• How to Make a Beautiful, 
    Effective Personal Website
     

    56% of all hiring managers are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than any other personal branding tool—however, only 7% of job seekers actually have a personal website.
     
    - Forbes Leadership Forum, 2013
     

  • Introduction

    Hi there, and thanks for joining us today! Let's start with why we're were -

    Why did we create this guide?

    Potential clients, hires, and collaborators today are researching you online. And how they like what they find determines whether they surface on your radar for an inquiry or interview. How do you position yourself positively? In our digital age, you need a beautiful, effective digital presence to match.

     

    Having a personal website is the best way to control what others find and learn about you online. We created this guide because YOU need a personal website. And we want to provide you with the understanding and the tools to make one.

    Why do YOU need a personal website?

    Are you a professional marketer or financier, looking out for new opportunities? Or are you a freelance writer or consultant, ever on the hunt for new gigs and clients? Maybe you're a student or academic, wanting to curate your work and present your projects in one steady place.
     
    You want your online branding to be strong and accurate - that's good. But ask yourself this: What exactly are my goals with a personal website? Here are some possibilities - 
    • Land a job or business partnership
    • Find and recruit new team members and collaborators
    • Establish yourself as a certain figure or expert
    • Keep friends updated with your activities 
    • Connect and engage with new audiences out there
    Keep your goals clearly in mind as you read this guide, and as you make your site. Your specific goals should guide your choices, from the tone you adopt to what content you include. 

    How should you use this guide?

    Each section is a usable mini-guide on its own. But to get the most value here, you should first go through the whole thing, then as you start making your own site piece by piece - probably using a website builder or hiring a designer - refer back to relevant sections and ideas here.
     
    We've intentionally created this guide using one of our actual site templates, to show you what you can do in the most direct and actionable way we can. Alright - let's get started!
  • 1. Header - The First Impression
     

    Your site header is the first section of your website, that people will see as soon as they land. A good header will draw people into your site.
     
    If your website is your first date with a potential client, then your header is their first impression of you. The goal is to draw them in, like a giant magnet. What you'll need to include: 
    1. Name - (You got this.) 
    2. Photo - A medium to close-up shot is best. Positive and professional!
    3. Background photo/video - Use your own, or find a free one that fits you.
    4. Title (optional*) - A casual greeting or short and sweet line about yourself, your work, maybe your location.
    And that's it! No more. Well done.
     
     

  • (FREE) Background Photo & Video Resources

    If you don't fancy using your own photos and videos - or just feel like exploring some more professional stuff available out there - here are some free HQ stock resources we recommend.
    Pick subject matter, colors, and movements that reflect your own style and branding, and don't clash with any overlaid text like your name and byline. 

  • Good Site Header Examples

    Let's take a look at three different types of good header sections.

    "Hi, I'm Gary Sheng."

    Greeting style
    This friendly greeting, combined with the smiling image, makes Gary come across as natural and genuine, similar to what you would expect in a great interview or coffee table conversation.

    Matt Potter

    Just the name
    Having no title in your header creates intrigue and invites curiosity. Make sure you support it with a beautiful, stimulating graphic - Matt goes with an exciting, self-made background video.

    'Digital Copywriter'

    Descriptive title
    If you can express one concisely, a straightforward byline never fails. Melissa pairs hers - 'Digital copywriter, skilled in customer service and finance' - with a fitting image of a typewriter.
  • 2. Personal Branding Statement

     
    Next up is your personal branding statement. This communicates your own vision of who you are, what you do, and what value you bring to the table. It should powerfully encapsulate your uniqueness - it should describe only you, and nobody else in the world. It is what every lame, tasteless "about me" fails to be.
     
    Once formulated, your personal branding statement can be cited anywhere, anytime - on your website, on social platforms, and in real conversations. It should make a positive, unique, and lasting impression on others. 
     
    Here are 3 questions to help you brainstorm yours -
    • What are my most important causes, endeavors and abilities?
    • What five or ten words would I use to describe my true self?
    • What value do I ultimately try to create for others?
    Read up on our 5 tips to write a strong personal branding statement. In short - be conversational plus classy, write your statement in detachable parts, and reflect your core values and uniqueness.
     
