When I first started Online Passive Income Journey, the thing I was most worried about was Website Design. I was worried about choosing the right fonts and colours and making the site look good. I was so worried that I put the decisions off and just threw on a free theme and went with it.
Well, I finally decided to get serious with the design, so I started taking the Fizzle design course. Within two videos, I realized I’d made a horrible mistake.
Website Design is about so much more than colours and fonts! And worse, my design is Terrible! What’s more, I’ve missed out on turning so many visitors into regular readers because of it.
Now, I’m not strong in the visual arts. I’m not even average. I’m well below average. My wife buys most of my clothes for me.
So I made an early choice that I would come back to design later. After all, Content is King, so I decided to start with content and circle back in a couple months to tune up the design. Then a couple months turned into three and a half, and I had plenty of decent content, so it was time.
In my mind, I’d be taking a quick Fizzle course where Chase Reeves would tell me about fonts and layout, mobile responsiveness, and maybe the use of images. Then I’d suck it up and finally decide on a decent theme, fork over $80 and be done with it. Design Dragon slain, time to move on…
Boy was I wrong, wrong, wrong…
Website Design Basics
Colours, fonts, logos, button placement… These are all secondary.
Certainly, you’ll want a visual experience that gives a first time visitor the impression that you know what you’re talking about, but that’s about the sum total of the impact. If you find a decent free or paid theme, you’ll be just fine with these details.
Only somebody who is as visual arts inept as me should spend more than an hour or two thinking about these things, especially in the early days.
What I had completely missed was that this is only 5% of Website Design.
Website design includes the very structure of the website and how it is designed to achieve its purpose.
Your key steps should be to:
- Determine the key purpose of the website
- Remove any elements that would distract from that purpose
- Design the site for the first time visitor
- Write a Home page and an About page that are focused on that first time visitor
What is Your Purpose?
Ideally, your website should have a singular purpose.
You’ll have greater success if you focus on eliciting a single response from people. If you ask them to like you on facebook, comment below, follow you on twitter, and sign up for your newsletter, people will be confused and a bit overwhelmed.
Choose one or at most two actions you want your readers to take and focus on those.
This isn’t just hypothetical. At the bottom of all of my posts, I’ve been asking people to share, tweet, comment and sign up for the email list! Doh!
For most websites, the email list will be the focus. This is where you have the most control and the most intimate connection to your subscribers. They have also given you something of real value. Giving you their email address is a much greater form of commitment than following you on Twitter.
I don’t know if you should take away the “Follow Me” button. There may be people who aren’t ready yet to give you their email address but are willing to follow you.
This will maintain your link with them. I just wouldn’t emphasize anything beyond your prime purpose or call it out as a call to action.
Focus on Your Purpose
Take a good hard look at your website, especially those widgets on the side bar.
- Are you distracting people from your purpose?
- Does an adsense ad that nets you about $2 per month distract more than it’s worth?
- Does a twitter feed widget or a blog roll list of other people’s blogs help people understand and carry through on your site’s primary purpose?
Design for the First Time Visitor
This was an enormous “Aha” moment for me. A regular reader will know what to expect from you and where to find it.
A first timer will land on your site with no clue who you are or what the site is even about. They will either land on your homepage or on one of your articles through a link or a web search. If they like your article, they will click over to the home page.
What will they find?
You now have about 2-10 seconds to hook them or they will be gone.
The Home Page
The two most visited pages will be your Home and About pages. It is worth spending some effort on these two pages.
The home page of most blogs is just a series of blog posts and a menu bar. If your recent posts happen to interest this particular first timer, then you’re probably going to be ok. But why take the chance? The first thing they should see is a brief description of what your site is all about and an obvious place to go to learn more.
In many cases, there should also be a picture of you on the home page with a brief welcome message or bio. The first time reader is trying to determine if the site is trustworthy and useful to them. Knowing a little bit about who the author is can go a long way.
The About Page
If people like what they see on the home page, they’ll often click on “About” in the menu bar.
This was one of the first pages I wrote for Online Passive Income Journey because I knew how important it is.
Unfortunately, I completely screwed it up!
I wrote an About page all about me instead of about my audience and how my website will serve them. I even called it “About Chris.”
A good About page should draw the reader in and describe how this website will help them with their problem or feed their passion. Only then should there be a brief description of who the author is and why their qualified to help the reader.
Neil Patel has written an excellent article on constructing a great About page. My About page is far better than it was, but it still needs some work to be as good as the ones he uses as examples.
I still haven’t found a theme that I really like, but now I know that I have a lot more work than that to do before Online Passive Income Journey’s design is up to scratch!
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