With the importance of having a strong online presence crucial to success in today’s modern marketplace, the concept of having a beautiful and engaging website and blog is not a new one. We all know that having an online space that clearly communicates who we are, what we do, and how we can help others is a MUST. But what happens when creating that space is just not on the budget? Or, even if the budget’s there, it’s not unusual to want to tackle the design elements of building your online brand yourself.
As the DIY independent women that we are, I can easily identify and respect those of you entrepreneurs out there with the desire to embark on all your branding and design endeavors on your own. You aren’t afraid to learn, grow, make mistakes, and get your hands dirty. Often you enjoy the challenge, and designing your brand can be one of the most exciting challenges you’ll face as you start your own business.
Your brand’s identity is all about discovering the perfect balance between clearly defining who you are, what you stand for. Making your design choices based on what may be popular today may look cool, but there’s a fine line between fitting in with the current style fads of today and being unique, allowing you to stand out against your competition.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.”
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 changes 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.
THE DANGERS OF DIY DESIGN
I am so excited to bring my dear friend and personal blogging role model, Marianne Manthey of Design Your Own (lovely) Blog 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.
How to avoid the dangers of DIYing your website and how to successfully design your own lovely blog DIY style.
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.
Some of my favorite design focused Facebook groups are:
- DYOB: Blog Beautiful with Marianne herself
- Blog and Biz BFF’s with The Nectar Collective’s Melissa
- Web Appeal with Allyssa Barnes of Allyssa Barnes Design.
And don’t forget Julie’s own Creative’s Corner of course!
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.
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 “You Are Your Business: Who Are You?” 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.
So, 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:
- Get to know your audience. (We already covered that above 🙂 )
- Create an Inspiration board in Pinterest as Julie suggested by collecting images and designs that appeal to your ideal client.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. (Julie here! I’ve got a special Pinterest board featuring my all time favorite themes based on user experience, functionality, customization, and intuitive backend features to help you pick the best theme for your business.)
- 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. Here’s a great plugin that helps you change colors and fonts without knowing CSS.
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.
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.
Or you can go straight to the punch and start beautifying your blog step-by-step with my eBook, ‘Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow’! To help you get going on your blog beautifying journey, I’m offering Julie’s readers a special 25% discount!
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.
Be sure to check out Marianne’s amazing DIY Blog Design master resource headquarters (also know as designyourownblog.com) where she is constantly sharing some of today’s best tips, tricks, and design resources for the DIY designer in you.
She also runs an amazing Facebook Group dedicated to fostering community and providing feedback and resources during your DIY design adventures. To join Marianne’s amazing Facebook Community of fellow DIY’ers, subscribe to her Blog Beautiful newsletter HERE! And of course, she is always available across her social platforms to help or just say hello so be sure to follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
If you have any design questions or further concerns about DIYing your own brand and website, or even working with a professional designer, please never hesitate to reach out and ask Marianne or myself. It is always our goal to help you design a creative space that not only looks, but acts, sounds and feels just like you.
Because after all, you are your brand.
See you in the comments!