Portfolios: Design for your Goals

You may have noticed recently that Wegner Design went through a major overhaul. Like, really major. Like, from a crappy free wordpress template to a completely home-built, cutting-edge unique design. Now, you're probably looking at the page around this text - yes, it's completely, 100%, white - and thinking "this is a pretty simple design. He probably spent 5 minutes on this." Let me assure you, that's not the case. This design went through tons of iterations, went through just about every symptom of the design epidemic, and got thrown furiously into the trash many times. But here's the icing on the cake: I learned a ton in the process, and now have a beautiful website. The problem with being me and wanting to have a website is that - although I've got the chops to make things happen in CSS - I haven't got an ounce of creativity in me. The majority of what I do and love is backend design, and the frontend design is in very little snippets, like jQuery plugins. Faced with the task of making an entire website flow together and look nice, I pretty much didn't know where to start. Then I had a brilliant idea. I'll just look at all the other awesome web designers I know, find what I like about their portfolio sites, and find a way to stitch all that together into my new site. That's how everyone does it, right? Stealing Being inspired by other designs is how everyone does it! It worked out wonderfully. I actually designed about five different versions of Wegner Design that I thought were fantastically beautiful, but eventually scrapped them because they weren't getting across the point I was trying to make. The problem was that all the designers I was looking at were career designers. When they drive traffic to their site, they're looking to show off what they've done, and convince people that having a similarly pretty website is going to make them major cash. The designers I was using for inspiration were looking to drive customers to their site. I'm not. As I mentioned before, whenever I am faced with a design task, I generally end up screaming profanities at my monitor. I don't want to sell things to my users, so I shouldn't design that way. That's why everything you see right now is either black or white. I'm not trying to wow you with some cool stitched border, or my awesome textured background, or my knack for typography (none of which I could actually wow you with). I want you to come to Wegner Design to learn something. On the homepage, I'm trying to quickly show my users where my skills are as a developer, and whether or not I would be a good fit for their project. On the blog, I'm trying to share the knowledge that I've picked up as I dive into this industry. Knowing that, I've pushed everything else out of the way, and just shown you what's important. The results? No one is clicking through from the homepage to the blog. No one is moving from the blog to the homepage. I'm not getting more followers on my twitter, and - as far as I know - I haven't won any design awards. Good! That's not the point! If those things were happening, that means I missed the point, and am targeting my site to the wrong goal. What is happening, though, is that my average time on page is increasing, people are sharing my articles more often, and people are reading more posts every time they view the site. Best of all, there's been a massive increase of return readers, who have been able to get past the design and read into the meat of what I post. I write all this, because I think that many of my readers are in similar spots. The things I write aren't generally design focused, so I would image you aren't either. When you're designing your next website, keep in mind that a pretty design isn't really what matters. What matters is that you're serving your users content in a way that effectively communicates your intentions.
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