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What I Learned Working with...

Alexis Hickox on her updated website for Alexis Hickox Design.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

Alexis Hickox on her updated website for Alexis Hickox Design.

There’s a bit of a time disparity between writing these blog posts and actually publishing them. I currently have about 18 posts waiting to be published before I may get to this one. I banked a lot of posts before I started publishing them to make sure I’d never have a week without something to post in case something kept me from doing it.

At the time of writing this post, I’m also working on an opt-in gift for my website. It's currently called 10 Things Your Website Must Have. Both are present in my world at the moment.

All that’s to say, I’m enjoying putting a stronger emphasis on sharing what knowledge I have of web design, client relationships, and growing a business here in these posts and elsewhere online.

It took me too long to realize that starting a business shouldn’t just be about doing it for myself. If I’m going to start and run a business, I need to also work on paying it forward to anybody who comes along after I do.

How it all started with Alexis

Alexis and I had actually gone to the same school, though our time there didn’t happen concurrently. I was aware of her, but never got to know her. It wasn’t until our mutual friend, Landon Coats, suggested we work together that our relationship changed.

Alexis was looking to transform her website from the student portfolio-looking site it had been to a powerful and eye-catching destination she could use with serious clients. I was looking for some design work that could support the redesign of my own website.

Funny how the timing of things works out.

After a few messages sent back and forth, we decided to meet in person to further discuss working together.

The business of Alexis Hickox Design

I met with Alexis in a Starbucks out in Rowland Heights, CA. I was immediately struck by her enthusiasm, her attention to detail, and her exacting standards. Those are qualities I always try to embody, although she’s definitely got me beat when it comes to her buoyant personality.

Her preparedness was something that struck me right away. I always try to go into any meeting knowing what needs to be accomplished, but she took that up several notches.

Not only did she know what needed to be accomplished, she knew exactly how to do it and, more importantly, why she wanted her website done a particular way. It’s always refreshing to hear from someone why they feel the way they do about a website. She understood the emotional impact of a website and not just that it should look nice.

Delving deep into the reasons why something should be done is an important step to take with any design work. The desire to understand the emotional impact of a project is a quality I encourage everyone to develop and treasure. It’s absolutely something I’m going to continue working on.

When you understand the “why,” everything else falls into place. You’ll use a red color scheme in a website because you know that the website needs to inspire passion in a visitor. You’ll use imagery of women because you know that your target market consists primarily of them. You’ll use a serif font because you’re selling literary products and you understand the connection between serifs and books.

Basically, everything starts with "why."

Once we were on the same page about our respective products, I headed home and got to work compiling the necessary items to start building her website.

The website of Alexis Hickox Design

A lot of the elements that went into her new website were already present in her old one. She had all the pictures up and most of the text. The project was more of a redesign than a completely new website.

Even still, I have my project workflow and it’s important to stick with what works. I set up a new private board in Trello and a new folder in Google Drive for Alexis and I to share.

A quick aside, after setting up our shared Trello board and inviting Alexis to it, she was so impressed with the potential and capability of Trello that she showed it to her boss and helped make it a standard tool used at her workplace. Neat!

I got all of her website assets and dove headfirst into Squarespace.

Her previous website template had been one called “Avenue.” It was a decent template (all of Squarespace’s templates are), but it wasn’t one that was built with many site styling options in mind. I switched her template over to “Neuva,” a template in the incredible Brine family, and got to work on replacing all of her content.

As a quick aside, Brine is one of my favorite templates. Let me tell you exactly why:

The Best Squarespace Template (and Why You Should Use It)
Squarespace is wonderful. Full stop.

As with several projects I’ve completed, working on the home page of the website gave me a bit of trouble. Because it’s the first thing a visitor sees, it needs to make a strong impression. I tried several different options, but ended up choosing something more simple.

Oftentimes you’ll find that simpler is better.

Each subsequent page had their own challenges and successes. Her portfolio page stretched my coding muscles. I wanted to include clickable options under the heading that would filter the projects by category. It worked out really well and is a lot of fun to mess around with.

Her "about" page resembles her previous about page, save for one significant addition: her résumé. She had previously offered it as a downloadable PDF link, but I thought it would be fun and immersive to put all that information in a more easily viewable place. PDF links aren’t always enjoyable, so consider doing them differently.

All of these decisions were made in an effort to showcase Alexis and her work. She’s done amazing things and it was important to me that they were all displayed in a big and impressive fashion. I wanted her work to reflect her engaging personality and I feel I accomplished that.

The conclusion of Alexis Hickox Design

Alexis loved her website. I loved the design work she did for me. No matter how things turn out in the future for either of those projects, I’m happy to say that they were successes. I set out to make something great for her and I accomplished it all in a satisfying fashion.

The key points of the project were:

  • Put her moving and impressive print, film, and production design work front and center
  • Display her engaging and fun personality for current and future clients and friends
  • Give interested visitors a method of contacting her that was both immediate and direct

I feel that all those points were met with professionalism and style.

Along the way, I learned to not just come prepared to any project, but to over-prepare. I want every new client relationship to start with my client thinking, “Dang, Sean really knows his stuff and he’s passionate as hell about all of it. I definitely made the right choice.”

Working with Alexis helped me understand that creating something new for someone else isn’t just about making something cool looking. It’s all about fostering a friendly and creative atmosphere between two people.

You’ll feel better about the work you do and the other person will feel excited to pass on your name to other people who could benefit from your talents. Sometimes building a website isn’t just about building a website. It’s about connecting with like-minded people who want everyone they meet to benefit from working together.

I also worked with another friend of mine, Landon Coats. Click through the link below to learn about the design journey I took for his website. I also delve into what it was like working with him as a client.

What I Learned Working with...
Landon Coats on his portfolio website and blog.

Make some good friends, cats.

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.


Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶

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