My Website Looks Ugly: 5 Simple Steps to Make it Beautiful
Your website looks ugly? Stop looking at it with sad eyes or filled with frustration. Right now we’re going to empower you to first, look at your website in the face and then, take (awesome) action. I know that feeling when something isn’t looking how you had imagined, but not having a clue what the heck it is that’s not working. I’m going to help you see with clarity through your web design and share 5 small steps you can take immediately to make your website shine.
Let’s do it!
First, is your website ugly - or is it only your belief?
First of all, let’s look at the facts. Does your website look ugly, or do you believe it looks ugly? When I created my first website after learning how to code from scratch at Institute of Code, I loved it. A month later, when I officially launched my graphic and web design business, I didn’t like it so much anymore. It has now morphed into a new design to accommodate the blog, but I was running the first 5 months of my business with a website I didn’t quite like anymore.
But clients were coming in, so no time to waste on redesigning it. In my case, I believed it wasn’t beautiful (‘ugly’ would be too of a strong word). People agreed it was certainly cute, and I didn’t have the time or need to argue it with them. I knew I had to change it soon for functional reasons (#helloblog).
So, in my case, my website wasn’t ugly, and I decided to focus on running my business instead of devoting time to creating one that I liked a little bit more. I also knew that stopping to redesign it would be a never-ending process and I would be tweaking things every second week (#perfectionist).
As designers, specially the perfectionist types, we all go through this phase of blandly looking at our creations and don’t feel they look as strong or amazing as the day we created them. It’s natural, and you’re not alone! So my point here, and a question you must start by asking yourself, is: does your website truly look ugly, or is it just this feeling of disenchantment towards what you, or the designer you hired, created? If it’s the first option, you’re at the right place, because we’re going to make your website shine.
User Experience and website copy are just as important as design
Before we dive in, it’s important to mention that there’s something more important than the visuals: the user experience and the website copy. What am I talking about?
The user experience is the journey someone takes on your website, and you have total control over it. How you’re allowing her to travel between pages, where she is led to click, etc. It’s essential to have a website structure that responds to the needs of your website, whether it is to make people buy your awesome products, jump on your email list, read your blog, or hire you as their coach. Stop one moment here and think: is the user journey on your website clear enough? Are there dead ends, or users have always a button to click that will take them somewhere else on your website? Have a play around on your website with fresh eyes, as if it was the first time you saw it (although we both know it’s the 1,289th time). Can you make it easier for people to navigate? Grab a piece of paper and draw your perfect user journey, highlighting the changes or additions you can make today. In case of doubt, always simplify it.
Another vital part of your website is your copy, your writing, your brand’s voice, which must be aligned with the personality of your brand. There’s a great number of copywriters out there that give amazing advice on how to write your own copy. Here’s a couple of my favourite articles on copywriting that show you how to create effective pages for your website:
- ‘5 Perfect pages: Drop the Drama & Whip Up your Website Copy’ by The Bootstrap Assembly
- ‘20 Tips to Tighten Your Copy’ by Elle&Company Design
- Anything by Wordfetti (make sure to follow them on Instagram too)
User experience. Covered!
Website copy. Covered!
Visuals. Here we go! This is my passion. And my commitment is for you to get a website that represents you as the #girlboss you are and makes you feel confident in what you do.
Let’s find out what’s not working with the design of your website
So we agreed that you’re website does look ugly (oops!), right? Instead of getting frustrated, here are the questions you’re going to ask yourself:
Question 1. Are you using too many colours?
I love rainbows, don’t get me wrong. But your website doesn’t have to be one, even if your brand personality is cheerful or playful. Believe me, using less colours won’t make you look dull. Quite the opposite: it will make you look professional and give the feeling you got you s*** together (even we all know no one does).Go back to your branding basics and get your 3 brand colours right. Write them down and keep in a safe place their reference or Hex Code - it’s a 6 digit code that starts with #. I keep mines in a Trello board, but I used to have it written down in the notes section of my paper planner. Use whatever you have that’s easy to reach. That way, you’ll consistently use the same colours throughout your website and will achieve visual balance.
Now, when you’ve narrowed it down to 3 colours, use them consistently. If you’re using blue for main headings, consistently do so throughout the website. If you use dark grey for paragraphs, repeat the action on all pages, unless you want a specific text to stand out.