     

  • Strong Personal Branding Statements

    Take a look at these three solid examples and what they convey.

    Andre Tacuyan

    Aspiring Product Designer
    I knew at a very young age that technology and design weren't going to be just passions, they'd be who I am. If I could describe the past few years in one word, I would say it was an evolution. Just like a Pokemon. I enjoy building beautiful products that connect people with one another. With a goal to make the world more simple, open and connected, I'm working on making the future come faster.

    Charla Caponi

    Marketing Extraordinaire who solves problems.
    I am a high-impact marketing executive with a track record for building brand awareness, revitalizing under performing brands, and driving powerful marketing strategies on an international scale. I've conceived and executed programs impacting 25+ countries worldwide for brands including 55DSL, Diesel, and American Eagle.

    Samir Goel

    Entrepreneur | Consultant | Public Speaker
    The next 15 years are an opportunity to create a new global agenda encompassing compassion, sustainable decision making, and greater collaboration between all sectors. Innovation and social entrepreneurship have no small part to play in this transition. I aspire to be a part of this global movement by bringing together different sectors to collaborate and inspiring others to pursue their passions.
  • 3. Resume - Show Off 'The Works'

    "The Works" : A vague expression referring to 'everything'. (Yahoo Answers)
     
    Now that you've introduced yourself properly with your header and personal branding statement, it's time to show off 'the works'. For you, that's a mix of components such as -
    • PDF Resume (via link or button
    • Work experience
    • Educational background
    • Past and current projects
    • Awards & accolades
    • List of skills
    The choice of what to include depends on what want to convey about yourself. If you're a brand consultant or business developer, you should present a list of marketable skills, as well all your projects and experience; if you're a writer or academic, a skill listing probably isn't necessary but you should include your education history, as well as links to your published work and any awards or honors received.
     
    Let's see how some of these resume sections might look on your page, starting with 'Experience'.
     

  • Experience

    For listing experiences and education, a vertical list works well because it intuitively reflects chronological order... 

    Happiness Officer

    2015 - Current
    List your position and tenure, then introduce the company, and summarize your accomplishments and contributions. Don't forget to pair a logo with your description!

    Formula SAE Racecar Driver

    2014 Season
    Engineering student and racecar driver Amy Chambers list her experience in a vertical timeline. She goes into detail, and embeds a video link of her most recent project.

    Consultant

    New York, NY
    Ahmed Mirza chooses to highlight his location and activities with a more casual, unconventional vertical list entitled "some things I'm working on".
  • Education

    ... But a horizontal list can also work nicely, if your items are few enough to fit in one or two lines. This also prevent visitors from having to scroll down in order to view the entire section at once.

    New York University

    2012 - 2016 (expected)

    If you're a current student, briefly describe what you're studying, and your expected year of graduation. 

    Bringham Young

    2008 - 2012

    Describe any programs or organizations you were involved in, and any honors or awards you may have received as well. 

    Nipmuc High School

    2004 - 2008

    High school can by all means be included; middle school and earlier are not typically necessary. 

  • Projects & Passions

    Whether directly related to your work or not, sharing your projects and passions is a great way to express your initiative, creativity, and that extra edge of personality and "wow" factor that potential clients and collaborators are always looking out for.
     
    Provide an image or icon for each project, with relevant links.

    Elaine Mau

    Innovation Consultant
    Elaine showcases a series of her work-related projects, each one concisely described and beautifully illustrated.

    Sam Bays

    Digital Strategist
    Sam has his hand in a diverse mix of projects, from digital consultancy to career coaching to personal fitness. Impressive!

    Hirofumi Ono

    Venture Capitalist
    Fumi is a venture capitalist, but proudly lists his marathons - any adventurous spirit would feel an instant connection.

    Emily Penn

    Skipper & Explorer
    Emily's projects actually have their own landing pages - each one sounds like the exploration of a lifetime!
  • List Your Skills

    A skill list is a good way to catch the eye of recruiters and potential partners. It is particularly useful for job hunters, freelancers, and business professionals. Impress your site visitors with a tidy list of your most marketable skills, backed up by relevant descriptions, statistics, and links.

