Front-End Website Design: What to Keep in Mind Whether You DIY or Hire a Pro

Having a quality website has a HUGE impact on the way people perceive and engage with your brand. I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in people who want a beautiful, contemporary online home but are fed up with the sky-high costs of custom web design. Plus, when individuals or small teams are running a brand, they often need the flexibility to update and maintain their own websites without design or development experience.

Platforms like Squarespace and Wix are life-savers for many solopreneurs and influencers looking to present themselves professionally without breaking the bank. Professional brand and web designers also benefit from these platforms, as they allow us to create distinct online homes for our clients that they can then feel empowered to manage themselves. The bottom line is you have options. Whether you plan to design your site yourself or recruit the help of a professional, I have a few suggestions for things to keep in mind.

WHEN DESIGNING YOUR OWN:

1) Highlight Your Call To Action

Don’t choose a website template solely based on beauty. Before you start designing, you’ll want to think about how you intend for people to interact with your website. Besides learn more about your brand, what exactly do you want users to do? If you sell products through your website, you want to make sure it’s optimized for shopping. If you host a blog, it should be easy for people to access your posts based on category, popularity, or what you’ve written most recently. If you’re selling a service or using your site as a place for people to book you, users should immediately spot a way to get in touch with you. You want your website to compel visitors to do something more. Be clear about your call(s) to action, and choose a layout that suits your brand’s goals.

2) Refine Your Content

While your website should include all fundamental information about your brand and some fun stuff as well, you want to be careful not to overwhelm people with too much content. Consider the fact that a growing number of users are accessing websites from their mobile devices. If your “about” page is several paragraphs worth of text, that’s already off-putting on a desktop screen, let alone when someone is scrolling through pages on a smaller device. Keep your website clean by focusing on content that is compelling, relevant, and action-driven.

3) Brand Where You Can

Sites like Squarespace offer a lot of flexibility for customizing your page layouts and other elements to the point where your website looks nothing like a pre-built template. Take the time to brand the details of your site before you launch. For example, Squarespace allows you to change the favicon and social share image on your website. If you choose not to update these with your own imagery, Squarespace will use their own favicon, which is simply a black box, and will leave your social share image blank. I’m big on details; I think the small stuff says a lot about your dedication to your brand. So, be sure to go through your website with a discerning eye and remove or change any filler text or symbols to make it uniquely yours.

WHEN HIRING A PROFESSIONAL

1) Prep Your Copy

I ask my clients to keep a document that houses all of the wording they want incorporated into their website. This may include your brand summary, testimonials, product or project descriptions, service descriptions, calls to action, and fine print pages such as your terms of use, privacy policy, and FAQ. I’ve seen many people underestimate the amount of time and editing that website copy can require. Spend some time drafting and finalizing this part before reaching out to a web designer.

2) Find Examples You Like

Come up with two or three websites that you like as a point of reference for your designer. A lot of people can point out what they like and don’t like much better than they can articulate their style in design speak. A designer will have great insight into which layouts and design elements will work well, but if you have any inkling of a vision in mind for your website, it’s better for you to show than tell.

3) Have Professional Photos Ready

Everybody I’ve worked with knows I do not design a site until I have professional, high-resolution photos to use. Smart phone photos work well for many things; people can take excellent photos for social media on an iPhone, for instance. But I have rarely, if ever, seen a high-quality website that didn’t use high quality photography. Fortunately, there are some dope options for stock photography that’s not corny or contrived. A couple of my favorites are Unsplash and TONL. If custom photography isn’t in the stars for you at the moment, there are some great low-cost or free options. Prepare a handful of professional photos for your web designer to use. They truly set the tone for your website experience.

I want to hear from you. Are you designing your own site or hiring a pro? What else do you need to know before you make the decision? Let me know!

XO, Bri