Pressplaymedia’s Blog

Archive for the ‘Starting a website’ Category

When I’m creating or redesigning a website, I usually take some time to crawl around the web and seek out sites that fit in the same category for ideas, or just check out the newest sites on various top-lists for innovative approaches. Besides checking out my favourite designers’ portfolios for latest creations, these are the bookmarks that never let me down:

My top 10 sites for inspiration

I’m pretty confident you’ll bookmark at least a few of these, as they are awesome resources for cool new websites:

1. TheFWA
TheFWA
The Favourite Website Awards (web awards at the cutting edge) is my primary source for finding new web design techniques, and modern / abstract design ideas.

2. DopeAwards
Dope Awards

A great resource for cool flash sites, which are sorted in four groups: Dynamic, Original, Professional and Effort.

3. BestWebGallery
BestWebGallery

A nicely designed site listing nice designs.. What more can you want?

4. TheBestDesigns
TheBestDesigns

A good resource for interesting CSS and Flash sites.

5. WebsiteDesignAwards
WDA

Regularly updated site for progressive CSS and Flash designed websites.

6. CSS-Designed
CSS Designed

Daily updated gallery showcasing beautiful CSS designed websites.

7. CSS Artillery
CSS Artillery

Another showcase of inspirational CSS-based sites.

8. LightOnDark
LightOnDark

I love dark designs and this site is all about those! A feast for my darker side if you will..

9. FaveUp
FaveUp

A very nice site, not only listing cool CSS and Flash sites, but other designs like logos and business cards as well, a useful resource indeed.

10. TemplateMonster
TemplateMonster

Although I never base my designs off templates, the designers at TemplateMonster have a touch for keeping things clean and simple, so I check out their new designs from time to time

And then some

Other inspirational sites I check out often:

WebCreme
DesignSnips
CSS Zen Garden
DesignCharts
DesignInEurope
DesignMeltdown

Xhilarate
DesignSnack
ScreenFluent
PurePleasureDesign Blog
TheWebAward Highest Rated
CSS Elite
WakeUpGallery
Kool Sites @ Kirupa

The last one is a plug for Kirupa.com, one of my favourite resources for tutorials, their forums have a great community of designers, so I usually check out their favourites too.

That’s it for now..

With these links you should be able to find some pretty awesome sites for fresh ideas. But remember, professional designers don’t have to look for inspiration outside, they just have to look inside 😉

Happy browsing!

And if you think a great site is missing on my list, let me know by leaving comments / feedback!

Your cousin can draw some really nice pictures (besides, pencil strokes are simple and clean, just what you would like your website to be). Your friend knows some Photoshop (she uses it to make her pictures look prettier on social networking sites and she sure does a great job!). Your neighbour’s son is an avid blogger and his blog about iPhone over-clocking-or-something is quite nice. And all of these people have offered to design your website for free. Why would you even bother searching for and worst of all paying for a designer?

While a website designer’s job is indeed all of the above, web design encompasses much more than just drawing pretty pictures, editing photos and knowing HTML code. It’s not just a profession, it’s an art – therefore, not only does being a designer require deep industry knowledge, it also requires a touch of talent.

Let me point out a few important reasons why you probably need an experienced designer.

1. User Experience

A good web designer can predict how users will behave on a website from the moment they enter, what they will likely be looking for (and where they will be looking for it), can predict their interaction and movement around the site and optimize the site’s content and navigation accordingly. In some cases it is also important to optimize the site for different types of users, and the designer must be able to see into their minds (not literally as in telepathy, although it would help).

Each function or part of the website (e.g. newsletter sign-up) will work much better when presented in a compelling and straight-forward manner – in respect, poorly presented functions will be overlooked, or worse – ignored. User experience is thus one of the most important parts of web design, and an integral part of getting your message across to the customer (whether the message is “buy this now” or “come back later for new stuff”, it will be more – and in some cases only effective when presented in a clear and concise manner).

A designer’s task is to communicate an idea to the end-user, visually. So, if you think of it like that, bad design is bad communication.

2. Aesthetics

A nice web design can make your website look professional , trustworthy, and make it stand out of the crowd. The first few seconds a visitor looks around a website are usually the most important, because that is when the visitor forms his opinion, especially if he’s new and has never heard of or had any past experience with the company.

A bad web design will make visitors leave your site and never come back. The ‘net has been around long enough, and websites looking like 1995 simply don’t leave a positive impression on visitors anymore. Unless the visitor really is interested in something only you can offer, chances are he/she will look further.

If you don’t care how your company and your products/services are presented, how much do you really care about quality? It’s not enough if you know the answer to that question. Let your site’s visitors know too.

3. Innovation

Good designers strive to innovate, and even if your business is as old as the pyramids, the designer will find a new and interesting way to lure customers in, and to separate your website from the thousands of competitors it might have.A good looking and innovative website will get more traffic and that means more potential buyers. In fact, it might get so much traffic that you won’t need to spend that much on printed ads and other forms of advertising! – And that’s a good thing!

So, you’re ready to take your business online. But are you prepared for the process?

Here is a checklist of things you need, before you even start thinking about pretty designs.

1. A very clear vision of what you as a business expect from your website

Believing that you “just need a website” is one of the most common and also one of the worst mistakes.
Here are a few questions you need to answer before you start looking for a developer.
Take a minute and think about your website’s target audience and what they’ll likely be expecting to find on your website.
Will it act only as a presentation of your company and your services?
Or do you also plan on selling your products online, or do you just want to inform people about them, or both?
Do you want to keep in touch with your customers and/or provide online support for your products?
Will you provide constant updates about your company’s services and products, or will it be a static website?
Will your site be multi-lingual or aim at different markets?
Are you interested in business-to-business dealings? If so, what information and online tools will you offer to other businesses?
What content are you planning on providing your visiting customers – user manuals, product specifications, software updates, etc?
I could go on, but if you put yourself in the role of a clueless customer, I’m pretty sure you will find other important things specific to your case.

A good tip is to check out websites of your competition (or better yet websites of established businesses) for inspiration and see what content and tools they offer their clients / website visitors.

If you have a clear knowledge of what you need and what you aim for, you will make work much easier for the developer and this will save you precious time and money. And that’s a good thing!

2. Content for your website

Depending on the purpose of your website, you will need to prepare written and photo material to populate the content of your site.
The developer will usually give you a list, but here are the most common things, just in case:
– your company’s logo / slogan (if you don’t have a logo or a slogan yet, get it!)
– a well written description of your company (about us), company goals, accomplishments, etc
– a small description of key personnel and your company’s references (this is good for building customer trust in your company)
– a full list of services you offer with short descriptions
– a list of products you offer including descriptions or specifications (at least your featured products)
– if you intend to sell those products online, a picture of each product is a must, as well as the current price list
– your company’s contact and legal details (a map to your headquarters/shops is also very useful)

These are just a few pointers, but in general, think of what is useful information for your audience and add that to the list.

3. Money

Have a budget ready, because what you pay is what you get!
Seriously, if you have a strict budget, communicate with your web developer and see what you can get for your set budget and maybe discard some of the things that are less important to your audience.
If you are completely clueless about web design be careful – some web developers will try to bundle in as much as they can (things you might not even need!) to raise their total price.
Of course, the bigger the budget, the more functionality will be added to your website, things like content management, e-commerce, user community, etc, and generally more time will be spent on polishing all of the details.
If your needs are bigger than your budget and the local prices are too high for you, try outsourcing the development to countries where web design services are much cheaper (http://www.getafreelancer.com is a good start).