How To Design Your Website for Free
A few simple design tips to make sure your website shines
Recently, I updated my website, with the main new addition being a homepage, rather than my most recent posts being the first thing you see when you come to the website. If I do say so myself, it looks pretty good-especially considering I did it 100% on my own, for free.
While someday I’d like to invest in a web designer, that’s not a wise use of money for me right now, and I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. (I mean, you did click on an article about designing your website for free, so…)
I’ll be sharing some basic design ideas to keep in mind when creating your website, as well as some specific tips for author websites.
Do your research
Find some other websites in your industry that catch your eye, and figure out what it is that you like about them. Do they have a striking photo that immediately grabs your attention? Do they have lots of cute illustrations? Do they use well-placed bullet point lists? Before I ever started designing my website, I had a Google doc that I continually added to when I visited a website that I liked so I could keep a list of ideas. Not only is this good for finding inspiration, but it also shows you what is typical for websites in your industry.
For author websites
While I’ve chosen to have a blog as a part of my author website, you don’t have to! Even if you don’t have any published work, it’s useful to have an author website that makes it easy for people to find you. The basics that you need are: a welcoming homepage; an about me page (which might just be your homepage!), and a contact page (including social media links if you have any). Then, as applicable, have a page about your published work (you can also include info about works-in-progress, if you want), a press kit (with an official bio, high res photo of you and of your book cover, and other similar info), and a section for updates and events. Once or twice a year, read through all the pages of your website and check for anything that needs to be updated or changed.
What are your values and goals?
Honestly, I think it’s smart to start every project by knowing your wider values and career goals, and how that project will connect to them. This knowledge can then lead you to identify the specific goals of the project and clarify its purpose.
For a website, do you want to sell your books? Get people to reach out to you? Promote paid services? Direct people to your blog or articles? Figuring out your priorities will be crucial in the design choice of your website.
For me, I want to connect with writers to give them tools to grow. That’s why my homepage starts right off with welcoming in new writers. Then I go ahead and explain my values, in the form of my mission statement. I do talk about my book that’s for sale, but it’s lower on the page, because I’m not as concerned about selling my book.
Okay, now that you know what type of content will be on your website, it’s time to start figuring out putting it together.
I say, use the tools available to you. For me, that meant using a template available on WordPress. You can purchase templates and then install them on WordPress, for fairly cheap often, but I was able to find a template that worked for me.
The other tool I highly recommend is Canva. It’s a free designing website, and you can either start from scratch or use their templates. All the designs on this website were done in Canva.
Choose a color scheme
One of the simplest, but often overlooked, pieces of designing for newbies is colors. Maybe you know not to overdo it, but you’re not sure how to mix and match colors. Or maybe you love lots of bright colors mixing together and need to learn to rein it in. Choosing your color scheme ahead of time will guide you in both endeavors.
Sometimes the template you choose will have a color scheme, and you should stick with that. If you’re able to change the colors, though, feel free to start with colors that you like! Especially in an author website, so much of its purpose is sharing your personality. If you’re designing a website that’s more industry-focused, look at the colors other industry websites use, and consider keeping to that scheme-you want to stand out, but also the colors you choose send a message.
Tip: You can also find sample color schemes all over the internet and Pinterest, and if you use Canva, it provides color schemes as well-just search for a color in the “find a new color” option, and it will bring up a slew of color palettes that include the color you’ve searched.
As you can tell, I chose a muted pink as my main color-mostly just because I liked it! In addition to the two shades of pink, I use navy accents. When in doubt, stick with no more than 5 colors, though really around 3 is probably perfect.
Choose 2–3 fonts
Again, it can be easy to overdo it in this area by combining lots of different fonts. I happen to be a bit of a stickler for fonts, but generally they’re something that non-designing people don’t notice directly but they notice the feel of them. If you use lots of different fonts on the same page, it’s going to feel too busy and scattered; even if you use multiple fonts across the entire website, it will feel inconsistent.
Stick to no more than three: One font that is “fancier” and will be used mostly for titles; one serif font (like Garamond or Times New Roman, that have the little marks on the end of the letters); and one sans serif (like this font or Calibri, without the marks).
Tip: If fonts feel overwhelming to you, especially figuring out which fonts work together, once again it’s easy to search for suggested fonts that go together.
When in doubt, keep it simple
Once you start getting the hang of using the design tools of your choice, it can be easy to go overboard-it’s exciting! But designing, especially for today’s tastes, is better served by “less is more.” So if you’re uncertain about which direction to go, stick with the more minimal version.
For authors, the idea of creating a website can be intimidating. We’re writers, not graphic designers! And while that is true, I challenge you to think of designing a website as another way to tell a story. Think about how you want people to feel, what you want them to learn, and what tools you have to best get them there.
Have you designed a website before? What are your favorite websites? Let me know in the comments!
More articles by Chelsea Pennington (that’s me!)
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Originally published at https://chelseapenningtonauthor.com on March 3, 2021.