Every year we hear the same thing from business owners and personal brands:
‘This year, I’m going to sort my website.’
But then clients and customers come first and the sliver of time you do have to work on your website is taken up by procrastination.
What’s my colour scheme?
What should I write on my homepage?
How do I do this bloody techie thing!
If this sounds like you, you are not alone! We see business owners vow each year to sort their websites only to go into the next year with the exact same one.
You know your website is important. You know that you can’t continue with the website you’ve got and that #WebsiteShame is holding your business back.
So 2019 is the time to get it sorted!
In this four-part series, we’ll be outlining the four key pillars to website success so you can get your website live ASAP in 2019.
In this third episode, we’re talking about 3 key design elements that will dramatically improve your website.
In this episode we’ll cover…
Website Photographs/ Imagery
Your Colour theme
In this episode, we’ll cover…
- Should you use photographs or stock images?
- Where to find ideas for your colour theme?
- How to find great themes and what to avoid?
Welcome to the Make Your Mark Online podcast, where we help personal brands build and grow a successful business website. Please welcome your host, husband and wife team Martin and Lindsay.
Welcome to episode 24 of the Make Your Mark Online podcast. This is actually episode three of four in this little December mini-series. Now, as you know, 2018 is nearly done, and 2019 is right around the corner. And part of what we’re trying to do with this podcast, and with the Facebook group and also the membership as well, is to help as many people as possible create a highly successful website. The problem is that, quite often, you’re just not sure where to start, especially if you’re trying to redesign your website from scratch, and it feels like you’ve got a mountain to climb. And this is why, throughout December, we’re helping you plan your new website. We’re going to be focusing on four key activities that will help you plan your website, and getting it live quicker, so that you can feel better about getting your head into it and actually starting to look at the tools and the tech behind it.
Before you do any of that, we’re going to go through the four important elements that you need to do before you get to that stage. Because seriously, we want you to make your mark online in 2019 and stop faffing around and putting the website stuff off, because I know it’s holding you back, okay? So let’s do this together.
Now before we get into the show, this podcast is sponsored by the Make Your Mark Online membership. This is our signature membership community, where we help personal brands build and grow a successful business website. The doors for the membership are currently closed, but you can check out the details at MakeYourMarkOnline.net, and you can actually joint he wait list, and we’ll let you know as soon as we open the doors again in January. So let’s get into the show.
So in the last two episodes, we’ve discussed two of the major elements that will help you get started with your new website. First of all, it was understanding your goals for the website, and then it was how to structure your website based on these goals. How to structure the pages, how to structure the home page. Both of these episodes are really, really important. They both come with worksheets, as well, so feel free to head over to those episodes and then download the resources.
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about design. The fun stuff. Although I would say, if you haven’t listened to those episodes, do those first. This might be the fun one, but those two are very necessary, because you have your goals, you have your key services identified, you have the map for your new website, and now, you need to know how it’s all going to be pulled together in terms of the design, so that we can make it look nice and professional.
Okay. So what I’ve done with this episode is I really had to think about the three most important elements that will impact your design, or the design of your new website. And these three sections are photography, and the imagery on your website; the colours, which is kind of the branding and the style; and then thirdly, the theme. Now these three elements, if you break them down, and you just do these three things … there’s plenty more you can do. You can talk about fonts, and you can talk about all that, but these three elements, from experience, are probably the best ones to get started with, because the majority of the website will be taken up by one or more of these three things. These three items are going to help you plan your website and get it live quicker, and yeah, we’re going to go through those now.
Okay, so the imagery on your website. Should you use photographs? Should you get stock images? Should you use vectors or animation on your website? This is such an important element that I don’t think I could ever stress it enough. You can clearly see some websites have not been designed by a professional. Some of them scream, “I have just been down by the designer, or the actual, the business owner.” And photography and photographs and images is the quickest way for you to show people that you have not invested in your website, because it’s just so important. Once someone lands on your website, what are they going to think? What are they going to feel? And chances are, they’re going to immediately see some imagery on your website, and it’s really important that you have a strategy behind it, otherwise it may potentially look like it’s kind of been Frankensteined together, bits and pieces added at different times, and you don’t want people to be on your website and not feel like they’re in the right place. You want people to feel welcome. You want people to feel at home on your website. And you don’t want to put people off, because it’s the easiest thing for people to spot whether or not you’ve invested or you haven’t.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to invest. It means you need to have an system and a structure. And yeah, we actually did an episode a few weeks ago now about photography for your website, so we’ll leave a link to that in the show notes. But this is kind of a quick start guide, really, in regards to photography for your website and the images. They can either make or break a website. I think I mentioned that. And like I said, I can’t stress this enough. It is one of the most important elements. So, yeah.