    In Boxes

    Matt Potter displays his skills in outlined boxes. He gives detailed qualitative descriptions of each one.

    In Bars

    Will Barton lists his skills in soft, rounded bars that are easy to look at and understand at a glance.

    In Columns

    Hannah Silverton describes her main skills in long columns, each paired with a colorful image.

    In Points

    George Clark present his skills in paragraph style points, including specific tools and proficiencies. 

  • 4. Add Quality Content

    "Content is king" - grand words spoken by Bill Gates in 1996, which have since become a marketing slogan and reality. It's true - in an online context, content is the reason why people use search engines to begin with. Websites earn high rankings in search results, by having good content that people engage with.
     
    The same principle applies to your personal website. The content you choose to include should be relevant to you, valuable to your audience, and visually appealing to attract visitors. We can't stress that last point enough. There is so much beautiful site content out there today - if yours looks like an error message from 1990, it simply won't compete. Content must be VISUAL. Content must be AWESOME.

  • Content Types

    Let's think about content in three types - static, interactive, and ongoing - and then look at examples.

    Static Content

    Static content - such as beautiful header photos and image quotes - is timeless and reliable. It also helps balance out longer, busier content. For instance, too much rich media will overwhelm your visitors, and probably decrease page loading speed too.

    Interactive Content

    Curated photo and video galleries will always be one of the best ways to forge an emotional connection with your site visitors.
     
    A slider is another neat way to let your audience interact with your page.

    Ongoing Content

    'Ongoing' content sections - like a blog or social feed, or certain apps - are ones you update regularly. These are powerful ways to keep your audiences in the loop. Give them fresh, meaningful updates based on your unique thoughts and activities.
  • "To find yourself, think for yourself." - Socrates

     
    Beautiful header images and quotes are great examples of static content to enhance your website atmospherically. Intersperse a few throughout your site to help balance out longer and busier content. This provides visual, mentally relaxing "breaks" for your site visitors.
     

  • Throw in a Slider

    A slider is a neat way to get your site visitors active and clicking around your page. It's especially useful for events, creations, projects, athletics - anything that can be showcased in a dynamic and visually stimulating way.

    Tell a story

    You should overlay a relevant caption or description, even a short one, to go along with the background photo/video.
     
    You could also add a clickable logo, direct link, or button to give visitors even more interactive options. 

  • Write a Blog

    A blog gives you the chance to express yourself and reach others. You can share your passion, ideas, and expertise with anyone, whether it's your closest friends or new audiences across the world.
     
    You will attract and keep readers if they find your blog a valuable source of information. So start by having a clear idea of who your target audience is - then, produce your best writing to address their hopes and needs. Aim at a regular posting schedule, and encourage feedback and interaction.

    Learn more here about how and why to blog, including some free tools, design tips, and ways to drive traffic.
     

    You will definitely want to pair an email list with your blog. You’ll get to grow and lead your readership with it, engaging them in a direct and meaningful way.

  • Add a Social Feed

    If you're active on social media accounts, here's a hot suggestion - social media feed. This lets your visitors see your freshest posts, grams, and tweets all in one place. Chances are your site visitors will check out your linked platforms from here, and possibly follow you as well.
     
    Your social feed is a strong reflection of your personal branding, so make sure you're sharing valuable, proper content that represents you!

  • Embed Third-Party Applications

    If you have quality content hosted on other 3rd-party apps, why not integrate and share it on your personal website? A good website builder or web designer can help you do this easily.
     
    Here are some possibilities, among many more platforms you might be using -

    Pinterest

    Nancy Garcia - named one of San Francisco's top pinners - includes a minimal, straightforward Pintereset embed section on her site.  

    Slideshare

    Michael Seibel presents slideshows of his advice on starting a tech company, plus an introduction of the renowned startup incubator Y Combinator.
     

