Ostriches can't fly. To add insult to injury, they're one of the largest bird species out there. They have to hobble around looking for something to do while their avian counterparts swoop in boundless directions.
If you aspire to start a web business without coding skills, you're probably feeling like an ostrich. Despite spending years in school and hours at work, you can’t create your vision. You have two options: learn to code (a worthy investment through Codecademy) or find a programmer (a topic that warrants its own article). Given the frustration, many would-be entrepreneurs give up on their vision without giving it a real chance.
Here are some tips for making your web business work, even if you don't know how to build a website:
1. Simulate Your Vision
Recommended Tools: Powerpoint, Balsamiq, iMovie
As an entrepreneur, your goal is to assemble the necessary resources (money, talent, etc.) to create your idea, but you have to sell your vision to do so. Although a business plan would be useful, it's not the best communication tool, especially if it's dense with jargon and short of truly showcasing your idea.
Instead, I recommend building a website mockup where you can show each page's function and simulate how they behave by linking them to one another. Powerpoint lets you link to each separate slides easily; my personal favorite mockup tool is Balsamiq, which is very user-friendly because of its drag-drop functions. Your mockups can achieve the look and feel of a real website. Now friends, investors, or potential co-founders can see your vision instead of reading a long inanimate document. If you want to take this to the next step, make a video by "screen recording" your mockup (I use Snapz Pro) and adding some narrative and music using a basic movie editing software like iMovie.
2. Create a Prototype
Recommended Tools: Weebly/Wix/Wordpress, Google Analytics, Qualtrics
Prototyping is all about validating individual portions of your concept. Use widget-based website creators to quickly and easily put together a prototype. Weebly, Wix, and Wordpress (just to name a few examples) can be very powerful when mixed with a little creativity. Letting potential users interact with “something” will give you valuable data, which you can easily capture using data analytics. My favorite is Google Analytics because it's free and easy to implement (it just got a great new upgrade too). If you can’t capture particular data, use surveys (Qualtrics is a fantastic tool which lets you capture 250 surveys for free) to prompt users. How do you get users? Put it up on your Facebook Wall, blast through email, offer a raffle or a perk (i.e. first to get access to your site once it’s built). Having data in your pocket will both educate you and provide compelling information when you’re trying to recruit others or raise funds.
3. Brand Your Vision
Recommended tools: Crowdspring/99designs, Launchrock, Facebook, Twitter
We live in a world where the smallest startup can look and feel like the biggest companies out there. Make sure you snag a good domain site and create an attractive logo, which you can cheaply outsource to sites like 99designs or crowdSPRING. Once you have some visuals and an identity, cover your bases by creating a landing page for your site (LaunchRock is a good tool for that), setting up a Facebook Page (claim your facebook.com/yourbrand URL), and developing an audience through Twitter. Having an online presence gives you a stage where others can share in your journey. You’ll have a community of eager users ready to support you faster than you think.
4. Enjoy Your Launchpad
Your company is now live. You've established a presence and have powerful tools to sell your vision. If you want to hire talent, you now have something to point applicants to. If you need support, you can show family and friends what you aspire to build. If you hope to raise money, you can go on Kickstarter or AngelList with a bit more credibility (and hopefully a mockup video in hand).
Spread your wings, my fellow ostriches. The sky is the limit!
Tony Navarro is Founder and CEO of Streamcal, a venture that redefines the way schedules and calendars are published, shared, and consumed across the web. He is originally from Colombia and strongly believes in the power of entrepreneurship to generate economic growth.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.