There have been several articles making the rounds lately – maybe you’ve seen them – about how all websites are starting to look the same. They tend to focus on corporate sites that follow a certain formula: big hero image up top, three column pane below, etc.
But I think the same thing is happening in the world of personal blogging, and in the sites we build for our creative projects. We use the same layouts (I’m guilty of this myself!), fall back on the same old default fonts. Have you ever come across two sites that looked strangely similar, and wondered who is knocking off who? Chances are that it was neither, and it’s just another example of two people using the same template or theme.
The good news is that there are ways to avoid this and they are totally within your grasp. I’m not talking about building a site completely from scratch. I’m talking about adding a few key skills to your bag of tricks that will help set you and your website apart. You don’t need to be a tech genius or even a “Designer” with a capital D, you just need to know how to bridge the gap between the constraints of your platform and the creative ideas/aesthetic preferences that make you, you.
Why go to the extra effort? Three big reasons.
1) You’ll stand out
Perhaps this one’s from the department of the obvious, but if you customize your website, even a little, you give yourself and your creative business/project a chance to stand out from the crowd. This is a little hard to do when everyone’s using the same off-the-shelf theme (and, sad but true word of warning: some “designers” will gladly take your money and pass these exact same themes off as custom designs), the same stock photos, the same default fonts.
Armed with a little bit of know-how, you can change those fonts, fine-tune your layout, and create something unique to you.
2) The most custom for the least $$
In the not-too-distant past, creating custom promotional materials for your business meant a whole lot of overhead, mostly in the form of printing costs. Today, armed with a website, a social channel or two, and maybe even a newsletter, you can create your own corporate headquarters/storefront/marketing machine, for as little as the cost of hosting (usually somewhere in the range of $10 a month). Even better, creating a home base online gives you room to experiment (especially if you’re in the very early days of your business), for free … the main cost to you is time.
3) The little details
The fine details of your work are what set you apart, and there’s no reason your blog or website should be any different. They’re what make you and your business unique, and by taking the time to create a website that doesn’t have the same, off-the-rack look as everybody else’s, you can increase your chances of connecting with your ideal customers, the people who are looking for what only you can offer.
So that’s the why. But how to get there? No surprise, I think WordPress is the best platform for creatives / indie businesses, because it hits that sweet spot of customisability (that may not be a word), affordability, and flexibility. I don’t love the idea of signing up for a service that locks my content into some strange silo. With WordPress I can pay a flat fee to a web host for as many sites as I like, I can choose and/or adapt any theme I like to suit my specific aesthetic.