How to Create a Killer Professional Website, Straight from the Pros
Anyone in the market for a new job, whether it’s as a new grad entering the workforce or as a professional looking for a change mid-career, is going to need a tip-top, flashy website that makes a company want to know more.
But since it’s easier to type that than to practice it, David Lee, CCO of Squarespace and Cindy Lewis, growth-marketing lead for Square eCommerce (formerly Weebly), explain what makes a professional website look great.
The Basics of Look and Feel
Before getting into the nitty-gritty elements, Lewis said the three basic elements a website should contain are easy navigation, clear and direct headlines and attention-capturing images. When it comes to the actual content of the website, Lewis recommends including a resume or portfolio, as well as contact information and a bio. For contact information, Lewis said it’s best to provide a few ways of getting in touch, whether it’s a contact form, your email address or social handles.
Lee suggests putting a lot of thought into your bio; he said you can “learn a lot about someone” by how his or her biography is actually written.
“It’s a unique way to get a feel for the personality of the individual,” Lee said.
Lee doesn’t think there’s any “real formula” on picking the right fonts or colors for a website. He cautions against using any that are distracting from the main point of your page — the content.
“You want the content and the work to be the star,” Lee said.
However, he said going with a “classic” font like a Helvetica (a sans-serif font) or Baskerville (a classic serif) is a good choice — or creating a “timeless” look by combining a sans serif and serif. Lewis further suggests using sans-serif fonts that are “widely used” across websites, such as Droid Sans, Lato or Ubuntu. For serif fonts, she suggests Abril Fatface, Arvo and Josefin Slab.
“Like color, the typeface you choose can say a lot about your personality and set the tone for how you’re perceived online,” Lewis said.
Speaking of color, Lewis suggests picking a color palette, since it “sets the tone for your website design.” While choosing colors seems easy enough, Lewis advised that you take your time there, too, taking care to use your chosen colors in a contrasting yet complementary manner.
“Attract attention and make primary actions pop out with a contrasting color, while using secondary colors [gives] other actions or content less visual weight,” Lewis said.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do make your website “reflect your personality,” Lewis said. It should include more than just your resume or your accomplishments. It needs to show what you can bring to the industry you’re in (or want to break into). “Give potential employers or clients a glimpse of the person they’ll be working with,” Lewis said. “Overall, the goal is to do a good job telling your story.
- Don’t overlook the URL. Lewis said it’s one aspect of your website that travels to other parts of your professional life as well, like social media, resume and business cards. “Not only is this connectivity something a lot of people forget to consider when they’re choosing a custom domain to purchase, but a bonus snag in the decision is what happens when you want to say your website URL or spell it out in conversation,” Lewis said.
- Do make the website mobile-friendly — not just ensuring that all images fit or that it all actually fits to a mobile screen’s device, but confirming that a mobile version of your site loads quickly. “Give them the choice to go deep into the rabbit hole of [your] work, but don’t force them to load it all if they simply want to contact you,” Lee said.
- Don’t forget to explain any work you upload and be sure to think through website design. A common mistake is putting two projects side by side on a page when they don’t look great together. “Explain how you got there and what makes this a unique portfolio piece,” Lee said. “If you can’t find a way to explain this, it’s probably because it isn’t as memorable as you may think.
- Do consider SEO (and it’s not as complicated as you might think). Lee suggests a simple tip like calling yourself a designer several times on your website (if you’re a designer) to improve your SEO. Lewis added you should optimize parts of your website, like the page titles and descriptions.