Assuming, like me, your first website was made for ‘free’ initially (i.e. until you knew what you were doing/where you were going you just wanted to get something ‘out there’ before investing in a paid for template) then you will probably be using one of the many ‘free’ hosting providers like Wix (for example). These are great to get you started but what do you actually need to know to take that first step?
Here are the 5 tips I would pass on to anyone thinking of taking that first step based on my own experience.
1. Don’t use an ‘Education’ template
Keep clear of the ‘education’ or ‘teaching’ templates from the providers. I don’t know why (and it is very sad) but for some reason when these providers design for educational templates they seem to lose the will to live creatively and only give you the choice of very stereotypical, bland, uninspiring options that hark back to teachers in gowns and mortise boards, pictures of pencils and rulers and folk scribbling on chalk boards.
My first template for a school department website came from an ‘architectural resource’ selection if I remember correctly. Have a good nose around the options and see what’s there. You may find what you want in ‘Food and Cakes’ or ‘Photography’ or somewhere else….
2. White Space is Important
Try to avoid templates that have overuse of imagery, graphics and photos – to such an extent that the amount of ‘whitespace’ (the actual white surface of the page) is almost obscured. This can make your site appear cluttered and chaotic to initial page viewers.
Instead, choose something that keeps things simple and allows folk to see the information you want easily, quickly and clearly. You can always introduce more colour/photos/imagery as you go by upgrading to other web templates as your site develops (and you grow in confidence based on the feedback you receive!)
3. Font and Image Choice Is Crucial
Of course it can come down to the simple element of personal choice BUT on a ‘freebie’ web/blog template your choice will be limited (its one of those things that you pay for when you upgrade – greater choice).
Regarding fonts I would personally steer clear of Courier, Times New Roman and the such like. No, I am not saying they are ‘bad’ but it is important for your site to look fresh and current (and remember that the world is a fickle place – fashions and trends change especially within Graphic Design). Also, avoid chunky and cartoony fonts. Choose fonts that are crisp and clear and easy to read in a range of sizes. Calibri, Arial, Helvetica can work well to start with.
Use one font only and use the available tools to change its size, bold or italic it to give you presence on the page. Trust me. It works. As soon as you mix up fonts it looks terrible.
Regarding imagery, avoid ‘stock’ photos where possible. They can look ‘cheesy’ and unless you are very good at selecting them they will cheapen your site. If you must have a stock image to begin with try to keep to greyscale (black and white) photos to keep things subtle. Again, it’s your choice and maybe when you have something on the page it does look good and work well. Many free sites may not allow you to upload your own images though. Even if they do – do you actually have any ready to go? See point 4 below.
4. Prepare Copy in Advance
Get writing your text for your website/blog in advance using ‘Word’ or similar. Build up a few articles (and gather a few images/photos in a folder that you can use) that collate your thoughts so that you can easily upload over a period of time. That way you can update your site/blog easily and it looks like you are a prolific writer! In reality, you have spent every weekend of the past few months reading up on things and writing your thoughts down but hey, you have done the reading, learnt some things and are in a better position to put the proverbial pen to paper.
5. Be confident, be Accurate, be Honest
When you start writing for your site/blog you may well, like me, feel rather anxious about putting your thoughts out into the public domain. It does not matter what anyone says to you about it being ‘okay’ – it can be scary. You have made the decision to put your thoughts ‘out there’ (if only because you are reading this…) so go for it!
Whatever your discipline write honestly and with accuracy. If you take a phrase or quote from somewhere, acknowledge it. Likewise, if you post a complete article by someone else on your own site/blog that is normally fine PROVIDING you give due credit to the author in your post ( and never try to pass something on as your own if, in fact, you have taken it from somewhere else).
If you find this useful do please let me know – and if you have any questions at all fire them in and I will do my best to answer them for you.