January 28, 2020
In today’s episode we’re covering websites IN DEPTHHHHH with the incredible designer behind Evie’s, Lindsey’s, and The Heart University’s websites, Sarah Crook.
Sarah is the founder and lead designer of Alisabeth Designs, a branding and web design boutique for wedding industry professionals based in Atlanta. When Sarah is not leading her team of 5 you’ll find her guiding her group of over 400 designers in weekly discussions or mentoring designers one on one to help them achieve their greatest business aspirations. In her free time, Sarah enjoys traveling with her family and serving at a local nonprofit organization. She has been nominated for Forbes 30 under 30, 20 on the Rise, and featured in the Showit Spark Anthology. She is highly involved in educational business outlets nationwide and offers training for designers via her online course.
In today’s episode we’re covering websites in depth! Sarah gives SO much info, tips, strategies, and tools to make your website stand out among the masses and actually convert viewers into paying, loyal clients. We go over some of the biggest tips to make your website stand out, the most common mistakes to avoid when creating your website, homepage and pricing page design, navigation, mobile optimization, loading speed, when to hire a designer and when to do it yourself, design hacks to catch people’s eyes, and SO much more. Seriously guys, this episode is JAM PACKED with so many tangible tips.
At the very beginning of 2019, Sarah was on Honeybook App and was scrolling through the opportunities section. Sarah saw that Evie and Lindsey posted about needing some help on a landing page. This was their first project together and from there it blossomed into additional work for the The Heart University as well as Evie and Lindsey’s individual websites.
Sarah has a pretty extensive design background working for her family’s print shop. She grew up learning design in her grandmother’s lap back when it was basic clip art. As a teenager she learned how to build computers with her dad and taught herself the Adobe Suite.
From there, she began to take art classes in school. Her parents noticed her passion for design and enrolled her in different courses. In college, Sarah minored in graphic design. It was a long time love for Sarah.
A few years later down the road, after taking on the role as the Creative Director for a few non profits, she and her husband had their son. Sarah wanted to find a way to stay home with him and still be able to design. She decided to start Alisabeth designs three and a half years ago.
Aside from showcasing your work, it is so important to infuse your personality. Often, people throw their work into a website without realizing it can be so much more than that.
Sarah is known for infusing designs with personality by bringing in art work, a variety of text styling, and colors. There are so many things that can play into the design so that it doesn’t look like a boring template that is housing photos.
It all goes back to embracing who you are and what you are about. One of the biggest things Sarah finds in her brand discovery process is that people are afraid to fully embrace what they like and who they are. They are afraid to show that off. She highly encourages people that if you really love this one thing, go after that! If you love hot pink, put hot pink on your website! Look at things that compliment your work but also really connect to your personality and story.
The messaging and content you put on your site needs to be infused with your voice and your heart. It makes all the difference in the world.
The biggest mistake Sarah sees is that people don’t showcase their personality and have a ton of dead ins on their website. This can really get you into trouble.
When someone comes on to your website, you should constantly be directing them to the next step and leading them where you want them to go. A dead end is when the user has nowhere left to click. The user is left to navigate at their leisure. Often, this will result in them clicking off your site.
This is why your homepage is of the utmost importance. This is where you make your first, and often your last impression. Make sure you are constantly giving people a next step and that you are providing them with quality information to increase your retention rate. You need to get them from your home page, to your contact page, and into your inbox.
Another common issue is using really huge images. People may remember to resize images for their website, but completely forget to do so on their blog. This can get you into so much trouble with how slow your site loads, which will affect your SEO score. Make sure everything is resized for web!
The first thing you want to do when someone lands on your homepage is to capture their attention. One thing that is really popular and effective is to do a large splash image or an arrangement of images that will immediately captivate them. Directly above the fold (what you see on the screen before you start scrolling) you need to answer the 3 W’s: who you are, what you do, and where you are located. This is not only important to educate your clients, but also for SEO purposes since Google is reading that information.
After you answer the 3 W’s, make an introduction to yourself. Talk about who you are, what you do, but also your why. Why do you do this? What makes you great? Why should people choose you? Here is where you can insert your personality. You don’t have to sound like a robot or like you are trying to pass an English exam. Write it like you are talking to your best friend because that is who your ideal client is. You want them to connect with you as they are reading that content. Content is such a game changer.
Below this, it can feature blog posts, galleries, an email sign up, etc. The most beneficial thing is often galleries or blog posts depending on what you priorities are.
When you end the page, reiterate the navigation so they don’t have to scroll all the way to the top. Or, have a sticky navigation bar (a menu that stays with them as you scroll through the website).
In your footer, be sure to address your copyright and reserve your rights so that you are protecting the content on your website as well.
