes too fast.

You probably don’t need that much information just to start a web design company. Instead of writing a detailed business plan, summarize your business idea as hypotheses. Many use a diagram called a business model canvas to show how the company will create value for itself and its customers.

The diagram will show your business model and list key features, the size of the market, etc. Use tools such as Google Trends and Facebook ads to evaluate the market potential. Crunchbase is a good tool to evaluate competitors.

List the services you will provide. Web design businesses typically offer products such as:

They offer services such as:

3. Write an understandable value proposition statement

The statement would describe what your business does. It should be simple but descriptive, stating how you help customers with your web development business. Ask others if it makes sense and modify it as needed.

4. Use agile development methods

Use agile development methods to build your business and website in iterations. You’ll save time and resources, and be able to incorporate vital customer feedback into your final products and service packages.

Eliminate wasted time and resources by developing your business and website in iterations. This results in a minimum viable product that can be expanded later and helps get your services in the hands of potential customers quickly. Perfect your service packages and offerings along the way. This prevents you from quietly doing the leg-work to build out services that your customers may not need or find valuable. Get feedback and make changes as needed.

5. Get your domain and hosting

Register your domain name and get hosting through GoDaddy. Try to get a .com, but also consider variations and other extensions. Select hosting based on the amount of traffic you project to have and the space you plan to use. Set up your website using one of GoDaddy’s templated website builders or Managed WordPress hosting.

Pro tip: Plan to manage multiple sites for clients? Check out the GoDaddy Pro program. The Pro Sites dashboard lets you manage multiple sites from one place and automates things like WordPress backups, updates and performance and security scans.

6. Build a basic website

Start designing the look and feel of your website. Use themes or templates as a starting point. Create a coming soon page and start collecting emails.

In your early stages of the lean startup process, start small but continue building out your site in the background. As you finish with pages or sections, publish and test the site with your potential customers.

Feedback is key.


Connect your website with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ to start building your social following. Also register with companies such as CrunchBase and AngelList pages.

7. Customer development

Customer development is a great way to test your hypothesis. Talk to your customers and ask for feedback on every element of your business model. Make adjustments as needed and test again. This helps reduce problems that aren’t working before you invest too much into them and helps you meet your customer’s expectations.

Lean Startup Laptop

8. Get customers to your website

Getting potential customers to your site requires a marketing strategy. Use tools such as Google AdWords, Facebook ads, and GoDaddy Email Marketing to raise awareness about your business and products.

Related: Lead generation for web design businesses

9. Test your business idea using customer data

Use analytics to track your customer’s activity on your website. Good choices include Google Analytics and Kissmetrics. Use services such as GetSatisfaction to measure user satisfaction of your products and get feedback. Ask specific questions to get the best results.

10. Improve your website

Improve the site based on the data you’ve collected. This will help you to look professional, which builds credibility, while building the minimal viable product. Continue using analytics to determine where improvements should be made. A/B testing can help you determine which of two choices is the best.

11. Price effectively

Analyze the market demand and what the competition is providing at what costs. Price competitively, in a way that provides value but would also be fair to you and your goals. Calculate your ROI (return on investment) and make changes as needed.

If you’re not able to be competitive for a specific product or service maybe you can make up the difference somewhere else or find another way to add value.

12. Set up pre-orders

Allow visitors to pre-order your products and services. This will help bring in revenue while building the exact products they want. Use WooCommerce or a PayPal payment button.

Related: How to productize your services as a web designer or developer


Lean startup is an excellent process for starting a web design business. It results in fewer failures than traditional methods because of the continuous improvement ideology. It helps you get started quicker with less upfront cost, get feedback from customers, and implement features and improvements based on that feedback.

Randy A. Brown
Randy A. Brown is a professional writer specializing in WordPress, eCommerce, and business development. He loves helping the WordPress community by teaching readers how to improve their websites and businesses. His specialties include product reviews, plugin and theme roundups, in-depth tutorials, website design, industry news, and interviews. When he's not writing about WordPress he's probably reading, writing fiction, or playing guitar. You can learn more about Randy and his work at his website, randyabrown.com.