Want a snazzy-looking website, but don’t have the means to hire a custom designer?
Hiring a great web designer can easily run you around $5,000. Instead, use this brief, useful little hack to get that polished site at about 1/10th the price.
This tutorial will walk you through my favorite way to make your website look like a custom design without hiring someone to do so. This is exactly what we did in designing this site and I think you can create something just as awesome.
Here’s what we need to do to make our site look great (without breaking the bank):
- Focus on the necessary and vital elements of your site
- Outsource the hard/time consuming parts
- Tinker to perfect the small details using the mastery of WordPress
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The Easiest Way to Make your Site Look Great
Let’s just get to the answer quickly and then look at why this hack works so well. Here’s what you need to do:
- You’re going to want a self hosted WordPress site. If you aren’t on WordPress already, I’d recommend signing up for Bluehost. (Set it up super fast using our 5 Minutes to an Awesome WordPress Site tutorial) – $93.39
- Purchase and Install Genesis (I did a full review and detailed tutorial on the Foodie Pro Theme, but if you were looking for something else, check out my full list of The Best Food Blog WordPress Themes). – $129.95
- Hire a logo designer and custom social media button designer (Great services like 99 Designs and DesignCrowd offer affordable and unique solutions.) – $200 – $250
- Buy a bottle of champagne – $15
- Tweet or email us your new site! – Free (Tweet Us Now!)
Total Cost (with champagne): $488.34
I recommend these tools because they focus on the important aspects of your site, but still give you the flexibility to add what you need (using WordPress plugins).
So, let’s talk about the theory of why this little design hack works.
What makes a great website?
A great website focuses on three things, which should be priorities in designing your site.
- Your message is clearly articulated (both in the content and design).
- Your website reinforces your brand identity.
- Your website has all the underpinnings you might need to run your site efficiently and take full advantage of available technologies.
We want to focus on these topics so we can easily identify the most important aspects of your site/brand. We want the most important parts of your site to stick out. At the same time, this means we get rid of anything unimportant.
Your logo is pretty much the single best way to make your brand identity shine. From there, you want to focus on your content.
To make this a bit easier, check out my annotations on a screenshot of our website. See what sticks out?
So, I pointed out the parts that look customized, but did you notice the other big part of this design? Simplicity.
Simple always looks professional.
First, we first focus on the necessary parts and what really sticks out on a website. Second, we go as simple as possible.
Quit Blathering, What do I do?!
First, focus on the elements that you want to stick out.
A site usually looks customized because it has these things:
- A customized logo
- Social media buttons that match (or are clean & simple)
- A site that focuses on the brand or what you’re trying to build. With food blogs, that usually means highlighting your photography and keeping your brand theme in mind.
That’s it for having the “finishing touches” of a customized design. If you have other image tweaks (little images you want to show up in your side bar, etc., hiring the same designer would be the route to go.)
The Simplicity Hack
You can make almost any site look great by making it simple.
When I started designing websites, I would always end up making them as simple as possible, because I wasn’t that great at designing but understood that simple always looks good.
Plus, it’s way quicker and easier to figure out how to make something simple than complicated.
The big benefit? The more I design websites, I realize that simplicity requires you to focus on the most important parts of a website. This is huge.
Part of the problem with bad website designs is that it takes your reader’s already short attention away from your most valuable resources (your content). Simplicity ensures there’s much less possibility of this happening. It’s a matter of getting rid of distractions so readers can get directly plugged in and engaged in your content.
The first part of making your site look great will be having the most visual aspects of your site hired out (logo and social media icons). Everything else can be coded or changed through your theme.
Ok, I’ll be simple. Now what?
- I’d start with a Genesis theme. Colors and fonts can all be coded differently. To find one that fits, consider the general layout and style. Do you like the way the edges round? Do you like where the menus are located? Do you like where your logo will be placed? If you can find something that meets these needs, you can probably customize the other details. The closer you can find something that fits what you’d like to see, the less work you’ll have to do in the long run.
- Install your custom logo at the top of your site.
- Install your custom social media icons.
- If you had any colors added to your logo, try to match those colors with the hyperlink color or sidebar colors on your site.
- Now, simply remove everything unnecessary.
No unnecessary plugins. No meaningless sidebar widgets. Just be clean, simple, and efficient.
One of the easiest ways to make your site look professional is to make a site that is clean, simple, and to the point.
Simplicity is always attractive, doesn’t go out of style, and requires you to focus on the important parts of your website (rather than adding all kinds of gadgets and plug-ins, etc.)
A few more Notes
If you think about it, the really cool parts about “custom designs” are the integration of a logo, matching social media buttons, and a clean format that plays back into the brand you’re building.
This little hack outsources the heavy lifting by starting with Genesis (gives you the underpinnings, plus a sleek starting point) and the class of a custom logo (making your brand very apparent).
Once you have your site setup, checkout my list of WordPress plugins to make sure have are taking advantage of the power of the WordPress community.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below. However, I probably can’t answer every coding question specific to your site. Part of the reason I love Genesis is that they have an extensive resource library and terribly helpful customer support forum. That’s where I’d suggest getting help with specific design questions.
Since originally publishing this article, I created the Foodie Pro Master Customization Guide. I think it’s the perfect option for food bloggers and would be an excellent option for your food blog.