Back in 2019, we set our sights on a new site. Chris had been coding and managing ChrisLovesJulia.com for the first decade, and we had grown so much over the years that it started to feel a little clunky. We had somewhat of a Frankensite, with new parts and old parts and the constant striving for more functionality. We decided to hire professional web designers (for the first time ever), and I can’t believe it took us so long. This is the cornerstone of our business! For 12 and a half years we have been showing up right here and regardless of what happens on social media, we always want everyone to know they can find us right here.
We found TONIC from snooping around on site credits of websites we loved. They’ve designed all of the very best ones. (TONIC has launched new templates today for Interiors Influencers, but they also have the most beautiful templates for every niche! Use code CLJ15 to get 15% off any site)
We quietly launched the new site earlier this year, and we’ve been working out the little kinks that come with a launch, but we finally feel like it’s time to show you around our “new house.”
We also mentor a group of content creators under the umbrella of Good Influence(r), and we preach the gospel of website-hosting every day. Everyone is their own brand. Everyone needs a website. We mainly talk about interiors around here, but today we wanted to speak to the back end of how we talk to you every day. (And if that’s not your thing–come back tomorrow for a family room update!)
Jen Olmstead is TONIC’s co-founder, and she’s so witty and cool and fun. She gave us all of the confidence to give our website a facelift (and held our hands every step of the way). She’s the No. 1 source of making-sense if you’re thinking about investing in or revamping your website, and she eagerly and eloquently answered our questions on the matter:
Yes. And yes again, but louder. If you’re building your brand entirely on social media, you’re building it on borrowed land.
The only two things you truly own and — should — have control over on the internet? Your website and your email list.
Instagram, Facebook, even Pinterest… all of those platforms are run by algorithms designed to make them money…. not you.
And as we know well, those algorithms are changing every thirty-two seconds or so. Plus, as demonstrated when The Great Instagram Crash of ‘21 left us all confused and bereft… those platforms could literally disappear anytime.
If all of your eggs are in those baskets, the future of your business is going to be up to them. (They’ve got us all making Reels now… what’s NEXT?!)
The good news… your website? Is up to you. The content people read, the images they see, the decisions they can make, the things they can buy… that’s all in your capable hands. No dance moves required.
Think of it like this: Your social media presence is like a beautiful storefront. It’s an Anthropologie shop window. There are lots of pretty things to admire, it’s visually interesting, it’s a great place to begin and pique interest… but when people stand outside a beautiful storefront, what do they want to do next?
They want to go inside! They want to explore, browse, shop, meet the shop proprietor, try things on, learn more, fall more in love with what’s there for them.
When people discover your social media content (your storefront), they’re going to want to take the next step with you. They naturally WANT to hit that #linkinprofile and head inside. So, it’s incredibly important that you give them a next step — a “shop interior” — that makes sense… that feels aligned with what you’re sharing on social, and perhaps even more elevated.
Your website should be the inside of your shop…. a place to connect… a place to shop…. A beautiful, inspiring home online you truly, really own.
Ooh, here’s an easy one! If we’re still going with that shop metaphor (I LOVE a metaphor), think about this… what if you were in a beautiful shop, you were exploring, you found a lot of things you loved, and… there wasn’t a cash register or a changing room? There was no clear step for you to take next?
Your website’s just like that. When it comes to user experience, people LOVE to be told what to do; it makes them feel secure and it gives them purpose. So, make sure you’re adding what we refer to as “calls to action” throughout your site. When your viewers get to the bottom of your about page, maybe add a section that invites them to view your portfolio. When they finish a blog post, show them more recent posts they might be interested in. When they browse your portfolio, ask them if they’d like to read reviews.
You’re guiding your visitors through your site. Ask them to look at things, invite them to buy things. Give them something to do, then something to do next. (Bonus: this is GREAT for your SEO since Google sees that people are spending more and more time on your site and goes, “Oh, this site must be really great; people seem to love it, let’s rank it higher!” )
I think there are two primary indicators of when it’s time for a new website — one is how it feels and two is how it works.
Easy “feeling” test: When someone says, “Oh hey, what’s your website URL?” do you feel embarrassed to send people there? Do you often find yourself saying something like “Oh, yeah, but don’t go there. It’s not up to date,” or “Maybe visit my Instagram instead?” or “Ugh, actually, I don’t have one.?” If you’ve been personally victimized by website shame, you probably need a new website.
The second one is a little more practical — does your website 1) accurately reflect your brand at its very best and 2) serve as a fantastic marketing and sales tool to help you meet your business goals? If you can’t trust that when someone heads from social media to your site, they’re going to fall more in love with your brand, have a great experience, and be converted into a customer or a more devoted reader… you need a new website.
Thanks so much for giving me a place to get this off my chest. Here it is: WHAT DO YOU EVEN DO, EXACTLY?
