This article was contributed by Doug Beney.
You’ve been honing your craft for a while now! Your portfolio is starting to look awesome to the max.
Maybe you’ve even built up a bit of a following on social media.
However, there’s a good chance that you’ve been neglecting your website. With social media being such a powerful tool for creatives, who cares about a website, right? Wrong.
A website’s still the best way to create a hub where people can stay up to date with what you’re doing, get in touch with you, and purchase your products.
Whether you’re a pro creator with a creative studio that has gear valued at the same price as a new Cadillac, or if you’re simply a hobbyist artist who makes cool things on your smartphone, a website is easy enough to create, yet can be powerful enough to build a career off of.
In this article, we’re going to go over 8 different ideas you should keep in mind when building your website. Enjoy!
8.) Choose a platform that offers both ease-of-use and no limitations in customization
If you’re new to website creation, you might be a bit overwhelmed.
My simple recommendation is to choose a platform that offers both versatility and ease-of-use for your needs. For 90% of people the answer is going to be WordPress. See here for how to set up your website/blog using WordPress.
7.) Make sure you are tracking valuable metrics
The most common website analytics tracker is Google Analytics. It’s powerful, lightweight, and relatively easy to use.
Most people simply look at their traffic graph to find out how many particular visitors arrived on a given day.
However, did you know that you can use Google Analytics to track sales, newsletter signups, what people are searching for on your website, and even how many times people download your freebies?
One feature that I’m really digging is called “Behavior Flow”. It shows a graphic of different landing pages on your site and where they go after viewing that particular page (ex. Going to your about page, going to your shop page, leaving your site, etc).
As a creative, some quite valuable metrics you could be tracking on your site are:
- How many monthly visits your site brings
- Average time spent on your website
- What social channels generate the most traffic
- What type of music you produce that generates the most sales/downloads
- Behavior flow (See above example)
6.) Test your page load time and work on improvement
According to the Kissmetrics blog:
“40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”
It’s not enough to just throw a website up and call it a day. I highly recommend – right this second – that you go to Tools.Pingdom.com, a popular site speed tester, and enter your website’s URL. What score did you get? Also, it’s recommended to test your website a few times in Pingdom, since the results will vary.
If your score was anything above 6 seconds, you’ve got some work to do. If it’s above 2 seconds, you still should try your best to get your load time quicker.
Here are some quick ways to speed up your site:
- Enable caching – For WordPress sites, this can be as easy as installing a plugin. WP Total Cache is my top recommendation, but keep in mind it will take some configuring. For minimal configuration, Comet Cache is a really easy caching plugin to use.
- Cloudflare – With the addition of improving site security and saving yourself from DDOS attacks, Cloudflare can also speed up your site through their global content delivery network. See here for how to set up a CDN.
- Upgrade hosting – If you can afford it, upgrading your hosting plan is a great way to decrease the load time of your site. See here for a hosting deal with BlueHost.
- Disable unnecessary plugins (WordPress users) – If you use WordPress, check how many plugins you’ve enabled. If you have 20+ (or even 10+) plugins enabled, there’s a good chance that’s responsible for your slow load time.
5.) If you’re selling anything, your website must be professional
Whether you only take donations, sell designs online, or simply blog, you need to come off as professional and trusting.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a professional web designer to create great looking sites anymore.
However, it’s still easier than ever to create a bad, unprofessional looking website.
A great way to achieve an astounding looking website without too much effort is to purchase a premium theme for WordPress. The most versatile website creation platforms – whether you’re using WordPress or Shopify – will have some sort of theming system where users can create and sell their custom-coded themes.
Buying a $50-$100 theme from a reputable developer can be a very wise investment that will instantly increase the trust your customers have with you when making a purchase.
4.) Remember that simplicity is the key in web design
Take a look at the JUST Creative homepage. It’s very simplistic – in a good way.
When a user hits the homepage of JustCreative, there’s only two main places to focus on. Notice in the above graphic that the two places to focus on are 1.) the call-to-action (asking to view Jacob’s Portfolio) and 2.) the navigation, with ONLY the most important links a user should visit.
On the topic of navigations, this is where many people make a big error. A lot of people put so many different links in their navigation which makes the decision process harder for the end-user.
Still think your navigation menu is perfect even when having a ton of different links? Try this.
- Download the Google Page Analytics browser extension
- Go to your home page and enable the extension.
- Look at the percentage breakdown for your navigation
You will see something like in the image above.
Now the question is: “What navigation links of mine get zero clicks?”
3.) Make it easy for people to contact you and also follow you on social media
I run into situations a lot where I come across sites that are just impossible to contact. Sometimes the contact forms are even broken!
Make sure it is dead-easy for someone to contact you on your site. Usually, I like to put an email address contact form, my Twitter, and Facebook. This way, no matter what a user’s preferred communication platform is, you’ve got them covered.
Making it as easy as possible for someone to contact you is the difference between making a sale and missing one.
2.) Each page of your site must have ONE clear goal in mind
Going back to the idea of simplicity, you’re going to want each page of your site to have ONE clear goal in mind – not several.
If you’re working on a product page for selling an item, you’re not going to want to have other focus areas – such as promoting your social channels, displaying your most recent tweets, etc.
Keep it simple. Keep it focused.
1.) Build an email list of fans
Email is possibly the oldest online marketing channel out there.
However, still in 2017, the power of the email list is cherished by everyone from fortune 500 CEOs, to worldwide superstar musicians, to your friend that makes a few bucks in beer money every month from his t-shirt designs.
Think of an email list as the most stable form of communication you can have with your audience. With social media marketing – On Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or whatever pops up tomorrow – an algorithm can be released tomorrow that will cut your fan reach in half. This happened with Facebook a few years ago and many people who depended on their Facebook page to pay their bills, had their income cut in half overnight.
Meanwhile, an email list is much more predictable. With the innovative email marketing tools we have today, you’ll be able to easily segment (or categorize/label) your subscribers & customers and send them email that’s most relevant to them.
There’s three steps you can follow to start building an email list:
1. Sign up for an email marketing service
MailChimp has a free plan with a lot of features, so I recommend starting there. There’s also other options such as aWeber, Drip, ActiveCampaign, and ConvertKit that are worth exploring as well.
2. Create a signup form and put it on your website
Email marketing services such as MailChimp typically have form builders. However, there’s a plethora of other tools you could as well.
To make being on your email list more enticing than simply “Sign up to stay connected with me”, you could offer a free download. Some example headlines you can use on your form are:
- Download Three Of My XX For Free!
- Get 10 Awesome XX You Can Use In Your Videos
- Receive Exclusive Deals On My XX
See here for sign up forms ideas that convert.
Remember: Simplicity is often the best answer in web design. Keep simple goals in mind when designing pages on your website.
And don’t forget to get feedback from a second pair of eyes! There are many little details in your design that you don’t notice – or think are a big deal – that might turn off your visitors.