Nine times out of ten, after your homepage, people will go to your pricing page next. It’s so important to not lose their attention. You need to hit this page home! This is often your last impression before a client decides whether or not they are going to book with you. They are going to the pricing page because you have made an impression on them and now it’s time to seal the deal.
On your pricing page reiterate your work. You can choose whether or not to showcase your prices or just your “starting at”. Don’t just show off your packages and prices, showcase your experience. 22.02: Your experience is so much bigger than your prices. Show them that. Showcase who you are, what they can expect, how are you going to come alongside them and help them, and how you are going to create a memorable moment for them. Showcase your experience as a whole. The pricing is just the icing on the cake.
After you showcase your experience and pricing, hit them with some reviews. That is the best way to end that conversation. Show them reviews to back up your prices and show why you are worth what you are charging.
People are comparing experiences. If you don’t even showcase yours, they aren’t going to know they want it.
The verbiage matters in how you display this page in your navigation. Instead of calling it “pricing”, call it “experience”. People love to invest in experiences so even using that word alone can change the dynamic of how the content is received.
Mobile is more important now more than ever. Over half of all the websites viewed are done so on mobile devices.
It greatly affects your SEO score. Google now ranks your site on mobile before they rank you for desktop. So it is of the utmost importance that your website is optimized for all devices.
Several platforms are really restricting with how they allow you to manipulate your mobile website. It is so important to find a website host that will allow you to modify your mobile website so you can make sure it looks fantastic on every device.
In addition, your galleries and your photos need to scale well. This is one of the biggest things that gets creative entrepreneurs into trouble.
The text size for mobile needs to be a minimum of 14pts. Anything smaller than this is going to be impossible to read. The bigger the better.
Be sure your mobile navigation is crystal clear and that people can navigate on their phone as well as on desktop.
Showit is the best platform, in Sarah’s opinion. Squarespace Circle is also another really great option. Squarespace is slightly more limiting on the mobile end. Squarespace will auto design the layout for mobile as you design the desktop version.
Showit is Sarah’s top recommendation for several reasons. It is drag and drop (code free) and is extremely user friendly. Showit allows you to manipulate the mobile site completely independent of the desktop site.
Your images directly affect the speed of your website (how quickly your website will load). You want to make sure that all images and artwork should be resized. The longest edge should be no more than 1500-2500px. One of the best resources for optimizing images is JPEGmini.
Although you are creating a smaller file size so your website will load quickly, you are not compromising the quality when using JPEGmini.
Your images will make or break your loading speed. If they are not resized, no one will be able to get your site to load. Text does not really affect your site speed. It usually always comes down to the size of your images.
There are a lot of really great site speed checkers online that will rank you on your site speed and let you know what to resize. After you optimize everything, run it through a site speed checker to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
Your site should load between 1-2 seconds.
When it comes to the design itself, alternating layouts are very easy on the eyes. It is a great way to naturally lead someone’s eyes from one part of the page down to another. When you have blocks of text and images on the site, alternate them. The eye will follow down the page.
Place any call to action or menu items in the top right corner. For whatever reason, that is where we all look immediately.
A lot of things play into this. Does it make sense financially for your business? For a lot of people this is not something they can jump into year one. It comes with time. It is absolutely okay to have a starting place. It may mean you have to do a DIY type of situation. Do it educated. Do not do it blind. If you have to do it, take the time to learn the ropes and put your best foot forward.
If you are looking to grow a consistent client base, designers don’t just make things look pretty, they make things convert. The conversion of your website is a whole other ball game. If you are at a point in your business where you have clients but it is inconsistent, your inquiries are not coming in steadily, and you want to see that consistency ramp up and drive traffic from search engines to your website, it may be time to hire a designer. It is not uncommon for Sarah’s clients to see a 300-500% increase in traffic after launch.
This is where strategy and conversion come into play. You can DIY to a certain extent, but a designer will not only polish the look and help you develop your brand identity but also develop your brand strategy as a whole.
After you have laid the foundation of your business, have somewhat of a client base, and you are ready to take it to the next level, bring on more clients, and gain the consistency and really grow this is a great point to hire a designer.
If you are trying to figure out your brand voice and what you like, Sarah recommends creating a Pinterest vision board. Make a board dedicated to your brand, what you want it to look like, and things you love. Instead of trying to focus on making everything cohesive, pin every single thing you love and the things you gravitate towards naturally. After you have pinned your heart out, come back a couple of days later and look for common denominators. Then you will start to pinpoint things you are consistently drawn towards whether it is colors, design elements, images, etc.
Educate yourself, put the time in, and don’t be afraid to dive in. It may be intimidating to start a whole research endeavor to start a website, but it’s okay. Invest your time and do what you can. Try your best and if you are really putting in the time to implement a strategy, you will see the benefit from that. It doesn’t have to be done by a professional to see a benefit.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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