Monday, February 14, 2011

Should I Buy a Website Template?

Three Reasons Not to Share the Same Dress

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
—E. E. Cummings

Ok, this discussion is a very difficult mine field to cross, especially since my over arching desire as an entrepreneur is to give the best advice to both my clients and friends. As I continue to create website designs and work with companies to find the right solution for their company I began asking myself a question:

Should I Buy a Website Template? or Why not just use a website template?

It might seem easy for many web designers to type in Website Templates in Google and see what's out there and buy them and re-sell to their clients. I don't know if the design industry still uses this term, "hack", but it applies to many website designers who are taking website templates and calling it their own.

So, Should I Buy a Website Template or Custom Website Design?

When you are serious about developing your Brand, you have to go with Custom Website Design and not a website template. It's not just because I am in the business of web design. It is my philosophy that if you are going to be able to compete in business, you need to stand out. I recently read, Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, by Hugh MacLeod. 40 pieces of advice for the up and coming entrepreneur. One of his tips is,
"Don't stand out from the crowd, avoid crowds altogether."

That has always been my belief. Standing out isn't the only solution, you have to be so different that there aren't any crowds around you. Can you look at your web site and say, "This is uniquely mine." Can your business say that? If not, then it's time to evaluate whether your web site design is doing the job it's suppose to. And that is:
to promote your business, resulting in more business, leads and continued business.

Just Say No to Website Templates.

Be different! Website design should be uniquely yours. It should represent the power of your brand and leverage, usability, information and interactivity to the fullest. Purchasing a pre-made web template only limits you because you are starting at the end and trying to fit your business into it. Your brand/business should be the starting point to any website design project.

Now Comes the Hard Part: Budget.

What about Budget? If all I can afford is $100, isn't it better to get a really nice website template for $100 than languish without one because I can't afford the super high prices of a website designer?

If your budget only allows you to buy a website template then start out trying to find a low cost website design solution that involves a custom website design. What I mean by this is, get quotes from website designers, detail what you want and your willingness to be flexible.

Many website designers will trade flexibility for money. For instance, if I have a client that wants many drafts, then I have to charge more. If they constantly want changes, then I have to charge more. But if I can get a reasonable amount of money for my time, then I will charge accordingly.

Of course, for me our prices are already low, to lower my prices I would have to interact with that client and make a case-by-case decision. If you want an e-commerce website with 100 products and 25 additional pages, then it is unreasonable to ask someone to commit to that much work for $100.

But if you want a one page informational website design, it is far better to negotiate a better price and get custom website design than purchase a website template.

People Know its a Website Template.

There is no fooling some people. When they see something, they know automatically that it's a repeat. "I've seen that some place before," they say. Or maybe, "that reminds me of..." and then they give you a list web sites they've seen with your design.

This hurts your business and reputation. Avoid it at all costs!

If you have any questions about web site design or if you are looking for a website solution, drop us an email with your website design idea and budget at:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Hate Internet Explorer 6

I had to diverge from my planned post, Part 2 of Setting the Right Price, to express some deep felt emotions. As my blog post title indicates I Hate Internet Explorer 6.

It seems that no matter how hard you try to make your web sites browser compliant, IE6 just works hard to destroy all your work. You might think that after so many years, finding answers would be simple, but they aren't.

As the newer browsers continue to implement new standards and the W3C makes improvements, using IE6 should become less of a concern. If I had my way I would not even care what my web sites look like in IE6. But sadly there are some clients that still use Pentium 1 technology and find Windows 98 to be so much better than Windows XP (or Win 7 for that matter).

These lovely, well-paying clients, insist that they be compatible with a tiny segment of internet users, so they inhibit the creativity and interactivity that can come with using newer browsers. There is even a hint that using Flash will make their web sites less compatible so its back to animating GIF's.

Well, as I think about it, maybe this post is about setting the right price. These kinds of Client-Side influences can be costly. Troubleshooting a page to make it IE6 compliant could take hours (especially since most solutions seem to be dated 2008). The time you need should be compensated so set that price up front. Making a web site Internet Explorer 6 compliant should cost extra.

