Staring at a blank screen trying to come up with a design for your first website (be it personal, professional or otherwise) might be one of the more daunting tasks on Earth, next to reinventing the wheel and finding an alternative to fossil fuels. And I know, because I’ve done it about a dozen times, and it never seems to get any easier. My first website was straight up embarrassing. It was an explosion of textures and fonts, and was obviously created with a “more is more” mentality. (Grunge overlays! Faux polaroids! All the fonts! Plus typewriter!)
The good news is, almost everyone makes the same mistakes when creating their first website (well, perhaps not quite so boldly as I made them). And then slowly, everyone gets better. But today, in partnership with Squarespace, we thought maybe we could help skip the part where you make the mistakes, and go straight to the part where you have an awesome website. Hint: this info isn’t just relevant for business websites. Keep it in your back pocket for your wedding website, portfolio site, or whatever your next web presence will be.
Five Website Mistakes Not To Make
1. Spending a ton of money on a logo. Branding is important for businesses, sure. But the time to spend money on branding is not when you’re just getting started. I often hear from small business owners, “I’m going to create my website, just as soon as I get a logo.” Which translated means, “I’m not making money right now, when I could be.” Even without advanced Photoshop skills, you can create a polished looking logo for free a bunch of different ways. For example, APW Sponsor Rose Gold Events created her logo (below) by purchasing a font and a texture on Creative Market and then used Photoshop tutorials she found on YouTube to figure out how to manipulate them into the style she wanted. (Or you can just skip all that and simply use Squarespace’s built-in logo maker, because #lazygirl. More on how to use the logo maker, plus other logo hacks right here.)
2. Forgetting key details about your business. When you’re creating a website, it’s easy to get lost in making things pretty and forget to include key details about your business (you know, like where you’re located). But no matter how awesome your website looks, it’s no good to anyone if they can’t figure out how to hire you. So make sure to be clear about where you’re located, what your services are and how much they cost (a ballpark or starting price will usually suffice), and how potential clients can get in touch with you. This goes double for service-based professionals or regional businesses. APW reader Sue Ann Simon does this perfectly by putting her location and business type right on the front of her website. No questions here.
3. Not using your words. Let me set the scene: you spend hours upon hours designing the perfect modern website, and it’s looking kind of… awesome, and you’re starting to feel really proud of it. Then you realize something. You need to fill all that pretty space with words. Cue: brain meltdown. Words are one of the most underutilized tools in websites, especially for creative professionals. But often they are more important to your brand than your logo, or your headshot, or anything else you can pay money for. And the good news is words are usually free. How you talk about your business is just as important as what you’re saying, which is another way of saying don’t just tell me what you do. Tell me how you do it that makes you different from everyone else. Take event and workshop planner Lauren Caselli, for example. Her copy is fun and irreverent and sends a totally different message than if it were more serious and buttoned up. From the way she talks about her business, I understand that Lauren approaches her work with a lot of humor while also being results driven. And that you can’t get from a logo.
4. Making it about you and not them. Ask not what your clients can do for you, but what you can do for your clients. Which is to say, while your website is about you, it’s also not… about you. A lot of businesses make the mistake of focusing all their website copy on why they are passionate about their work and what their businesses means to them, which leaves out a super important person from the equation: the one reading their websites. So remember what I said about using your words? Well, use them to show your potential customers that you can serve them better than anyone else and that you have the answers to all of their problems. Kind of like what Steven the Officiant has done here:
5. Trying to do too many things at once. Lots of business-owners are multi-skilled. But it confuses clients when you try to be All The Things. (I’m not going to hire a dentist whose website also promotes her car repair shop, because I don’t want to find out the hard way which one she’s actually good at, you know what I mean?) So keep things focused. The exception: if your talents fall under the same umbrella (like writer, editor, and speaker), then by all means, list more than one skillset on your website. If you’re not sure if that applies to you, then ask yourself a few questions first: are the different parts of my business supporting and promoting each other? (Being a good writer lends itself to being a good editor, for example.) Or: will one part of my business help me get clients in another part of my business? (Your dental patients aren’t going to be able to refer clients to your auto shop, so that’s not very helpful.) For a great example of someone juggling multiple skills and doing it pretty damn successfully, check out reader Briana Harris, whose site seamlessly promotes her saxophone playing, music composition, and music education skills.
Or on the flip side, there’s Smitten Chickens Portraits. Sarah and Chris wanted a dedicated space to promote their portrait work without encroaching on their wedding clients, so they created a whole new website just for portrait clients to help keep the two worlds separate.
Creating your first website is always a challenge, but you have to be willing to start somewhere. And chances are, you’ll still make a ton of mistakes on your first try, which you will only realize looking back on (and like me, will just have to live with the shame). But the beauty of having your business online is that your website can be a constant evolution. You have the freedom to continue making it as awesome as possible, as frequently as you’d like. (For example, that website I showed you above? I did a complete overhaul three times in the year I launched.) And nobody will ever know, except you and the Wayback Machine. So if you’re still waiting for the perfect time to create a website and put yourself out there, then consider this the official push and fist bump to make it happen. Because the secret is there is no right time. Just now. And the other secret? There is no right way. What you make will be good enough. It might even be plain old good.
All of the designs featured in this post were created using squarespace, by members of the APW community. If you created a website with squarespace, we’d love to see it! Please leave a link in the comments.
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. Squarespace makes professional websites happen in a matter of minutes, thanks to their user-friendly software and modern, minimal template designs. If you’re thinking of creating a website of your own, you can click here to get started today with a free 14-day trial. APW readers get 10% off yearly subscriptions when you use the code APW15 at checkout. Thanks Squarespace helping make the APW mission possible!