3 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing A New Website

Branding, Website Design

[I]t’s that time of year, no? If you’re a photographer, the editing pile is (just about) under control. Or it’s the lull before the Christmas rush. Your thoughts are turning to web design. Maybe you’ve seen an amazing website and you’ve got design envy (believe me this is a real thing!) or you know your site isn’t technically up to scratch. ie. It’s not mobile friendly and EVERYONE has been telling you that you need to have a responsive site that looks amazing on all devices. But, whatever your motivation, for some reason, you haven’t been able to push the button.

It happens and here’s why.

You’re scared to do it the wrong way and you’re not quite sure how to do it the right way. And it goes without saying that you might not have the cash to outsource the whole process to a web designer. The result = not doing anything.

In this post I’m going to tell you the top 3 mistakes my clients have told me they’ve made in the past and how you can avoid them.

1. DON’T GO BRAND SHOPPING

We’re all guilty of this. You know that feeling when a competitor announces the launch of their brand new website and your stomach just drops. You can’t resist clicking and it’s amazing. You love everything about it. You wonder how you can ever achieve something half as beautiful. You love the fonts they’ve used, so you do a bit of research and work out what they are. The colour scheme is awesome. Let’s grab that too. You jump from site to site, obsessing over the cool details on all your favourite sites, throwing more elements into the mix. In a frenzy of excitement, you jump into your current website and you add the new fonts, you tweak the color scheme and you add the cool new graphic details you fell in love with and well….it all looks nice. But it’s still not you. You want to scream. When is your website ever going to look like you you?

The answer is simple. When you stop ‘brand shopping’ (which is a nice name for copying) and start really challenging yourself to think critically about why you love certain websites and hate others, then you’re well on the way to really understanding what you want from a new website. The next time you visit a website and you feel like you’re falling in love, stop and ask yourself what is in that draws you in so very very much. Is it the way the menu works, the simple navigation, the colour palette (warm or cool), the gallery format, the quirky design features….? Just what is it that keeping you there, on that site? Make a list and then take each point and expand on it. These should become your must-have web features.

2. DON’T START BUILDING WITHOUT A BRAND GUIDE

A brand guide isn’t just for big businesses and companies that work with fancy design agencies. If you can open a Word document, then you can create a brand guide. A brand guide should include the following:

  • Logo variations..colour, black and white, line block. Not all logos work in any situation. Think ahead.
  • Colours. Nail these down now so you’re not tempted to stray from your brand colour palette. Find out what the hex references are of your brand colours.
  • Fonts. Less is more. Set up a typical ‘type treatment’ to see how they all work together. Include a heading, subheading, paragraph text and call to action.
  • Got some icons or graphics. Now is the time to see if they work with your logo or font choices.

A brand guide will discourage your from ‘panic designing’, or designing without a firm plan in place. Tempted to add a font or a colour to ‘spice things up’? Your brand guide will keep you on the straight and narrow and ensure your brand message is consistent on and offline. You can check out a basic example below and grab the free layered Photoshop file here.

the-design-space-brand-guide

3. DON’T GET HUNG UP ON ‘TECH STUFF’

Yeah, I know. That’s alright for me to say. Most of you reading this will already have a website up and running that you want to change. And this is where a lot of people put off the whole process because they aren’t sure how to work on their shiny new website without affecting their existing website. Here are your options…

Option 1. Put up a holding page and re-design it super quick so you don’t have to deal with the tech stuff. Not ideal, right? No one wants to rush the website of their dreams.

Option 2. Set up a development site you can work on at your own pace and make ‘live’ once it’s perfect. Now I’m not going to pretend this is really easy, but it’s not rocket science either. If you’re confident enough to log into your own website and write a blog post, then you can do this too. The short video below shows you 2 options for setting up a development or staging site.

Your masterpiece is ready? Here’s my ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. The kind people at www.wpfixit.com will move any site for $39, change all the links and test the database. Bargain, right? In fact they can fix any WordPress issue you are wrestling with so they are good people to have on call.

Now I need your help.

I’ll be back next week with the Top 3 Things Creatives Need to Do when building a website but, I’m also putting together a really, really useful set of video guides to take the worry out of website design and I’d love to know what you are struggling with or what’s stopping you from making over your website or building the site of your dreams from scratch. Leave a comment and I’ll make sure everything you tell me you are worried about is covered.

PS. If you’d like to join a really supportive community, our private Facebook group, The Design Space Lounge is a friendly place to hang out and get business and design advice.

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10 Comments

  1. Phill Andrew

    Whats stopping me?
    Selecting the right images and writing copy!

    Reply
    • Melissa Love

      That’s always hard, isn’t it? In terms of writing copy, I find it easier to start with headings, make a list of bullet points and then get them into the right order before expanding them into paragraphs.

      Reply
  2. Katie Horrocks

    Thank you for sharing. Just where I am at.

    Reply
  3. Mike

    Thanks for the useful post! I’d love to know how I can plan out the order of sections and info that I display on my website.

    What I mean is, how can I figure out what’s the most effective order in which to guide a user through my website content.

    Reply
    • Melissa Love

      This is a GREAT question. I like to divide my information into 4 sections – arrival (home page usually), information (about you, FAQ, pricing etc), evidence (galleries, projects, testimonials) and then action (contact, blog, social media feeds). When you’re planning your site, try not to get too hung up on pages. Start by making bullet points under those sections, expand into paragraphs, arrange in order of important, and then assign to pages.

      Reply
  4. Bill

    DON’T GO BRAND SHOPPING.

    I can’t finish a my site without redesigning it before I’m done with the first try. And my first site using Divi, is just a showcase site of all the great sites I’ve bookmarked. I come across a good one and oh boy, gotta start redesign like that one.

    Reply
    • Melissa Love

      It’s really hard not to have your head turned, isn’t it? I do find creating a brand guide really helpful.

      Reply
  5. Sharon

    It says I can’t view your video (which I really want to do) because of privacy settings. Is that something specific to me and my Mac, or something to do with being in Oz? Or something else?

    Do you perhaps have this elsewhere like a YouTube channel?

    Many thanks, Sharon

    (PS I was up bright and early for your webinar this AM and LOVED it!)

    Reply
    • Melissa Love

      All fixed!

      Reply
  6. Natalie

    Melissa, please tell me how you managed to make the BLOG page of your site have the READ MORE button and get it to be so organized in DIVI. I can’t manage to do my blog like this and I do use Divi as well.
    This post though – gold mine to me.
    Sending lots of good vibes to you!

    Reply

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