    Soundcloud

    Mike Ellison lets you stream his music directly from his page; you can also follow any of the embedded links to check out his Soundcloud profile.  
  • 5. Back Yourself Up With Testimonials 

     
    "To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved." - George Macdonald
     
    Recommendations add a dimension of credibility and appeal to you. Back yourself up with two to five references. Don't be afraid to ask for them if you don't yet have any.   
     
    Keep testimonials short and sweet! It's great that you're great, but even so, no one wants to read more than a few sentences about how great you are. An epic Greek poem, a Shakespearean love sonnet - not the right place. We're looking more for a haiku, or a fortune cookie here.
     
    Overdo them, and they will backfire on you; serve them light, and testimonials will delight.
     
     

  • Presenting Your Testimonials

    Present your testimonials in a paragraph, moving slider, or horizontal listing (shown below). Include professional headshot for your referrers if possible, with their positions clearly indicated.

    Anna Kraskovskaya

    Product Manager
    Strikingly is super user-friendly, free to use, and an effective way to drive interest towards you with just one link."

    Charla Caponi

    Marketing Executive
    "With not a lot of tech skills and little time, Strikingly was the perfect option for me to bring my CV to life, and highlight the projects I have spearheaded.

    Kyle Potter

    Photographer
    Strikingly provides the tools for me to display my high-definition content in a bold and truly striking way."
  • 6. CTAs - 
    Let People Take Action!

     
    A beautiful site will turn heads your way - but an effective site will also move people to action.
     
    The Call-to-Action is your closer, your dealmaker. Insert appropriate CTAs onto your site, especially towards the end, after your site visitors have seen what you are about and developed a positive understanding of you.
     
    What type of CTAs to use, and where and how to place them, will again depend on your goals for having a personal website. But here are some common CTAs -
    • Email and social media buttons
    • Contact and feedback form
    • Signup form for email updates
    Let's examine these CTA examples in more detail.
     
     

  • Add Email and Social Buttons

    Place big, juicy buttons to let people contact you via email, social media and other platforms like LinkedIn or Youtube. Make sure to embed links into the icons, so visitors can reach you in one click.
     
    Adding a social feed helps as a form of contact CTA, but you'll still want social buttons at the bottom of your site because they're more focused and obvious, leading your site visitors to clearer actions.

    Email
    Strikingly on Facebook
    Facebook
    Strikingly on Twitter
    Twitter
    Strikingly on Instagram
    Instagram
    Strikingly on LinkedIn
    LinkedIn
  • Leave a Contact Form

    'How can I get in touch for an inquiry? How can I tell you how much I loved your site?'
    Don't waste the good vibes you've built up - leave a simple form for your site visitors to get at you directly with inquiries and feedback.
     
    Wufoo or Google Forms lets you integrate a nice, clean contact or survey form for free.

  • 7. SEO & Sharing

     
    We're almost there - well done making it so far. By this point your site should be more or less completed, and it's time to share it with the world.
     
    You'll want to perform a few SEO (search engine optimization) tweaks - we especially recommend investing in a custom domain - and then, let's go through a final checklist to make sure the most important elements of your site are all in order.
     
    When everything is ready, you'll share your site across social media and to your email contacts, in addition to adding your site link in a few other places.
     

  • SEO Tips

    Doing a bit of search engine optimization will make your site more highly ranked and visible on Google, Bing, Yahoo and so on. This step is important for those of you whose goal is to be found by recruiters or new audiences.
     
    Take a look at Quicksprout's chapter or Moz's beginner guide to learn more about SEO. Otherwise, here are some easy but effective SEO tweaks -

    Write a descriptive title

    The title is the main thing your viewer will notice in their search results. Make it attractive - “Johnny’s Bakery – Fresh Baked in San Francisco”, not just “Johnny’s Shop.”

    Add image descriptions

    Since search engines don’t understand images, image descriptions help them index your images and by extension your site. Also known as adding HTML “alt” tags.

    Put keywords in headings

    Search engines give additional weight to headings, so you should add descriptive keywords into them. For instance, “About Johnny’s Bakery” is better than “About” .

    Page description and meta tags

    Fill in as much info as you can for your page description and meta tags. Your description should be several sentences long, with several meta tags. 
  • Get a Custom Domain

    What is a custom domain?