Now should you use photography or photographs of yourself? You know, the higher that you’ve got somebody to take for you, or should you use stock images? So this is something that you’ll be able to tell me based on your budget, based on how much you’ve got to invest. Or whether or not you know someone who can kind of get to take photos of you. But more that anything, if you’re a personal brand, you’re going to have to have a picture of yourself on your website somewhere. It just so happens that on most personal brand websites, the halo section, the big home page image that you see as soon as you land on a website, usually has an image of the person who’s running the business. You know, the coach, the consultant, the speaker, the author, the business adviser. Whoever it is, whoever you are, and whatever you do, if you’re a personal brand, generally speaking you would have a picture of yourself there.
That being said, quite often I stumble across some websites where they have a picture of themselves, but clearly they’ve taken it themselves, on kind of like a smart phone. Maybe they’ve cut out the background, and it looks a little bit amateurish. So, just because you’re including an image of yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to come across as professional. And when I say professional, I just mean it’s got a certain level of quality. You know, we’ve all been on websites before where it looks as though the website’s been built by the person, and they kind of just cut out an image, it looks a bit awkward and strange. So at some point, you might want to think about hiring a professional photographer. We found it one of the best investments that we ever made, and it’s something that we’ll continue to invest in as time goes on. Yes, we have a really nice camera, and yes, I could potentially set the timer and take pictures myself, but I’m not a photographer. I stick in my lane, and I just do what we do best. I would not trust my own skills with, even though I’ve got a quite decent camera, I just wouldn’t trust myself to do photography myself. It would just look a lot better if I got somebody else to do it, a professional.
So just bear that in mind. That being said, there are some instances where you can’t use a picture of yourself. Maybe you’ve got a small team. Maybe you’re just not sure about it yet, and you just want to get the ball rolling. You want your website live, and maybe you’ll think about that later down the line. That’s fine.
If you do need to use stock images, we do have a few rules to follow, one of which is to keep it consistent. So if you do want to use a series of stock images throughout your website, then make sure you’re being consistent with the style of them. So, we’ve been on some websites in the pas where there are photographs on one page, and then on another page, they’ll have kind of cartoon images, or vectors, as they’re called. And this is kind of a bit awkward, really, because you want that consistency. You want people to not kind of land on every new page and it has a different kind of image theme, if that makes sense. So try to keep it consistent. If you are using photographs, generally stick to photographs. If you are using doodles or vector images or icons, then use them, as well.
There are some occasions where they work well together. You know, if you have been on any home pages, for instance, you may have noticed they’ve got a photograph of themselves, but they’ll still use a few icons around. That generally is okay. But I just want you to be aware of it. Be conscious of it when you’re buying stock images or downloading them.
And that leads us on to the next point, which is, invest a little bit of money. If you’re not spending £500 on a professional photographer, then you can at least spend 50 pence or a pound on an image every now and again. This is your website at the end of the day. If you’re not paying a web designer, then generally, you’ll have to provide the images yourself. And even if you are paying a web designer to build your website, generally speaking, you don’t want to leave the images to them if you don’t have to. You can provide them with some images that you like, and then let them decide which images they want to use. But you want to keep it consistent, and generally speaking, you might have to buy a few images. The main reason for that is if you use free stock images, other websites have used them, as well. Other business probably don’t want to invest in photography because it’s cheap and it’s easy to just download a free one. The problem is, I’ve stumbled across websites in the past that have a lot of similar images.
There’s this one image that just keeps, I just keep finding it on every website. It’s just kind of a standard office image with people talking, but it seems to be overly used. And that’s the risk that you have with stock images. The best thing that you can do is actually get a book, buy images. So if you go to DepositPhotos, for instance, or ShutterStock, or 123RF, then these three websites will allow you to buy packs of images. And at the end of the day, it’s a really thing for your website. You want it to look good, so try to keep it consistent. Try to spend a little bit of money on photographs if you can pay a professional photographer. But just be aware, it’s about making sure that your website looks good. That is important. We talk a lot about SEO, and we talk a lot about content, but the images on your website and the design is equally as important. So don’t skip this step. It is important.
