I got into web development not because it was something I wanted to do, but because it fulfilled a need. For twelve-year-old Clare, that need was building a website for her Neopets. For the record, that particular endeavor was successful because I learned how to turn the cursor into a pretty butterfly.
If only building an entire website was as easy as creating ONE mouse butterfly! 🙂
As I moved out at 18-years-old from a rural Nova Scotian hamlet that had only dial-up internet to the big, high-speed-internet city of Halifax, I realized that to share my writing online, I needed my own space. A blog–a website. I knew the basics of website building. I was flirting with the idea of publishing, confident that if I were start a publishing house, I’d name it Faery Ink Press.
My greatest desire, however, was to become a famous author.
That’s what I’d tell my university friends. Not that I’d be an author – that I’d be a famous author. A lot of them laughed at me, but I was not deterred. Writing was the ultimate expression of my being, and having a website was the perfect way to put that on display. In 2007, with the help of a friend, I set up my first website and purchased my first domain: faeryinkpress.com.
This was the site around that time. The design? A php blog template my friend loaded on for me that I could cut my teeth on. This kind of configuration was fairly typical of the late 2000’s – we got lots to say, and we’re going to cram as MUCH as we can into an itty-bitty space!
Square, boxy designs were in, and gotta love that bevel. The blog was really the focus of the design, with new posts showing on the front page, which is still a practice with some templates today. Pages could be accessed from these purple buttons I had generated over to the side. I was very proud of those. Purple + cursive font = yes in my mind.
I was just starting to learn about the concept of back-linking and SEO. I knew that exchanging website links with the strangers who contacted me was good. Putting them in the sidebar made me feel cool, like I was a Real Player on the Internet. Also, displaying a website counter at the bottom, and checking it religiously to see how many new hits I’d gotten really made me feel like people actually cared what I wrote about in my regular posts. I journaled about school and my life, I wrote fiction, I wrote fiction about my Sims, I wrote about paganism and my religious journey.
But something nagged at me. I had all the elements that I was supposed to have. Had the regularly updated blog. I had cool buttons. I had a website counter. I had links to strangers’ websites. I was checking all the boxes.
Somehow, even though I was doing everything “right” – the site wasn’t…me. It didn’t represent what I truly wanted, what I was inside: the desire to be a good writer. I knew this in my core, yet I brushed this intuition away. My blog just wasn’t established enough yet, I’d tell myself. I haven’t reached out enough and connected with other bloggers. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, and I’ll get there.
There’s a saying, cliché and overused as it is, I find some truth in here: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.
As you look closely at my very old WordPress website design and my intention, what comes across is my hubris. I had a mediocre design for the time and content that was all over the place. It was nonspecific, and it didn’t further my goal to becoming a published author.
I thought I was So Awesome, but I had done nothing, and written very little to prove myself to anyone. I was working on the assumption that people cared what I had to say. Me, 20-year-old Clare, three years into her journalism degree, cock-sure about her place in the world, and very convinced that her expensive, prestigious university degree and rudimentary knowledge of publishing made her a Somebody. Basically: I thought that people would “somehow” find my site, and be enthralled with my “rants about the world as I saw it” and “somehow” see my genius, and offer me a job/book deal.
If your website describes you as someone who writes about “whatever comes to mind” or “about life in general” or “your non-specific views about XYZ that are only tangentially related to what you REALLY want” – it’s possible your site doesn’t have the specificity required to thrive in today’s busy world. Think about it: millions of people are searching the web right now for information about topics that interest them. You, as a creative person, are among them.
What differentiates you from the rest?
What is your true passion that leads you to create your art?
What have you learned about this passion that is valuable to the rest of the world?
Here are some takeaways for you.
Be specific with your site’s purpose.
Success here comes from having a clear brand, knowing what you want to write, knowing what your books or services are about, and writing content specifically to attract your ideal customer.
99% of the time, people don’t initially care.
Your audience’s attention is earned. Contrary to what Teen Clare thought, people don’t just show up at your doorstep, cash in hand. Well-thought-out content relevant to your business, participation in a community, and efficient web design are the pillars of building a creative business. Once you’ve proven that you have something worthwhile to say by walking the walk WHILE talking the talk, people will be interested in you, and that’s when they’ll seek out a personal interaction.
Just because you think you’re The Sh*t doesn’t mean you know sh*t.
The desire to be famous can get in the way of the hard work it takes to become famous. You have to put in the time, do your research, gain experience and the respect of your peers in your field to make an impact on your community.
So how do you create a website that relates to your expertise?
How do you narrow down those often-conflicting thoughts and desires and emerge with one clear, precise design?
How do you implement this design in a professional manner?
So glad you asked! 🙂 I have created a free resource for creative types who want to get serious about turning their passion into a revenue stream, but are unsure where to begin.
If you sign up for the newsletter below, over the next three days I’ll share with you “Desire into Design” – a free e-course that delves into website creation and improving your WordPress website design to match your creative business strategies! It includes:
- Three principles to WordPress website design that I’ve developed over the past seven years as a professional.
- Three bonus worksheets designed to help you focus your WordPress website design ideas!
- Plenty more embarrassing stories and examples of well-intentioned-but-bad WordPress website design on my personal sites–and what I learned.
Thanks for reading – and don’t be shy about posting questions in the comments!