A brand’s staying power lies in its ability to attract its ideal customers. When we’re building our personal brands, we’re similarly looking to attract professional opportunities, projects, and high-value connections. For website designer Ariel Garcia, every site she creates is about helping her clients get closer to achieving these exact objectives.
Ariel started designing websites after learning about the subject in the same way you are right now: watching and reading any expert advice she could get her hands on. Since then, she’s gone on to build her own branding and website design agency, By Ariel, as well as an educational program for graphic designers all about how to create original, iconic, and attention-grabbing websites.
Now, Ariel has taught over 500 novice designers how to create high-quality websites and is here to share the most important things you should consider when building a website for yourself.
The key to building your personal brand identity
If there is one mistake Ariel sees new website designers making, it’s putting their desires before the needs of their potential clients. “I think that brand identity is a mix of who you are and what you're about, but more importantly, who you're trying to connect with. I would say it's more 40% you, 60% your [audience], which I think most people don't really consider,” Ariel shared.
Before you start considering your color palette or what that sans serif font will say about your personal brand, you need to know exactly who you’re trying to reach. It’s only once you know who and where your audience is and why they’re searching for someone like you that you will be able to build a website that connects you right to them.
If you’re not sure who your ideal audience is yet, ask yourself what opportunities you want coming from your website. “What opportunities, if they landed in your inbox, would you just start freaking out about?” Ariel asked.
Next, you can dig deeper into who could give you those opportunities. Ariel shared that “first and foremost, you should be considering who you're serving, especially when designing a personal brand. You might not have a product to sell, but you should still ask yourself, who's looking at this? Who's going to hire you, who's going to give you an opportunity, and what are they looking for?”
Setting yourself apart from the competition
Earlier this year, Ariel’s agency had a client in the Airbnb rental space. The client’s main focus was educating Airbnb and other short-term rental hosts on how to run a successful business. Their direct competitors created websites that Ariel referred to as “Airbnb clones” with tech-y vibes, sans serif fonts, and a very simple user interface.
But what set this By Ariel client apart from their competition was that they were trying to attract Airbnb hosts who specifically wanted to create an amazing hospitality experience for their guests. “With this in mind, we decided to make their brand and website feel more like a boutique hotel with these really detailed, elevated design moments that no one else was doing,” Ariel said.
“If they're sifting through a hundred different people today, what would they notice about you? It doesn't have to be anything huge or drastic, but how could you be set apart from others like you?”
Once you know who you’re trying to reach and how you’re different from the competition, you can start to consider how to use certain fonts, colors, and copy to work your unique angle. You might take a look into color psychology and see how each color could affect the overall feeling of your site. For instance, if you’re a developer who needs a personal website to show off the apps you make for busy, working parents, you might use a lot of blues, which emulate feelings of trust and peace rather than red, which represents energy and excitement.
Above all, you need to ask yourself what is going to get the attention of the people who can bring you new business opportunities. “If they're sifting through a hundred different people today, what would they notice about you?” Ariel asked. “It doesn't have to be anything huge or drastic, but how could you be set apart from others like you?”
What your fonts say to your website viewers
Each font has its own feeling, meaning, and character, which can affect the overall tone and personality of your site.
“There's obviously tons of different types of fonts,” Ariel shared. “But at the base level, there's a serif font, which is a font that has little tails on the ends of the letters. A lot of times those fonts come across as more traditional and editorial. There's obviously a spectrum, but they can feel more classic and timeless. A sans serif font, meaning that there are no tails, is going to be a lot cleaner, modern, and simple.”
“When you're thinking about your brand identity, you have to think about all of the elements of your site together."
In addition to considering sans serif and serif fonts, you can also think about your font’s weight. A chunkier or thicker weight is going to be more bold, “sometimes playful, and funky.” A thinner, delicate font will be more modern, sleek, and clean.
“When you're thinking about your brand identity, you have to think about all of the elements of your site together,” Ariel added. “It's about choosing your font, but it’s also how your font is going to interact with your colors or the white space on the page. If you choose a thicker font, that's going to call more attention to the font itself and take up more white space.”
Crafting the right copy
Whether you’re using AI tools to get the perfect copy for your website or you’re a writer who loves finding just the right words for your personal brand, knowing who you’re speaking to is key to copy that converts into warm leads and hot, new opportunities.
“You want to make your copy about the person reading it,” said Ariel. “I know with the personal brand, it's weird because you're selling yourself, but why should the person reading it care? How can you benefit them? What can you do for them? How can you make their life, their job, their business, whatever it may be, better? How can you provide value to them? Because if it's not showing them how you can provide them value, they're going to peace out.”
If you’re using AI to write the copy for your website you might consider using really specific prompts to get to the best final product for you.
Some elements you can provide the AI tool you choose are:
- Context: big picture ideas and the audience you’re wanting to reach
- Tone of voice: how you want your content to be read and perceived by readers
- Limit: how many words or characters you need
- Purpose: the overall goal you want to accomplish through the copy
You can also focus on personal brand SEO by including keywords in your copy that you want associated with you and your professional reputation.
If you’re writing your copy yourself, Ariel suggests saying what you need to say in as few words as possible. “When I write something, I write it and then I write it again and I try to say it in fewer words. Then, I write it again and try to say it in even fewer words. How many words can you eliminate and still say the same thing?” Ariel asked.
Ariel also focuses a lot on voice when working with their copywriter on their client projects. “For me, it's not just how do you want to come across, but also how do you not want to come across? If you want to come across carefree and you don't want to come across boring, then what you're saying shouldn't ever feel boring.”
Questions to ask yourself as you wrap up your design
Once most of the big creative and strategic choices are out of the way, Ariel likes to make sure each choice has led to a cohesive, value-first final site. You should know how your audience will find your personal website but also how they’ll feel while exploring it for the first time.
“For me, creating a site is more about creating a feeling,” Ariel shared. “I want to know how my website feels when someone lands on it because that impacts how they're going to interact with it. Do they feel bored? Do they feel exhausted? Do they feel confused? Do they feel clear? Do they feel excited? Do they feel like they're thinking about something differently now because of something I said or showed them? Is it memorable?”
“You have something to offer that no one else does. And so it’s really important that your website be just as original as you are.”
Ariel then tries to make sure she creates something new and original by trying not to get inspired by other websites, but rather really getting to know her client and their needs. A personal brand is just about as unique as you can get. “You have something to offer that no one else does. And so it’s really important that your website be just as original as you are.”