    First off, a 'domain' is the essential piece of any website URL – the “website.com” part. A domain functions like a geographic address for a site on the web. We find websites by typing them into the address bar, or by coming in through links to the domain.
     
    A custom domain refers to a unique web address, such as www.google.com or www.parkerlovescats.net.

    Why get a custom domain?

    We highly recommend investing a few bucks to get a custom domain name. Some of the best benefits of a having one include higher professionalism, uniqueness, and SEO benefits. When you share your site with others, you only have one chance at a first impression - and www.JaneDoe.com shows that you're invested in yourself and your personal branding, markedly more so than www.JaneDoe.somedefaultsubdomain.com.
     
    For help on how to choose and actually claim a custom domain, read more hereBut basically - keep it simple, clear, and memorable with www.(yourname).com.
  • Final Checklist

    Before we move on to the final step - sharing your site - this is a good time to take a step back and do a final review. All of us are blind to our own little mistakes. Take this step seriously. You'll find that some fixes and revisions are needed, and they will pay off.

     

    Think about the start-to-end experience from your site visitor perspective, and answer these questions -

    1. Will They Stay?

    • Seconds within landing, will visitors like the feel of my site enough to stay?
    • Are my site title, header, and section headings attractive and interesting?

    2. Will They Engage?

    • Is my site layout simple and easily navigable? 
    • Do I give my audiences valuable, relevant content to browse and interact with? 

    3. Will They Act?

    • Did I clearly indicate and streamline the actions I want people to take?
    • Did I provide easy, eye-catching CTAs and contact methods?

    4. Does Everything Work?

    • Do all my links, icons, and media assets work? Nothing broken?
    • Are my domain, page description, and other SEO elements nice and tidy?
  • Social & Email Sharing

    No point playing it small, after all the work you've put into your site - time to blast it out there! Shout out on social media, send an email out to all your relevant contacts, and add your site link into your email signature as well as any other platforms you're on.
     
    The first time you share your site is important. Pick a good timing for maximum visibility and impact, such as the weekend or a weeknight after people get off work.

    Shout out on social media!

    "Morning everyone - Check out new website! (www.mysite.com) "
     
    "Here's my newest blog post - if you want more, please sign up and follow me at (www.mysite.com). Thanks guys!"
     

    "I've updated (www.mysite.com) - how do you guys like the new layout?"

    Add your site link everywhere.

    From now on, your website is your online front, your office, your home. So publicize it everywhere you can!

     

    LinkedIn, Elance, Youtube... Add your site link to your profile, on all other community platforms you're on.

    Send out an email -

    "Hi -- (everyone),

     

    I've created a new personal website - (www.mysite.com). Hope you have a look, and let me know if you'd like to set up a conversation!

     

    Sincerely,

    ----------

    Me

    (www.mysite.com)

  • Final Thoughts

    "Be yourself - everybody else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde

    On Individuality

    Personal branding is about telling your own story in your own voice, and your personal website should reflect that philosophy. Don't ever feel like you have to limit yourself to fit into a certain mold. Express what makes you unique, because that is what you ultimately want other to find you for, hire you for, know you for. 
     
    Our mission at Strikingly is simple - to give everyone the power to unleash their individuality. We believe that each one of us can make a difference by adding our unique talents and creations to the world. We believe that it is our innate creativity and entrepreneurial energy, that ultimately pushes humanity forward. 

    Keep Moving, Keep Building

    A beautiful, effective personal website will bring you tangible value, whether your goals are to get hired, update friends, or share your ideas with the world. Now we've showed you how to make a good one, in the easiest way we can. But it doesn't end there - it starts there.
     

    You'll graduate from school. You'll switch jobs. You'll move cities, even countries. Your career ideas may evolve; your whole life path may change once or twice. But amidst all these changes, your website remains a way to express yourself freely and truthfully. Keep it updated and useful to yourself and others, to always remind yourself that you're moving forward.

     
    Cheers,
    Strikingly Team
  • Give us some feedback?

    Thanks for staying with us until the end! Leave a comment, question, suggestion - let us know how you liked the guide :)