How to make boring website less boring?
November 4, 2011 11:24 AM   Subscribe

How do I make my boring-by-design website, well...less boring?

I am a professional with a consulting business. I also have a day job, but like many, my expertise can be lucrative outside my salaried job. Over the years I have consulted in my specialty just by word of mouth from those with whom I have come across in my day job. Compared to my salary, I've usually earned around 10% of my annual income as a consultant. I would like to ramp up my consulting business as I ramp toward retirement from my day job so I think a web presence is a must. Others who do what I do have websites (and there are not that many nationally who do what we do). I look at some of their websites and they appear to be rather boring, what I guess some would call brochure websites. Basically, they have a couple of pages: Home, Experience, Services, Links to Interesting Industry News, and a Contact page.....yawn.

With that said, I do need something similar but would appreciate how to make a boring website design (brochure)...less boring. In addition, I would like suggestions for getting this done with only a modest technical background. Wordpress is mentioned here quite often; I am also considering squarespace. What I have so far is a professionally designed logo, headshot, and a domain name. I can write all the content myself.
posted by teg4rvn to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Start blogging, and stick with it. It'll demonstrate your expertise, personality, and knowledge of trends and current events in your field. Wordpress is ideal for this.
posted by JohnFredra at 11:44 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is paying a professional to do the design an option? If not, you might want to look at some Photoshop tutorials to get some ideas. Line 25 has decent links occasionally. Same goes for NetTuts+
posted by backwards guitar at 11:45 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you sure "boring vs. exciting" is the right contrast?

Sometimes "exciting" reads as "unconcerned with the reader's priorities", whereas "boring" connotes "serious" and "informative".

As you write content, you might want to pen a brief report, offer it as a freebie, and then use split-testing software (or Google's free split-tester), to see what design is most effective at holding your visitors' attention, and leading them to opt-in for your report.

As a rule of thumb, the key to effective site design isn't what your eye "likes"; it's what your visitors measurably respond to, as verified by opt-ins, purchases, clicks to desired destinations, and time-spent-on-page.

All that said, you can spend $5 at and get some decent suggestions, or get spend $40 at Warrior Forum, and get a nice new design-- in both cases, usually within five days.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2011

Use some really beautiful, expressive, not-too-large art, plus a truly wonderful color scheme. Add some illustrative stories.
posted by amtho at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2011

Minimalist need not be boring. It sounds like what you really need is a better design. Kill some time on sites like this to see if anything inspires you. I'm not saying they're good... just browse worthy :)

The truth of the matter is, you DON'T need lots of pages on your site. Think of it like a resume. The point of a resume isn't to get a job. It's to get a call for an interview. Portfolio websites are similar. The goal is to get a potential client to email you or, better yet, pick up the phone to call you.

A blog can be helpful, of course, since it gives you the chance to show your expertise in depth, but I've seen one page websites that did a kickass job of making me think "God, I'd absolutely hire that person!"
posted by 2oh1 at 3:24 PM on November 4, 2011

I would seriously consider turning your brochure website into a blog that also has info about your services. I'm a full-time independent consultant, and as far as I can tell, I get all of my work through my blog. Clients find me because they found the blog when searching for info in our field, or they hear about me from a colleague and check out my blog to learn more.

At first I had a blog and a separate brochure website, but since the blog gets all the traffic and the love, I just folded the brochure stuff into menu items on the blog. I use WordPress.

The home page on my site is a magazine-style blog page with snippets & graphics from:
- the 4 most recent posts
- 3 posts from category X
- 3 posts from category Y

The main menu across the top has tabs that say stuff like "blog," "services," "about," and "contact." The sidebar has a photo of me and a very short bit about my focus, as well as a tag cloud that makes clear what I write about.

Here's the approach that I'd recommend, based on what has worked for me:

- Figure out what your audience wants to know. You probably know this from working with them, but it's also a good idea to use a keyword analysis tool and look at other blogs to see which posts appear to be most popular (most comments, most Tweeted).

- Check to see who else is already writing about those topics. Can you do better? Are there any holes? For example, there were several bloggers writing about my field in an abstract, theoretical way but only one who wrote practical tips. His blog was really popular. So I provide practical tips, too, but from a different angle, and now we both appear to be the most-trafficked blogs in my field.

- Make your personality shine through, make clear why you care about your field, and sound like an easy person to work with.

- Post once a week at first (at least) to build up a lot of content.

- Make every post tightly focused, concise, and immediately useful to the reader. Don't talk about yourself or your services; instead offer useful ideas and tips. For me, short posts (4-5 short paragraphs) can get more response than long ones.

- Use titles that make clear what the post is about and that will help people find the post through Google, e.g. "Six ways to speed up your perumpterator."

- Use plugins that drive readers deeper into the site, such as a "related posts" plugin.

- Use an SEO plugin or SEO-friendly template that will help you get organic traffic.

- Sign up with Feedburner or a similar service so people can subscribe to your blog through email. Surprisingly, nearly 50% of my subscribers sign up to receive posts through email instead of using a feed reader.

I've had good experiences with the Genesis framework and themes. If the technical side gives you headaches, there are a ton of WordPress geeks out there eager to help you. You might also consider using a hosting service that specializes in WordPress and includes installation, upgrades, and basic help in their regular fees.

I did my site myself; the design is mostly one of the Genesis themes with some tweaks. It's very clean. Each post has a lively graphic, typically an unusual stock photo that has a direct relation to the content. I also embed Slideshare or YouTube versions of my presentations.

All my traffic is organic, with most new visitors coming from Google, some from Twitter, and a handful from Slideshare or LinkedIn. This means that my only investment in my blog is my time and hosting fees.

The discipline required to write the posts has strengthened and clarified my ideas to the point that I came up with a process that I turned into an info product. Now passive sales of the product are a great supplement to my consulting income. I don't think I would have gotten the idea if I didn't write a blog.
posted by ceiba at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Thanks for the great responses.

The blog idea is is a one page killer resume style website. My field is ultra-specific; people who hire me would view something too flashy as smarmy. My clients would almost 100% of the time be lawyers looking for an expert witness. Think engineer, doctor, lawyer, scientist with niche expertise.
posted by teg4rvn at 4:54 PM on November 4, 2011

I've just been designing a website for a one-person consultant along the lines of what it sounds like you're doing. Just wanted to say, I've been pleased with the templates Squarespace offers and the fairly easy interface for customizing and tweaking the design.

I also agree that you want a site that looks businesslike and serious, and if you're being hired as an expert witness you should be careful not to get too "exciting" or personal or creative/wacky with your blog. Squarespace has some very nice modern but still businesslike layouts that you could fill with useful blog content.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:10 PM on November 4, 2011

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