One of the most important parts of what you do online...
... is your website. No surprise there.
It's the place where your readers and potential customers or clients first get their first impression of you. It's how they come to realize that you have something that can help them.
But being able to share those messages and resources with your community depends on having a website that does the heavy lifting for you— a website that is clean, appealing, easy to navigate, and purposeful.
A website that is slow to load, confusing, and a cluttered eyesore is going to have your potential readers running no matter how great your writing or services are.
Luckily, you don't have to be a design genius to implement a few simple tips that make your visitors' experience a wonderful one.
1. KEEP YOUR DESIGN SIMPLE
When it comes to the design of your website, less really is more. There are a ton of tempting widgets out there— especially if you're using Wordpress, but when you really understand your focus and your audience, they're not necessary.
Before adding any feature to your website, ask yourself: is this helping my audience? Is it making their experience easier or telling them something about your brand?
2. MAKE SURE YOU CAN READ IT
There's really no quicker way to frustrate your reader than by slapping a too-pale font over a light background (I've made this mistake), a text colour only slightly different from the background, or miles of white text on a black background.
Although it might feel boring, your best bet is almost always very dark font (dark charcoal grey is actually better than pure black) on a white background. Coloured text works much better in your logo, or in headers.
3. THE RIGHT FONTS
You may have noticed the trend lately towards cursive, flowery fonts— and there is nothing inherently wrong with them.
But when it comes to putting together a website that is super easy to read and understand, simple fonts are key— especially in the body of each blog post, the main portion of text. While you might be able to get away with a very neat cursive font for headings, my advice is to keep these kinds of display fonts to logos or page headers only.
4. CONSIDERATE POP-UPS
Pop-ups get a lot of debate, and it's up to you whether or not you chose to use them on your website.
But let me just say this: there is nothing that will make me leave a website faster than a) an obnoxious popup that is hard to close, b) a pop-up that covers part of the text, or c) a website that has a popup, an exit popup, an opt-in banner at the top, and a slider in the bottom right corner.
If you're going to use a pop-up opt-in form, be smart about it— I recommend placing a sign up form on exit, for minimum annoyance.
5. MIND THE FOLD
When you only have a few seconds to make a good impression with your website, it's imperative that the important content is above the fold.
What the hell does that mean? "The fold" is a term that comes from the newspaper industry, and refers to all the content on the front cover of the newspaper, well, above the fold.
On a website, this refers to all the content you see without scrolling. When you're designing your website, make sure the thing you most want your audience to do is the first thing they see— like an opt-in at the very top of your blog.
6. IMAGE OPTIMIZATION
Great graphics are an important part of every website— we process visual information way faster than text, and so graphic content like diagrams, photos, and infographics are super-appealing.
What's not super appealing are images that are a) not the right size or b) so big that they obliterate your computer.
Make sure your images are the right size for your blog, and run your images through an image compressor like JPEGmini.
Your readers will thank you for it.
7. MOBILE RESPONSIVE
It's no longer enough just to have a website that looks great and functions beautifully on a desktop— it has to be ready for screens of all sizes, especially smart phones.
Even Google takes into consideration the mobile-responsiveness of your website when ranking it.
For this reason, I recommend folks just starting out use Squarespace— it's super easy to create a website, and it's always mobile responsive. Yes!
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I want to hear from you: what are your favourite DIY design tips? Let your fellow muses in on the secret in the comments below.