So now the business logic, back-end development, are all done. The website is built with Twitter Bootstrap, look and feel are basic, but not top notch. Should I spend more time designing/beautifying the website to create a stunning looking one, or stick with the basic design?
I'm afraid that ugly/basic designs would just turn visitors off. But should I be spending more time marketing it first, then redesign later?
That largely depends on your target audience. E.g. if your product is targeted to enterprise customers your current design might better than the GUIs with which these customers usually have to work with.
If you target designers then your customer might be more critical in regards of the graphical design of your product.
In case of doubt, ship early and improve later.
I strongly believe that the best marketing you can get for your startup is by having a great product. Though it would be foolish to entirely dismiss marketing and only keep your eyes on product, i say you should go ahead with designing your front-end, giving it the best UI you can possibly give in a reasonable timeframe and then put your soul into marketing.
You can always keep refining your UI but the good ol' first impression is incredibly important. Try to keep the UI simple but unique for v1.0.
Unless it's key to your target market - if the USP of your product relates to excellent design - it can wait.
If you're starting with something bootstrap based, and haven't mauled the standard templates too badly, you're already at not-ugly. Which beats most folk.
Concentrate on validating your product and market first. Spending too much time on visual design and visual branding at this point can be a mistake.
The sooner you start getting customers the sooner you start getting feedback. The sooner you start getting feedback the sooner you start understanding what works and doesn't work. The sooner you understand what does and doesn't work the sooner you can focus on changing your product to better meet your customer needs.
If you spend a lot of time on visual design now - you may find you have wasted a lot of time and money polishing something that nobody wants.
Validate that people want your product first.
Unless your target market is designers, or the selling point of your site is its beauty, then Bootstrap should be enough cosmetically. More important right now is that the UX is clear enough that it's obvious what your site does and how to do it. If you're comfortable with that, then it's time to ship and start getting feedback.
Front end appearance is important in my opinion. It doesn't have to be super fancy graphics or animation. But i has to be neat. Looks are very important for first time judgment even if you deal only with software guys because they are human too. :)
So, I took a day in developing my start up and brushed up my start up website. It didn't take much time or resources but things look a lot more presentable now.
So often sites overdo the design. The site is fantastically beautiful, until you use it, to realise that is of no value or even broken. Look at Google design = as minimalistic as it can only be.
Having said that, if your main target audience are hipsters, art lovers or designers themselves, the whole picture can turn upside-down. They may ignore all broken feature as long as they have something beautiful to play on their screen :)
Finally, you have to compare with your competitors. If they all have stunning design and their site is competitively useful, then you have to do it too, or risk looking 'unprofessional'. However, if their beautiful sites are mostly useless comparing to yours, you have less need to worry.