Its amazing how quickly you can settle into a rut. I have found this with the way I've been designing sites. You start to like a certain look, and before long everything you're doing looks the same. To try to get myself out of a rut, and to challenge myself creatively, I decided to build a 'conceptual' site - i.e. its not 'live' but its a trial site that gives me some practice in doing things differently.
I am totally in love with blue and white things, so that was my theme. I went over to my 'Indigo' Pinterest board, grabbed some images, did a quick logo mockup and then set about looking through sites that really inspire me. I definitely lean towards clean lines, a minimal approach with lots of white space. But I've also started defaulting to wide horizontal bands, with indexed pages that end up creating a lovely long scrolling page with perhaps a few too many 'stripes' in them. I didn't want that to happen here. I wanted to mix it up a bit.
Some of the designers building sites I really love are Station Seven and Go Live HQ. Pinterest is obviously full of great inspiration from both Wordpress and Squarespace fields. You can have a look at my website inspo board over here if you like.
I like to make notes and draw everything out with paper and pencil first, so I get a sense of what works, what kind of layout I'd like, where things fit and what the site map will be. That done, I put together some key graphics for my imaginary site/shop/dreamspace that would be clickable once live (see pics below).
Themes and things
Then I chose a Squarespace theme, tweaked the design elements like fonts, colours, buttons and site width etc., and populated the home page with my content. I also just checked how the layout would work on mobile and tablet, and it looked good to me! Add in some social accounts, scrolling Instagram carousel and some T's and C's and I was done.
When in a rut...
I would highly recommend taking a morning or a day off every now and again, put your work aside, and make something you really want to make. Dream a bit, explore and experiment and then put something together where you are your dream client and there aren't any limits. Places to get inspiration are good old Google, Pinterest, Behance and any number of other places. Whenever you're doing research for a client, and you see something you'd like to try, pop it into Evernote or save it for a rainy day and then come back to those things every now and again to try them out. You might surprise yourself with the result!