Here are 5 design tips to upgrade your website. I have learnt these from bitter experience and boot-strapping my own business.
Invest In Just One Good WordPress Theme
Over the last 6 years of using WordPress, I have invested in a lot of premium WordPress Themes. These investments were not wise either in my investment of time or money.
Each theme is configured differently and it takers time to get familiar with all the functions and settings of a premium theme. So each time that you use a new theme, you are investing precious time in trying to work out how to best configure it.
In my opinion it is sub-optimal to use a free theme - usually they do not have the best design or the number of features that you can get with a premium theme.
Also, there is no guarantee that it will be well-maintained or indeed that you will have access to support if there is a bug or WordPress is upgraded.
For these reasons, I recommend spending around $60 and getting a really good premium theme from somewhere like Themeforest.net. Find their most popular themes where there have been thousands of sales.
These themes will be well-designed, well-maintained and will have a lot of functionality so that you can easily change the design of your website without needing to use another theme.
These themes also have a lot of demo pages that show you the capabilities of the theme and you can usually download demo site templates. These templates enable you to quickly add your own content and get up and running with a new theme.
If you limit yourself to one good theme, and become familiar with it, you will save yourself a lot of time in not having to learn the ins and outs of a new theme. Believe me when I say that this will be a real time-saver over time.
Where to Get Your Logo
To get a good bespoke logo designed from scratch can cost serious money.
On the other hand you don't want some sort of cheap looking logo on your well-designed website - it will devalue your brand.
If you go to Graphicriver.net and search for 'Your Keyword + logo' you will have the choice of a lot of top quality designs. A logo design will cost a maximum of $29. This is where I bought my logo on this site. I then mofified it slightly with Photoshop to make it my own.
Another great alternative is to look at the popular icons you can buy on GraphicRiver.net and use an icon for your logo. There are some outstanding icon designs.
Also, you could consider simply using some distinctive 'text' for your logo, like Facebook or Google - they have built hugely valuable brands without a graphical logo.
How To Acquire Beautiful Graphics.
Buying graphics can be expensive - there are a lot of premium sites like Big Stock Photo, PhotoDune and so on. Again, you can invest some serious mula in buying images for your website.
Sometimes this may make sense, particularly for the front of a website where you really want the wow factor.
However, I rarely buy images for my website, although I do buy bundles of matched icons to use, as you can see from this site.
For all my other images, I acquire free photos, mainly from sites like Pixabay and Unsplash and then radically transform them using Photoshop Actions. (You can also add images from both these sites directly into your website using free WordPress plugins - Pixabay plugin | Unsplash plugin.)
Alternatively, I simply use my own pocket camera to generate the images that I need..
I also use Photoshop Actions, to created branded mock-ups and ecovers.
Photoshop Actions are push-button simple to use and will convert anyone from a graphical idiot into a graphical artist. How do I know? I did it and you can too.
You can acquire the latest version of Photoshop for £10 per month from Adobe, and the Actions can be acquired either free or for a few dollars each. Believe me when I say, that this little tip will set you free as far as graphics are concerned.
My top tip is to forget all other image editors, acquire Photoshop and start using Photoshop Actions.
Colour Matching Aesthetics
If you do not have a good eye for colour combinations, you are charting dangerous waters if you aspire to be a great designer.
The aesthetics of colour are an important ingredient for design success.
Usually a small selection of well-matched colours is sufficient to generate a great design but how do you find a good colour palette? Here are two suggestions.
First, find a website that you particularly like and simply copy their colour palette using a tool like http://www.colorcombos.com/combotester.html
Alternatively do a search on Google for 'Color Combinations' and you will find a number of sites which give you some great ideas for colour combinations. Here is a selection of sites:
- coolors.co (- this is one of my favourites!)
The search above will also bring up some good articles on website colour combinations-enjoy!
One of the best and most sophisticated looking sites that I really like is black and white with shades of grey - it doesn't need to be rocket science. Notice the lovely photos of their products - it really does make a difference to their brand and how you perceive it.
I just wish to add that I have a particular liking for a flat colour palette - you can find this by doing a Google search.
Above all seek to build a clean and sharp design.
Make Navigation Simple & Intuitive
The best websites are simple and easy to navigate.
Think carefully about the experience that you want to give your visitors and show them a clear path that you want them to follow before you ask them to take action.
