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I’m just going to chuck down some generic advice for where I think most people go wrong in creating their own websites. It’s a bit blunt but I personally use this formula and design is part of my job.

Pick a theme and don’t add your own embellishments. The web designer who built your theme has more experience knowing what goes where, so don’t get tempted to move stuff around. Stick to their default layouts and add your own content accordingly. The next 3 steps will help you convert the theme into something completely different, without changing anything structural.

Don’t make up your own colour scheme. To avoid looking cheap, pick your colour scheme from a colour gallery website where users and designers have already filtered out the bad schemes. Preferably before you get your logo done so you can match it all up.

Don’t pick your own fonts. Fonts will have a big visual impact on your site, and distance it from the theme. Have a maximum of two fonts, and stick to known font pairings. Search blogs for designers posting about their favourite ‘font pairings’.

Don’t make graphics yourself if you have no professional design experience. You can get decent graphics from any number of stock art/photo websites so just buy what fits into your theme. Any text or messaging should be simply written in text, not on top of your graphics.

Copy your competitors. This is my biggest usability tip; your website users spend 99.9%+ of their time online on other websites so don’t rock the boat. Look at your competitor websites and how they lay out navigation. Pick the most common. It’s probably 5 links across the top of the page. Unless you do a course in user experience design, stick to the common structures; eg. 5 – 6 links across the top, one word links, with Contact or the call-to-action on the right.