Design your message into your website

Design letters on corkboard

Does your website walk your talk?

People decide whether to hang around on your site within a few seconds of arriving, and it’s the visuals that make the most immediate impression.

Are you authentic? Does it ‘feel’ right? Will reading your site be a pleasant experience or a struggle?

If your site isn’t drawing visitors in, or you feel it’s not the online home you wanted but aren’t sure why, maybe the design is giving out the wrong messages.

Design your message into your website - e-courseDesign your message into your website is a short e‑course guiding you through the basics of this ‘visual language’.

The content covers colour, fonts and layout. It aims to give non-designers a ground-floor awareness of good and bad design that you can use to gather concrete ideas for your own site. (Much of it applies to documents too.)

The course comes as two PDF ebooks, written in plain English with a dash of humour, aimed at non-techy readers. (This course has been revised for 2016. It was previously available under the title ‘What is your website saying about you behind your back?’)

Visual design and your website

When we’re talking to someone, the communication is made up of what we say, the way we say it, and the cues they take from our body language as we talk and listen. (Have you been on one of those courses where they tell you this?)

In writing it’s much the same. There’s what we write; the words we choose and the way we put sentences together; and the visuals that frame it.

Visual design is the body language of written communication.

What are first impressions of your website or documents based on? In the first three seconds, when someone’s deciding whether to hang around?

watchpc2_250It’s certainly not all those paragraphs of text you wrote. Like meeting someone for the first time, they’re interpreting cues to see whether they like and trust you.

Is spending time together going to be a pleasant experience? Are you authentic, or do you say one thing and show another?

Your design has to communicate that, so they continue reading what you have to tell them. It also has to be something you’re happy with.

Most people don’t have design experience – or, rather, haven’t developed the critical eye to tell why they like some things and not others. Design is around us all the time, and we’re reacting even if we don’t realise it.

This course gets you started looking at elements of design and how you can use them to boost your message.

Who is it for?

The course is aimed at people who haven’t dabbled much with design before. You might be making your first Things and wondering how to do it. You might even have been churning out sites and documents, maybe in a job role, without chance to reflect on the underpinnings.

  • You might be designing your own website.
  • More likely, you’re hiring someone to make your site for you. An informed perspective will help you specify what you want and have a productive dialogue.
  • Perhaps you’re building a site with WordPress and choosing from the vast array of design themes. Spotting good and bad design will help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

Learning points

Studying laptop graphicHere’s what you’ll learn from the course.

  • Become more aware of the effect of visual design on your audience.
  • Develop your “eye” – become more aware of the difference between attractive/effective design and unattractive/ineffective design.
  • Be aware of the psychological influence of colour, and choose a colour palette that supports your message.
  • Be aware of the different ‘feels’ of fonts, and home in on a good set that work together within your design.
  • Understand principles of good, user-friendly layout, and make sure your site gives a good experience for readers.

What they say

Karen Campos“What an attractive package! Cleanly demonstrates basic use of color, fonts and layout to create great web presence. The interactive workbook inspired thoughtful choices as I was guided easily through the steps. Everything I need to help me find the right words and deliver an effective message on my site.”

Karen Campos, freelance assistant


On my book The Radio-Controlled Message Bottle:

“Tim has a way of laying things out in an easy to follow format and also with a wry sense of humour that reminded me of Eats, Shoots and Leaves.

A great purchase to get you thinking about your written communications and remind you of the dos and don’ts so you can get your message over more effectively.”

Karen Revell, career change and business coach

Who’s it by?

Tim Gray photoI’m Tim Gray. I’ve worked with words and presenting information for over 25 years – from putting together the local environmental networking newsletter to freelance web design to self-publishing game books to web publishing and training packs for a national charity.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about how words and design connect with what goes on in our heads and what happens to messages as a result.

This course distils that experience in a way that will help you see it too. I have a knack for explaining things in a way that’s easy to read and understand, with a dash of humour. The content moves quickly from general info to practical applications for your own work.

What you get

Design your message into your website is in PDF format.

  • The 32-page workbook is the core of the course, leading you through the sections and exercises. Print it out and fill it in as you go through.
  • Sections of information to read are in the 25-page resource book – view it on screen on your computer or favourite portable device. Includes extensive info on associations of common colours.
  • Also included is the Background message finder worksheet to help you uncover the key impressions to base your design choices on.

How long will it take? If you steam through and find it easy going, you might complete it in two or three hours. Or you might prefer to do a section at a time, allowing for plenty of reflection on each section and exploring avenues and ideas that come up. Once you have the ebooks, you can work through at whatever pace works best for you.

Get started today

This course will help you think about the visual elements of your communications and come up with a plan for using that in your website and other materials.

The price for the course is $40. (About £32. Payment is via Gumroad. VAT may be added, depending on your location.)

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For a website that does what you want and feels like it fits you properly, you have to pay attention to visual design. Design your message into your website will help you present the message you want to convey, building stronger connections with potential clients and contacts.


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