I've broken up with my website at least four times. It's a mildly unstable relationship, but as a content marketer it's something I simply can't live without (even though I've tried). During the last four or five years, I've discovered four (of likely many) golden rules of redesigning a website.
1. Use new tools when necessary.
My first website I designed on WordPress (what a beating!). The next time I designed one with a random dark bar theme on Wix (what was I thinking?). Then another one on Wix using my favorite Monet painting as inspiration, but it was too cumbersome to be useful.
When I found Squarespace, I fell in love. I finally had a tool that worked with and not against me. When someone says they want a user-friendly website to launch a new business I send them to Squarespace. A place to post academic papers? Squarespace. A place to build a rocket? Squarespace.
The first time I designed with Squarespace I created a content-focused website using my favorite Monet painting as my compass. After two years of a passive-aggressive relationship with my own insecurities as a business owner, someone finally said something that shook me awake: "You kinda look like an art gallery." Which brings me to my next golden rule ...
2. Let the professionals do their jobs.
It was a hard lesson to learn, realizing that I couldn't perform surgery on myself (or my website). Kris, my design director, said what a few dozen other people had also said to me:
"You need more color."
Personally, I lean toward calm, meditative spaces. Pastels rock, OK? But they don't inspire people to action online. Most people like colors they can visually play with, colors that move them to action, make them feel something -- and when I let Kris take lead, the first thing she did was send me a branding/personality quiz. Imagine my dismay when the quiz didn't tell me to design my website in cool shades of green, gray and cream! I yielded to her insight, and here I am today: with a site that is infinitely better and inspires me to work late nights on email series and blogs, of all things.
3. Websites aren't magic.
A lot of people I meet are hoping that a website will be the game changer for their business. Perhaps it will be -- if they've never had one before, or if they've been using Yellow Pages ads in 2015. But websites are really meant to get out of the way at all costs. They should support a thriving business model. They should reflect a welcoming set of people who are good at what they do. A website will never be magic, but with hard work, a website will become one of the best investments you can make.
4. Tell people about your website.
There seems to be some misconception that a website is its own marketing plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to inviting people through social media and offering great content on your site, people you meet in person need to hear about your site. Don't be obnoxious about it, but tell them when you're shaking hands, "Hey, my site has some pretty helpful ideas/blogs/ebooks. Take a look some time and let me know what you think." (Everyone loves to share their opinion!)
A lot of lessons learned the hard way later, here I am with a new website and revamped branding. I hope you'll stay in touch with us and tell us how we're doing. This content marketing rodeo is so much better with friends.