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Starting the design conversation

From: Preparing CMS Web Graphics and Layouts Using Open Source Tools

Video: Starting the design conversation

By the time you've reached this point in the web design and development process, you've already talked with the client about their business strategy and how it integrates with the web. You have a good sense of features and functionalities required on the site. You also know a bit about the site map. It's finally time to start thinking about what most people call "the fun stuff." What exactly is this site going to look like? Web design for a content management system is very different than web design for a static HTML site, and both of these are very different than print design.

Starting the design conversation

By the time you've reached this point in the web design and development process, you've already talked with the client about their business strategy and how it integrates with the web. You have a good sense of features and functionalities required on the site. You also know a bit about the site map. It's finally time to start thinking about what most people call "the fun stuff." What exactly is this site going to look like? Web design for a content management system is very different than web design for a static HTML site, and both of these are very different than print design.

General design principles certainly hold that when you're designing for a content management system, you're designing for software not for an electronic brochure. You cannot and you will not ultimately have pixel perfect control over how everything looks, because ultimately your client is going to put in their own content and change and edit things. We'll cover this in detail in a later video. This video assumes you are creating a website for a content management system.

There are many content management systems to choose from and many are free and open source. lynda.com offers many training resources for Joomla!, WordPress and Drupal, which most people consider to be the three major open source content management systems as of this recording. When having a conversation with your client about their graphic design likes and dislikes, you'll definitely need to talk with them about the following things. Branding. Unless your client is a brand- new organization, there's probably some kind of logo and colors that already exist.

If the client wants to re-brand themselves, such as get a new logo and colors, maybe a new message, it's better that this happens before you build the website, otherwise it's likely they'll need to pay you to do your job twice. Sometimes, however, it does makes sense to do the job twice and they'll want to get a quick temporary site up first, then build the real website later. Ask your client if they have a style guide. Some clients do have a style guide for how their logo should be used, alternative versions of the logo, what colors are appropriate to use, what typefaces are required, and so forth.

If your client has a style guide, get a copy of it. Smaller clients may not have a written style guide but they may have a set of verbal guidelines for you. Be sure to talk with your client about photography. Some clients want or require lots of pictures on their website. You'll want to discuss what those photos are, who is taking them, what is their size and format, and how they'll be used on the website. You covered a lot of this when you were doing your business strategy planning.

You'll also want to talk to the client about the maintenance aspects of these photos. Is it important to change the photos frequently? Or is it okay to stick with one image for an extended period of time? Finally, you'll talk to your clients about their likes and dislikes on the Internet. Most people have spent some time on the web and have encountered sites they liked and sites they didn't like. There are maybe sites that you want to emulate, perhaps something with a very clean look or something they define as cutting-edge and so forth.

There may also be parts of sites they like such as the menu bar treatment on a certain website. The sites do not have to have any relation to their business. For example, it's possible they like the way they always know where they are on the CNN website, even though if we're building a website for Hansel & Petal, which is all about flowers. The information you get from this conversation with your client will eventually turn into three comps that you're going to build for your client. The client will be able to look at those three comps and decide which one is the right direction for them.

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