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SkillShare - A place to discuss Web Standards and Web Design topics


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    Hey guys, i'm sure that you've heard this a million times by now, but i'm stuck on creative ideas for a layout. I am a really good programmer / coder / dba / etc, but i almost COMPLETELY lack creativity for layouts! And we all know that no one will ever hire you if you lack DESIGN skills -- no matter how good of a developer you may be.

    Anyway, i was wondering if i could get some criticism for the FLASH version to a website that i'm getting ready to remodle (due to a company name change), and also on the new HTML version that i am in the process of brainstorming layout ideas for right now. I will provide a link for the FLASH version, and links to images of the HTML designs so far, and i would appreciate any helpful criticism.

    The look i'm trying to go for is "dark" "modern" "cutting edge" "technology" "professional" "industrial" etc. I am aware that it is very difficult to have a "dark" theme that people will also regard as a "professional" image, but this is something that i am pretty firm on.

    Here is the Flash version:

    Here are the html images.
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    The target market is small businesses, and personal / side businesses. I've had one client that i got from other work that i was doing elsewhere, and i decided that i want to continue working for myself, which is why i started this, but i'm starting to realize that --despite how well i may be able to program and code things, i may not have what it takes to "design" things...

    I have been looking at what others are doing for a long time now, and bookmarking all the websites that i feel i can use for inpiration and guidance. I've tried so many ideas with Gimp (linux's photoshop), but nothing comes to any satisfactory results. Here are some more of my blunderings:
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    I have been seriously considering paying a freelance designer for front end *design* work, as i could handle the xhtml css php mysql js, etc, but the problem is finding one that is decent at design, and who doesn't charge an arm and a leg...

    I'm still not going to give up on trying to improve my own design skills, though. I KNOW that eventually i will realize where i'm going wrong, and be able to think past it. For example, i am trying to create a "dark" and "futuristic" feel while maintaining the "professional" aspect. Well, it is not that it cannot be done, it is only that i cannot *envision* how it *should* be done, and so i end up creating disasterpieces.

    For my personal websites, it would be almost adequate enough to literally "rip off" an existing design, and then modify the hell out of it until it becomes essentially "my own", and suits my needs and tastes; but for the Ionisis site, this could not be done, because i really cannot find a really *dead on* example of what i am envisioning.

    Hell, even my own personal sites (see signature) lack design talent. I *hate* this damned "designer's block"! :(

    Anyway, thanx for the tips.
  4.  permalink
    Well, since no one can be bothered to answer I'll take a shot at it. If you take a look at Smashing Magazine's list of dark designs, you'll notice that most of them are based on a grid and are in fact very simple.

    First you should try to decide what kinds of content you want to display and where, and aim for a good structure and maximum readability, since that's a major problem when putting red on black for example. Do a black and white text only version first and when you're satisfied with the overall design, add what is needed in terms of graphics and nothing more. Try to use plenty of white space and a proper line height for the paragrahps and headings.

    If you can't do graphic design, as you mentioned earlier, it's probably better to build the site in the browser rather than Photoshop. That way you see how the text is actually rendering and you don't have to struggle with the decisions you made before checking whether or not they were even possible to implement.

    Try to figure out what's the least amount of design elements you need to feel comfortable with the page — that way it should also be easier to finalize with minimal amount of designer work.
  5.  permalink
    By joe, i think i've got it! I came up with this by FREAK accident. I was trying to do something almost completely different, but it kept going in a direction that i didn't want or like... until i tried experimenting with *textures*! :D

    I'm still *sure* that there is more that i can do for it before i start coding it, but i thought that i'd just throw the "work in progress" out there for some critique along the way. Thanx all.
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    Yeah, the whole photoshopping part of the process is actually brand spanking new to me. I used to build my websites by coding straight out of the bullpin, but if you look at any of them ( ) you will notice that they all have something in common:

    If it can't be done in css alone, then i did not get done at all! In other words, all of my previous sites lack almost any graphics at all, because i never thought that was part of the process. It sounds stupid, i'm sure; but that is the penalty to being a self-taught developer: no one ever tells you the best/easiest way to work. I've been doing this stuff for 4+ years now, and had never even OWNED a graphix program before, lol. What got my to switch to this method is because i noticed that with the few freelance projects i've done, they all complained about a lack of graphix. So after doing my research (googling, same thing :D), i noticed that there was a *process* for doing what i have been doing, to yield more "creative" results.

    And here we are!

    Thanx for your tips; much appreciated.
  7.  permalink
    I am taking everyone's advice, and *trying* to weene myself off the 'future/tech' theme, but it's not coming very easy :D. Here are some new approaches at the whole "Professionalism" thing, let me know what you think:

    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2008 edited
    I like #3. It is not quite there yet, not something I can put a finger on, but it could just be the lack of proper content...
    One comment, however - depending on who you will be targeting with the finished site, you may want to give menu font some more thought. It is not quite as easy to read as perhaps it could be.
  8.  permalink
    the icon for the logo is too big, try it a bit smaller so there is more space between it the and the borders.
    Do you refer to the borders of the header? I will give it a shot, thanks.

    I personally don't like the 'content' and 'options' down the side.

    I agree with you on that.

    Dont like the font you have used for the headings, I think that would look better if you used a similar font to the one you have for the name.

    You know, it's funny because in some other design forum people were saying that the font for the header is lame, and to use a normal font. I did not agree, but i am here to listen, not to dispute other people's opinions. That font is actually a font that i made myself, but at the moment i only completed the alphabet and numbers. If anyone actually likes it, just let me know, and i will give you a copy of the ttf file. I plan on releasing it under the GPL license. The font name is (appropriately enough) "Ionisis".

    Also, i kinda ditched the whole new layout, because i'm really trying to break myself of designing the site to *my* tastes; so i'm in the process of trying to brainstorm a whole new "ordinary" and "professional" look. I guess that i was just thinking that i needed something that looked "technical" to impress potential clients. But now i'm starting to realize (thanx to everyone's input) that i need something that looks good to *them*, even if i don't really like it...

    Thanx all; i will be back when i finally come up with something semi-normal...
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