5 tips for designing a personal website, according to a visual artist

5 tips for designing a personal website, according to a visual artist
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When it comes to your brand or business, you may only be as good as your website. The hub of information is a digital snapshot into your experience, skills, and accomplishments that should be easily accessible for industry professionals, fans, and prospective clients.

“It is critical for creators and business owners to have a high-quality website as it serves as a first impression,” stresses Alison Whitty, visual designer and owner of The Art Dept. “If you search for someone or something and don’t find a digital presence, it’s an automatic red flag. A high-quality website is often the user’s first encounter with a company or brand. It should be easy to navigate, easy to understand, and clearly communicate its purpose.”

“A website should also be a one-stop-shop to find all relevant information,” she adds. “If a user leaves with unanswered questions, then something is missing from the site.”

But with so many templates and customization tools to choose from, especially on site builders like Wix and Squarespace, it may be difficult to find a very specific direction and run with it. Luckily, Whitty has shared her top five design tips so that any content creator can build a personal website with a bit more confidence and intention.

build a personal website

1. Identify your audience

“You might have two or three audiences, but it’s critical to determine who you are creating your website for and keep that top of mind,” recommends Whitty. This is particularly important when it comes to establishing a general theme, look, and feel. While some sites will demand a more clean, straightforward presentation of one’s portfolio of work and/or services, other brands have a bit of leeway and can play into a very specific type of visitor (i.e. a ‘90s influencer using Comic Sans font as a nostalgic nod to the decade).

2. Define a clear purpose

After pinpointing what the majority of your audience looks like, it’s now time to delve into the actions you hope they take upon arrival.

“What is the purpose of your site?” asks Whitty. “Is it sign up for a newsletter? Make a purchase? Follow on social? Subscribe? Read your resume? Inquire about a business opportunity?”

“The purpose of your website will determine your primary call to action (CTA),” she adds. “You want your primary purpose and CTA to be clear and visible upon visiting your site.”

For a bit of inspiration, Whitty implores creators to visit any website they admire and take a look at its hierarchy. Ask yourself what’s the first, second, and third thing you see and how, from a design perspective, were these positioned to stand out. Is it through placement, color, boldness, font type, or photography? These are the little tricks you can apply to your own site so that users follow through on the CTAs you’re hoping to satisfy.

painter in a studio

3. Establish a consistent color scheme

“If you have developed a style guide or brand colors, those should be reflected in your website,” advises Whitty. “You want all touchpoints with your brand to be consistent and feel seamless.”

As a general rule, it’s always good to have one primary, one secondary, and one to two accent colors.

“These colors can be used in varying opacity to give you a broader visual palette,” she says, though legibility and contrast are, of course, of the utmost importance. For this reason, minimalism tends to be the current trend of choice, though there has been a rise in bold and vibrant colors, patterns, geometrics, and gradients that speak to a brand’s overall aesthetic.

Also, don’t be afraid to venture outside of a “.com” domain — .agency, .co, and .biz are other options that have seen a rise in popularity. Just be sure that your social media handles are also aligned for consistency’s sake.

4. Settle on typography

As with color, legibility and contrast are imperative when choosing typeface.

“Stick with two main typefaces and potentially a third that is used sparingly,” suggests Whitty. “One serif typeface contrasts nicely with one sans serif typeface, for example.”

“Since typefaces come in variable styles and weights (bold, italic, condensed), you are not limiting yourself to just two fonts, but the application of the entire font family,” she adds. “Use a stylized or decorative typeface sparingly. Scripts and ornate typefaces can serve a purpose, but are often much harder to read, especially on a small mobile screen.”

personal website tips

5. Test, test, test, and test again

Consider your website to be an evolving document that you may not get right the first time.

“There is no need to schedule and incentivize large-scale focus groups,” says Whitty. “Simply send your URL around to friends, colleagues, or peers and ask their opinion. It’s an easy way to solicit honest feedback from people you trust and a great way to soft launch your website.”

Be sure to also highlight anything that you may be questioning or is in need of a click-through, i.e. whether or not your About page is prominent, the use of acronyms that aren’t obvious to the general public, potential broken links, etc.

And don’t forget to test your site on multiple devices. “Over 50% of website traffic can come from mobile devices,” reminds Whitty, who also urges creators to take a close look at their website’s analytics. These will help to gather the insights and behaviors of your audience, like how they got there, where they’re from, and where they’re clicking so that you can easily adjust and revise for the near future.

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