Designing a solopreneur business website and blog needs no one but you, the content-marketer solopreneur, even if you have no coding or design background. Time was when designing a site used to require special assistance from pricey designers and coders … till we started getting absolutely ready-to-customize-and-run WordPress based site design “themes”. Nowadays, it’s all a matter of marginally tweaking the already-99%-ready-theme, and hey presto, you can have a bells and whistles site and blog, that not only looks like a million bucks, but is also mobile-responsive and ready to roll within a matter of minutes or hours.
What is a ‘theme”? A website-cum-blog design theme is a ready to use framework of a fully functional website, created using some dummy text and images. Most themes are so easy to customize that childpreneurs are able to handle it! In fact, Content Branding & Design, as a science, has become so easy that hardly anyone I know pays someone else to do it. Most designers are busy designing the “themes” they can sell, that buyers can themselves tweak or dress up!
Choosing and customizing the right website and blog design theme
Before we proceed I have to make a confession … my own site uses themes from Studiopress, but I don’t get paid to recommend them, although I have used their themes for nearly 20-odd clients of mine.
I have a 15-year history with Studiopress and cannot stop myself from saying that if you want a sensational looking, up-to-the-minute site/blog, along with a robust underbelly of functionalities and device-responsiveness already built in, you must look at Studiopress Themes and no other.
So in my explanations below, I’ll be using Studiopress Themes to emphasize the steps to take … if that’s okay?
Let’s begin with what you need to keep in mind when you are choosing an appropriate theme for your site or blog. There are five questions you have to ask yourself:
What am I building this website and blog for? What are my goals that this website and blog will serve? Will I restrict myself to building my brand and authority Additionally will I sell my products and services, or create a space where my site members can interact with me and each other? Depending on what the site is going to be initially used for, and later expanded to include, choose a suitable theme that can be easy to handle immediately, but can grow with your goals.
What will I be selling through the website/blog? How will the theme support ecommerce? If indeed selling products or services is my plan, will the theme suit? Will I be merely selling affiliate products through links in my blog posts, or will I need a full-fledged store to sell digital/physical products from? Or would I need a client-management space to sell my consulting services from? Choose a theme to suit these types of considerations as well, because even a site that starts with nothing to sell will eventually have to sell something to stay alive in business.
Who is my target audience and what do I know of their tastes and preferences in websites and blogs? How do they like sites to look – more filled with images, or with more reading material, or with more interactive features such as quizzes and polls? Choose a theme that your target audiences will find attractive.
What do I want my brand to look like? What is the tone and style and slant of my brand? Do I want a formal or informal tone to my site and blog? Do I want a businesslike appearance that highlights my professionalism, or more of my less-stiff personal branding to be showcased? Do I want to sound authoritative (more knowledgeable than my audience) or authentic (look and feel like one of my audience)? Your website and blog has to appeal to your sensibilities as much as it appeals to readers – if not more so. After all, you’re the one going to be almost living in that space, as you fill it up with your blog posts and niche knowledge, right? So do look to find a theme you love living with, every day.
Will the theme I choose allow strong branding on the home page, and on the masthead or top bar of all pages? Many a theme actually looks lovely with dummy text and pictures and dummy logos, but if your logo and branding elements cannot fit well in the top masthead of the theme, the whole site will either look lopsided or out of balance. If you need to, try out a quick Photoshop image of the theme homepage design, with your logo in place of the dummy theme logo, just to see if it all looks as great as you want it to.
As I mentioned earlier, Studiopress have themes for all kinds of businesses with all kinds of tone and style slants. Here are just a few of them, so do make sure you visit Studiopress.com and check out all their available themes. See each theme’s demo. Especially, see how each theme translates for mobile screens. (Note: They have a basic theme called the Genesis Framework, which is a kind of foundation theme that must be in place before you choose any other theme as an overlay.)
Theme customization can be done very easily via a panel of options available within WordPress, as shown below. The changes you make can be seen as you do them, so you can keep tweaking till you’re satisfied.
Putting in the mandatory pages of your site to build trust and authenticity
When you first start filling in the content of your website, you have to put into place all the pages that are needed as basic information on your site. The content for pages on your site are different from content for your blog posts. The information on the pages of your site are generally static or slow-changing information and about your business – whereas the blog is to be filled with regular fresh articles on your niche topic that keep getting published every day or according to your posting schedule.
