Design tools to make your website shine

Design tools to make your website shine

Q: Design used to be a secondary consideration for businesses but now it’s front and centre. Why is design so critical?
A: Design creates an emotional response to your products and services that can help you stand out. Steve Jobs taught the world the importance of design in building a successful business. “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” The calligraphy course he took in college had a big impact. In his Stanford Commencement Address, Jobs explained: “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would never have multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

Q:  How can I get my website and other visual media in top shape?
A: You really need to employ design thinking and make sure you have a designer on staff that really understands design principles such as colour composition and grid structures.

Q: If I don’t have someone on staff with this background, where can I go for help?

A: There are a number of talented local designers. Some specialize in print, others focus on Web or mobile design. The most important thing is that they have a good design eye and understand design fundamentals. A good place to start is the Vancouver Graphic and Communication Design Meetup group (http://www.meetup.com/vancouver-graphic-design/) or the Vancouver Web Design Meetup group (http://www.meetup.com/webdesign-395/)

Q:  How do I know if a designer is “great” and not just “good”?

A: Ask them to show you design work they have done for other clients. Ask them to show you “before and after” pictures of their work. Ask them why they selected a particular design or colour scheme for a client? Do they say because it “just looked good” or can they explain the theory behind their approach?

Q: Where can I get some practical design tools?
A: There are all kinds of excellent, free design resources on the Web.  The following ones are from Jill Binder (www.jillbinder.com), a talented local Web designer and developer that recently taught a course on Design Principles at Zen Launchpad where she shared these links.

Science of Colours in Marketing (www.thinkbrilliant.com/2010/04/the-science-of-colors-in-marketing-and-web-design/): Find the best colour for your company or product.

Basic Colour Theory (www.tigercolor.com/color-lab/color-theory/color-theory-intro.htm): This resource introduces colour theory and the approaches of complementary, analogous, triad, and other colour schemes.

Finding the Right Colours (www.flashandmath.com/intermediate/rgbs/): Colour picker that converts to the familiar hexadecimal format used in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to style websites.

Grid Layouts (sixrevisions.com/web_design/a-brief-look-at-grid-based-layouts-in-web-design/): Good overview of grid layout theory.  Includes a Grid Designer where you can create your own custom grids.

Mockingbird Mockups (gomockingbird.com/): An online tool to make it easier to create mockups and share with your team.

Free Fonts (www.fontsquirrel.com/): Compilation of some of the best fonts that are 100% free even for commercial use.

Web-safe Fonts (www.webdesigndev.com/web-development/16-gorgeous-web-safe-fonts-to-use-with-css): Find a font that works well on the most commons versions of Windows, Mac and Linux.

Serif vs. Sans: The Final Battle (www.urbanfonts.com/blog/2013/02/serif-vs-sans-the-final-battle/): Infographic that guides you on when to use serif vs. sans serif fonts.

W3Schools (www.w3schools.com): Great site for learning the basics of HTML and CSS.

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BizTech Q&A is our answer to the most common technology questions related to your business. Email us your questions at questions@biztech101.com, and we will respond.

Cyri Jones teaches at BCIT and Capilano University and is the founder of ZEN Portfolios and Co-Founder of Zen Launchpad. He blogs at www.24posts.com . Ivan Surjanovic is a marketing faculty at Capilano University and CEO of iPower Lab. He blogs at www.whereispuck.com and tweets on www.twitter.com/whereispuck.

Written by Dr. Ivan Surjanovic and Cyri Jones, 
adapted from BizTech101 column in Business in Vancouver

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