Brainstorming the LOOK You Want for Your Website?

The point of this blog post is to help you revive what’s already in your brain and keep you focused.  Now it’s the time to decide how you would like your website to look before handing your ideas to the web designer.

To avoid getting swamped in endless busy-work and ending up with a site that no one can understand, decide on the main theme of your site. With your mission statement in hand (click here to read about mission statements), you’re almost ready to begin the website construction. In this next section, you’ll learn the type of content you’ll need to obtain in order to give your website some pizzazz!

Collecting Your Content

You’ve decided on your mission. You wrote it maybe rewritten it a couple of times.  But now it’s time to gather the content that will reflect the ideas and messages of your site.

There are two types of content:

*Content you already have:

If you’re planning a business site, you probably have marketing brochures, product briefs, sales letters, and business cards. Assemble these in one place. With luck, everything you have is already in a digital format; otherwise, enter it into digital form by scanning or typing it in to your computer.

*Content you still have to collect:

If you’re a business owner, assemble a few employees together creating a focus group.  This focus group can help with ideas on what may look best.  You may be surprised at how much knowledge your employees have of your business and how much they can contribute to this venture.

Let’s say that you want a website that provides the ultimate source for bird watchers.  You have a collection of product brochures, but they are not sufficient to attract customers to your website. So, it’s off to the search engines to see what your competitors are doing.

The following are some good search engines you can use for your research:

  • Google.com
  • MSN.com
  • Yahoo.com
  • Ask.com
  • Bing.com

Web Design Basics

Web designers can help create a “look and feel” for your website. Here are ideas of what colors might work well for a website.

So, What Works for Your Site?

As mentioned earlier, your “look and feel” should be according to the type of business you are in.

Here are some guidelines to start your thought process:

*Sites for children or child-related topics, e.g., toys classically use bright primary and secondary colors such as red, green, yellow, and blue.

Example: http://toysRus.com

*Professional and corporate sites use shades of blue or green (such as navy blue or forest green), along with grays, tans, and beiges.

Example: http://divinecreativityinc.com

*Online-store color format is all over the map and often relates to what they sell. For example, bath and beauty products can be presented in shades of pink and beige, or forest green and white. Clothing stores can be a bit bolder, using a bright navy blue or crimson red along with tan or gray.

Example: http://shiseido.com

Use Images Wisely

Images can help put into words what you want to express. They can also help users understand how to use the site.  Images express ideas.  For example, if you own an ice skating rink and you would like a website encouraging families to come out and skate, a good image to use might be one of a family skating, laughing and having a good time, which image expresses the feeling of fun and family bonding, without you actually putting the words “Fun and Family bonding” on the site.  Using only the words would not have the same effect as the graphic.

Remember, it is the feeling you generate from your site, i.e., pictures and words that sell, not boring information.  Allow for a balance of good information and feeling on your website. Images should be chosen carefully. There are an infinite number of images to choose from, so the next step is to look for images that best suit your needs.  Remember to use photographs or graphics that are royalty free to reduce your expenses or have a graphic designer create them for you so you have the rights the legal right to use them.

But How Do I Find Images to Use on My Website?

One of the trickier tasks in website development is finding and collecting just the right images for your website. Assuming you don’t have a big graphics budget, you’ll be doing some investigating to come up with some good ones.  Many times I supply my clients with pictures and graphics for a small fee and/or send them to www.clipart.com.  Clipart.com is a site that has photos, graphics, and website buttons and more; clip art is a small part of their site.

Be mindful that all images are copyrighted.  Know if the image you are using is royalty free or not!  There are so many sites out there with beautiful images, but they’re not free for the taking. Although it’s simple to download an image from someone else’s website, you may think twice before downloading for use on your own website or for commercial use.  Also note that there are many beautiful images that are royalty-free!

There are three main sources of images:

  • Copyrighted images you can get for free
  • Copyrighted images you must pay to use, and
  • Images that you create, or hire graphic designer to create, and you own the copyright to

Let me clarify a bit about copyrights. When you create something, you own it. No one else can use it unless they obtain authorization to use it, or purchase rights to the item from you. Even though a site might not contain a copyright notice it is wise to assume that everything used on someone else’s site is copyrighted. Whoever owns the site always owns all the words and all the images on the site (unless they used the images or text without authorization from the rightful owner). When you stay within these guidelines, and find or create legal graphics, it will, undoubtedly save you money and aggravation in the long run.

Want to jazz up your site with appealing graphics?

Most word processors, desktop publishing software, and image processing software applications come with a wide variety of free images, e.g., like Microsoft Word and Publisher.

Another alternative is to use royalty-free artwork. The words royalty-free might sound difficult but, it actually isn’t.  A royalty means the fee you pay the owner of a copyright for permission to use the copyrighted item, each time you use it. Royalty-free means that instead of having to pay a fee each time you use the image, you can pay a flat fee once, then you are able to use the image over and over again.

There are two ways to get images royalty-free:

You can purchase CD-ROMs containing thousands of royalty-free images. Check out your local, large office supply stores to see what’s available.

There are a number of places on the web to download royalty-free art, for a fee. One of the best values is iStockphoto or you can Google royalty free art, copyright free art, or simply, free art.

No matter where you choose to get your artwork and images; make sure you read the fine print, the restrictions on use and the legal notices on the CDs. Most royalty-free work is available for use on a public website, but sometimes they restrict use on businesses, schools, eCommerce and non-profit organizations.

To Clip Art or Not to Clip Art

Clip art is a mixed blessing. You’ll find loads of it on the internet or on inexpensive CDs, and you’ll probably find images expressing the idea you want to convey. The trouble is that clip-art images are simple line drawings and, as such, they don’t always express your unique professional message.

If you are considering using clip art, look at many of them before you make a choice.  You can always ask your web designer for suggestions, or ask them if they have any professional images or clip art you can use.

In short, the best suggestion I can make is to consider images or photographs for you website.  Photographs usually look better than clip art and it’s worth considering these images for your web pages.  If you have a camera and a good eye, you may consider stopping your search for images altogether and capturing your own.  Again, ask your web designer for help in this area.  Some web designers can even take photos for you.

For more tips and advice on web design check out my ebook “8 (now 9) Easy Steps to your Complete Website” how to communicate with your web designer and get remarkable results, visit http://divinecreativityinc.com/ebook.html

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