See the diagram below to know which kinds of pages you need at a minimum, to signal that your business is a serious one and you have all the policies, utilities and brand standards in place, to give the reader a lot of trust in your entity.
There are typically three types of pages you’ll need to put in.
1. Your branding-related pages would be your Home page, your About page, the page leading to your Blog, the page that describes your Products/Services, and if you have a store, you would include your Store page.
2. Your utility-related pages would be pages like Subscribe, Resources, Sitemap, Contact etc.
3. Your legal-related pages would ideally be linked from the footer of your site and include mandatory pages like your Privacy and Refunds Policies, your Selling Terms and Conditions, any Disclaimers or Disclosures, and your Copyright information.
Some critical extra tips:
1. For some great ideas of how to write these kinds of pages, look at many websites. View as you can that are best-of-breed (including your top competitors), and see if you can adapt some of their ideas to enhance your writing, in addition to your own inspirations.
2. Get your legal pages vetted by a good lawyer. Don’t be tempted to cut and paste what others have written to create your own legal pages. Big mistake!
3. For your About page, some people carry it too far. Because they’ve heard that storytelling is a good idea for authenticity, they get deep into their own rags-to-riches stories to such a degree that you have to hold your ears and say “Enough!”.
Make the About page a place where you can state your brand purpose, your mission, your learnings and your goals for your audiences. Validate claims with proof where possible.
Overall give a sense of professionalism, trustworthiness, credibility and uniqueness. Also, please don’t post vacation pictures from Hawaii and Thailand to show how much money you now make. And please, please, do not Photoshop a picture of you with a turreted mansion in the background and a low-slung Porsche in the foreground, because everyone thinks this trick works – but it doesn’t!
The user-experience factors of your site and how to ensure they’re perfect
As you put together the basics of your website and blog, there are some user-experience factors you may like to keep in mind that make the site appealing to browse through and read. Here are four UX factors to build into the design of your site:
Let there be a lot of white space or empty space around chunks of text or images. Even as you color coordinate the site with your brand colors, the site should have lots of “breathing spaces”. Particularly when seen on a mobile screen, see that your site doesn’t look overloaded with information without surrounding empty areas for visual relief.
Maintain an attractive balance of valuable information along with clear navigation signposts. Make sure the site has readability, searchability, findability and accessibility. There’s no value to information unless it’s easy to get to the information you want.
Choose good fonts but also ensure that there is strong hyperlink color differentiation. Make sure that linked text is clearly visible and calls out to readers to click. It’s not necessary any more that all hyperlinks should be blue, but the color contrast with the rest of the text should be strong.
Make sure images are chosen with a brand tone and style in mind, and with a similarity of creative treatment. For example, if you choose to have photographic images in monotone effect, make that consistent as a reflection of your brand. Or go for cartoons or illustrations throughout, if that matches your brand better. Don’t mix images with different kinds of creative treatment. Images add huge value to emotional-branding, so let your brand style be consistent in your choice of visuals.
The SEO-related factors of your site and how to ensure they are perfect
Four factors related to search engine optimization also have to be planned for when you’re building the structure and design of your site. These are:
Site Speed. Because the speed of page-loading on your site is important to user-satisfaction, Google also takes it seriously. And with the majority if searches now performed on mobile devices, site speed is even more important.
Site Security. Google currently gives a ranking boost to sites with SSL encryption (i.e. site domains denoted by “https”). It’s an easy change to make for greater domain authority.
Internal linking. Internal linking of all the pages and posts on your site is more important than people think it is. Pages and posts that lie in your site, unlinked to from other posts, are in fact called “orphaned pages”. Even if you can’t get enough backlinks from other sites, if the internal link structure of your site is sound, Google does give you a lot of brownie points.
Mobile Optimization. Because mobile searches have now almost overtaken searches from other devices, Google has mandated that sites have to be mobile-friendly. There is a WordPress plugin to translate your pages and posts for mobile into “Accelerated Mobile Pages” (AMPs) which download at lightning speed on mobiles. You might like to explore this option!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Branding & Design”:
- Designing A Knockout Brand Identity For Your Solopreneur Business!
- What’s In A Brand Name? For Your Solopreneur Business, It’s Everything!
- Start Your Content Marketing With A Power-Packed Website And Blog!
- The Right Brand Strategy Can Help Your Content Marketing Nail It!
- 8 Huge Benefits Of Branding For Businesses Doing Content Marketing!
- Your Maverick Factor Must Underpin Your Solopreneur Brand Strategy!