Websites, like bed sheets, should be changed and cleaned way more often than they usually are. “Oh, I’ll get around to changing that next week,” or “It’s on my to-do list, it’s just a low priority item.”
Does that sound familiar to you?
Hopefully more familiar as it relates to your website than your bed sheets…
For years I’ve invested in my “online profile.” No, not my Match or Plenty Of Fish profile. I mean the thing online that most accurately sums up everything I do—my website.
When you’re just getting started with an online business you change directions faster than your website can keep up. Best-selling author James Altucher says we’re a completely new person every six months. I agree with that. Maybe it’s 10 months or 12 months for you? No matter the time-frame, we’re growing and changing faster than we realize.
I wasn’t ashamed of my previous website, per se, but something just felt a bit off. My website didn’t feel like it fit the latest iteration of my online profile. It also didn’t feel like it was serving my most recent business goals.
As I embarked on the journey to redesign my previous virtual home (JasonDoesStuff) I came to two realizations fo why I was feeling website shame: My website had too much fluff and wayyyy too many calls-to-action.
On a previous iteration of JasonDoesStuff.com I was trying to show a prospective user all of these things… on just the homepage of my website:
That’s a total of seven calls-to-action. Not only is it too many, I’d also lost excitement for more than half of them.
I boiled it down to these three things (for my homepage):
Everything else became ancillary. Everything else was a lower priority. Every other call-to-action would live on a different page of my website.
Early on in my career as a graphic designer I learned about this “Rule of 3.” Study after study showed that three pieces of information were the optimal amount for someone to understand and make a decision with.
In the case of my impending homepage redesign, my belief was that if I nailed the three* things I wanted to focus on, people would search out any remaining stuff on their own.
*I will fully admit that I’ve gone on to have four calls-to-action on the homepage of JasonDoesStuff, but it’s only because I had a short film made about my entrepreneurial journey and it deserved to join the center stage!
If it is, and you have zero website shame, then you can move on from this article.
However, if your website isn’t getting you more email subscribers or helping you sell your products/services, it’s time for a change.
I have a friend whose name I won’t actually reveal, but we’ll call him Roger Bentlingsworth (distant cousin of Benedict Cumberbatch… obviously).
Roger has had the same website for the past three years. His website has had a couple subtle changes (a different image on the homepage or adding new blog post links), but for the most part his website has gone unchanged. Roger on the other hand, has completely changed his focus in business. Roger and his website are way out of alignment.
I had a call with Roger and asked him what he wanted his website to be doing do for him.
His answer was, “to get more people to buy my online course.”
To which I replied, “Okay, how many courses has your website helped you sell in the past year?”
His answer: “Maybe four.”
Roger and I then looked at the homepage of his website and came to a stunning conclusion: Roger had 12 calls-to-action on the homepage of his website – 12!
Can you guess how many of those were related to selling his online course?
If you guessed ONE, you were correct. Just one. And the call-to-action was buried next to other links, images, and buttons.
So what happened next?
Roger admitted he was ashamed of how his website hadn’t changed with his business goals. He was expecting his website visitors to comb through his website and magically know that buying his course was the most important thing they could do.
We all want higher conversions. We all want our website to generate more revenue. But many of us are not willing to make the necessary (and sometimes drastic) changes. Why? Sunk cost bias. We’ve spent time and money on our website already, why should we have to change it? Sunk cost is a real a-hole.
Here’s what Roger and I decided his three new calls-to-action would be on his homepage:
Roger agreed to let go of the sunk cost bias toward his existing (read: outdated) website design. And the great thing about making the decision to let go of sunk cost? He got immediate motivation to make changes!
It took only two weeks for Roger to redesign his homepage. He didn’t redesign his entire website. He didn’t comb through every page. He just put his three new calls-to-action front and center on the most important page of his website. And after publishing that redesign? Roger saw an immediate spike in email conversions (over 50%!) Exactly one month after the redesigned homepage went live he had four new sales of his online course (remember, he had only four sales in the previous YEAR).
These are the keys to making successful improvements to your website (and business!): admitting your website shame; figuring out your three important calls-to-action; and ignoring sunk cost bias.
If your website is not meeting your expectations, it needs to be changed. That doesn’t mean you have to flip it completely upside down and do something crazy, but it does mean that you need to do more than just switch up a few photos or change a color here or there.
Is it currently doing those things? If it’s not, then you know it’s time for change. And if you’re being really honest with yourself and you have website shame, then all the more reason to embrace some big changes.
My good friend Paul Jarvis put it well: “The fewer the complications, the more likely you’ll see a better outcome.”
That simple phrase inspired me to redesign my previous website. It’s also a phrase I come back to when I need to checkin on my various businesses and the goals associated with them.
Are you ready to remove complications, make changes, and start seeing results?
Even though I taught myself how to use the program, after a couple years of near-daily use, I feel pretty comfortable with it. But, it occurred to me the other day that there is still SO much that I don’t know about Photoshop.
I can always do whatever I need to do with the foundation of skills I have, but every once in a while I take a look at the various tools and options that I don’t use on a regular basis and think to myself: What if there’s some awesome tool out there I’m missing out on?
So I recently went on a mission to expand my design horizons.
And while I’m a big fan of learning new things, I have to admit, these days it’s hard to find the time to sit down and watch endless Photoshop tutorials (plus, let’s be honest, most of them are boring! My coffee-induced ADD can’t handle it!)
Side note: “TipGIF” isn’t technically a thing (I made up the term.) BUT I think tips are most helpful when you can see them in action, so I looked up how to make GIFs in Photoshop, and behold, the TipGIF was born. Maybe it‘ll catch on?
