Your website is your digital storefront. If you happened to pass by, would you walk in and want to look around more?
I co-hosted a twitter chat all about branding with Kayla Hollatz. We wanted to take the twitter chat a step further and host a little Brand Love Fest. Fifteen #createlounge members volunteered to have their website's reviewed, and loved on, by us.
After checking out a few amazing websites, we started noticing some overlap in our advice and praise! Here are twelve solid tips to whip your website into shape and ensure your brand story is shining through.
1. GET INSANELY INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR TAGLINE
Within a few seconds of landing on your homepage, I want to know who you are, what you do, who you help, and how you help them. I like to call this your one sentence. Catchy titles and fancy names are great, but at the end of the day, your new readers and potential clients need a clear statement describing the purpose of your website.
Start by simply filling in the blanks: I help _____________ to _____________ through _____________.
2. CLEAR + CONCISE NAVIGATION
Make sure your navigation is crystal clear. Don't get too fancy with your link names. Simple About, Contact, and Hire Me links work just fine. Save your creative copy for the actual page content!
Add a hover style and selected style to your navigation links. You can do this by changing the link color, adding an underline, or changing the font style. The Delightful Style does an excellent job of this by having grey links that change to pink when hovered and black when selected. Caitlin Powell's navigation links are underlined when selected so you always know what page you're on.
3. KNOW YOUR IDEAL PATHWAY
According to Nielsen Norman Group, "users often leave web pages in 10-20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people's attention for much longer." Determine the ideal pathway you want viewers to take through your website. It should be clear on each page where you want your viewer to go next.
For example: If someone reads your about page and scrolls all the way to the bottom, you should have an actionable link or button directing them to sign up for your newsletter or go to your blog.
4. FIRST REACTION IS EVERYTHING
On average, a viewer's page visit lasts less than one minute (Nielsen Norman Group), so first reaction is everything. People will decided in a split second whether they want to stay on your site and learn more about you or leave. This is where your brand's visuals come in. Your overall design aesthetic is crucial to the viewer's first reaction of your website.
One way to work on your visuals and determine your design aesthetic—if you can't hire a designer right away—is to create a moodboard for your brand. For exact steps to create your own moodboard, check out my last post.
5. CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Are you getting sick of me saying this yet!? If you've interacted with my brand before I'm sure you've heard me say this a few times. Whether you're trying to grow your community through social media or bring more clients in through your digital storefront (your website), it all comes back to one thing: consistency. Having a consistent logo, color scheme, and message is crucial to having a recognizable, memorable brand.
6. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT'S ABOVE THE FOLD
Above the fold refers to everything on the upper half of your screen before your viewer has to scroll down. Make sure your logo and tagline are above the fold. Also, make sure you have enough engaging content included above the fold to intrigue your reader to keep scrolling and learn more.
7. WHITE SPACE IS A GOOD THING
Repeat this with me! "White space is a good thing." "White space is a good thing."
Do not be afraid of a little empty space. Do not try to fill up your entire page with links, photos, buttons, and more. White space helps your overall design aesthetic by making you look more professional. Some breathing room also helps your viewer focus in on the most important information on each page.
8. SHOW US YOUR PRETTY FACE
At the end of the day we're all just people who want to work with other people. By showing us your face, we can already connect and relate to you that much quicker. A bigger, fun photo that matches your design aesthetic, voice, and personality is the way to go!
9. CUSTOM PHOTOS MAKE YOU STAND OUT
There are some amazing free stock photography sites out there, but displaying custom photos on your website is one of the best ways to stand out. Using your own photos adds to that overall first impression and allows your viewer to see a little bit more of your personality right away.
If you do use stock photography, add your own spin to the images! Overlay a transparent color that matches your brand, crop the photo to fit your website better, or add custom text. (A little legal side note for you: Make sure you check the photo rights before you make any edits.)
10. ADD IN A DASH OF PERSONALITY
Remember, people want to work with people so make sure you're humanizing your brand. Embrace who you are and what you like. Then allow that to shine through in your website's design and copy.
If you're outgoing and colorful in everyday life, then make sure your website has pops of colors with fun content on each page. If you're an adventurer who loves spending time outdoors, maybe you should opt for a more neutral toned website design with minimal content and big, beautiful visuals.
11. USE BRANDED BLOG POST IMAGES
Make sure your blog post images are consistent with your brand's colors and typefaces. This is not only super important for your website, but also for your social media. When you share photos on Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter you want people to recognize your brand instantaneously. Using branded blog post images is the perfect way to make this happen.
12. THERE IS A PROPER TIME AND PLACE FOR ADS
I will admit I am bias when it comes to having ads on your website. I am not for them. However, if you do have advertisements on your website, follow these general guidelines:
- Do not put ads on your homepage. You want people to stay on your website! Do not encourage them to leave right away by placing ads for them to click on.
- Design the ads yourself. Use consistent colors and fonts that match your brand.
- Add a 'Resources' page to your website. That way you can house all of your ads and affiliate links in one place.