A Prepared Freelancer…

At some point in my life, I could be a freelancer. Perhaps, I’ll design websites or write copy—the options are endless. In preparation for this, my instructor had us read through a few pages from the Clients from Hell website. It’s a website that allows freelancers to post their experiences with clients from hell. Based on the website’s posts, freelancers have it tough.  They are often unpaid, unappreciated, and ultimately unhappy. I’m assuming this is not always the case but the Clients from Hell website paints this picture.

I skimmed through several posts on a mission to find at least one post where the freelancer may have been in the wrong and not the “client from hell”. After several pages, I realized that I wasn’t getting anywhere. I did, however, learn a few tips for if I ever decide to freelance. 1) Establish the amount and deadline for payment 2) Determine the full extent of the work to be delivered 3) Make sure the client knows that amendments will cost extra (do this in writing). For now I’m enjoying my full-time job, which doesn’t give me any free time to freelance, but should I decide to take on a project, I think I’m ready!

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One Semester Down, Five More to Go!

ImageWow, it’s been an amazing four-month journey! I’ve learned Photoshop fundamentals, HTML and CSS code, how to successfully use digital imagery, and best practices for web design. Through the University of Florida grad classes in mass communication with specialization in web design and online communication this semester, I’ve been challenged to create powerful ads and an innovative website–something I was incapable of prior to joining the program. Of course this didn’t come easy–it was frustrating, confusing, and taxing to learn so much in so little time, but I’m definitely pleased with the progress I’ve made and look forward to the next 5 semesters (1.5+ years).

From Website to Mobile Site…Bring It On.

ImageI’m currently coding a portfolio website for the final project of my graduate class and I’ve been asked to consider how I’d code a mobile version. First, let’s be clear—I’m just beginning to understand HTML and CSS. So the idea of going beyond a basic website scares me. Who am I kidding? Coding any website frightens me!

However, if asked to create a mobile version of the portfolio site, I’d have to really contemplate whether it’s needed. How many people will be clicking on my website? How many would be viewing it on a mobile device? In today’s rapidly changing world, this number could be higher than expected as smartphones and tablets are penetrating the market at an increasing rate. So given this information and the future of technology, I may as well code for a mobile device to be on the safe side. As such, I’ll look at that once my website’s coding is complete (dreaming of that day)!

Mark Ecko’s Impressive (and Complicated) Website

It’s interesting how one’s perspective on web design changes after being informed on best practices. During the first day of web design graduate class, we looked at Mark Ecko’s website. I think at that time I was mesmerized by the eccentric site and stimulating design, but given the knowledge I’ve gathered during the past four months of class, I now think the site is a bit too overwhelming. Let’s suppose I’m a mature adult trying to buy something for my grandchild; would I be able to navigate the page? Is it intuitive? I don’t think so. At the same time, I don’t think Marc Ecko created the page for grandparents!

Nonetheless, I will give Marc Ecko’s web design team a virtual high five for their innovative design features such as moving pages based on just the hovering of my mouse. But I might have to recall that high five as I just discovered that the first link I selected, Ecko Tattoos, doesn’t show the expected content both in IE and Chrome. Perhaps an error?

Generating Some Big Bucks–Web Advertisements!

ImageIn the last lecture of my web design class we discussed advertisements. I have to say, somehow I never considered that ads might be featured on any of my websites. I’m still curious to know who might want to advertise on my personal website which may get only a few hits per month (if I’m lucky). However, I do think my blog could gain enough attention to one day allow for advertisement (fingers crossed).

Accordingly, I am going to explore advertisements and how they Imageaffect web design. If I were to revamp my blog and create a proper domain beyond this wordpress account, I’d have the chance to design it my own way—and that means I could keep some space open for advertisements. I guess when designing my own blog, or any website, it would be best to know whether ad space should be considered and the amount and dimensions of each one. With this in the mind of the designer, ads have a greater chance of seamlessly being integrated into a web design. From wireframe development to final launch—the website’s advertisements must be a consideration. Too much ad space or a messy layout because of last minute advertisement add ons could easily spoil users’ experience so it’s always best to plan ahead for the possibility of ads.

Clayton Mobile Homes Redefined

My Attempt at Integrated Marketing Communications using Clayton Mobile Homes

For one of my grad classes I was recently required to employ cross-media tools in order to create an integrated marketing communications campaign for an existing product or service. The twist was that we had to target a completely new audience by creating media such as billboards, blogs, and websites, etc. with our not-so-strong design skills. We had literally just finished learning the basics of Photoshop so this was a tall order. Nonetheless, we had to deliver if we wanted any chance of passing the course.

I decided to tackle trailers or mobile homes and market them to adventurous people instead of just people who are looking for inexpensive housing options. Through an integrated marketing campaign called “Drive to Your Dreams”, that includes a billboard advertisement, magazine advertorial, and website pop-up advertisement, I would be able to target many different people yet maintain a solid message and design.

