this year has been so rich in learning when it comes to web design and digital strategy and I am super grateful! My MA in creative media has prepared me in lots of ways, but since this is such a fast-paced industry, the real magic happens when you make it happen in real life!
Working with dozens of clients meant that I learned lots about the questions that keep coming up and I totally understand that creating or re-designing a new website can be daunting. Most of us want an authentic platforms that converts well, that represents our business and who we are and that is functional and easy to use. But where to start? Here are my top tips and most popular resources that will hopefully help you out.
Which platform is the best?
For me, without a doubt, its wordpress.org. I have written more about why I love this platform so much here, but in short – its easy to handle, incredibly flexible in terms of design and there are thousands of plug ins that let enable you to extend its functionality. Be aware that wordpress.com is a little different and that for entrepreneurs its usually best to go with a self-hosted platform.
Which WordPress theme should I choose?
I personally love Divi and High End – these are both mobile responsive which is very important, they are very flexible and they integrate with popular extensions such as Woo Commerce or Wishlist. In addition their customer care is good and because they are so common, you will easily be able to find a web designer or developer who can help you out if you get stuck. I advice against having a custom theme done for you if you are not absolutely sure that you will be able to have full access to it to independently make changes – I very often hear from clients who ended up being unable to edit their site and therefore need a complete redesign.
I have written more about what to look for when choosing a theme here.
Where do I start with branding?
Colours, images, fonts and symbols are a beautiful opportunity to share your visions and ideas non-verbally and let your audience connect with you on a deeper level. To create a professional first impression, its important to be clear, consistent and appealing to your target audience. A good place to start is doing some research on other people and organisations whose online presence you love – what colours are they using? What is resonating with you?
Creative Market offers you thousands of fonts to choose from and Canva is a great place to create your own graphics. I created a video here to teach you how to take the first steps with Canva – I hope it helps!
Remember that your branding journey should be fun – make some tea, look for inspiration and collect everything you love in one place. Some of my clients even made Pinterest boards to get clear on their branding wishes.
Can I do this myself or should I hire someone?
Good question! I would say this really depends on how much experience you have with web design, what your budget is, how much time you´re willing to invest and you quickly you want to launch. If you are on a tight budget, it might be wise to get specific help, for example with tech aspects or with branding, rather than a complete web design package. Ultimately I think a website is a major priority for any entrepreneur – without a compelling, well converting site it will be hard to get things off the ground.
If you are going DIY, remember that there are so many free resources online that can make things a lot easier for you. I would also advice against giving into the temptation of just using a simple Wix for Weebly site as their customisation and e-commerce options can be limiting.
If you do want to hire a web designer, shop around, look very closely at portfolios and ask around for recommendations.
How do I brief a web designer?
Every web designer is different of course, but generally I would say the following steps are great:
- Be as specific as possible and give examples of websites that you love. If you are really unsure, say so and see if you can get extra branding guidance
- Think about the functionality and the user experience you want for your website in addition to the wishes on the design you are communicating
- Prepare your content for the agreed start date – you will need your copy, your hosting account and the images you want to use ready (or let them know that you want to work with stock images). If you are unsure about writing your own copy, say so and think about working with a copy coach. Be realistic about your own schedule and your ability to provide content and feedback to avoid delays for both you and the designer.
- Be very clear on your expectations and make sure to sign an agreement with a project outline and deadlines. If you need additional services such as an e-commerce set up, social media campaigns or ongoing tech support, make sure to negotiate the conditions before you start.
How do I keep my website safe?
Most importantly I would advice to install a spam filter, create regular backups and work with very complex passwords. I have put together some resources on this here.
Where can I find great stock images to create my own graphics?
These are some great sites to find free stock images:
How can I host online courses?
I totally heart online courses and am running my own on Gumroad. There are plenty of options and I am going into more detail here.
I really hope this overview has been useful to you! Let me know if you have any other questions and feel free to request a quote, I wont bite.