David Morgan - Organic Themes, on November 12, 2012


The appearance of a website matters, greatly.


As a designer, IÕm biased. However, during the first milliseconds of viewing a site, if the logo, fonts, colors or imagery make my eyes bleed — I wonÕt proceed to the content. For myself and other professionals, design equals credibility.


While an Organic Theme will provide a huge head start towards creating a beautiful site, there are still potential poor design choices that can be made on the path to completion. Here are a few tips for staying on the path to creating a beautiful WordPress site.


1. Great Images

Images will make or break the appearance of your site. Poor image choice is the most common mistake I encounter in new websites. If you plan to use images, donÕt cheap out — it will reflect poorly on your brand.


Good images are going to cost you a few bucks. Great images are going to cost you more than a few bucks. If you donÕt have the budget for quality photography, there are a few options for finding good free imagery.


Paid Photo Resources

         istockphoto.com — Good, affordable images. They also offer one free image per week.

         shutterstock.com — Similar to iStock in terms of pricing and quality.

         veer.com — Similar to iStock in terms of pricing, maybe slightly higher quality. They also have great artwork and fonts available.

         gettyimages.com — Cream of the crop editorial images. They are fantastic. They are not cheap.


Free Photo Resources

         Use Instagram — A great way to get your own good looking images for free.

         Flickr Creative Commons — You can find great images here. The usage conditions vary, but you generally need to give credit to the photographer.

         stock.xchng — An excellent free resource. You may have to do some digging on the site for quality images.

         Wikipedia Commons — YouÕre free to use any images or media on Wikipedia.

         Ask permission — It doesnÕt hurt to ask your favorite photographers. YouÕll have more luck with this if you provide credit and have site traffic.

2. Font Choices

Once upon a time, in my youth, I thought Papyrus was a great font. Then I became a designer, and realized itÕs not. Making great font choices is very important to the design, professionalism and above all else, the legibility of your site. If you want people to read your content — make it easy for them.


When in doubt, use Helvetica, Arial or Georgia. They are widely recognized as legible fonts online — and they should work across all browsers without any coding trickery. If youÕre not a professional designer, and a font looks ŌboringŌ, thatÕs probably the easiest way to recognize it as being a good font.


Seen a great font, but donÕt know what it is? Try WhatTheFont from MyFonts.


Using fonts on the web isnÕt like choosing a font in Microsoft Word. By default, there are only a handful of core fonts that can be viewed universally on the web. This problem has haunted web typography for years. Very difficult workarounds evolved using images, Flash or Cufon. It wasnÕt until relatively recently that great solutions began to emerge.


Web Font Solutions

         Google Fonts — Free and good, most of them anyway.

         Typekit — Basically a premium version of Google Fonts, offering high quality fonts on your site for a price.

         Fontdeck — Similar to Typekit, but with different pricing options.

         @font-face — My personal favorite method, but it requires a little more effort and font ownership.


Font Sources

         myfonts.com — If youÕre looking for a specific font, you can probably find it here.

         exljbris Font Foundry — They have a collection of free quality fonts.

         veer.com — Veer offers some great fonts for design.

         dafont.com — A huge collection of free fonts. Use carefully, because most of them are pretty horrid.


WordPress Font Plugins

         WP Google Fonts — Easily add Google Fonts to your WordPress site.

         Typekit Fonts for WordPress — Keep in mind, you will be required to register for Typekit.

         Fontmeister — A promising font plugin for managing web fonts from multiple sources.


3. Colors

Unless you are well versed in color theory, getting too creative with the color scheme on your site may be a disaster. It might look like a chimpanzee finger painting.


If color isnÕt your cup of tea, a great rule of thumb is to use 2 neutral, contrasting colors (preferably shades of black and white) with the sparse use of 1 highlight color throughout your site.


If youÕre feeling more ambitious, try implementing a palette from ColourLovers. Remember to make wise color choices that match your brand.


We create our themes to provide basic color changing options for the links, buttons, highlights and background. We have tried to keep the options minimal to reduce the risk of a color disaster.


4. Your Logo

Not so long ago, I was a logo designer. A logo is more than just an icon at the top of your site — itÕs the face of your company. There is a reason why companies like Citibank pay millions of dollars for a logo re-branding from Pentagram. Those companies understand the value of a logo, and the importance of their brand.


You donÕt need a million dollars for a great logo, but you do need more than $20. IÕd estimate a starting rate for a great logo concept at around $300, depending on the designer. The price will likely increase considerably based on the number of concepts and revisions desired.

Logopond is a great resource for finding excellent and affordable logo designers.


If you canÕt afford a logo designer, thereÕs always Helvetica. Use a great typeface, purchase an icon from iStockPhoto for $20, or even use your signature if itÕs a personal site or brand. Keep it as simple as possible if you absolutely have to create your own logo without experience.

Just please donÕt ask your secretary or nephew to design a logo if you value the appearance of your site. It wonÕt be pretty.


5. Avoid Clutter

More is not always more. When a site contains too much clutter — the focus of the content is lost.

By clutter, IÕm referring to:

         Excessive Advertising

         Pop-Up Newsletter Forms

         Absurd Amounts of Social Media Buttons

         Unexpected Animations

         Auto-playing Music or Video

         Any Other Annoying Distractions

While advertising might be a necessity for creating a profitable site, filling it with Google AdSense on every post and sidebar is not going to result in more money. Place ads wisely, and only if your site is generating enough traffic to warrant the use of advertisements. If youÕre just getting started, the focus should be on the content. ThereÕs no such thing as an overnight success, even on the web.


A beautiful site is peaceful, not a bombardment of all senses.


Remember, anything that distracts the viewer from the content is bad. If you donÕt need it, donÕt use it.


Following these tips will result in a stronger brand and more interest in your site. The appearance of a professional brand is essential to any business, and we want your business to look great.