Building a Business Website
After my last update one year ago it was time to fire up the Wix editor and build a more suitable website for my business and portfolio. Follow along and see what it takes to create something seemingly so easy and common.
"Why do I need a (new) website?"
The first thing you should ask yourself is:
Do I need a website at all? Is it necessary to update my current one?
[+] First and foremost a website is a hub which connects all the information about you and all your work can be collected there. You have a showreel on Vimeo, a twitter account, a LinkendIn profile, an iMDb page, a git repository, a YouTube channel or an ArtStation account? Great! Now everything is connected and everyone visiting your website knows the most important links to find your work and passions.
[-] On the other hand with the new professional social networks like LinkendIn and Xing your work is directly connected with colleagues and recruiters from your industry while you can declare your corny mission statements "I have passion and learn fast." Today it can be a waste of time and effort if the website is just about having a central place for your multiple platforms since you also have to promote it first while your LinkedIn page is already connected with others.
[+] The website as a creative and technical expression of your work, personality and interests. It shows character if you can do something more unexpected, something that let people see that you care, are creative, passionate ... and consistent. If you can show the spark through your web design or functionality it leaves an impression opposite to the standardized social networks (LinkedIn, Xing).
[+] Of course if you enjoy the process of learning new skills or advancing in web development and design it can be a positive challenge to use every trick in the book the get things done as you would love to have them.
[-] Web development is not for everyone. It takes effort and experience to catch up to the quality of standard templates that are floating around in 90% of the active pages you encounter.
If you spent one day to fix your printer maybe it is of more value paying someone to do it unless you don't want to exceed in your printer engineering skills of course.
Personally even though I have the basic skills to handle a website creation - I don't enjoy it. For a really good website you have to handle a vast amount of web languages. Which only increases in complexity if you need to store data for your online shop or it has to be portable for every browser and size since phones and pads are becoming the standard browsing devices today. We are not even counting servers to store the data and to register your URL. Maintaining can also be unpleasant since you now have to joggle multiple files and folders while editing in a script editor with F5 becoming your best friend for weeks.
Creating a general hub is great but this doesn't cut it for me - my LinkedIn handles this pretty well - thank you very much. My biggest reason is that I want to express myself through the pages, this blog and also the way I share my portfolio and services. My new website should connect with others while creating a sense of ownership without spending months in development.
I need a drag & drop solution.
Wix vs Squarespace
If you like to believe YouTube ads Squarespace.com is the only reliable drag&drop solution on the internet. The occasional Wix.com ad gets pale in comparison. So I took some time to test both website editors since you can create a fully functional website BEFORE deciding to accept a monthly subscription. The alternative of using templates or services with WordPress or company didn't really appeal to me since the results often look outdated or need an unreasonable effort of modifications.
As you can already see from the title I ended up subscribing to Wix.com. My two biggest reasons for this decision were that while Squarespaces presentation is much more clean and their editor feels more sophisticated it lacked variety. "Building blocks" is probably the best way to describe the process of creating a website on this pages. This means it is hard to make it bad but it is also much harder to make it stand out from the crowd (while rhyme around). Wix has a bigger variety of tools and blocks which felt more useful.
The second reason was the price. Squarespace dropped the price significantly in the last 2 years but still doesn't seem to match. Seem because it also depends on what you expect from the platforms and some hidden costs. Wix for example charges you 10+,-€ after the first year for the domain which was missing transparency on their part. While I even ended up paying for my first years domain anyway since "the free domain" was basically hidden behind a coupon you have to manually activate that expired. *grrrr*
Squarespace Business: 17,-€/month
Wix Unlimited: 12.50,-€/month
First things first. After deciding for the provider it is now time to decide what the exact purpose of the website should be since it will define its content and design.
Do you wanna create a
portfolio website which shows your best industrial or personal work,
service or product website which explains how you can benefit others,
fun side where you show some interesting projects?
The idea is to have content that hits the mark and focuses only on what is needed.
A portfolio website should be 100% aimed on providing all the important content and links to convince a potential client or employer of your qualification and sparking interest to hire or interview you for a future job opportunity.
The three main ingredient to achieve that are:
Often it can be more than enough to just to provide a single homepage. A simple page can show focus and gets the point across quickly. If you have to navigate away from the home page to understand
What do you do?
What work quality can you deliver?
How to contact you?
can lead to lost information.
An example for this is to have your showreel embeded directly into your homepage and make it accessible through a YouTube or Vimeo player. Now the viewer is instantly hooked on your main presentation without additional actions. After watching your impressive work the viewer probably wants to found out more details which you can provide in form of a clear CV (see next week: The perfect CV) and a portfolio page with additional links and descriptions of what you worked on in this projects.
See this in practice:
First look portfolio: https://www.alexanderrichtertd.com
Detailed portfolio: https://www.alexanderrichtertd.com/portfolio
The user should know exactly what he is buying.