And also get to know tools like Canva, you know, free online tools that you can actually use to edit the images. Sometimes, you need to create an image of a specific size. So get to use Canva, go on YouTube, learn a couple of tutorial videos, and actually just get used to some of these tools, because it’s going to help you further down the line.
You’ll also want to avoid any kind of clearly stock type images. You know the ones I’m talking about, with the big, cheesy grins, and the people with he thumbs-up. You know, those kind of images are clearly stock photos, and it’s best, if you can, to avoid them. Try to find ones that could potentially have been photographs, actually taken by a photographer who you’ve hired. Things like taking a picture of the desk with people’s hands if they’re signing things, if they’re drawing, if they’re sketching, if they’re educating, they’re teaching in a classroom, for instance, or a workshop. Then you can find lots of images of people in that kind of scenario.
Generally find if you zoom in, you’ll get nice little sections of images. You might not need to use all of the images. But you can play around with them. And like I say, you might need to get to know image editing tools like Canva. But hopefully, you got a few tips there in regards to images. Where possible, get a photographer. Get them to take photographs, and check out the episode that we did a few episodes ago about what to do when you’re planning your photo shoot for your website. We give you lots of extra tips away there, as well.
And finally on this one, don’t copy anybody. If you see an image style that you like, you may be tempted to coy their style. We get this quite a lot with our blog images. We spent quite a lot of time coming up with a style that we wanted, and we buy stock images. But people still try and copy what we do, because they like the style, which is nice and flattering, but we’re seeing an abundance of these blog posts being published now, where then everybody using similar sort of images, and sometimes it doesn’t come across very well, especially if you’ve tried to copy because you like the style, but we spend a lot of time editing those images so if somebody does copy, then it might not come across, it might not look as good as you expect. And that goes for you copying other people, as well. Just try to avoid it, and come up with your own style. It’s probably going to be better for you.
Now moving on to colours. colours is such an important topic, and that can, again, make or break your website. It can have such a big impact if you get it right, and it can have such a negative impact if you don’t spend any time on it, much like all of these things, really. Sometimes it’s about just learning a little bit, and then researching, and having a few tools and tips, but quite often, people get colours wrong. So I’ve got a few resources here that you’ll be able to use. Again, you don’t have to be a designer to use these tools. You just have to give yourself a better chance. If you’re planning your website, knowing what colours you want to use and the style, and kind of what those colours mean, is going to have a big, it’s going to play an important part, going to play an important role in the website and how it’s designed.
colours have a unique ability to make us feel a certain way. colours have various meanings. The colour red can mean danger, but it can also mean passionate. The colour blue can also feel cool and cold, but it can also make you feel relaxed. So there’s lots of different colours that, lots of different meanings for those colours. But, what’s important for you is that you find a colour scheme that represents your business, and what you want people to feel.
So, again, without kind of going to university and doing a degree in regards to colours, there is a kind of quick step guide that I’m going to give you now, and you may already have a colour scheme in mind, you may already have colours within your logo that you need to keep, and that’s completely fine. That’s going to make your life a lot easier. But generally, we like to have five colours to play with when it comes to building a new website. You know, the main kind of three colours that we use, and then a couple of extra ones that kind of, more middle of the road colours that are consistent with the rest of the website. But three kind of, or two or three main colours that add an overall brand elements. You may also need kind of this accent colour, like you’ll see people have a certain colour because they want the buttons to be a certain colour, maybe orange or green, that kind of thing, to add to the mix.
So yeah, you want kind of a nice colour scheme that complements. You want the colours to complement each other, but you also want a couple of stand-out colours. One specifically is important to highlight the areas of your website that you need to highlight. So a few different resources. If you don’t know what colour scheme you want go with, then you can actually use a website called Coolors. So we’ll even link to that in the show note as well, and you can actually browse a series of colours. You can browse through unlimited colour swatches, while you can actually lock in certain colours. You can lock in a few colours if you like a couple of them but you don’t like the others. Then you can mix and match, and you can find a colour scheme that’s going to work well for you. Again, this is nice, it’s a nice tool, because it’s free. If you go to Coolors.com, I think it is, you can actually just press the space bar, and they’ll just give you a new series of five colours, and like I say, you can lock some in. So you can just kind of spend ten minutes going through that, and get a few really nice ideas about colours that you like, five colours that you can imagine being on your website. So that’s a really, really good tool.