Oh and if you are interested in seeing statistics to help prove my point, check out:

Internet Explorer in all its forms has lost its grasp on browser users (only 30.7% use IE in August 2010).

Okay, I feel better now, I can breathe--out with the bad air, in with the good air...aaaahhhh!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Setting the Right Price - 1. Know Your Worth

For over 15 years I have always dreaded one part of website and graphic design, and that was setting the price for a client.

Not only is creating an estimate terribly labor intensive (because design has so many components), but mostly because it moved me away from creativity and brought me into the world of stodgy Dollars and Sense. How do I set the right price for me, so I can pay rent and live comfortably, and for my client, so that they can, first hire me with a deposit, and second, pay me when I am done?

Setting the Right Price is never easy (unless you're a one price kind of guy/girl, then you can skip this blog) but with a little work and knowledge, both you and your client can be happy with the price you set and they pay.

What's the Big Deal?

If you are like me, no two websites (or graphic design projects) are the same. Some are big, others are small. The big websites pay out big, but the headaches can compound; restrictive creative control and tight deadlines. The small websites pay out little, but I might get greater creative control and work at a more reasonable pace, less stressful pace.

Whether the website project is big or small, the Proposal/Estimate takes the same kind of preparatione. Now for the Steps:

1. Know What You Are Worth

This Knowledge of your Value is crucial to helping you start pricing your web design and it is the hardest. If you are like me you know you are worth a million bucks, but you haven't found the right person to pay a million bucks for your work. So what am I really worth? Am I only worth the sum of my bills?

Make a decision: I am worth $25 per hour (or $50 or $100) and stick to it. Tough words? Yes, but it beats the feeling that you've undersold your time and given away much more than you wanted. I hear designers constantly complaining about how they lost money on a project or felt like the client stole something from them. That is untrue if you gave them a price and they paid (gun pointing would be the exception).

You set the standard, You set the price, You do the work. The client pays for results and if they can't afford your results then make the tough choice to live without them or lower your price.

On a Personal Note: Most every job that I have done in the first 8 years of my design experience was undervalued. Hey, I needed the work, I needed the experience and I needed a break. So I took whatever, for whatever. But once I put some experience under my belt and had a portfolio I was able to leverage my experience to increase my value and get the price I want.

Next Blog: Setting the Right Price - 2. Count the Cost

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Client walks into a Bar and Says...

Vizual definition’s philosophy is simple: Communicate and define the world visually. The eyes are the gate to the Soul. Seeing is believing. You’ve Got to See it to Believe it! And the clich├ęs can go on for days.

Ultimately, as a designer, I am looking to capture ideas and present them in the form of visual communication.

Here is how the story goes:

Client walks into a Bar at 9AM and says to the web designer: I need a dynamic, awesome, interactive website. I need it fast and want to keep it simple and cheap (free if possible).

A slight pause.

He continues: How ‘bout it?

The web designer, who is in the bar at 9AM because of clients just like this one, finishes his (fill in your favorite brand of poison) and says through intoxicated lips, “Sure when can we begin.”
Thus begins the journey (or nightmare, depending on your outlook).

I know the story usually doesn’t involve alcohol, but it almost always include a client with high expectations and low buy-in.

More for Less and here lies the problem: How can I give more and get less?

How can a web designer answer all the needs of the client for less?

Answers to questions like this is what this blog will attempt to answer...with help from you also.

Let’s Begin!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to Vizual Definition’s Blog!

What are my hopes for this blog?

First, to provide other designers with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base. Google-ing-it isn’t enough! Web designers, Programmers and others spend too much time searching the internet for resources and there are more Misses than Hits.

Second, to have a good time. This blog should be light-hearted, yet potent. Opinions will be expressed with humor. Concepts will be explained in detail and with verification that they work (nothing is worse than spending time coding and only to find out that it doesn’t work, hasn’t worked or is missing an important element).

Third, to give solutions. I enjoy it when a problem is solved! (And exclamation marks, can never have enough of them). Have a web design problem? Let us know and we will hope.

This isn’t just a platform for Vizual Definition to get more clients, it’s a resource for clients and designers and web searcher-ers to use and consume and enjoy (A purposeful run-on sentence).