About time... (A new website for my consultancy practice)
The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted that I have a new website! After two years of loyal service it was time to retire my old, Wordpress based website and move over to something that gave me more creative control. I've built the new site myself using Adobe Muse, which is part of my Creative Cloud subscription. Have you tried it yet? I looked at so many options; another Wordpress theme or a Squarespace site but stumbled upon Muse and loved the fact that the interface looks like InDesign, which I'm very familiar with, but that behind the scenes it creates the code for you. How clever is that?
Using something with more creative control let me create design elements like this services section, which would have been pretty tricky on a standard theme and I absolutely do not have the coding skills to create this myself. I could have invested in a website developer, but with a limited amount of time available to consult, I was keen to keep costs low as until my youngest goes to school I'm not working much.
Muse also enabled me to create underlined headlines as in my proposals, again, something I hadn't seen in the themes I'd shortlisted. And at this point I should give a shoutout to the lovely Doug at the Muse Supply Co who put in so much time to help me make everything work.
There are still bits that need ironing out. I'd like to add more case studies, I need to update the workshops already (you'll find the latest dates here) but the style reflects where I'm at with my business much more and I love the clean and elegant look.
Muse isn't currently responsive, which means designing the website three times! It's really not good for someone as impatient as me and frankly, although I must update those workshop dates I've just left it be for now. Adobe promised a new responsive version in January, it's not here yet (March) but I just don't have the time, strength or energy to fiddle about three times so I'll be saving all my design tweaks for the new release.
I thought it might be interesting for you to see how my brand identity has evolved over the past couple of years as I've grown into my new business.
My original brand identity
When I first created my website in January 2014 my aims were to create an aspirational brand identity and website that reflected my skills and experience as well as the burst of creative energy I bring to a project.
I rooted it in the spring personality but with a very understated and elegant winter design style but I was nervous of looking too winter. I didn't feel as confident as I do now and I guess I didn't want to stick my neck out too far. The overall look was softer than it is now and I think it reflects my tentativeness at working again after having a baby and taking a year out.
Many of the brand elements still work for me. I love the logo, I think it's very 'me' and I love the font and the 'slash'. But having designed and published my book this past year I've become much more clear about my own abilities and also gained a clearer perspective on what I want to communicate.
I thought I'd cringe as I put this together - isn't that often the way when we look back at old designs? But actually I can still feel a connection to what I've created above.
I definitely featured too many blowsy flowers in my photos and I've cut back on that as I just think it detracts too much from my intelligence (ha ha!). I still love to use natural elements in my photography but I'll often use foliage rather than flowers which just keeps things looking fresh but a little more serious.
There's definitely a lot more energy in the old brand than the new and that comes from my use of colours. I've long used oranges in my branding and it feels very right for a creative, abundant, energetic business. But I've let it go in favour of icier tones moving forwards.
Embracing the winter season
As I designed How to Style Your Brand I went through quite a challenging process and although I was
dragged kicking and screaming loathe to use black it feels really right now. I love my more 'grown up' colour palette and I love the separation between work and home - important to me since I work at home and don't want the two to merge too much.
As I've grown as a person and evolved my ambitions for my business I'm now embracing the winter season and particularly black in my colour palette. I still capture my energy and clarity through my photography which is very light-filled and spring in its style.
I've dropped the ditsier patterns and instead introduced an elegant geometric pattern which you'll find on my business cards and also in the new Brand Stylist sketchbook which I gift to students on my workshops. I've written before about my transition to the winter season and also the challenge of separating you from your business. Not easy but oh so important!
In reality I haven't used many of my colours but it's nice to have them. My new pared back look works really well simply with one or two colours - so I've focused on the yellow (self confidence, inspiration, happiness) and the copper (which looks like a murky brown here).
My tips for creating your own website without a fuss
As you'd expect, creating my website has taken longer and been, at times, more frustrating than I'd planned! Here are my tips on making your website project run smoothly...
Review your options. How will you create your website? I've always loved Wordpress but I find coding overwhelming and the lack of flexibility in pre designed themes frustrating. That said, if you want to do something quickly, Wordpress and Squarespace are pretty unbeatable. I like Themeforest for themes. For shops, look at Shopify and also Create.
Be prepared for it to take a lot of time. Creating a strong plan, writing content and sourcing images is no mean feat. If you're also designing everything from scratch (as opposed to throwing it into a template) prepare for the build to be a slow one. My website may look simple, but it's taken me a good month to pull together in amongst my other commitments.
Planning is everything. Look, even I was seduced by the apparent simplicity of hopping onto the web and building my website on the fly. Don't do it! You need to put some legwork in at the outset to keep things on track and ensure your new site does what you need it to. I'll be putting something together for you over the coming months to help you plan your website (don't hold your breath, I need to write my next book first...).
Completion over perfection. I'll admit it. I'm a starter not a finisher. I love getting those fine details right, but I'd rather someone else did it! Actually launched my site back in November, because I knew that it was better than what I had before. But it wasn't perfect. The fonts looked to small on mobile devices (damn you Adobe Muse!) and a quirk of the programme meant that I had to create three separate designs to make my site responsive. Three! I barely have the patience to finish one! So it isn't perfect, but it creates a better impression than what was there before. Remember that if it's taking you a long time to get your own site live. If what you are creating is better than what you have right now just get it out there - even if you haven't dotted every last i or crossed every single t.