DIY Branding: A Maverick's Digital Toolbox

what is in your digital toolbox, oh my handmade, laura simms, free digital resources

“I love your website! Who designed it?”

At one point I was getting this question so frequently that the answer was on my FAQ page. In fact, a reader emailed my just last week to find out who my designer was.

The truth is: it’s me.

Now, I’m no capital D designer. I do have a good eye, a strong sense of personal style, the patience to spend approximately 2,374 hours teaching myself WordPress, and a pixel-pushing fascination that I will, mesmerized, forgo food and sleep for.

If that doesn’t sound remotely like you, hire up a capital D designer lickety-split; there’s a reason they get paid the big bucks. But if you’re like me and want to turn your website into digital crafts project, keep reading.

You don’t need fancy software to create a stunning website that is a beautiful and accurate reflection of your brand. I don’t use anything that isn’t free or didn’t come on my MacBook Pro.

Behold, the contents of a Maverick’s Digital Toolbox:

1. iWeb

I do all my design work in iWeb. Sounds totally janky, but looks pretty darn good if you’re doing basic stuff. iWeb is easy and intuitive to use. I design a little button or banner using the colors, shapes, and fonts I want, then take a screen shot. On a Mac, hit the command, shift, and 4 button at the same time, and your cursor will turn into a little crosshair. Select what you want to include, and bingo. You now have a custom png on your desktop.

2. Widget Logic

What do you do with your png? It can go straight into the body of your pages and posts. My website has the most visuals in the sidebars, and almost every page is a little different. Widget Logic is the plug-in I use to put different images on different pages. While this layout isn’t the best choice for every website, it gives you that custom flexibility if you want it. You’ll have to learn to manipulate a tiny bit of code, but just Google that part; you’ll want to know “img src” tags to place the image, and “a href” tags to link the image.

3. Pixlr-o-matic

Do you ever wish you could live in an Instagram photo? Well now at least your photos can. If you want to take a plain old photo and wash it out or brighten it up, Pixlr-o-matic is a free online photo editor with loads of options. This is an easy way to create a custom look and feel for your website.

4. Font Squirrel & Da Font

According to Google, there are about 46,200,000 websites where you can get free fonts. My favorite pit stops are Font Squirrel and DaFont.com. You know not to get all crazy and have more than 2, maybe 3 fonts, rattling around your site. But if you’re looking to logo-tize your business name or just sprinkle around a little flair, a signature font is a fun way to do it.

5. Magic Action Box

Ug, I just want everything to be pretty. Such a burden! Especially when there are naked, style-barren things like opt-in forms out in the world. Oh, what? I can decorate my opt-in forms, too? Heaven. Check out Magic Action Box, a free plug-in that lets you customize that little form you may want to dangle at the end of your pages and posts. Beautiful is better!

Do you have any website DIY resources to share? Please add to the list in the comments.

Gathering light,

7 comments

  1. Bonnie and Ahmelie,

    WordPress is a great way to get an informational site and/or a blog up! If you don’t want to mess around with web hosting, you can go to wordpress.com to get set up instantly.

    I would recommend instead setting up web hosting and going to wordpress.org to install WordPress yourself (the installation is pretty simple, and many web hosts offer a one-click install of WordPress).

    Once you have WordPress set up, you’ll find a tool to import your posts from Blogger (although getting the photos over can sometimes be a hassle).

    We create a lot of WordPress sites, and are very experienced in moving from Blogger without losing data or subscribers, so please do contact me through my website if I can help!

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