A Content Management System like WordPress makes it fairly easy for anyone, even with limited knowledge of web design and coding, to add content to their live site – which for web developers, turns out to be a double-edged sword. For any web designer it is greatly disappointing to turn over a beautiful, well-organized website to a client who then fills it with random photos, missppelled words, bad grammar, tacky fonts, clashing colors and the like. Basically an owner, in short order, can turn their website into looking like a ‘scrapbook’ and then wonder why it doesn’t gain or retain online traffic.
What to do? Providing ‘rules of engagement’ or creative boundaries will keep a site from looking unprofessional, cluttered, worn and dated, and still allow an owner to fully contribute to a website that both parties can be proud of. At PurpleTree we start at the beginning of a web development project by communicating in depth about why we are choosing a particular style and how it will benefit our client’s business goals. This sets the stage for setting standards of appearance for the site which includes content, colors, fonts, and photo selections – and making sure that they fit within the desired final product. The next step is organizing content into logical ‘departments’ that best assists the users in finding the information they need and want. Once the text is organized, pictures and graphics can be correctly selected and sized to enhance the information.
Here are some rules for creating and keeping a professional appearance:
Colors – set 3-5 to main colors, with some darker or lighter offsets that match or compliment the site theme. Black and white should be taken into consideration in the color scheme.
Fonts – use 2-3 font styles, and set standards for titles (like ‘all caps’, or first word capitalization), and rules for content. Don’t set the fonts to be several different sizes and colors, but consider ‘readability’ first and foremost. Pay attention to grammar and have someone else read what you’ve written prior to publishing.
Photos – select photos that contain or compliment the site colors, and set size standards for each area. If your store has pictures with white backgrounds, use only pictures with white backgrounds – that are of equal size.
Graphics – should be complimentary to the color scheme and style of the site. Don’t arbitrarily select objects that you like, select or create what the site needs.
Standards – provide written design standards for the use of these site elements and have the guide made available for those contributing to the site so that everyone stays on track with keeping the website looking clean and professional.
Obviously there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in web design and development. I think it’s important to understand that the professionals can ‘make it look easy’ – which comes from education and experience. There are a myriad of details and decisions that have to be made in the creation of a beautiful website that are often unseen, overlooked and taken for granted. PurpleTree creates a ‘Style Guide’ for each of our Web Design and Re-Design projects that our team uses regularly as a means to not only keep the professional standards of the site, but in keeping with the standards of providing the best in professional services.