Besides presenting your work you could also show and explain your services. Your own homepage allows you to present every service and link it in the way you think it should be shown. This opens up great opportunities and should always be a mixture of known standards like an overview of service boxes with additional links and your own creative solutions of how you want to describe and present them.
a) You need to prove that you have enough experience to potentially understand and solve the problem or task which someone else is struggling with. You can do it by showing your professional history (6+ years of experience), work (look at this) or success (won an award, was hired multiple times etc.).
b) The user should know what exactly he is buying. Where does the time and money goes into? A breakdown of "What to expect" and the problem-to-solution workflow can add transparency and the needed clearness of professionalism since it also shows that you have a system in place to solve the specific tasks. Another great way is to share valuable information through articles, videos or posts which can establish a general interest and understanding.
See also my YouTube channel.
c) Give potential clients a chance to find out if the service is valuable for them. The only way to do that is to give them some of your time and being honest if you can benefit their current situation. Don't just copy & paste some nonsensical service pages from other companies which you would probably never hire. Think instead about what is is needed to convince you. And also ask other people if something is missing that would convince them.
After talking for 30 min with my last potential client we could build up a relationship and she was happy to trust my opinion and the prize that I set for her service because she trusted that it would be worth the money. Which doesn't mean that it will work out in the end as a service but building a trust relationship is key for both parties.
First look services: https://www.alexanderrichtertd.com
Detailed consulting: https://www.alexanderrichtertd.com/consultant
Detailed coaching: https://www.alexanderrichtertd.com/coaching
Looking at my old homepage (2018) I am not really sure if you can even see the original idea or what the concept behind it was when I build it. Since every software started to operate in dark mode (dark background, bright fonts) which is also more relaxing to work with for longer times and more professional - suit up. I wanted the same reflected in my font colors which are white or golden. Now everyone who worked with colors and tried to replicate gold can tell you: "It is a shitty color.". Gold is neither orange nor yellow and without texture real gold looks cheap. The result was this muddy brown-orange with a dark background.
When rebuilding the new website (2019) I still wanted the same effect but working this time. The color was never about gold itself which is old fashioned in 2019 but about expressing value, clearness and being layered.
Black on white are still classy and could deliver the clearness aspect especially combined with enough negative space. Doing less can often show a more in-depth thought process. So I kept it simple this time focusing on the value and clearness part. Still I had to give the viewer enough possibilities to inform themselves since I am not only building a portfolio website where "see and contact me" would be more than enough. Services need to be explained which resulted in extra read me pages for every one of them. To counter the excessive use of text I added as many images and videos as I could to show through experience and past prove that I was able to handle the task.
Working with a web creator like Wix means also to work boxed if you want your page to be easy sustainable, portable to other devices and also strong in readability. I ended up creating custom box structures for every part to stay consistent but not boringly predictable. This helps to guide the eye, looks sorted and intentionally. Occasionally I broke the order throwing in smaller shifts which were needed to present an information in a better build up.
To keep the performance as high as possible I uploaded the images in adjusted resolutions for faster loading time. A thumbnail doesn't need to be Full HD. After trying to use gifs for showing my work in motion on the homepage I changed it to short cut mid quality mp4s since they are smaller in size (10 times) and at least double in quality (24 frames/second and better colors). Gifs are generally bad especially if you want to show a work of high quality lines and color.
Doing less can show a more in-depth thought process.
Every website which is not just a simple hub should have something special. The specialty reflects the personality or profession of its owner and creates character.
I was looking into keywords that would align with me. By chance I came across a reference homepage where you could control the brightness of a lamp in a digital living room using a slider. This was a great idea and fits with a lot of my keywords. Since I didn't want to spent too much time on the implementation of such I was looking into what was already implemented in Wix. The hover feature is a simple effect but has a lot of potential. I started to play around with it and found out I could get a lot of interactions out of it. It was a fun challenge to find ways to integrate this effect on different places mostly to reveal information or surprise with small ideas. Check out the footer and hover around.
Every project benefits through iterations. The website is a great example for that since it will follow you for many years and is a reflection of your personal and professional growth while marking the adjustments you made after different experiences. Often enough we forget to set a mark and see how far we came through time. No photo album anymore to remind us of where we were 2 or 3 years ago just selfies on our Instagram accounts. It is amazing how much a change in representation can shift your perspective on your achievements. Seeing old reels or CVs creates the same nostalgia of cringe and proudness in the progress.
Explore this site and I am happy for feedback if you think something is great or has potential to improve. Should you be interested in personal or professional growth hit me up and lets add more meat to your life.
- Best, Alex
PS. Check also out this website designing video from The Futur.
Special Thanks to NordVPN
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NEXT THURSDAY: The perfect CV
After we talked about creating an eye popping website for your work or service we now have to add the perfect CV to communicate with the recruiter and your future clients and employers of your background to do the job.