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What I Learned Working with...

Landon Coats on his portfolio website and blog.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

Landon Coats on his portfolio website and blog.

Let’s call this the inaugural entry into the ongoing series of posts about what I learned working on the websites for my wonderful clients. As I’m continuing to develop and grow this business of mine, I’m also looking into how other designers of all types grow their own business and audience.

I’m not trying to compare myself to them. Down that way is nothing but dissatisfaction. What I am trying to do is learn about what inspires them and figure out how they grew their own audience.

What I’m learning is they’re all teaching what they know and have learned through working with their own clients. Passing on knowledge is a great way to help inspire others while also building a dedicated following. That’s what I’m working on now and I encourage everyone reading this to do the same thing.

How it all started with Landon

I went to film school in Orange County with Landon. I had already graduated, but after working on some student films with him, we developed a good friendship. I shot a few of his films before deciding to move on to designing websites and tools on Squarespace.

Landon’s need for a great looking and functional website that could showcase his talent came at exactly the right time. I could provide him with just such a website. I was looking for ways to expand my own portfolio and blog, so all the stars aligned with this partnership.

I got to work building out his website, he wrote a wonderful guest blog post for my site, and we rode off into the proverbial website sunset together.

The business of Landon Coats

Working with Landon gave me the opportunity to make sure that all my website building plans, tools, and ideas were actually functional. His website build has been one of the most invaluable projects to date because it proved to me that working with someone else to make a complete website within two short weeks was actually possible.

So thank you, Landon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—you’re awesome.

Following our mutual agreement to work together, I set about bombarding him with everything I would need to create the website. Okay, it probably wasn’t such an onslaught of tasks that I threw his way, but I do need a lot of images and text from each of my clients before I can start building their website.

It’s my belief that I can’t tell their story nearly as well as they can, even for someone I’ve known for as long as I’ve known Landon.

I made him his own client portal on my website. I shared some Google Docs to fill out with him. I invited him to a private Trello board. I was in regular email contact with him.

I... Well, I gave him too much stuff.

He was great and took everything in stride, but I realized that half of everything I was sending him was superfluous.

Did I need to make an entire client portal page for him? Nope! Trello does essentially the same thing, it’s way more collaborative, and it runs in real time.

Did I need to throw Google Docs at him? Nope! Now I’ve got three Google Forms that ask about their personal information, their business basics, and who they believe their ideal customer is. It’s much more engaging.

Did I need to be in constant email contact with him? Nop— Well, kind of. This one may be a necessity depending on what I’m emailing someone about. I’ve had Landon’s phone number for a long time, so texting him worked just as well. That may not always be the case for a client so email is still essential. Sigh.

I feel the interactions I have with my clients are now more streamlined. I learned that removing all the cruft in my process made everything more efficient and enjoyable.

The website of Landon Coats

Now it’s just me and Squarespace. I know how to build websites on there like a champ. This isn’t my first website rodeo.

[cracks fingers and gets to work]

Hang on a second. Building a website for someone involved in a creative art isn’t something I’d done before. Sure, I made the website for the video production company I helped create, Studio A138, but this was a bit different.

This time I was creating a portfolio site for a single individual with exacting standards. The only person I really had to impress with the Studio A138 website was me and I’m usually partial to what I do. Landon’s website had a different weight to it.

This one felt more demanding.

I had been eyeing the “Miller” template for Landon’s site. This one seemed designed to showcase a person and their talent in a dynamic and visual way. I felt drawn into the template example. Taking that as a good sign, I went into the template with lots of confidence.

The intention with this site was to both introduce newcomers to Landon’s work and serve as a digital business card for him. It was important that his video reel was one of the first things a visitor sees. I stuck a giant video of his reel right under the “hero” image of his site.

Below that were some links to other parts of his website, accompanied by striking photos of Landon at work on his film sets. Engaging visitors with strong calls to action help draw people in and keep them moving through a site.

I rounded out the bottom half of the site with a personal bio, a running feed of his Instagram account and portfolio, and an invitation to contact him personally.

All of this was given a dramatic purple sheen. This is a color that’s fascinated me for a long time, so it was a delight to finally use it in such a prominent way on Landon’s site.

Every decision was made in an effort to encourage engagement with his visitors. If this was meant to be one of the first places Landon has people go to when they want to find out more about him, then it was essential that the website encouraged people to stay on it.

The conclusion of Landon Coats

I’m happy to say that Landon loved his website. We launched it together and it’s done well since it was completed. I’m also happy to say that I felt like I’d accomplished exactly what I set out to do when I started building it for him.

The key points were:

  • Showcase his past, current, and upcoming creative endeavors
  • Give him a dedicated place to share his writing through a site blog
  • Tell the world about how he became the filmmaker he is today
  • Give visitors a way to connect with and contact him directly

I feel that I hit all of those key points.

I also learned not to be so precious about the websites I create. If the goal of my custom website creation is to be able to teach my clients how to use and develop their websites in the future, then it’s silly to be surprised when they change things.

Building Landon his website helped me understand a better way to work with a client. It’s not about how many bells and whistles you can throw into your process. Most of the time, simpler is better.

I ditched the client portals. I ditched the Google Docs. I took a confusing process and turned it into a welcoming and comfortable one, for both my client and myself.

Sometimes, what you get out of working on a big project isn’t some fancy way to do a website trick that’ll change the internet forever. Sometimes, delving into a big project shows you that your process needs work and encourages you to make it the best it can be for everyone involved.

I also worked with the wonderful graphic designer, Alexis Hickox. Click through the link below to read about our website designing and building process. It's a great read about how to working well with web design clients.

What I Learned Working with...
Alexis Hickox on her updated website for Alexis Hickox Design.

Life is all about refinement, 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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