You may have noticed that I recently rebuilt my entire website, finally after many years, integrating my blog, portfolio and general about me into one succinct site. I've built this using Webflow, and thought it would be interesting to talk about what I've learned and what's next.
To start with, let's go over why I chose Webflow.
For many years I had looked at the SaaS website market and been underwhelmed. Generic templates, static content and inflexibility for more advanced users kept me clear.
I've used self-hosted CMS platforms like Wordpress, Drupal and Ghost. I used frameworks like Laravel. But keeping things updated on a server, especially once bringing on SSL and other important web additions, caused a headache in maintenance, which I initially liked when learning, but soon became tedious and laborious.
To complicate things, once my UX career kicked off properly, I needed a good portfolio. I chose a platform called UX Folio, which I honestly quite liked - it made building it easy, offered helpful suggestions on content placement, some copywriting hints and a community who could help each other improve.
But, then I was paying for web hosting, domains, SaaS products and not to mention the weekends and evenings on maintenance. I had multiple subdomains redirecting to UX Folio here, a static page there and a CMS platform somewhere else.
So what was a guy to do? I wanted something which offered advanced flexibility, but which didn't come with the maintenance overhead. Something I could host a blog and portfolio together. Something that helped them to appear like they were from the one person. And something relatively easy. If I learned anything for a fact in my modest career, whether in software developer or UX mode, it's that we will spend days, weeks and months designing and building amazing client projects, but barely scrape together a few hours for our own content.
I had heard only rumblings of this new fandangled, designer focussed SaaS platform. I looked around and on first impressions, was quite happy with the Webflow functionality. I signed up for an account and went about playing around with it.
After some time, I decided to pay for the full service and moved everything across, including my landing page, blog and portfolio. And so far, so good.
After that run down, let's get into the list of learnings.
1. Make things easy for yourself.
Without a doubt the biggest learning was to calm the part of your brain which tells you because you're a tech person, you need to overcomplicate your presence on the web. It ends up being such a time sink that you fret adding to it and end up having a worse outcome because of it. Make your presence easy to create and update, so you can let your actual project accomplishments talk for you.
2. Treat it like any client project.
You wouldn't just chuck together a client project, run yourself into overtime, ignore deadlines and lave off important parts of the brief, so why do it to yourself? If you're like me, you use your website as a mix of promoting yourself to prospective clients or employers, or improving your standing amongst your community.
It's important to understand your audience, create yourself a brief (which may include non-negotiable and nice to have features), and set a deadline to work towards. This will keep you honest and ensure your brilliant ideas don't end up being lost to time itself.
3. Have some fun, try something new.
Once you have the core of your website pulled together, why not have a bit of fun with trying something new? New way to present information, new way to write copy, different transitions and effects. But don't go overboard.
4. Take your time, but set your limits.
As I mentioned under treating it like a client project, you should absolutely have time frames you expect for certain items and an overall launch window. This will keep you honest with yourself, and ensure the project doesn't run into overtime. We all know how perfect we often want our
5. Do some research and testing.
In my world, I would never begin a project without some research, nor would I release a design or product without at least a bit of testing. In the same vein, I am wanting my website to sell me, so I better be sure that it does that well enough.
Firstly, take a look around at the best practices and great portfolio examples. See if they can lend a bit of inspiration for your particular project.
Find someone who will give you honest feedback and ask them what they think. I've also gone one step further and ask visitors to give me feedback, if they want to. And some do.
6. Be okay with imperfection.
If you bring these things together, the reality is you should be comfortable with a little imperfection. Launch it without the blog and add that later. Iterate through different buttons. Try some new copy. After all, we are all about being iterative and improving our designs based on feedback.
I still have a bit to do. Some on-going redesign of the portfolio, addition of search and tagging and SEO improvements. I like tinkering away!