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Make A Smart Website

How to Make Your Website’s Design Shine

Whether you’re preparing for your wedding, chronicling your travels or running a small business, a website or blog is the easiest way to share information with family, friends, professional contacts or customers. With advances in technology making it easier to build websites, millions of Americans are figuring out the basics of web design. Others are turning to professional designers for help.

What makes a website’s design successful? According to design experts, there are five keys to effective website design. These tips will help ensure that your website attracts visitors, encourages them to browse and — if you’re selling — entices customers to buy.

Smart Website Design

  1. Minimalist design. Your website should look clean and uncluttered. Minimalist design makes it easy for visitors to concentrate on the content. If a page has too many elements, visitors may become confused. This doesn’t mean the design has to be boring — a simple approach, focusing on a few key details, will make it look modern and stylish.
  2. Fabulous photos. Avoid cliché or unprofessional photography and find images that say something genuine about you or your business. For affordable, reliable photography that makes it easier to be creative, I use stock photography websites like Plexels (www.pexels.com/), which has gorgeous images for no charge with kind based licence specifcations, or for exceptional images, try Corbis Images (www.corbisimages.com), which has web-resolution images starting at $5.
  3. Encourage action. Whether you want people to note your wedding details, view your travel photos or make a purchase, make sure that your “call to action” is clear and concise. Use short and snappy language, and large, boldly colored, clickable buttons that are in the top or middle of the page.
  4. Focus on fonts. Bold fonts help visitors recognize the important messages and call-to-action on a page, while more common fonts are perfect for explaining the details. Veer.com has thousands of unique fonts for just a few dollars.
  5. Color counts. Color conveys meaning and encourages different reactions by visitors. Don’t forget to make good use of white space — the space between different elements of a design. Used well, it allows for easier scanning of your site.

I have a great page with lots of design resources that provide more in-depth information to help solve specific challenges.

Radio Station Website Design

Classic Top 40 Radio Station Design

Live and online, I have redesigned and redeveloped the website for Chattanooga’s Classic Top 40 Radio Station.

Built in XHTML/CSS with PHP includes for all blocked areas allowing for easy updates, OpenX Ads running all advertisers spots, and a WordPress theme to match, the new design is a huge step up from the original version which was hard to navigate, created in tables with depreciated markup, and in frames.

You can read the full case study here, and visit the site at – Not anymore! .

Freelancing Tips

Freelancing Tips

I was reading one of the mailing lists I am a member of the other day, and some questions came up about Freelancing. Some were interested in knowing the best way to get business as a freelancer, and since Zenful Creations came from years of freelancing, I thought I would share my experiences in freelancing. I posted a list of seven items to the message list, and received numerous comments and a few more questions, so I decided to add a bit more to the list, and post here.

1. First and foremost, have a GOOD website. Make sure it has at least six original designs, the service you provided (a before and after shot is always good), and a little detail on your process helps too. Make sure your site is easy to use, and preferably compliant with standards. Make sure there are no typos in your content.

2. Get signed up on sites such as Guru.com, RentACoder.com, GetAFreelancer.com, and many many more… Over the years I found great success at Guru.com, and also acquired several projects from DesignCrowd. I would also suggest checking 37signals Job Board, and CSS Beauty Job Board for new listings as often as possible.

3. Participate. Find listservs, message boards and blogs about freelancing, and participate in discussions. Affiliate with other freelancers – if they are too busy to take on a project they may pass it on to you, or they may partner with you on larger projects.

4. Post a free ad on Craigslist in your area. Craigslist allows you to post an ad for your services every 45 days. With the usership of this site, you will at least get a hit or two each 45 days. While you are on Craigslist, make sure you check out the ‘Barter’ section, and ‘Creative Jobs & Gigs’.

5. 3rd Party Endorsements. Always get testimonials from the clients you work for. Since the launch of this online reputation manager, I have had all clients that I worked with give me a review on iKarma.com – it is a place that you can send current clients (or have a link from your site) to find out more about working with you.

6. Network. Join professional organizations such as your local BNI, or attend other networking events in your area to build your synergistic relationships, and meet people that will refer you to people they know. You can find events local to you on Meetup.com, on Craigslist in the events or community section and also in your local newspaper.

7. Blog. This will increase traffic to your site – I suggest blogging about each design you do or whatever niche it is you have; blog the before, process and after. Blog about open spots in your schedule… Blog when you are full and can take no clients at that time (which shows you are busy) – clients tend to like busy designers as that usually indicates they are good at what they do, and in demand.

8. As funny as this one may sound, it works. Get yourself a myspace account – for your business – there is so much traffic on myspace and it is a great place to network. Customize your design if you can. I have been approached by many clients over the past year (mostly musicians and artistry) who desire to have a customized myspace page. Upload design proofs in the pics section. Keep clients or partners in your friends list, and keep your comments well moderated. Keep it professional.

9. Use a contract. Always. Everytime. A contract is important in any project you do. The contract not only protects a you and your client legally, but it also clearly details deadlines and payments. If you do not already have a contract, you are welcome to copy mine and edit it to suit your needs.

10. Keep up with your records. As a freelancer, you are an independent contractor, and therefore, are expected to keep up with and file your own taxes. You can either pay them throughout the year (file quarterly), or put the money aside to pay later. Get a good program such as QuickBooks, or Quicken, and keep it updated. Also, keep a record of the business expenses you can write off at the end of the year – books, travel, lunch meetings etc.

Give Credit Where it is Due…

This post follows right in line with yesterdays…

I was thinking about going on a benefit ride with my husband this weekend, and thought that would be a great thing to start blogging about on our personal website at dennyandlori.com.

So today, I hopped onto my Dashboard to make a post, and saw that I had an additional incoming link – and all bloggers know how cool that is. So I went to take a peek. The title of the post is the “Good, Bad and the Ugly”, and that of course intrigued me to continue on reading. What I saw made me feel good about the way I do business, always giving credit to those who deserve it.

Our blog is a brand new site that I have not even had a second to think about for a theme. But I wanted to go ahead and start teaching my hubby how to blog, so I set out for a very specific layout that had ‘Harley-Davidson’ colored design theme I could toss up for a while until I got the free time to create my own.

I spent a pretty good amount of time looking around only to find that nothing that I saw was just perfect. However, I did find one that that had the layout that I was after. Futher with my expertise in CSS, it took less than 5 minutes to make the colors the orange I wanted, change the logo from graphic to text, and remove the sidebar icons. Here is the the original theme, created by BloggingTips.org

wordpress-bt_darkgreen

Now what made me feel so good about this new link into my blog is that the designer of the original template, though I changed it only slightly, thanked me for not removing the credit for his work.

That got me to thinking about how many blog themes probably have the credits ripped off either unchanged or customized. It just gets me that people want to take credit for other’s hard work – I know it is something that is never going to stop but it really does get my goat.