Another side note: I use Adobe Photoshop CC on a Mac (though I’ve included PC alternatives as well.)
This is especially helpful when creating graphics with hand-lettering because you can remove the white background of your paper to isolate your hand-drawn element.
**You can also set layers with white backgrounds to Blending mode “Multiply” and their white backgrounds will become transparent, allowing you to place the layer on top of whatever you need!**
I first learned about this little tip in an Intro to Illustrator class at Alt Summit back in 2012, but it was one of those simple ones that changed EVERYTHING for me. By holding down Alt, then clicking and dragging, you can duplicate shapes, layers, images, even layer styles!
Just a handy little keystroke here, but to adjust the size of your brush, simply press the left or right brackets!
Grouping layers can be especially helpful if you need to quickly hide/unhide certain layers or apply a layer style to a group. To easily place multiple layers in a group:
Depending on your Photoshop settings, the background color behind your canvas area is probably some version of gray. However, if you want to see how your photos/graphics look on a white background or black background (or you just want to jazz up your workspace with some bright colors) you can use this shortcut to customization.
(If you want to undo this action, right-click outside the document area and select one of the default gray options.)
I use this trick a lot when I put together mood boards. By creating your grid of rectangles in your mood board, you can then drop your images on top, Alt+click and keep your nice crisp gutters between your images!
I’m sure you know you can hide the visibility of layers by clicking on the “eye” in the Layers palette, but did you know that you can Alt+click the eye icon to hide all other layers except that one? And to reverse it, simply Alt+click the layer again.
Naming layers properly can be a HUGE help when you’re dealing with complex files. Cycle through and properly name your files by:
I hope you found these little tricks helpful!
My style tends to bend toward this look a bit anyway – the high contrast, bright colors, graphic elements – so it’s no surprise to you guys that this week I selfishly chose these words from the word bank.
One subtlety that’s worth pointing out is that word “urban.” Urban might mean different things to different people, but when I picture that word I think of an old downtown concrete-scape. I think of exposed brick and plastered walls. Basically to me it means texture. That’s why I love the pink brick photo, the abstract art piece behind the neon dipped vases, and the wood that the stag head is on. If you swapped out “urban” with “clean” in this case, it would have been a very different board because I would have steered clear of those imperfect and textured pieces.
While I know the neon trend has kind of run its course, to me this isn’t quite that. It’s a really fine line between neon and graphic brights, but hopefully this treads that line. Anyway, I’ll definitely be keeping this one in my back pocket. Hope you guys enjoy!
If any of you have been following along from the beginning, you know I have a tendency to be a tad bit long-winded. I can’t help it – I love words! I adore how one word can carry with it SO much below the surface! Moods, perceived meanings, connotations… words are so much more than, well, words.
Anyway, that’s probably why I love coming up with these brand tone words. I use these 3-5 words in combination with one another to guide the look and feel of the entire brand I’m creating, and I choose them very, very carefully. I also find it challenging in the best way because it’s not the words individually that help form the final vision; it’s their collective feeling. For example… “vintage” might immediately bring to my mind one image (an eclectic attic of sepia-toned artifacts?), but balance “vintage” with “simple” and it changes that image (scratch the cluttered attic; I’m thinking a plain red hat box with a pair of white gloves resting on top). Once more, throw together “vintage,” “simple,” AND “youthful” and now I’m envisioning something completely different (a solid-colored bright orange tin lunchbox.) Kind of a fun game, right?
I have some branding projects in the works that will have mood boards for me to share, but until then I thought it might be fun to choose three random tone words and share a quick mood board inspired by the collective group of those words. I’ll consider it practice, and if there are any aspiring designers out there, hopefully these posts will serve to expand your visual vocab.
Below is a copy of my “Visual Vocabulary Word Bank” that I give to my clients when they fill out their Brand Exploration Questionnaire. I’ve found that simply asking someone to come up with their own tone words returns a lot of ”modern, clean, and professional” which is fine, but it doesn’t really offer up a specific direction for me to take things. I think going through each word and then selecting 3-5 helps them determine what they do and don’t connect with and what is important to them aesthetically.
(I’m constantly looking for new additions to the list so if you think I left any out, please leave them in the comments!!)
Today’s three random words are: Fresh, adventurous, and feminine. (Quite fitting for the beginning of a new year, if you ask me.)
To give you some insight on my process, this exercise is a mini-version of what I do for my clients. A lot of times I start out with a gut reaction in my mind (I realize that phrase doesn’t make a TON of sense but I think my creative friends will get what I mean) and I sort of meditate on these words as I scour my libraries of saved images. Then, as I go through, I pull out anything that feels like it speaks to my three words and my initial vision. From there I can start to see a pattern emerge, and my original vision starts to evolve and become much clearer and more defined. That’s when I really narrow down the direction, pick the images that are most representative of that direction, pull together a corresponding color palette, and voila – a mood board is born!
In this board specifically you can see what I mean when I say it’s the combination of the words that informs the mood. “Fresh” by itself might have directed me to some brighter hues, but when combined with “adventurous” and “feminine” the palette becomes softer and a bit more earthy for me. The teal and green speak to feminine botanicals and majestic waves. The pink and peach could be fresh wildflowers or the colors of a sunset after a long day’s adventure. So there ya have it – my interpretation of fresh, feminine and adventurous!
Let me know if this is something you might enjoy seeing here on the blog, or if you would interpret the brand tone words differently!