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Initially the prospect of building my own website was slightly daunting. Making a website for someone else is a matter of listening to what they want to achieve then acting on that and creating something perfect for them. However, when you only have yourself to consult the picture is slightly different. The main decision I had to make in the beginning was whether to create a website that showed off all of the ‘snazzy’ aspects I could create in a site or to keep it simple. I personally prefer a simple website with a consistent theme that is easy to navigate and this is what I decided to go with. Although a website should reflect the business, I felt that this website needed to reflect a bit about me too. This is why I created my website with a cool blue watercolour style throughout as I love the sea, watercolours and… blue.
Everything on my website was created by me, from the background images to the paint brush strokes. I believe strongly in not resorting to stock images as they are overused and often a big waste of money. If you aren’t able to create your own backgrounds and imagery then consider finding a local photographer and purchasing some images from them. First of all you are supporting an individual, not a big company which gives little or no credit to the original photographer and, more importantly, your website will be completely unique and unlike anything else out there.
My top tips for building your own site
1. Focus on content in the beginning and then the design later.
It is so easy to get stuck changing fonts and choosing colours that you end up wasting a lot of time in the beginning trying to decide on design elements. I give this tip now as I was guilty of it in the beginning: spending hours switching the fonts over and over when the time would have been spent far more efficiently on actually writing my website’s content.
2. Plan your site structure properly.
Decide which pages you need and which pages are necessary for your website visitors to find the information they are looking for. Then start to think about where these pages are shown. For example, main pages should appear in the top navigation and important links – such as disclaimers or terms and conditions – in the footer. You then have pages that are deeper in your website, which can be easily found but aren’t crucial in the main link menus (for example, a portfolio case study or a blog post). When you take away the graphics, colours and fonts, a good site design comes down to a great structure.
3. Don’t go crazy on plugins.
When you search for a query about building your website, a lot of the suggestions will point you towards using plugins. There are a lot of amazing, well coded plugins out there which will give you complete customisation of your WordPress site. However, there are also a lot of dodgy plugins that leave your site more vulnerable and significantly slow down loading speeds. Multiple plugins can also clash and cause a website to crash which can be a fiddly job to fix if you aren’t familiar with working with your website’s database. If you can do something without a plugin, that will always be the better option.
I took my images outside on a cloudy day to avoid shadows giving me a uniform natural white light. I then edited my images using GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), which is a free & open source image editor. If you would like a completely custom site then I can create artwork for you, or edit your artwork so it is website ready.