The Re-invention of Me, Again

A number of years ago, I began the path to find a new career after many years of trying my hand at different career fields.  I use to joke with my family that I haven’t figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I endeavored to return to college.  While I’ve displayed an ability to draw, I knew there wasn’t much money in that so I pursued a graphic design degree not fully understanding what I was getting myself into.  Who ever said that basket weaving was easy lied.  Art classes can be brutal, (which you have to go through for a graphic design degree).  If you have a sensitive spirit, then any kind of art program is not for you.

The schooling is very demanding as it should be.  Graphic design and other art fields are highly competitive and a good teacher’s goal should be to push you so you can be successful in such a demanding environment.  Your competition wants to crush you so a designer must be up to the task.

The assignments were always overwhelming and the critics were merciless.  You’d walk in thinking you were on top of your game and leave feeling like you wanted to crawl out of the place.  Good teachers will push you to the brink of your imagination and creativity all while overloading your work.  It’s not just about the creative idea that needs to be developed, it’s about the pressure of the deadline that’s always facing any design project as well.

I had several of those types of teachers and while I wasn’t in love with the process, I do feel as though I really grew, both creatively  and in my understanding in what it took to get the job done and on time.

When I finished school, I decided to take my talents into web design.  I’ve learned so much about the technically side and continue to grow in that area, but lately I realized that my creative skills were sliding.  I’ve had to re-think about how I could combine both my love for creating in the arts and web design coding so that both could come together and work for me.  After several years of struggling with this, I’ve decided I would do what I love which is to use different mediums whether it was drawing, painting or even cooking and combine it with improving my web design skills by displaying it online.

This is my first step at re-inventing myself . . . again.


To Use Website Templates or Not

by Michelle Harmon Reed

When I first started creating websites I relied heavily on templates.  Templates saved me time and educated me on learning the code.  As I have progressed in my knowledge of web design, I have relied less and less upon them, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t use them.  I think that when it comes to the decision of whether you should use a template depends upon the project.   You must listen closely to your client.  If they have a low budget, need a site up quickly, and aren’t too concerned about style, then I would definitely consider a template, but if your client wants a custom site and has a larger budget then hand coding something creative and unique is the way to go.

I feel strongly that beginners can learn a lot using templates and for the professional it can be a real time saver.  Just remember that there are some guide lines I recommend when using templates

  • Use quality templates – I recommend ThemeForest and Dream Template as starters.  Make sure you do your research and read the reviews.  The code should be validated whether this is previously done or whether you do it yourself.
  • There are restrictions – Not every template is going to be exactly what you need and when you start to make changes and alter it,  you may run into problems.  Of course, the more experienced you are at coding the easier it will be.
  • Consider creating your own templates – If you create some designs as a basic set, then you can call it your own, but save time in the process.  Even saving the basic designs that you can quickly change and tweak are a real time saver.  As you go through the creative process, set aside different versions of the same template.
  • Excess code for parts you don’t want – I once assembled a website using two different templates.  I loved the top part of one design and the bottom part of another.  I don’t recommend it.  It’s kind of like taking apart a car engine and re-building it and afterwards you have all these leftover parts.  It can create a build up of code you don’t need and can cause confusion and conflict of parent/child elements.

One of the major issues about templates is giving the original designer credit.  As a designer myself, I am very careful about copying other designs.  While imitation is the highest form of flattery, it is never appropriate to incorporate a design that you know is not uniquely yours without giving credit to the original designer.  Always give credit and link back to the site of origin.  I know that there are design elements that we all copy as the basics on a site, but if your taking whole designs or even a large section of a design, do the right thing and give credit where credit is due.

Website Building Blocks

As a web designer I am asked to build websites either for an individual or a business.  When I have the initial consult, I go through a series of questions for my client to get a better vision for what they want their site to look like and what it’s function will be. I ask them these series of questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the site?
  2. What are you going to have on your site that will cause the visitor to stay?
  3. How will you get them to come to your site initially?
  4. What are you going to have that will keep a visitor returning to your site?
  5. How will you monitor and update your site so the content will stay fresh and appealing?
  6. Who will build your site?

Before anyone starts out to build a website, they should make sure that they have defined the answers to these questions first.  It will help them through the process more efficiently.  Most of all, it will save time and money.