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  1. #1
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    Question Struggling with a Holistic Approach to Site Design ... Recommendations?

    Background: I don't have a graphics or art or design background. I am a hard core techie and I can use/work with any tool from vi or notepad through Expression Web. I'm also hard headed and literal minded and I don't get the nuances of design.

    In the past I have developed bland, junky, meandering, boring sites that don't pop. I finally came to that realization after paying for a professional critique of my current site and grokking exactly what the overall impression of my site is.

    So I must redo my small business site because the design just plain blows, and I am struggling with the entire ball of wax.

    I would like to receive some input on the following general problem: I have extreme difficulty reconciling "everything" about a site design. That is what I mean by a holistic approach.

    That is:

    Clip art, images, art in general: I look at pretty WP templates on sites like Themeforest and the big problem I keep running into is WHAT THE HELL DO I USE FOR ART AND IMAGES? The review I just got kept coming back to the lack of visual accenting as a key problem. Everything I do in my line of work is text based, and while I have screen shots, I don't have anything funny, cute, interesting or sexy of my own to work into the site.

    Content: Modern web templates and the modern way of presenting commercial web sites seem to emphasize terse, short text items in place of long paragraphs or blocks of text. Everything's choppy, chopped up into bite sized morsels. IE: tons of site designs will have a "gallery" of three or four or six small images and accompanying captions alongside the images, and you click on the category that you want. How do you plan the content for today's style of web site?

    Platform: I have been using Drupal - and the Drupal techie propellerhead culture of just killing yourself to get a bunch of modules that hardly work to wire correctly into your site to support decent modern features is burning me out. IE, a stupid small requirement like social media "like" buttons will easily burn up several evenings of tinkering with stupid Drupal security features and quirks of the add on module. I HOPE that Wordpress is better in this respect, because that's where I am leaning. Thoughts?

    I do not mean to start a flame war about Drupal - I really like it - but it alone has killed my productivity by creating myriad tech distractions and adding labor, so I can't clear my head and just make my freaking web site look good.

    Lastly - I don't have $2K-$5K to hire someone to do a proper job of this. But I am willing to learn in order to DIY.

    I'm crying uncle in this post because past approaches of just hacking a web site together have yielded poor results that colleagues don't seem to respect. I need clarity. I need to know how to approach the project. High concept first? Or does the template you buy drive everything? That actually seems to be how it is, really. Maybe I'm wrong.

    I don't know how to get started and not wind up with another piece of poo web site.

    I think what I really need is a decent tutorial that focuses on the THOUGHT PROCESS of web design, and not the lame, stupid nuts and bolts of web design.

    Any direction appreciated.

  2. #2
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    ralph.m's Avatar
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    Hi donw9876. Welcome to the forums.

    I don't have a graphics or art or design background ...
    Neither do I (just for context below. )

    I look at pretty WP templates on sites like Themeforest and the big problem I keep running into is WHAT THE HELL DO I USE FOR ART AND IMAGES? ... I don't have anything funny, cute, interesting or sexy of my own to work into the site.
    Seriously, most of that stuff is **** anyway (that was an expletive!) People don't come to a site for "pop" and all that. They still come for content, so make that your priority. I find that if you start with the content and organize it in a way that makes sense, your design is mostly done. You can then add in something appropriate—like some nice colors, maybe an image or two ... but try to make the image relevant. If some facy-pants designer/artists can create beautiful, decorative images to complement their layouts, well good for them (and yes, I am jealous of them) but I don't think that's the important thing at all.

    Criticisms like "lack of visual accenting" don't come from regular site visitors, but from over-schooled academics / artists and the like, who have lost the common perspective. While I respect their expertise, I'd still take their comments with a grain of salt from a practical point of view. Don't forget that you can get free design reviews here!

    Modern web templates and the modern way of presenting commercial web sites seem to emphasize terse, short text items in place of long paragraphs or blocks of text. Everything's choppy, chopped up into bite sized morsels ... How do you plan the content for today's style of web site?
    Modern websites are cluttered, illogical piles of junk on the whole. Be different. Don't plan content. Let content plan your site, so to speak.

    I have been using Drupal ... I HOPE that Wordpress is better in this respect
    Hope in vain. Do yourself a favor and try ExpressionEngine, or MODx if you can't afford that.

    I need clarity. I need to know how to approach the project.
    As I said, focus on content and how to present it logically. If you get that right, you are most of the way there. Putting anything else first is cart before horse territory.

    I think what I really need is a decent tutorial that focuses on the THOUGHT PROCESS of web design
    You could try a few of the books at SitePoint, like The Principles of Beautiful Web Design.

  3. #3
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    Hi, Ralph,

    Thanks for the reply.

    A bit more background:

    The critique that I just received from a web designer was paid, and it was a blow by blow examination of how a visitor would perceive my site. This particular reviewer is top rated by his (literally hundreds of) past clients. His comments were all specific, and all were logical. The stuff he was critiquing was by no means hipster driven snobbery or driven by an "over schooled academic" view.

    Some of his comments were about content, wording of things like menus, and organization, which I can change easily enough.

    But a lot of his comments were about how essentially dry and boring most of the pages look, and THAT is because before I did exactly you say: I focused on content and wording, instead of presentation.

    The guy focused favorably on a "gallery" of thumbnail images (clip art) that I have on the home page which are links to some subject pages. But he criticized the poor quality of the clip art. I don't even know what to replace it with or where to obtain reasonably priced images or clip art. And I think he's 100% right, it looks cheesy if someone is used to commercial web sites.

    Because I thought the site was so "right" before, and I am now seeing clearly that the site has multiple presentation problems that contribute to a ghetto look, I now distrust my own design skill. So I am looking for a template + images and art "out of a can" that will correct the problems.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by donw9876 View Post
    images (clip art) that I have on the home page which are links to some subject pages.
    Maybe you need to investigate stock photography sites. There are lots of them—some free, some with a small fee—where you can choose from many thousands of images. Examples include:

    iStockPhoto
    gettyimages

    And some free ones:
    http://www.bittbox.com/
    http://www.cgtextures.com/
    http://www.grungetextures.com/
    http://urbandirty.com/
    http://www.imageabstraction.com/
    http://www.imageafter.com/
    http://www.morguefile.com/
    http://www.fudgegraphics.com/
    http://photobucket.com/
    http://www.photoxpress.com/
    http://www.sxc.hu/


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