A key tool in any web designer’s or developer’s kit should be a set of idea files. These are files filled with great ideas that you see on the Web or in print ads, and can refer to over time.
You should have a few files, some hard copies of screen shots and some made up of bookmarks to actual sites. Depending on your area of expertise, these might include: great home pages, navigation schemes, color schemes, order page copy, clean layout, catalog structures, headlines, favorite web sites from a specific industry, competitive sites, and so on.
Knowing the Sitepoint audience, I am confident that some of you are already typing away about copyright violation. Hold on there. All I’ve said is that you should have a file or files where you store great ideas. That way, when you need ideas, you can use your files as an easy way to “jog” your mind and get some inspiration. You still need to follow applicable copyright laws.
For instance, right now I’ve started doing marketing consulting to a variety of healthcare practices, including web site design. So now part of my desk is covered with advertisements and web sites from a bunch of different medical practices. While I won’t steal copy or design, I can do three things with them:
1. I can show them to clients to get a sense of what they do and do not like. This also establishes me as a credible resource to them.
2. I can use these to develop a point of view about effective and ineffective marketing techniques in healthcare. This point of view helps me write articles and establish myself as an expert in this field.
3. I can use these examples for inspiration.
Do you follow this practice? Should you?