There’s also a tool called Peculiar, and again, I’ll leave a link to that in the show notes. This is where you can actually search for keywords, words like relaxing, words like winter, you know, general words like sunset, those kind of words that will give you a series of colours. So if you are a marketing guru, and you don’t want to be seen as kind of relaxing, and meditation kind of theme, then you would put a different kind of word in there. You would put hard work, or passionate, something that outlines who you are, and like I said, colours can help you in so many different ways. It can help differentiate you from your industry. Some people, if you are a health and wellness coach, for instance, you may see that there’s a series of websites out there that kind of use green and pastel colours, you know, relaxing colours like that, whereas you mIght be a health and wellness coach that wants to stand out in the industry. So this is an opportunity for you to type in words that you are associated with. So again, great little tool. It’s kind of the search engine for colours, and so have a play around with that, as well.
Another great tool for getting ideas is Dribbble. So Dribbble is a website that is great for inspiration. But if you go to the colours page, then you can actually type in specific colours that you like. You know, if you like a colour, if you have a colour in mind, like it’s in your logo, for instance, and you’d like to have that colour as well as finding other colours, then search Dribbble, and have a look at all of the websites out there that use a colour similar to that colour that you’d like. What you’ll notice is that as you scroll down the page, they’ll start introducing new colours, so you may find that if orange is your colour and you’ve got a certain tone, some of them might use blue, some of them might use another colour, and you can kind of get an idea based on inspiration from existing websites that are already using that colour.
And again, you don’t want to copy people, but it’s nice to get as many colour options as possible. But more that anything, find five colours that represent your business, and how you want people to feel, how you want people to think about you, and like I say, it’s extremely effective if you get your colour scheme right. People like to comment on our colour scheme quite a lot. They recognize it when they’re scrolling through Facebook, and they see a blog post that someone shared on LinkedIn. They can automatically recognize it as a Jammy Digital blog post. So, it’s great in so many ways, but these are a few tools that you can use.
If you don’t know anything about colours, then feel free to share a couple of colour swatches in the free Facebook group. That’s what it’s there for. If you are in the membership, naturally you can add a thread in there and ask us about that. But you’ve got a few tools there that you can use. Again, you don’t have to have gone to university to at least start the process of finding colours. As long as you’ve got a really nice scheme that represents who you are and how you want people to feel when they get your website, and then you’ve got a couple of punchy colours in there that will ask people to do what you want them to, call to action buttons on your website. So hopefully, you found that part useful.
The third and final thing is the theme, the actual theme and template that you’re going to use, potentially, for your new website. So this is important, because a lot of websites out there use templates, use themes that have not been custom-built for their website. They do this for a few reasons. One, it’s really cheap. You know, you can get a theme for free, you can pay a little bit of money and get a good one, and there’s lots of online help and resources out there that will allow you to do your research before you buy anything.
A little secret in the web design space, when it comes to templates, is that a lot of web designers actually use templates to build websites. So if you ever went to a web designer, and you hired them to build you a new website, some of them might use a template. Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if they do that, but it happens a lot, especially if you’re paying kind of a low fee for the website. Generally, what happen is you pay them, tell them what you want, and then they’ll go out and find a theme that does what you need it to. So, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I just felt like I wanted to tell you, just in case you didn’t know. If you’re thinking of building your own website, or you’re thinking, “I’ve got £500 to spend, or maybe even £1000 to spend with a web designer, I might as well just get them to do it.” Just be aware that they may be getting a template, a theme, that you could buy for yourself for a fraction of the price. So just be aware about that.
Again, if you can’t do it, that’s fine. Hire a web designer to do it, but it’s best to ask them, are they using a template, which template are they using, and is it something that is within your budget. In some instances, this is a good thing to do. In other instances, we’ve known people who’ve not been told that they’re using a template, and then get a bit frustrated with the amount that they’ve spent, and the web designer’s just used a cheap theme and they didn’t tell them about it. So definitely something I want you to be aware of.
Another thing I want you to be aware of as well, when you’re looking for a theme, is try to find a pre-made theme. And what I mean by that is avoid page builders for now. You know you’ll stumble across a theme, or WordPress system called Divi. This is a page builder. This is an example of a page builder. Things like Thryve themes. These kind of tools make it look really easy for you to build your own website, but actually, it’s quite difficult for a beginner to get to know these tools. They’re kind of a theme within a theme, if that makes sense. So what’s important, I think, for you guys, is to have an open mind when it comes to your website, but make it as easy as possible where you can.
