|WEB DESIGN AND WEB HOSTING, GRAPHIC DESIGN, WEB DESIGNERS|
While 6 or 7 years as a web designer does not sound like a terribly long time, in fact more than 90% of those claiming to be professional designers have come into the business in the last 18 months or less. Armed with some quickie web development software and a library of cheap clip art, a small army of amateurs is churning out cheap sites using drop-in-the-text-and-photos techniques and hoping to get rich quick. A lot of small businesses are trying to do it themselves using the same stuff and skills.
I suppose we in the business should actually be thankful. Every poorly designed site means less competition for our professionally designed work, so our clients have an advantage in the crowded web of 2 billion+ pages. And thankfully, none of the amateurs have a clue about web marketing, or how to design a "search-engine-friendly" web site, so our professional sites have a much better chance of coming up higher in the search engine results.
In fact, no two sites should ever be the same, although there are some common properties they should share. I always begin by examining the customer's particular product line and prospective market, then design a site that meets his or her particular needs and market niche.
Michael Connor, a designer and builder of remarkably authentic Colonial Reproduction Homes, for example, needed a visually informative site which reflected the fact that he is a designer as well as a builder. His company color scheme was basically "green" and the site needed a slight "technical" flair reflecting the design as well as manufacturing aspects of his business. So, take a peek at connorbuilding.com and see how a custom background integrated both his desired color theme and the "technical" flair to his site. Note also that his "A Connor Sampler" section leads the viewer through on a guided tour and then ends up at an index of the entire section for easy review. Incidentally, he sold a home off his web site to a lady in England, no kidding!
At the other end of the size spectrum, I recently completed a small site for a local inn up in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont. They wanted a warm and comfortable site that reflected their rural nature and the quaint charm of a small Vermont village. It's only 5 pages, so take a quick peek at chipmaninn.com. This was a very inexpensive site and is working quite well for them.
Another client, Barry Lane, insists on tons of images and animations in his education-related site (he has a of lot teachers and their students as visitors). The result is kind of "jumbled", but everyone seems to have a good time there and we get a lot of positive feedback. Check out discoverwriting.com. See what I mean by "slow loading"? Well, Barry's visitors are willing to wait, because they're eager to get in for the good stuff. The average web surfer might not be so understanding. This is a site where a sizeable "bolt-on" ecommerce store was added later to the original site.
I do a lot of single-page sites on our local Middlebury Community Network, and it's surprising how much can be stuffed on a single page if need be. An example of overkill on a single page would be COLDFIRE. It's slow loading, but don't laugh - Ernie got a $1000 order via plain email in the very first month, and it's not even a real e-commerce site!
My point is this: Each web site must reflect the particular character and message of the company. From plain vanilla to heavily graphic and interactive, each client should decide what type of image he or she wants to project out on to the web, and that will depend a lot on your target market.
And yes, I use only original art, which I personally create. You should find no "clip art" anywhere on any of my sites.
These have been a few examples, but the possibilities are endless. As long as the site has a pleasant look and feel, and is easy to navigate, your visitors probably will enjoy their stay.
Now on to the subject almost every visitor to this site is interested in:
Design by James