Creative business ideas – website design inspiration using WordPress and Squarespace
Step 1: design and build a great website
Step 1 in my 10 Steps to Creative Business Success is all about websites and how important it is for creative businesses to have a really good one. My previous post: Creative business ideas to help you live the life you dream of shared my own long, and at times painful, journey towards building a website I’m proud of and that really works.
I learned the hard (and expensive!) way, so I hope that by sharing my own hard-won knowledge and experience, along with some help and inspiration from experts I trust, you can fast track to a website you can be proud of. One that takes your creative business to the next level and helps you to live the life you dream of – making a living from doing what you love.
Website design inspiration:
There are various ways you could go with this, but my own personal favourite is WordPress. I chose to use the Rosemary theme as the starting point for the design of my website and got help from developers to help me integrate this with the plugin I’d chosen to power the directory. I also wanted to make a few custom changes here and there that were beyond my capabilities. But, once this was all done, it’s been so easy to update and amend everything myself.
I love the adaptability of WordPress and how many plugins and widgets (many free) that you can easily add to your site.
I find it easy and intuitive to use and there are plenty of beautiful templates to choose from to get your site looking just how you’d like it. Customising it from there I’ve found to be really easy to do myself.
From an SEO point of view, since making the switch to WordPress, I have been blown away by the increase in traffic and search engine visibility. There is no doubt in my mind that WordPress is a very powerful tool if you allow it to work for you.
If you follow the simple rules of creating your blog post with strong title, images correctly labelled and meta information properly added, you can’t really go wrong. The Yoast plugin is an invaluable tool for making sure you’ve set every post up correctly from an SEO point of view. The simple traffic light system alerts you if you’ve forgotten to add some information or have done something that might hinder your SEO.
Personally I really like using the Classic WordPress editor, but the latest version of WordPress has an option to build pages using blocks, a little like with Squarespace if that feels more intuitive for you.
You can also easily integrate your site with Mailchimp (email list manager and email marketing provider). And there’s usually a plugin to enable you to add in anything you want to do. Last year I needed to sell tickets for a creative workshop and didn’t want to go off site to do this. I found the various plugin options available and read the reviews before choosing the most popular one. It worked brilliantly and meant I didn’t have to send customers off site or pay commission on ticket sales.
The Woocommerce plugin is a popular and effective plugin for adding a shop to your WordPress site.
Squarespace is a popular choice among makers and creatives looking to create a website. I asked Louise Maidment of Every September, who runs courses and workshops on using the platform to share a few thoughts on what it has to offer.
Louise: Having used various platforms over the years, including Shopify and WordPress, I’m convinced that Squarespace offers the best all-round package for creative small businesses and bloggers.
Admittedly, if you have hundreds of products for sale I’d suggest Shopify because ecommerce is what it does best. However, if you’re looking for a the ability to create a stunning website (either yourself or with the help of a designer), possibly have a blog and/or an online store then in my view Squarespace offers so much more. You aren’t restricted to particular template layouts – that is a major thing to point out! Although you start out choosing a template, with Squarespace that really determines the underlying functionality of the site, and how much it can be customised. Essentially, you have a blank canvas which you can quickly build up using their system of blocks – image blocks, text blocks, buttons, forms, mailing list sign ups – you name it. It is very intuitive to use and gives a lot of creative freedom.
Many of my clients ask me during the design and build process, ‘will I be able to change that later?’ and the answer is a resounding ‘yes, of course’! You should not be restricted or prevented from making changes to your website which can often happen with WordPress sites if you need to go back to your developer and wait for them to be available to add an extra paragraph. As well as having to pay them every time you want a change made! The beauty of Squarespace is that once you’ve found your way around, it is very easy to add new images, text and pages to your website – any time you like. I think it is crucial for small business owners to be able to keep their websites updated when they want to – not only does Google like to see an active website with fresh content (which helps SEO) but your website is your shop window and something that you will have invested time and money in. There’s no point in it getting stale and out of date after just a few months!
Louise offers Squarespace design and training including her free 5-day email course and a library of helpful resources available to subscribers to her mailing list.
Photographer and designer Yeshen Venema also runs a popular One Day Web course and has created The Guide to Squarespace for artists, makers and designers looking to build their own website. It covers everything from photography and font selection to blogging and SEO.
I really like the look and feel of the website Yeshen created for Sue Pryke (listed in the FBWL directory here) using Squarespace.
Shopify, Facebook and Insta shops
Other popular choices for building an effective website include Shopify (suitable for ecommerce businesses) which you can try for free to see if it suits you.
I do also work with lots of makers who operate online from their social media pages. I see quite a few Facebook shops and, since Facebook bought out Instagram, you can also create a shop linked to your Insta page. Click the links to find out more.
Personally, I prefer to know that my website is my own, and not at the mercy of a social media provider. Algorhythms change, and social media channels come and go, so be cautious about putting all your eggs into one basket.
Coming next: Step 2 – Invest in Great Photography. I’ll be sharing some great tips, visual inspiration and valuable contacts, so watch this space…
I’ll be sharing my key 10 Steps to Creative Business Success over the next 10 days or so, as well as a PDF with all the information in one place for you to download and keep.
The 10 steps I’ll be covering are:
- How to design and build a great website
- Photography to help you stand out from the crowd
- The power of Pinterest and how to make it work for you
- Online tools to help you run your business
- Social media expert help and hand-picked resources to make it work for you
- The importance of knowing the numbers
- Marketing creative businesses
- Why you shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes
- The power of planning
- Why you should sometimes forget the plan and seize the moment instead
Photo credits: Photographer: Yeshen Venema
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