“Client sites are children you give to adoptive parents to raise. When it’s your own site, you have only yourself to take the credit or the blame for how things work out. You have the luxury to find and fix and agonize and obsess, but it’s also hard to know when to stop. I knew I’d achieved my personal goal for the redesign when another designer said that it didn’t feel like a complete departure from my old design, but a natural maturation and evolution.”from Redesigning Your Own Site by Lea Alcantara August 04, 2009
One of the scariest and yet most vital things to do as a freelance web designer/developer is take on yourself as a client.
I’ve managed to do a fairly good job keeping my primary professional website current, trendy, and accurate. Every five years or so I’ve updated rainofhearts.com, confidently presenting my business Rainofhearts Web Design. I improved the overall look, colors, typography, navigation, compatibility, functionality. My brand and logo evolved. I added more mobile-first and mobile-friendly elements. I incorporated my social media presence, built a blog, and rewrote copy to be more clear and more inviting to potential clients and repeat clients. My website design services felt appropriately showcased in the best advertisement of all: my own website.
But I have more than one website! I’ve been designing and building since 1999. In 2000 I created not one, but two fan sites for genre television series. They both mean a lot to me (and their visitors) and yet I’d never put them through the same design or content scrutiny as my professional site. That had to change.
And now it has. From August 2019 to May 2020, I hired myself to fix my fan sites and make myself fall in love with them again. Being my own client definitely came with challenges, but also with a certain joy. I scoured design template ideas, evaluated color and type (font) themes. I analyzed the organization and content of the sites, planning to decimate some areas and expand others. I fixed deep-rooted design and layout problems and refined details with an eye of twenty more years of experience. Yet did these new ideas seem fresh while remaining true to their original purpose? Did they strengthen my professional credibility? At all stages, I had to pause and remind myself that this was a labor of pure love AND an advertisement for my services.
Developing for myself, there are less voices and less feedback competing in the process. There is self-doubt in the decisions along with a pleasant streamlining in decisions. I did seek an outside perspective from trusted friends to see how I was doing.
Finally the site redesigns were finished, I loved them, and still I realized I was hesitant to re-launch them. Doing so would mean retiring those old designs: tired, cumbersome, but familiar. So I didn’t make a launch schedule at all. I uploaded them like ripping off a band-aid. I debugged the live aspects of the sites on the fly, finding little things here and there I could have fixed earlier, but now with necessary urgency. Now I’m writing a blog post about the experience. Next, I’ll compose a fast notice for my socials about the projects. The world – or at least my social, fandom, and professional circles – will be aware of my beloved genre television fan sites, preserved and retooled, prepared to endure the next five (or up to twenty? LOL) years online.
And I’ll be on the lookout for my next commissioned website design from the outside. Are you my next client? Quotes are free!