Having a personal website can be incredibly useful for your career. However, it can be easy for a website to go astray and not have the professional effect you want. Here is a simple set of tips and tricks you can follow that will let your website shine.
Top Trick: Show Somebody
This is "skipping to the end" in a sense, as this truly is the greatest trick you can employ. Show somebody you confide in your website and get their feedback. A confidant will provide you with the most comprehensive insight. When you watch as an avatar for your future employer or client browses your site and asks questions, it will reveal to you all the flaws. Find someone you respect in a similar industry, hand them a laptop with your site loaded, brace yourself, and take notes.
Ask yourself: What is the purpose of your site?
Why do you have a website? What do you want to accomplish with it? These seem like a lot of questions but having a solid grasp of your "why" can help with "what". Do you want to become a thought leader in your industry? If that is the case, you'll want to showcase your case studies or articles to prove your authority. Do you want new work contracts? Ensure your service offering is clear, and you have examples of your work. Knowing what outcomes you want from the site, will help you prioritize the right elements from page to page.
Ask Yourself: Who do I want to reach with my site?
Similar to purpose, you must understand your target audience. How do I want to address them? Your target audience will also impact the "What" of the site if you put yourself in that position and walk through what would be most important to them.
There's no need to go this alone! There are very successful websites in your industry, and they have spent a lot of time testing and refining. Find some excellent examples of your contemporaries and learn from them! You'll do yourself no favors by doing an exact copy, but with some research into your industry, you'll be able to see some trends and ideas that will benefit you on your site.
Template vs. Custom Design
If the site has all the bells and whistles, then you'll end up spending a lot of time polishing bells and tuning whistles. Prioritize solid foundations. Again, who are you targeting, and what do they care about? If the site is a repository for your information, the only thing that matters is easy navigation and a fast load time. Consider a hosted service like SquareSpace or Wix. If you're a developer, being able to point to a beautiful and well-built site may be a plus. It's important to remember here that the site should serve you and your purpose. You don't want to be bogged down with issues that detract from your job/client hunting, so choose your design wisely.
There are lots of variations and options to choose from when designing a site, but these days there is one non-negotiable factor: Mobile Friendly. There is a good chance someone will access your site on their phone. Your website must look great and be easy to navigate on a mobile device.Stick to Known Conventions It can be fun and exciting to try unique and innovative layouts for your website. However, it is a misplaced effort if it doesn't serve your purpose. We can lean on learned conventions. This is what people have come to expect on websites:
Logo or name top left or top center, links to the homepage
Main navigation top right or top center
Contact in the menu as the last item
Social media links in the header or footer
Using known conventions may be a bit boring, but it can make your life and the life of your viewer easier.
Use the Right Images for Your Target Audience
The human brain can process images up to 60,000 times faster than words. It's a powerful tool for us to use to convey to our visitors that they're in the right place. Thankfully, there are amazing sites with exceptional high-quality free photos. Here are some sources to check out:
Let Everything Breath
There will always be a desire to fit in as much information as possible into any given space. However, this can be counterproductive. Reducing content and adding blank space around elements allows the reader to effortlessly digest and transition between pieces of information. It produces an orderly and pleasant reading experience that will convey much more.
Only Use Two Fonts
We've touched on a principle of "less is more" a couple of times already and this remains true with fonts. Use no more than two fonts on your website. To find fonts that coordinate well together, check out the following free sites:
Use Headers Wisely
Headers (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) need to be meaningfully different from the body text, and one another. Deploy them wisely to help guide your reader and some bonus SEO boosts. Think about the Headers like the sections and subsections in a piece. You would organize your content on a page like this: <h1>Title Here - Only One of These Per Page</h1> <h2>A Sub Title</h2> <h3>Point One</h3> <h3>Point One</h3> <h4>Small Point One</h4> <h4>Small Point One</h4> <h3>Point One</h3> <h2>A Sub Title</h2> <h3>Point One</h3> <h3>Point One</h3> <h4>Small Point One</h4> <h4>Small Point One</h4> <h3>Point One</h3> Consider the suggestions below as a starting point to apply the differences in the font sizes:
Limit the Colors
It can be fun to play with colours within a design or a website. Keep in mind that just like fonts, things can go wrong fast and have a detrimental effect. The benefit of limiting colors is that it makes it easy to guide the user with an eye-catching pop of color. Imagine a page that is primarily grey and white with a bright orange button. Where do you think the eye would go? Each color has emotions tied to them. Even the range of colors can elicit a response. What emotions do you want to convey? Consider using the corresponding colors as per this image from UserTestingBlog.
Check out the following sites to help you settle on a palette that is cohesive and conforms to colour theory:
Make Your Website Yours
Follow these guidelines and you're sure to have a professional website that helps achieve your goals. Regardless of the platform or style you choose, your audience will appreciate if you stick to the foundations listed above. Cheers to your great looking website!
About the Author
Trevor Alexander has been a professional designer for 15 years, including being part of 3 successfully sold start ups. He now puts together resources and courses to show how ANYONE can produce better looking Presentations, Documents, Reports, and Images by following practical and repeatable strategies. He firmly believes that Virtual Assistants, Marketers, Developers, Business Owners��veryone, CAN improve the design of their work. Check out his site at https://justenough.design/