After having designed numerous web sites over the past 12 years, I have discovered there are several prominent pitfalls I see in doing design work. I have put together a list of some of the top pitfalls and some tips to help avoid or minimize these pitfalls.
Pitfall 1: Not Enough Knowledge
This pitfall I fell into mostly when I began designing web sites. I started when I entered college and have no formal background in web design. Equipped with a copy of Microsoft FrontPage 98, I set out looking for people to let me design a web site for them. I did not have the proper knowledge of what a web site was or even that there was a difference between a Web page and a Web site. I didn’t really understand what HTML was or what to charge clients. I started out charging $10 for a Web site. I jumped in with my clothes on and nearly drowned in the pool of work to put together a Web site and was ill-equipped.
Pitfall 1 Tips
Learning never ends and we all can use a refresher course in what we think we know. Learn to value your skill set properly and always seek out to assist you, but do not become dependent on them. Don’t rely heavily on the tools you have in your bag.
Pitfall 2: Do Not Undervalue Yourself
Just as when I started charging $10 for a complete Web site, I learned that There were other ways I was devaluing myself. My reliance on a single piece of software, which I later learned was not the best to use, allowed me to build a false sense of knowing what I was doing. As I expanded my list of software and learned more, my pricing did not increase much. This was mainly because it was known that I was the cheap guy on the block. Charging less than the competition is not bad, as long as its done properly. This was a hard lesson to learn.
Pitfall 2 Tips
We all do not possess the same level of knowledge. Concentrate on your strengths and work to minimize your weaknesses. Not all tools are created equal and not everyone sees things exactly the same way. Ask around or check on the Web to see what others in your area offer and what they charge. Use this as a guide when deciding on your own fees. Take into account the amount of time and resources you have to devote and go from there.
Pitfall 3: Must Use Proprietary Software
When I first started out I thought that proprietary software was the only thing out there to use. The name Microsoft stuck out and that is what I used. I have since crossed over to use open-source software to design, being a Linux user and all. Regardless of the particular tools you use, a designer is only as good as their tools. Become familiar with the tools you use. There is good non-proprietary software that a designer can use and is not just for designers on a budget either.
Pitfall 3 Tips
Not all software is created equal and just because it carries a high price tag does not necessarily make it better. I am a hand coder, meaning I write my own code by hand, so a good text editor seems to work good for me. If you are looking for good graphics software, some alternatives to the big names are GIMP (for most graphic work) or InkScape (a scalable vector graphic program). I use both, but then again I believe I went against mainstream Web design when I became a Linux user.
Pitfall 4: All Web Design is NOT Good Design
As I mentioned, when I started out I used Microsoft FrontPage 98. I did not know at the time that the underlying code, which I seldom looked at, was not exactly correct. The flow for my first web sites were not so good and the design itself was very amateurish. I would like to say I have come a long way in my adventure, but I still have many areas in which to improve. Graphics is one such area. I pull this area out to illustrate a point. Many Web sites lately have become overburdened with graphics. I am not a graphical site hater by any means, but it seems that at least some are 95% graphics and 5% content. Some sites are extremely poorly coded and some serve very little purpose to their owner. Not all Web sites are created equal and not all exhibit good design.
Pitfall 4 Tips
Not all Web sites are created equal. Some sites serve as mere informational in nature to point a user to contact a location or to stop by. Some are full blown Internet stores and many fall in the middle somewhere. Some use proper coding, while others rely on items specific to a certain platform (Operating System, Web Browser, etc). Some sites rely heavily on graphics and others are mostly text. Work with your clients to design a Web site that work not only for them, but also potential visitors. Keep in mind, not everyone uses the latest version of Microsoft Windows and many might not even be using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Pitfall 5: Design For the Client
When I began doing Web design, I designed sites based on what the client themselves wanted. Anything the client wanted on their site, that I knew how to do or could learn, I placed on their web site. Using the philosophy that the customer is always right was my driving force. However, I have learned that the client is not a web design and might not know exactly what their visitors need to get from their web site. Visitors are a funny bunch of people. Some want all the flashy stuff on a web site, while others want direct access to certain information.
Pitfall 5 Tips
The client might not fully understanding how a web site will work for them or their visitors. The client might have visited competitors web sites and decided they want to be like them. Not only are you to listen to what they want, but to learn as much about their customers and the business as you can. This information can assist you in structuring a site which will work for the client and visitors.