Top tips on how to redesign your website from Studio Yukiko, Stephanie Unger, It’s Nice That and Wix Playground Academy
Following a portfolio review session hosted by It’s Nice That and Wix Playground Academy we share the takeaway tips for creating a new website.
Designing a website could be a challenging experience, even more so when you need to design one for yourself. Even the greatest creatives struggle with the idea of succinctly grouping their work together for all to see. The questions one has to answer often feel endless, from whether it’s best to be overly bold in design, whether or not to give descriptive detail of each project (while not overwhelming), through to the navigation of how you’ll lead a viewer through the journey of your career to date. And this isn’t even mentioning the hefty process of deciding which work to show.
To aid, encourage and supply budding creatives with the best resources possible, Wix Playground Academy (previously held in the States and this year launching its first Europe edition) has been teaching a group of 30 students everything they need to know about web design over the past few weeks. Earlier last week, as students were edging ever close to reaching the finish line of their individual websites, It’s Nice That was invited – along with some very special creative guests – to review and advise the work as it reached this final point.
Blown away by the talent, intelligent design thinking and creative flair of each student, here is a run down of the top tips we learned and offered when it comes to designing a website – at any stage of a career.
Looking at the students who were maybe more illustratively leaning, or working in the realms of visual communication, we were joined by Stephanie Unger. A London-born, Brighton-based artist beloved for her ability to create character, Stephanie was looking for the voice behind the student’s work – especially in their website design. “Anyone can have a really flashy and professional looking website, but no one will have your unique voice,” she says.
Just like a creative does when iterating and reiterating a possible idea, Stephanie believes it’s “important to hone this voice and channel this when designing your site.” Most of all, she advises that the pressure should be placed on your work and what that communicates: “Make sure the work within your portfolio is doing the heavy lifting and not the website itself – your website should amplify what is already there!”
Joining us from her studio in Berlin was Michelle Phillips, one half of creative agency Studio Yukiko. Covering creative direction, art direction, concept generation and graphic design for both commercial and cultural clients, Michelle is well-versed in hunting for collaborators and communicating ideas. Considering the wide ranging points of view Michelle is often applying on projects, she advises: “I think it is important to carefully consider first impressions and how you lead your audience through a website.”
Therefore it’s key to think about a visual or written opener, creating one which should immediately engage. The navigation which surrounds this should also be kept “simple enough that the viewer is compelled to continue and keep looking through as much as work as possible.”
It’s Nice That creative Lauren Coutts, who’s role largely centres around sourcing and commissioning creatives for both editorial pieces and wider commercial projects, notes that the main priority for any designer creating a website is for their work “to be super clear on work crediting,” she explains.
Although not often a central concern when thinking how work may be displayed digitally, Lauren warns that: “Not every employer or viewer will know which part you created, and it’s super helpful so no assumptions are made.” When viewing the Wix Playground students' portfolios, Lauren noticed a lot of creatives using animation or parallax features in their works “that they didn’t credit themselves for,” she explains. “Motion designer is such a plus, especially for many employers looking at design work.” A key consideration to keep in mind, whether you’re applying for permanent design roles or hoping to show your wide ranging abilities as a creative freelancer.
Also from It’s Nice That we were joined by Elsa Muller, another one of our creatives who spends her day-to-day sourcing new creative talent and building many of the bespoke identities you’ll see across the site. Elsa’s advice centres around holding onto your gut feeling when creating a website, and adding as much personality as you would a creative project. “Don’t think too much about what is right or wrong,” she details. “There is no right or wrong, no winning formula.”
In turn, Elsa advises to really consider your path and your want to create, “exactly the type of work you would love to see out in the world, and exactly the kind of work you would love to be creating,” she says. When creating and presenting work she advises taking the time to “develop your taste, analyse and try to understand what you really like and, crucially, why you like it.”
Offering one last empowering encouragement, Elsa advises: “Trust yourself, always,” she says. “Even when you’ve created work that maybe feels like it doesn’t belong anywhere, you might just be about to put something out in this galaxy that doesn’t exist yet and is desperately needed.”
Joining us from Wix was Hagit Kaufman and Nir Yuz, who both oversee Wix’s growing design team and the many executions it outputs from UX to design details. Taking us through Hagit’s process of viewing a portfolio, she explains: “When I review a portfolio my mind tries to connect many dots. To see the talent of the creator, the glimmer of the unusual, a spark that is hard to explain in words, but recognise intuitively as soon as you see it.”
Much like Elsa, Hagit wants to “feel the layer of the creator’s personality beneath the creation, to envision it and how that personality can fit my team.” Showing detail about how a project or brief was approached is also helpful, and Hagit hopes to see a creative who has “thought about all angles, covered all options and considered all possibilities,” she says – “that magic place where design meets function.” Hagit’s design eye also matches nicely with Elsa’s point on putting your ideas out into the world, especially if they’re not voiced elsewhere yet. “Lastly, I want to be surprised, to see something I haven’t thought about myself.”
Offering further advice, Nir advises to “treat your portfolio as one of your UX projects.” For example, apply the thinking process you use to ensure a project is cohesive, succinct and understandable, even if the client is just yourself. “Make sure things are intuitive, make sure you deliver a clear message based on your chosen hierarchy, make sure navigation patterns are clear and to ease navigation between projects,” Nir lists. It’s also key to add and distill context here too: “let people understand what was your role and what was the scope of the project.” Once this is taken care of, be sure to also add flourishes of personality, once all the necessary information is added. “Keep a personal touch,” adds Nir, “in the about page add a photo, a fun fact, hobbies – in the end, all potential recruiters will (hopefully) search for are people before workers.”
Checking in with the group of students attending to see what top tips they gained, visual designer Gang Buron-Yi notes how the one piece of advice he’ll be keeping hold of is clear and simple: “Don’t overthink it!” Personality also became a key consideration across students, with Ben Eli recalling Elsa’s encouragement from the session: “Don’t limit yourself or water yourself (or your website) down just to please others or in an effort to get hired, or more opportunities,” he explains. “It’s all about being unapologetically yourself and really capitalising and maximising those things that make you different. In the end that is what will leave an impression.”
The same advice rang true with designer Angus MacPherson who was advised by both Hafit and Lauren, “to bring more of the personality of my about page to the header of my homepage,” for example. And for Marta Company Soler, an editorial and graphic designer, it was about extending these elements of personality to be the focus of her website: “The best piece of advice was don’t try to hide my work and to make it big, to show full bleed images and to be proud of what I’ve done – both useful and encouraging!”
And just as personality showcases confidence, and encourages confidence too, many students were inspired to be more ambitious with how they present their work, given the high standard of their portfolios. For instance, designer Neha Shah was advised by Stephanie to “picture myself at my highest point in my career, or something I want to achieve, to work towards that, and build my portfolio with that in mind” – a perfect piece of advice for anyone at any stage of their career.
Wix Playground celebrates design culture and creative freedom online. With advanced design capabilities and specialised features, Wix gives you the freedom to design and customise a website that expresses your vision, no matter your brand or business.