Start-ups have become synonymous with beautiful homepages and product showcases. Think about websites like MailChimp, Evernote and Shopify, they epitomize the optimal balance between form and function, providing potential users with enough visual goodness to want to sign up, but not enough information for them to make up their mind before they do.
Most of us aren't as lucky as they are though; we don't have the time or the financials to invest thousands of dollars on a homepage. We'd prefer to invest our resources in the actual application we're building, which we believe will eventually sell itself. But until you reach the point where word of mouth drives all your sign ups, you'll still need that clean and crisp homepage to reach your weekly targets.
By now there's plenty of other software and services you can use to get your homepage up, but if you're like me you probably already have WordPress installed and you're just shopping around for a good theme you can use and modify as you like. Below I've listed ten WordPress themes I looked at while working on my first start-up. You'll notice that many of them have the same kind of look and feel, which is currently the most widely used layout for start-up homepages.
If you do a "WordPress Startup Theme" search on Google this is one of the first ten links you'll get and in this case Google got it right. It's a premium theme available on Themeforest for $30. It's built in Bootstrap, so it's easy to style and with limited options it's real easy to set up. Though limited, it has all the necessary components for a clean Start-Up look.
I'm a big Woothemes fan and even though this theme might not be built for start-ups it has everything you need, including a custom homepage with slider, features and testimonials. You might have to make a few CSS adjustments and install one or two plugins, but you'll end up with a quality site with regular updates and great support.
One of the more expensive themes, if you're going for the $199 developer licence, Simplicity is the most complete WordPress start-up theme you'll find. It has a beautiful homepage with sign up box, video player, features, testimonials and pricing table. This one came out after I set up my first start-up homepage, but I have a feeling I'll be using it for the next one.
Startup comes from the same stables as Simplicity and has many of the same features, but instead of a sign up box on the homepage it has a large slider for showing off some of your start-up features. If you can afford it I would use both Simplicity and Startup to see which one converts the best for my audience.
I've always found setting up Elegant Themes to be harder than it should be and I'm also not a big fan of glossy buttons and unnecessary shadows and borders, but there's been a noticeable improvement in many of their new themes and that includes Nimble. Nimble includes many of the "required" start-up theme elements, such as a big slider, features and pricing table, so if you have a membership there, have at it.
There must be a hundred more premium and free WordPress themes you can use to build your start-up homepage / frontend, but the ones I listed above will do the trick without taking up too much of your time. If it's not what you're looking for just make sure you find a theme which makes it easy for you to at least have a slider (or one static in-your-face block), features, testimonials and pricing. These are the first things new users will look for and the quicker you give it to them the quicker they'll sign up (hopefully).
Ludi is the writer of this article and the community manager at Site Portfolio Manager, a really cool online tool which automatically aggregates revenue and traffic data for all your websites.