Being Intentional With Design

Coming from the world of visual creativity, I never felt content trumped design. For me it was about the appearance of your website, rather than what was in it.

As a designer, this pains me to admit, but I’ve turned a corner. This might have something to do with me being a partner in a content marketing and software development company, and I’ve finally come to terms with this truth.

Words are the single most important element of your website.

Now before you are quick to defend your pixels and hexcodes, let me put into context where I am coming from when I make this statement.

The Old School Me

Over the past few years I’ve spent much of my time online working with design. That’s what happens when you founded a premium theme company and are the Chief Design Officer at your current gig.

As a result of this, I used my website as a sandbox for building themes — and that resulted in umpteen variations of design (and redesign).

For me it was fun to tinker, and to find inspiration in various CSS galleries. I’d see a specific element that I liked, and combined it with other elements that I liked. I’d mash a header concept with cool homepage layout and tie that up with a groovy footer that I saw someplace else.

And for a while this worked, because all that mattered to me was creating something of value visually, that we could bundle up and sell.

But then I got the itch to write, and things were completely changed.

The New School Me

Over the past few months I’ve decided to put my website to good use, by focusing on quality content rather than turning over multiple designs. There’s a place for me to do that, and it will no longer happen here.

As I started to map out what I wanted to accomplish with this new endeavor, something became quite clear to me. My content needed to be first priority, and the design had to be second.

It took some time for me to come to terms with what this, because it flipped my normal process upside down and I had to learn some new tricks.

Previously I saw things that I wanted to design, and added content to fill in the blanks. This resulted in an inefficiency with my efforts, because the underlying goal of my website was being watered down.

The Intentionality of Design

I’m a very transparent person and want to cut to the chase. I’m relaunching my website as a resource for design and development, and want to share the things I’ve learned along the way.

Part of that is sharing things from the past, but also sharing the things that I’m now doing. More importantly, how (and why) I’m doing them.

Once I had a content strategy and a plan that was crystal clear, I began the creative process. Never before have I been so intentional with my website design, and that is a direct result of being intentional with my goals.

Here are the four things I knew that I wanted to do:

1. Have an about me page telling who I am and what I do.
2. Maintain a design blog and write Genesis tutorials.
3. Offer free content by way of building my email list.
4. Provide a way to connect with me via social media.

These are the things that matter to me right now and I knew that I had to design around them. So I got in touch with my friends at Focus Lab because, to put it simply, they are the best — and my new design is a collaboration of our efforts.

You might wonder why I chose to go this route rather than working with either of our internal designers Rafal or Lauren, and the answer is simple.

I wanted to approach this whole new effort of mine as a personal project and go through the process as any of you would. Part of why I’m doing all of this is to demonstrate what is possible with our products — more on that below.

Executing the Plan

When I came to the conclusion of what I wanted to do here, the first thing I did was move my entire website onto our Rainmaker Platform.

I knew there were very specific things tools inside of it that I wanted to use in order to accomplish my goals. While I’ve yet to set up some of these things, I’m excited about doing that and will announce that soon.

This leads me to one of the things that should matter to you — documenting the methods of execution. You’ll get to watch me build this out along the way. Not only do I think you’ll be fascinated by the process, it will also serve as proof that you can build the same type of website that I have.

So if you’re interested in joining me for the ride, feel free to signup below:

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  1. says

    Content before design and sharing the journey. Enjoying your journey already, the future should be increasingly fun.

    It.Better.Be. :-D

    I’ve been telling everyone that will listen, and most of the ones that aren’t listening:

    Rainmaker allows me to stop working on my website and start building my business.

    • says

      Sounds like you’re on the right path, Jason. I’m sure you just received an email as well that should make you happy.

      As much as I enjoyed the creative process of this new design, I’m more excited about moving forward with the content strategy and using the membership side of Rainmaker.

  2. says

    Great to see you back on the design track, man. Loving the Unfiltered content, but really glad to have my go-to source for ideas and content presentation “back in the game”. Looking forward to seeing where you go. :)

  3. says

    Brian, I love where you’re taking this. But I think I “truly” like it because it resonates with me as well.

    You said this:

    “My content needed to be first priority, and the design had to be second.”

    BOOM! That’s where I’m at. I just finished tinkering my design for the umpteenth time, so I know I need to focus on content.

    Thanks for sharing your design knowledge with us. I can honestly say that what little I know about web design, etc. has come from you. So thanks.


  4. says

    Well I like reading your words.

    I like seeing and using your designs.

    And I like learning from your Genesis tutorials.

    So I’m definitely here for the duration…


  5. says

    I’ve been reading your blog for a couple years. Rarely do I respond.

    One of the post I remember the most is your need to write what was on your mind. And a month later your tutorials were being loaded onto the Copyblogger site.

    Gotta admit that frustrated me. Always enjoyed your site for your code. As an amateur I found solice here. I think I said that right. But much like you, my personal site evolves and morphs… almost daily it seems. But it’s getting better these days.

    So in a nutshell, let me say this bro. It’s cool that your going for a content strategy and running with a focused plan. I finally reached that after three years. But your brand, the Brian Gardner brand that I love (and I’m sure others love too) is the fact you keep this site fresh in design– something that all of us with little dev skill love to see. And I know I might be speaking for myself– but I usually can’t wait to crack open your site on a month to month basis because I know I’m gonna get something dope. Just saying.

    Saw you on Dill’s podcast this week too. Hope you got that office tightened up by now. You the man.

  6. Dustin says

    Hey Brian,

    Good to see you brought your website back. I own Genesis and also own a few child themes. I was wanting to get your opinion on something.

    Do you prefer the WordPress commenting system over services like Disqus? I’ve seen differing opinions on it, which is why I ask. It would be great to hear what your thoughts are.

    This is my first comment to your new blog. Love the simplicity!


    • says

      Hey Dustin, sorry for the delay in response to your comment. It was placed into spam for some reason.

      I’ve tried using Disqus, but really don’t like it. A lot of folks complain about the “have to log in to comment” thing, and the WordPress comment system just seems to work.

      • Dustin says

        Right, I’ve been hearing similar things about that. I’m going to give the WP-SpamShield plugin a shot. It claims to use some sort of honeypot method and has a spam filter. Thanks, Brian, I appreciate it! Loving the simplicity of Genesis by the way.

  7. Amy Patton says

    Brian, I have enjoyed reading and getting to know you on twitter and some on your blog over the last year. I am thankful you are taking this turn. I need a lot of help with Genesis- especially Hooks, well and everything. :) I am a DIY’er mostly because of finances not because of convenience. I look forward to learning and making my blog better as a result.

  8. says

    Brian, love your work and can’t wait to see where you’re taking us on this new journey. I’ve been a long time genesis user but just in the past 2 weeks started to take some courses (teamtreehouse) on html and css after years of being frustrated with my complete lack of knowledge in those areas.

    That said, it’s simply amazing to me how design changes with priority. I’ve experience this first hand over the past few months when I finally decided to go “pro” and focus on content.

    Keep blazing the trail for us. We appreciate what you discover and share!

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