Written by Tom Ewer on 14 May 2014
Few things are more important to your success as a web designer than your website.
Not only will it generally be the first impression potential customers have of you as a business, it will also serve as an example of what you're capable of. Put simply, if you're not doing the right things with your website, how can a client trust you to create theirs?
Sometimes our errors are so big that we cannot recognise them until we force ourselves to take a step back. In this article I've addressed a number of key elements that make up a compelling web designer site. Here's your opportunity to see if your own website hits the key notes and take action if it doesn't.
Your Homepage: A Shop Window
Look at how the Tesco homepage shows you its top offers, or how Play and Amazon show you a choice selection of their goods. They don't show you a list of reasons why they are great; they get to the point by showing you what you want right away. Does your site?
Show Your Best, Not Your Bulk
Filling up your website seems like a great idea, especially when you look at other freelance websites that are chock full of designs and articles, but this is not the best approach to take.
Instead, show prospective clients your very best – the cream of your work – and they will assume it is your standard. It is far better to show 3 fantastic designs than 30 mediocre ones.
Don't Get Too Ambitious With Your Design
You may want to thrill people with your design prowess, but do it with your portfolio and not your actual website design. Your design actually needs to be relatively generic.
Why? Because you don't want to alienate a huge swathe of your potential client base by appealing only to a certain subset. For example, if your design is very retro and cool, you are going to put off all the people that want a more conservative or modern design.
Dress to Impress
Having said the above, you should use your website as an opportunity to showcase your design chops – just make sure you do it in a tasteful and relatively generic manner.
Look at it this way: your site's job is ultimately to show people what you're capable of, but that should be done more by showcasing your diverse portfolio than turning your own site into a virtual fireworks display.
Like I've already said, your site should act as a shop window, but that doesn't mean that you can't put it in a stylish frame to make the goods look even better.
Get to the Point
Prospective clients will have probably seen a lot of web designer's sites by the time they hit yours. They're likely to make a decision as to whether to explore your site further within the first few seconds, which is why you should get straight to the point.
There are many ways in which you can do this, but some kind of compelling call to action – presented in a stylish and eye-catching way – is typically a good way to start. It'll also do you a world of good to show examples of your capabilities above the fold on the homepage.
Make Navigation Simple
It is dangerously easy to slip into pretension when designing your website. This is none so more tempting than with your navigation items. However, usability is absolutely key, so your links should be easy to understand:
You get the idea – make your navigation plain and simple; never make people guess.
There are other things you should consider when designing (or re-designing) your website, but the above tips represent some of the key elements.
Most importantly, and as I've demonstrated above, the buck doesn't stop with your design. In fact, creating a solid design for your site is just the first step and will only encourage people to pause on your site for more than a few seconds – it's what you do after that which really makes the difference.