My biggest website pet peeve is when I get to a website and it’s really well designed (or not!), and it takes me like four minutes to figure out what kind of business it’s for. There’s usually some clever piece of copy like “Helping you discover the beauty inside…” and I’m like… Are you a plumber? An exfoliation company? A life coach. NO CLUE.
Please, for the love of my sanity / your business’ future, make sure you have a clear, simple, “brand statement” that makes it caveman-clear what you do and who you do it for, and put that front and center on your website.
If you need a formula, try this one: [We do this thing / make this product] for [these kinds of people] to help them [insert the benefit here].
Yeah, I mean, we’ve established that I love an extended metaphor at this point, right?
So many of our clients have come to us trying to define how their website should look… the kinds of fonts and colors and imagery it should have. They typically see another site they like and go, “Okay, something like THIS,” or they’ve spent hours on Pinterest searching “Modern website” and end up with a mishmash of colors of fonts and colors and textures from other websites that don’t feel like them… and hand it over in hopes that someone else can make it all make sense.
And I think it’s important to realize that a designer can’t give you a brand… they can only give your brand something to wear.
Just like a great interior designer doesn’t GIVE your home a style, they reveal it; good graphic design should do the same. When we set out to design your website, we didn’t want to give you a “new look.” We wanted this new site to feel like the website you should have always had… so steeped in your style that it spoke to who you really are… that it was made with history and depth and texture and family… it didn’t just look beautiful; it felt like you.
If you’re searching for inspiration for your new website design, my favorite place to look is where you live: in your closet, in your home, on your shelves, on your walls. What tones and textures have you always gravitated towards? For example, some of the hex codes of the new Chris Loves Julia site we pulled directly from images of your home… this moody dark green/blue is actually from your old kitchen! (And I drew that little home icon to match your arched living room windows… a little nod to all the readers who’d know.)
When you’re conceptualizing your website, it should feel like your online home. How do you want people to experience the space? Should it be fun, colorful, exciting, vibrant? Sophisticated, airy, open, natural, organic? Feminine, classic, Southern, traditional? Light and bright, with occasional impactful + moody moments? Try thinking of your site this way and let the inspiration flow!
Honestly, in this day and age of the internet, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t have a website you love, and there’s no excuse not to.
No matter what industry you’re in, today’s consumer makes decisions for almost every aspect of their life based on branding and marketing. Faced with two options, we’re typically going to go with the product with better branding. We expect our local bagel shop to have a decent website. We assume anyone in a creative space or in the influencer culture will have an excellent one.
Thankfully, we also have more access than ever to good design — with the advent of really fantastic website templates (COUGH COUGH), you don’t need to know code, be a designer, or have a bajillion dollars to invest in a beautiful, strategic website.
So, if you’ve been putting off that website design or overhaul because ain’t nobody got time for that, you’re overwhelmed with where to start, or you aren’t sure the end result’s going to be worth it… here’s my advice as your self-appointed new designer wingman: a website you feel confident in, that accurately reflects who you are at your best and helps you be known for what you do best… one that you actually love? That kind of website can change the game for you. I’ve seen it over and over again. So don’t settle for any less.
TONIC has launched new templates today for Interiors Influencers, but they also have the most beautiful templates for every niche! Use code CLJ15 to get 15% off any site
We designed the Charly line of sofas, chairs, and ottomans with perfect proportions for comfort — with wide arms, a loungey depth, and stylish and practical lumbar pillows. Available in 70 kid-friendly, pet-friendly fabrics, this line was created with families in mind.
Our wood grain Shaker cabinet fronts were designed for busy, high-traffic homes like ours. Clad with durable textured thermofoils, this line is compatible with Sektion, Akurum, Godmorgon, and Besta cabinets from IKEA. It's the perfect, practical way to add the warmth of wood to all the rooms of your home.
We have teamed up with Loloi to create a line of rugs that are as affordable as they are beautiful. This collection houses a great mix of traditional and modern rugs, in cottage-y colorways, as well as vintage-inspired beauties that you’ll want to roll out in every room.
We partnered with Stuga on a line of hardwood floors — The Ingrid is really livable, and the color is very neutral. It doesn’t lean warm or cool, it’s that just right in-between. We have really loved putting it everywhere in our house. It’s the best jumping-off point for design, no matter your interior style. In addition to being beautiful, Ingrid is really durable — we have three kids, and we always have a home construction project going on. Ingrid stands up to it all.
Looking for our favorite things? A place to shop our home room by room, or just catch up on what Julia's wearing / loving right now? Browse the CLJ shop.
Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here.
We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen.
Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.
Yesterday was the launch of our new Polly rug collection with Loloi! The support has been overwhelming and we’re so excited to finally share this labor of love with you all. The collection was inspired from a need in the market–something to mix and match with vintage rugs, or vintage-inspired rugs like our first collections […]
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