When your site no longer fits your organization, you can really feel it, even if you don’t know it yet. At least I could. For me it started in when I was first putting the original version together, with all the little compromises made just to get things up and running. Both times I’ve rebuilt my site I could feel it was time for a new web design.
The initial designs
The first version was mostly a matter of getting something up on the internet to make my new business a public affair. It was built off of a lightly customized WordPress theme and presented the first version of how I saw myself and my work. Nothing wrong with using a theme, especially as a starting place.
After about six months it was clear that this was no longer a good representation. I had a much better idea now of the kind of work I wanted to do and what I needed to present about it. The second version represented some of what I had learned in the first months of my work about building sites and making WordPress bend to my every whim. It was also based on an existing theme but was much more heavily customized. That was last May.
In the following eight months I learned a lot more about web design and coding for the web. I knew, that if I were to present myself as a builder of websites, I should.. um, build my own website. So that’s what we have here!
This version is radically simpler than the previous two versions. I’ve built this site with the goal of generating new leads. The idea is that through some basic info about me, engaging content and a focused design I’ll encourage you to either subscribe to get emails from me or contact me directly via a web form. I’ve gone from probably two dozen different content pages and several actions to a handful. There’s an about page (that I still need to revise), contact and subscribe forms, and then the blog which I have tricked out to work as a portfolio and spot for original content.
Lesson Learned: Focus is Key
I’m letting you see behind the curtain a bit because you all have websites too! It is super duper easy for a web project to ooze into trying to meet every need of every person who ever might visit it. We want to tell our whole story on the web, capture every piece of information and please every one. For some of the institutional sites that I’ve worked on it becomes a major challenge to keep it from becoming a tangled mess only intelligible to insiders. It turns into a book on the organization instead of a brochure.
Every need is different and there are some who legitimately need to present a lot of information. Presenting a lot of information is no reason to loose your focus on the why of the project. Why are you investing your time and money? What is the most important thing for someone to do after seeing your site; make a sale, send an email, share some content?
And this idea is one that you figure out at the very beginning of your process. It’s great to have a sharp website but in order to build a successful one you need to first figure out the why.