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Start Building your Website Right Part 15 – Final Plan for the Appearance of the Site

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In this Start Right Building Your WordPress Website plan what we’ve done is left last, what people jump into first and that’s the site appearance. You’ve already chosen your theme. You’re going to use Thesis as the theme and you’re using Personified as your skin.

Steve: Right.

Graphic Design

Rick: Most people have to go through this process of deciding whether they going to hire graphic designer or they’re going to design it themselves. I think hiring a graphic designer is always a great idea.

They don’t have to build the website for you but they can design the website for you and that’s an excellent idea because if you’re not a graphic designer then your website’s going to look like it was designed by somebody who’s not a graphic designer.

Steve: The reason I bought Thesis is that it seems like it took care a lot of those design aspects of complimentary colors and fonts.

Rick: Sure. As long as you’re happy with the end result, absolutely.

Steve: Yeah.

Rick: And that’s the other option. If you’re going to design the site yourself then my answer to that is to find a simple design that you like to emulate.

Steve: Okay.

Rick: You have found a simple design that you like to emulate and then you need to keep it very simple. If you do that then the whole graphic design part of it quick and easy.

Steve: Yes.

Rick: But most people don’t do that, most people make it a great deal, more long drawn out and difficult. So for many people, they have the design but they don’t necessarily want to develop the design themselves. Or they’ve got a design, it needs to be developed and the choice is you develop it yourself or you hire a developer.

Some people decide that the whole point of having Thesis is that they will be able to do all that work themselves and so again, they either have to keep it very simple or they have to learn some development, it’s one of those two options, right?

Steve: Right.

When to Address the Appearance of your Site

Rick: And you are I think are making the right choice in your situation. The choice is different for different folks but you can tell we haven’t talked anything at all about how to do anything in Thesis yet but we’ve talked for 2 and a half hours, right? There’s a lot that you have to become competent in and that you’re going to have to work at before you ever get around talking about whether or not you’re going to customize the appearance of your site.

Steve: Right.

Rick: So there’s plenty for you to learn, there’s plenty to occupy your time, there’s plenty of work to do without ever touching this question of “What should the site appearance look like?”.

My learning objective in leaving this to last is that most people come to my site specifically because they want to learn how to make their website look like something in particular. And that is a very understandable place to start because you can visualize that, you can think about that but that’s not actually the right place to start with a website. That’s the right place to end.

The right place to start with a website is all the stuff that we’ve been talking about because you can’t actually design or execute a design on a site until you actually have content. There’s no way to know what related posts are going to look like until you’ve got posts that are related.

I just went through this exercise with a client here recently who’s paying a large content development company to feed his website several articles a week. It’s a big, fairly expensive content marketing campaign that he’s using on his site and as content marketers they had opinions about what we ought to do with his blog page and with his single posts page and that sort of thing. They said please do these things with it and my response was well, we can’t do any of that because we don’t have any blog posts yet. I mean there’s just nothing to do until you feed us some blog posts that have related posts to them. We can’t show any related posts until they exist.

Steve: That’s part of the SEO you’re talking about, you have to have the posts and the transcripts and start relating them back and forth, right?

Rick: Exactly and you have to have that in order for you to execute a design, in order for you to know what your website looks like because as soon you have a post on this site, it looks entirely different.

Steve: Yes.

Rick: So this is not a good starting place for making your site look a specific way because you don’t have anything there to frame. I’ve been doing this now for 4 and a half years. And for years I fed into this “how to do” things. So, “how do I make this font red”, “how do I increase the line spacing here”, “how do I move this”. I spent just all kinds of time and I still spend most of my time answering questions about that.

Really my new sermon is that’s not really critical to your mission, right? That’s not critical to the business purpose of the site and what’s critical to the business purpose of the site is everything else and the appearance of the site only has to really hit a minimum standard in order for it to be effective.

Steve: That’s kind of what I thought going into this. It’s not making a complex site, it’s what I’m offering people and the search engines are going to find me and it’s going to operate quickly.

Rick: Right. Well, so that’s why we left site appearance to the last and why we’re not really spending a whole bunch of time talking about it. For one thing you already are approaching it relatively rationally and two because I want to drive home this point that the site appearance of all of these things, functionality, SEO, organization, content creation and marketing, is the least important of them all.

Steve: Agreed, absolutely, yes.

Rick: And it should get the least amount of energy, attention, dollars and time. I’m not saying that it’s not important, it’s just to say that it’s the least important for DIYers especially. Since they are going to put their own energy into something, this is one place I think that they should hire out, right? They can spend all their time on all the rest of the stuff. They could easily hire out design and development and never have to worry about learning any of the site functionality.

But the right choice for the DIYer is to focus all of their attention on organizing their site, creating their content, working on their social media marketing, working on their email marketing, integrating all the functionality into that and bringing all that stuff together. Really they should never have to interact with things like how do I make my text blue or that kind of thing.

Steve: I don’t want to that stuff at all. I just want Thesis to take care of it and let me focus on creating the content.

Rick: Right.

Steve: And making sure that gets found.

Rick: Right. So when I say it’s the least important, those web designers out there that are watching this, I’m not degrading your task. In fact, I think your task is important and a necessary antidote to the typical DIY approach to designing a website, right? A typical DIYer should either hire a web designer to come up with the design for them or they need to keep it very, very simple. It’s either one of those two things.

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