This is why I would probably recommend you find a theme that’s been pre-made for you. It’s okay if some of that theme includes certain page-building elements, but what I would say is there are plenty of templates out there, plenty of themes, that will allow you to build a website quickly without the headache of learning an additional system, as well, like Divi, like Thryve themes. Some page builders are fantastic, but generally, I like to use them after you’ve installed your theme. You know, you’ve found your theme first, and then if you want help building out the pages, then that’s where you can look up page builder. So just be aware of that.
So, the first thing I want you to do is think about your goals. Think about what you want to achieve when you launch your website. Go back to the first episode in this series. Think about your goals. Think about the structure. Think about how that’s going to work within your design. In the last episode, we spoke about structure of the home page, so you want to keep an eye on themes that will allow you to achieve what you want to achieve. We actually provided quite helpful documents in the last episode, where you’re able to download and fill out the different sections on the home page. So, try to find a theme that will allow you to do what you need to do, that will help you achieve your goals.
So what you can do is, when you … To get ideas for themes, you could search via industry. If you are a book editor, for instance, you could type in WordPress themes for book editors. That’s a way to go, although it’s not always necessary, you will get a few features if you do that that you may not already get with a standard theme. So it can be helpful, but don’t restrict yourself to just that options. What you could do is you could type in “best WordPress themes 2018,” or 2019, whenever you decide to do this. You could type in “easy to use WordPress themes.” Yeah, just anything, really. Search quite a lot of themes, get to know a few of them, and make a list of all of the themes that you like the look of, all of the themes that will represent your website, the way you want it to look and feel. And yeah, generally speaking, if you do your research, you’ll cover yourself.
So, don’t buy the first theme that you see. You want to read reviews. You want to make sure that if you do get a list of themes, and you want to shorten that list, a quick way to do that is to actually do reviews on the themes, and actually work out which ones are easy to use. Read what people are saying about them. You can also check the demo of the theme, as well, which is a good thing to do. Quite often, they’ll allow you to browse the back end of the theme as well as the front end of the theme. Again, you’re still going to have to build the website out. You’re still going to have to add your own images, and create the different pages, but a theme will generally mean that you can just worry about the images and the content, and then the theme will take care of the rest.
So you want to make sure it looks good. You want to make sure it looks like a website that you’d be proud of, and you also want to make sure that it’s easy for you to use, as well. So, does it come with documentation? Do they give you instructions on how to set up the theme? Do they offer ongoing support? Some of these theme websites actually have comments that are publicly viewable. You can actually see them without having an account with them. Look at some of the questions that people are asking. Look at some of the replies that the actual developers of the themes are giving back. Doe sit look as though this company are going to be able to support you in your efforts when it comes to creating a website? Again, we’re not buying anything at this stage. You’re just getting a list of themes that you like the look of, and you’ll quickly realize that when you start researching this, the same themes will be popping up, especially if you’re searching for “best templates,” “best themes 2018 or 2019,” or “highly recommended WordPress themes.”
Generally, you can give yourself quite a lot of choice on those ones. And don’t just look for the best-looking ones. You need to make sure that the support comes part and parcel with it. You don’t want to buy something just because it looks good, and then five months down the line, it stops working, because they’re not supporting it on an ongoing basis. So that’s something to be aware of, but like is say, don’t buy anything just yet. We’re just giving you things to think about before you sit down and start handing over your cash. Okay?
So there you have it. Again, it’s more of a technical episode, this one, but it is important. There’s things that you can do with your imagery, with your colours, with your theme, to give yourself quite a lot of power with your website. If you just take care of these three different elements, you can make sure your website looks great. It doesn’t have to look world class. It just has to look good enough so that you are bing represented in the best possible light. Your website will allow you to build more trust with your potential buyers. It will allow you to come across as more note-worthy. If you want to stand out from your industry, these three things are absolutely vital.
So yeah, a few things to be aware of there. So hope you found this episode useful. Let me know how you get on with these exercises. Don’t forget to download the workbook, as well. And let us know how you get on in the free Facebook group. If you didn’t already know, we do have a free Facebook group. It’s at JammyDigital.com/Facebook. We try to do training quite frequently, and there we’ve got website critiques that we do every Wednesday afternoon, which we’ll be picking up again in the new year. And we’d love to help you get better results with your website, too. So feel free to join and say hello.
And that’s for today’s episode. So we’ll see you next time on the Make Your Mark Online podcast.
Web designer & marketer for small businesses. Martin is an experienced search engine and web design specialist, with over a decade of experience working with large corporations to small businesses.