If you are not clear about what the visitor experience should be, then your visitor is likely to be confused too. Confusion means that they will click away if they cannot easily find what they need.
So next time that you set up a website, take some time to think about the user experience (and please don't look at this site as an outstanding example of what to do! I have grown wiser since I first set it up!)
Those are 5 of my best tips for upgrading your website design - if you have any other good tips then feel free to comment below because I would love to hear them.
BONUS: Here Are 5 More Design Hacks
Luckily, a universe of tools exist that enable quick content creation for even the non-designers among us – whether it’s as simple as a quick meme or as elaborate as an ebook. Slim, bootstrapping teams could wear a designer hat and produce the rich content quickly and inexpensively by enlisting some of these fantastic content-producing tools:
Capture the moment with Skitch
Skitch is a great app that helps brands tell a visual story – and it’s free! Grab a quick screenshot on your device and mark it up with arrows, boxes, text and more. Skitch lets you mark up images, digital assets, PDFs, and other files with arrows, callout boxes, text, and more.
I find that at least once a day I use Skitch’s “Screen Snap” function to grab all or part of my screen for use in content. I don’t need to plug my captured image into another program for further cropping and other editing since the all-in-one features of Skitch enable me to do so right in their app. A great time saver and useful tool for supporting your talking points with a rich visual design.
Skitch is owned by Evernote but does not require an Evernote account to start using. Try it out and screengrab to your heart’s content.
Don’t use any old font, use Dafont
Sick of using Times and Ariel in your creative. Aren’t we all? Luckily, resources like Google Fonts, Font Squirrel and more offer a wealth of wonderfully designed, open-source fonts to add a little character to your characters.
I like Dafont for its abundance of options that range from general purpose to highly specialized. Each font is well-tagged so the site’s great search function could pull up just what you’re looking for. Simply download, install and use a desired font in graphics, presentations, ebooks and more – just make sure to check for any attribution requirements.
Pound out a quick infographic with Piktochart
There’s nothing like a good infographic to capture an audience and teach them something new. When it’s simple to create in just minutes and free, it’s all the more reason to inject them into a content strategy.
Piktochart is quick and simple for anyone to create professional-looking infographics, reports, banners, and presentations. An intuitive interface and simple drag-and-drop features help a designer-less team fake it until they make it.
Get instant access and “start creating in 30 seconds,” as the site’s homepage describes. Start yours from scratch, choose from customizable free templates or step up to Pro for some more options.
Along with the vast library of templates, you can find over four thousand graphics to really spruce things up, or get more custom and create your very own images. When generating visual creations to represent your brand, avoid a clunky MS Paint design and make them look professionally mastered at low commitment.
Become an author with Guides.co
Have what it takes to write an informative eBook but lack the design skill to bring into fruition? Guide.co offers the perfect solution.
We’ve all experienced the power of eBooks, in educating an audience, adding credibility and thought leadership status to a brand and capturing more qualified leads. But the more comprehensive the piece of content the more time and budget it consumes.
Guides.co provides a useful, plug-and-lay model to take on the burden creating an attractive body for your killer copy. Like Piktochart, Guides.co offers multiple templates to kick off your design – and easy-to-use customizing features help to guide your guide to fit your brand.
Guides.co even goes the extra mile and hosts your content on their site for the world to discover!
Get interactive and think ThingLink
ThingLink adds a totally new form to social media that brings life to your content. The tool makes interactive visual graphics easy to make and void of the premium price tag.
The site integrates with others like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Vimeo to pull in sounds and videos to add to your graphic.
Register for free or get a few other advantages with a membership – but you might not need to spend the extra cash. The tools basic features enable users to design quite rich, interactive videos and images to incorporate into a content marketing strategy.
Even better, once completed, ThingLink lets you tag your piece and share with your social network along with their own community. Interact with other creative ThingLink users for ideas, inspiration and feedback.
Whilst Skitch looks good, I own Snagit by Techsmith and this is the tool that I use for annotating images.
I am also a font addict - I really have too many fonts on my computer. In web design, I think it is important to limit the use of fonts to just 2 or 3 at the most if you wish to keep your design aesthetically pleasing and easy to read.
The other 3 suggestions were new to me until I read this article - I particularly like the look of Piktochart. Whilst I have an infographic kit for Photoshop, frankly this looks better...