Billboard:

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Website pop-up ad:

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Magazine advertorial:

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**Disclaimer: the above images were created for a University of Florida course and are fictitious. They should not be used by others.

Web Carousels: How to Use them Effectively

You know how some websites have a rotating slideshow of sorts that goes through their news of day or highlights? I’ve just been informed that among web designers and coders it is known as a carousel. Good to know!

For those of you who are also in the dark, carousels provide a neat way to showcase content on a website’s home page. Not only is it neat, but often efficient because it allows designers to take advantage of precious page space.

I decided to get a better idea of carousels by checking online for the best of the best. I was pleasantly surprised to find Smileycat.com’s compilation of noteworthy carousels which lists a University of Florida webpage (go GATORS!) as its first example.

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The Department of Recreational Sports webpage isn’t the only place you’ll see carousels on this university’s sites. In fact, many UF pages take advantage of them—the main homepage and the College of Journalism and Communications both do it well.

UF homepage:

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UF College of Journalism and Communications homepage:
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If I were required to add a carousel to the website I’m designing and coding, I’d really have to think about how to do it right. My site features myself and my work so one option would be to have the carousel highlight news about myself. However, this poses more issues. How much news can on myself can I produce? And how can I be sure that it really interests my audience? I wouldn’t want to bore my audience or seem to be tooting my own horn. Taking this into consideration, another idea for the carousel would be to have recent blog posts rotate across the screen. That may best accommodate the need to have a carousel. I would say it is not impossible to add a carousel, but it must be studied in order to ensure it is employed in a way that enhances users’ experience instead of diminishing it.

Taking Critique Like a Champ

ImageHearing feedback is not always easy or fun. In fact, it’s a bit tough, especially, when you’re a new web designer and after painstakingly learning the ins and outs of Photoshop and Illustrator you’ve created a decent mock up of your website only to have it torn to pieces. Well, it actually wasn’t that bad. In fact, I learned so much from hearing my colleagues’ feedback on my web design (and from seeing the designs they were working on).

ImageMost importantly, my colleagues and instructor were able to give me a fresh perspective on the design and could catch things that I couldn’t (or wasn’t trained to see). That was definitely a benefit and I’ll be incorporating some new changes into the design. However, I say that feedback is tough to take because when you get so far along with a design, it’s sometimes hard to have yet another go at it. Sometimes you just want to move forward and get on with it (probably not the best approach!). But that’s life and I know first-hand from my job as an editor that the more times text goes back and forth in the revision process, the better. I guess I will just have to get used to it!

“Criticism is a necessary evil for growth. We all get it, and we all unfortunately need it.”

Trader Joe’s Website Revamped

A few months back I took a closer look at the Trader Joe’s website. At that time, I had just begun my master’s in web design and online communication and was in no position to make more than a few comments on how to aesthetically improve the webpage. Today, however, I’ve managed to successfully endure a semester of coursework and, as a result, can now make more meaningful assessments and recommendations to a web design (hopefully!).

Here is what the Trader Joe’s website looks like today:

 

Similar to when I had critiqued the site’s design earlier this year, my main concern with the webpage is that it features an over-cluttered and busy layout. On first glance, it’s hard to figure out where my eyes should be scanning. And on second glance, it’ no better! As such, here is a very quick mock up of what I think would enhance it:

While my mock up is not quite complete, I think it is an improvement from the current webpage. In fact, I believe a minimalist approach with ample white space would allow the user to better see what’s important on the page. In addition, the current layout left out vital elements of a website–social media links (which is included in my mock up). The current layout is over-designed even though it does mesh well with the in-store theme of Trader Joe’s, but unfortunately doesn’t translate well onto a webpage.

The Intertwining of Web Design and Storytelling

ImageSince my class instructors believe I have a solid grasp on code (which couldn’t be further from the truth), we will now turn to storytelling. A good website tells a story which can help improve the users’ experience and keep them engaged. One website that was discussed earlier this semester was www.dayswithmyfather.com. Through photos, text, and a unique web design that is quite minimalist yet in line with the content being conveyed, Phillip Toledano was able to tell a complex and heart-wrenching story that kept me engaged until the very last photo–a perfect example of storytelling and web design being intertwined. Toledano’s web design told a story in itself–the white space, reminding me of the author’s empty life, the endless trail of photos to scroll through, indicating the author’s despair of his father’s ongoing illness.

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While, Toledano literally told a story about the relationship between him and his father and the process of him losing his mother and soon his father, there are plenty of websites that do the same but without as many indicators and direct methods. I believe that successful websites often tell a story but also recognize that there are some websites that just don’t require it yet can still be successful. For instance, news websites don’t quite tell a story–rather they are a medium for telling other stories and yet you cannot say the New York Times or Wall Street Journal are not successes!

ImageFor the portfolio website that I’m designing for myself, I will try to reflect on how I can tell a pertinent story that will strengthen my overall site! That and learn how to code properly!