Question 2. Are you using too many typefaces?
We covered this in the essentials brand guide and it goes along the same idea as the colours: you may be using too many, different or inconsistent fonts. Choose 2 or 3 typefaces and use them throughout the website. No more than 3. Make a decision. Make them speak your brand. For example, with my client Amanda Mason we used Shelby for main headings, Montserrat for smaller headings, and Freight Sans Pro for paragraphs. And we consistently applied the same principles throughout the website.
This one should be easy to achieve, as platforms such as Squarespace or Wordpress allow you to choose your fonts via their Style Editor or Customiser and they are automatically applied to each of the sections of your website. Just remember to choose your fonts wisely and in alignment to your brand.
A pro tip? Use Google Fonts to discover suggested font pairings.
Question 3. Are your texts too big or too small?
I can’t even remember the amount of times I’ve seen websites with unproportionally big texts, which are not only ugly at first sight, but also extremely uncomfortable to read. They put off the whole content of the webpage. And we all know that big isn’t always better (wink wink).
If you think that might be your case, take down a notch the size of your texts, step back and look at them again. If they are hard to read, instead of going back to their bigger size, consider adding extra line-height, that means, more space between the lines. I’m sure it now looks considerable better, doesn’t it?
And again, as with the previous steps, one of the keys of design is consistency. Stick to a consistent font size pattern for all headings, paragraphs, and the other areas of your website.
Question 4. Do you have enough white space?
This is a favourite of mine and I would say that if you take this one on board, you’re website won’t need too many more edits. More often than not, we want to fit in a lot of information and are scared of leaving too much blank space. Believe me, there’s never too much blank space. You want to let people breathe, girl!
There’s something in web and graphic design that we call padding, and that’s the ‘inner fat’ of a section of the website. And even though in real life we try to get rid of fat, in website design, you want more fat! Add extra padding within sections and above and below paragraphs. Information will flow more easily. You’ll be marvelled. Have a look at how different the information looks.
Question 5. Is your website too busy?
As I said before, in case of doubt, simplify. Even if you think your brand is not as minimalist as Apple, you’ll always win by simplifying, stripping away unnecessary stuff. In website design, the simpler the better.
Photos, colours, typefaces, information hierarchy and your super cool business and brand personality will make your website pop up, so you don’t need fluff that doesn’t have any function. It will make you look more professional and remove any distractions that don’t do any benefit to your business.
So have a look at your website and note down elements that you could get rid of without affecting the information and your brand’s personality. Also consider if you could replicate them in a way that was more consistent with the new, more professional, look of your website. How does it look now?
To sum up, remember these 2 basic rules:
CONSISTENCY + SIMPLICITY
If your business went pro, your website needs to follow
You’ve gone over the 5 steps to make your website shine, but your gut tells you need something extra. That your business is ready for the next phase and that your problem is not only that your website looks ugly, is that it doesn’t represent your freaking amazing business anymore. Your business is not a baby. You may then need to consider implementing other actions in order to reflect that:
- Organize a photoshoot. We all agree that photos are one of the most important elements of a website, so consider getting a photographer on board and organising a photoshoot that reflects your business at this moment. Don’t be shy, it’s literally going to make you look like a superwoman.
- Do a rebranding. You may have launched your business bootstrapping all things branding and web. But maybe it’s now time to get a brand strategist on board to help you translate your personality into new kick-ass branding that up-levels your business.
- Get a copywriter. You may be a good writer, but website copy is ‘a thing’ nowadays. Consider getting the help of a copywriter, someone who specialises in understanding and capturing your brand and who will write a whole bunch of texts that will not only help you not waste time in writing yet another email, but also in being much more punchy and unique in the way you relate to your people. Cause you want to be memorable, right?
Ok, so what do you do now with all this information? First, don’t get overwhelmed. You only need a plan - and I’m gonna give it to you:
Schedule 1 day in your calendar and set a date with your website. Book a full day, as Marie Kondo would do. Don’t leave anything for the following day when it comes to websites, just go full-on.
Face your website with fresh eyes and go over each step playfully, making the changes you believe will make your website shine again. Don’t look back.