The Dangers of DIY Design

How to Avoid the Dangers of DIYing Your Website

The Dangers of DIY Design - Whiskey and Red Small Business Branding and Website Design Packages - Phoenix, Arizona

Featuring Marianne Manthey

My friend and personal blogging role model, Marianne Manthey of Design Your Own (lovely) Blog, is here today to talk about the dangers in DIY and how to avoid them by doing some pre-DIY education and investing in the right tools to help you get the job done right.

Chances are, you’re probably not a digital web designer and didn’t study brand development in college. And that is totally ok! You are no less of an amazing person because of it. That just means your expertise most likely lies elsewhere.

Now I am not saying that DIY is wrong by any means, again I love seeing the energy in the DIY community to empower themselves to take chances and learn new things on their own. But just because you want to DIY your own brand doesn’t mean you have to totally do it all by yourself.

First Up, Why Choose to DIY?

“I can’t afford to hire a professional.”

Marianne: A totally valid reason. We all do some degree of DIY in our lives because we simply cannot afford to hire a professional to do everything. We bake our child’s birthday cake because we can’t afford a professional one. We refinish our own furniture, take our own family photos, or wash our own cars for the same reason.

There’s nothing wrong with learning how to DIY our blog’s designs, but you must keep in mind that it takes some research and understanding of your customer, as well as practice in order to do so.

I completely agree with Marianne. While we fully support the DIY-spirit in you, making sure to do your research before jumping in is key. While you may not be able to afford a professional designer, there are still lots of ways to access the skills and knowledge of some of today’s most successful designers through free resources and community forums. Social media has opened up a whole new channel for communication when it comes to accessing your favorite designers. Joining private Design focused Facebook groups lead by your favorite designers is a great way to connect with them and ask specific questions that you might have as they relate to your website’s design.

And don’t ever hesitate to reach out to your favorite designers through their blog comments or contact forms. It never hurts to ask your questions directly to them and see what feedback you might be able to get. If anything, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. And all designers appreciate some email love from admiring fans, even if that fan can’t afford to hire them. We all remember what it was like when we first started our businesses and how helpful it was to ask other designers ahead of us how to get going.

Marianne: Definitely! No good designer works in a vacuum. Design is quite collaborative, even if it’s just to ask for some feedback on some design work you’ve done. That’s why I started the DYOB: Blog Beautiful Community so that beginner and DIY designers would have a place to look for feedback.

“They don’t know my industry like I do. I don’t want to be misrepresented.”

Marianne: A professional designer doesn’t need to be intimate with every industry to be a good designer. She will do her research and use her experience and education to understand your industry’s audience. She needs to know what your audience’s needs and desires are and from there, can make a determination of how to proceed.

A professional designer doesn’t need to be intimate with every industry to be a good designer.

But even if you still want to do your own, that’s fine, many of us love to work with design and learn new things! The first thing I recommend any DIY designer to do is to fully know and understand her audience. We do this by creating a persona of our ideal client.

Get into your ideal client’s head and ask yourself what she is feeling, what her pains are, what makes her happy and what kinds of unique solutions would she be looking for that fit into her lifestyle? Can you provide those unique solutions?

If you haven’t already, I’d start with Julie’s “Identifying the You in Your Business ” worksheet, to help you in identifying your brand. Every good design begins with knowledge and research and your brand is no different.

After that is when you can start to identify what kinds of colors, fonts and design styles she would appreciate.

It all really comes down to communication. A designer understands how to communicate through design while you provide the information they need to know the best communication tools to utilize through the design. These tools include typography, patterns and textures, colors, images, visual navigation, and more. It can easily get overwhelming to try to understand all of these elements as they play into each other, especially if you aren’t an experienced designer, but the role they play in clearly communicating your message to your target audience is crucial. While a designer might not know your industry, you equally might not understand how to communicate through design. So, how do we combat this dangerous scenario? PINTEREST!

Pinterest is one of my favorite resources to use when I work with my clients to help them understand how these design tools come into play as we work to communicate to their target market. Making mock brand inspiration boards on Pinterest is an excellent way to practice and better understand how all the visual elements play into the overall tone and mood of your brand’s design.

Take 3 of your favorite brands and create a secret board on Pinterest for each of them. Then using Pinterest’s search feature, look for images that make you think of that brand. From colors to patterns, to typography, to people, to fashion and food… pin as many images that speak to the tone and mood of that brand. When you have about 30 or so pins, go back through them and eliminate any outlying images that don’t flow with the rest until you have a solid board of about 15 or so pins that all connect in some way as they relate to the brand you are focusing on.

I usually try to think in all the senses when I do this for my inspiration boards.

  • What does this brand look like?
  • How do they dress?
  • What do they eat?
  • Where do they hang out or think?
  • What do they feel like?
  • What colors represent them?
  • What do they sound like?

If this brand were a person, what would they pin to their Pinterest board?

“It looks like fun.”

Marianne: It IS fun! But it’s also a lot of work and research. It’s not just about picking some favorite colors and fonts and going to town. Nope. Good design is based in research and built on the foundations that serve your audience. It’s about knowing what works well together and also about the experience you’re creating for your visitors that leaves them better informed instead of frustrated and confused.

What Can We Do to Avoid the Dangers of DIY?

People often don’t think about the financial value of what it takes to actually build a successful brand. Design is often considered an expense instead of a necessity. But it is actually one of the most valuable investments into the success of your business you’ll ever make.

What resources are out there to help successfully DIY design a blog or website?

These are the steps I like to take when working on a new project:

  1. Get to know your audience. (We already covered that above 🙂 )
  2. Create an Inspiration board on Pinterest as Julie suggested by collecting images and designs that appeal to your ideal client.
  3. To choose a color palette, you can extract colors from a favorite photo in your inspiration board, then play with the colors in color.adobe.com. Learn more about choosing a color palette from a photo in one of my past posts HERE.
  4. When you’re starting out and don’t have money for a designer, I like to suggest a logo template for your first logo. You can find super cute templates at Luvly Marketplace or Creative Market.
  5. Next, you’ll want to pick out a font palette. My favorite tool for this is Typecast where you can play with any Google font you like until you find the right combination. Learn more about pairing fonts on another post of mine HERE.
  6. Once you’ve got your branding figured out, it’s time to look for a WordPress theme that fits your needs. I start by making a list of all the features I want out of a blog and then look for themes that fit those needs.
  7. Sometimes you get lucky and find a theme that is perfect out of the box, but most of the time, we want to customize it a bit, whether it’s the colors, fonts, or minor layout changes. You can do this either by editing the CSS or by finding plugins to do the work for you.

Another resource I can’t help but mention is my own website, Design Your Own (lovely) Blog which I created as a hub for the DIY blog designer. Since I understand that many of us solopreneurs are on budgets, I like to share free tools and resources with my readers as I discover them.

Design is often considered an expense instead of a necessity. But it is actually one of the most valuable investments into the success of your business you’ll ever make.

Whether you want to start a blog from scratch or beautify the one you have, I’ve got the budget-friendly resources you need to figure out what blogging platform, colors or fonts to choose. There’s also a free library of resources you can access to start beautifying your blog and building an audience right away.

We 100% salute you, you DIY creative entrepreneurs! Both Marianne and I completely support your design endeavors, but we urge you, before jumping right in with color palettes and fun fonts, make sure to do the research first into who and how you want your brand to be received. The design process might be fun for you, but the person who should really be having fun is your audience. It’s their experience that matters most so we want to make sure to create an engaging, valuable, and seamless experience. Making it easy for your followers to locate the information they are looking for.

Discover more small business, branding, and website design resources on the W&R blog.

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