Website makeovers: My path in the woods

Website makeovers: My path in the woods

Finding my way these days has felt a lot like being lost in the woods. When you’re lost in the woods, everything looks like a path. But there’s one that’s the right path, and it just takes attention to those small things – a broken twig, a trampled plant – to figure out the right way to go. And once you choose the one that’s right, it becomes so obvious which way was the right way all along. It’s not scary, because I know if I pay attention I’ll find it.

I’ve had a welcome flood of requests this week for new websites, and I’d like to tell you about this problem I have when it comes to web design. It’s called addiction, and it’s a problem I love to have. I’m lucky that Advokate’s services can align so closely with my own sickness – I never feel like I’m working at all. When somebody calls me while I’m in the middle of Advokate stuff and says, “Are you busy? Let’s hang out. What are you doing?” I find it really hard to say, “I’m working.” It’s not work if it’s your favorite thing to do, right?


I’ve been known to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, twiddling a website until it’s just right. It’s art, to me. It’s a creative process of trial-and-error. Maybe this font – no, too sterile… Okay, this one’s closer. What if I squeeze the letters together more… That’s more like it… and maybe it just needs a little more yellow for warmth… YES! Oh yes — I need to show this to someone RIGHT NOW, I’m so excited! (That’s usually when I call Cory in for oohs and ahhs. A few times a day, I squeal, “Can I show you something!??!?”) I don’t get this much of a kick out of painting, even – because the best part is that I’m doing this for other people. Let me tell you about it.

When I do a site for somebody, we sit down together, usually in their studio, store or space, and they tell me about how they want it to look. It’s harder when they’ve already got a website and so they have a vision in mind already. So the customer is talking about the technical stuff and how they’d like it set up and what pages and such, and often it’s a very similar thing and I’m listening, but what I’m really doing while they’re talking is absorbing.

I take in the colors they surround themselves with, their handwriting, the promotional materials they’ve already put together, the way they do their hair, their art – beyond just the media, to that underlying style that makes them unique — and then I go to my office and hold that flavor that defines them up against the images, fonts and site structures I work with and DING!DING!DING! find a match. It’s so exciting when I’ve tried every option – options that come close, but aren’t quite right – and then finally have that perfect match. Then it’s a matter of plugging in the information they provide, doing some light editing (which I also love – proofreading is something I have a knack for), and then the final tweaks.

Then, at 2 in the morning or whatever, I email them to tell them it’s ready and what do they think? And I have to go to bed and wait for them to reply. It’s hard to sleep. It’s like planning a surprise party, or waiting for somebody to open a painstakingly handmade present just for them – that same kind of care, excitement, thought, anticipation and anxiety.

I’m not the superbest coder/web developer/technical person ever, and because of that had some trepidation with my first websites for other people. But I’m realizing that when I do a website for somebody, it reflects who they are – or how I see them. It’s an intuitive portrait of them and it’s done with creativity and emotion and what I hope is a good understanding and connection of what they want — and I’m realizing that the design sense has more value. And – lucky me! – I’m now fortunate enough to have a few technically-minded friends in my toolbox that I can call on when I need a tweak that’s over my head, so these days I’m ready to jump into web design full-force.

I especially love when I can do this for somebody whose work I really admire, and this was the case recently with my friend and Shirt Factory colleague Adela Tavares. She’s an incredible painter, and I was not only honored, but creatively had a great time making her site. Designing it was actually the inspiration for this blog post. Thanks, Adela!

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, the Jackson Heights Elementary School PTA, Lower Adirondack Pride, and is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.