Meeting your web/graphic design needs – even the fun ones!

Throughout my career as a web designer I have produced web sites while living in Denver, Colorado; Erie, Pennsylvania; and now here, in North Platte, Nebraska. I have also worked in the marketing department of Richmond American Homes on a team of web designers. My clients vary from sports jersey display kits to malls, across the board and everything in between.

But what is so refreshing as a web designer is the chance to do a project, just for fun!

Last fall/winter, some friends of mine started brewing their own beer and were in need of some creative labels for their homebrew.  At about the same time we also started playing a strange, sometimes violent new sport called Kayak Water Polo.  It was being offered here in North Platte, Nebraska for the first time (that I know of anyway).  Out of our awkward tussles for the ball while trying to row along in river kayaks, came some very funny stories and inside jokes.  Eventually these stories made their way into beer labels.  I had a blast creating these, I used grunge effects for the first time and it was fun to create something visual from all the stories we were collecting while laughing together playing this new sport.  Check out some of the labels below (WARNING: SOME MAY FIND THE CONTENT OFFENSIVE).

I should probably mention that the web sites I have linked to in this article are in no way affiliated with other fun projects, such as this one, that I choose to do.  That being said, if you are the least bit intrigued by this strange sport called Kayak Water Polo, check out the website I created for the company that runs the games here in North Platte!  Hope to see you there!

Is Your Website Static or Dynamic?

There are many static websites on the Internet, I designed some of them!  There are especially a lot of static websites in North Platte, Nebraska where I live and work.  A static website is the traditional way to build a website – it’s an easy way to get something up and going and they are cheap to host, but you really have to know coding (like someone with web design/development skills) to edit it and keep it updated.   You may not be able to tell right away but if the site looks basic, and gives you information without anything cool happening, it could be a static website.

Although a static website can be fairly cheap to develop in the short run, they could be costly to maintain in the long run because of the growing number of pages and the need for help from a web developer who knows the code, AND, what people don’t realize is that the site is usually not very useful for the user and that the content can get stagnant, which is not conducive to site ranking high on search engines.  They give the user and the search engine (like Google) exactly the same response over and over again.

Dynamic sites on the other hand can be more expensive to develop initially, but the advantages are numerous.  A dynamic website can give the website owner the ability to simply update and add new content to the site. For example, news and events could be posted to the site through a simple browser interface. There is really no end to the features that can be added to a dynamic site.

Dynamic features enhance the user experience and most often result in an increase in traffic and added time spent on the site. Some examples of dynamic website features could be: forms, photo albums, content management system (CMS), e-commerce (selling stuff online), forums or discussion boards, newsletter, contact forms, detailed searches, social networking (connecting the site to Facebook, Twitter and other social sites), intricate calculators, RSS feeds (like a theater’s latest movie listings or recent news from CNN), ability for administrators or users to create content or add information to a site (dynamic publishing), without worrying about “breaking” something in the core code and thus, disabling or seriously disabling the website.

Advantages of dynamic websites

  • Much more functional website
  • Ability to continue adding dynamic features
  • Much easier to update
  • Deliver information to a wider audience
  • New content brings people back to the site and helps in the search engines
  • Can work as a system to allow support staff or other users to collaborate

Disadvantages of dynamic websites

  • Usually takes longer and is more expensive to develop
  • Hosting costs a little more

Many sites from the last decade are static, but more and more people are realizing the advantages of having a dynamic website. Dynamic websites can make the most of your site and either use it as a tool or create a professional, interesting experience for your visitors.  Here is an example of a static website  AND Here is an example of a dynamic website. (I created both of these, by the way….the static site is about 6 years old).  When I first started designing web sites I created a lot of static ones, since then I have redeisgned my old static sites into dynamic sites for my clients in North Platte, Nebraska, Denver, Colorado and across the U.S.  What remains the same is that I listen to what my clients need and I help them step by step to accomplish the web presence they desire, that will accomplish their goals.

If you have any questions or comments, please add yours to the post interaction or contact us.

What to Look for in a Web Designer

Trying to find a company or individual to design, program and maintain your website can be a very intimidating task!  I have seen many people go through this process and, initially, they always seem to have a “deer in the headlights” look on their faces!  It really isn’t too different, I think, from the way my face must look every time I walk into The Buckle to buy a pair of jeans!  Hey, some of us are overwhelmed by the thought of developing a web presence while others of us are intimidated by the thought of matching our own clothing before we leave the house…..it’s all about how we present ourselves to the world, right?

Today I found a very helpful article that I wanted to share with you if you happen to be shopping for a web designer at the moment.  Don’t be overwhelmed.  Take some advice and then go with your gut.  I found this article on about.com.  A few things the author said that I would like to highlight for you are:

Designer Portfolio…look for examples that show diversity and range for the designer. Ask to see the portfolio online so that you can see how the websites they’ve built actually work. This is especially important if you’re looking for a designer to build any type of interactivity for your website.

Designer Skills…to assess this in a Web designer, you need to know what you need on your website. This can be hard, but worth thinking through beforehand.  But some skills that they should definitely know include: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  It is important to note that there is the possibility that one person might know a wide range of technologies and programming languages (like PHP, Flash, Ajax, SEO, graphics creation, content writing), it is NOT likely that they will know them all well.  If they tell you they don’t like JavaScript, so they sub-contract all JavaScript work out to someone else, you should consider this a bonus. They know their weaknesses and have figured out a way to work around them.

Designer Experience…while experience can be useful, it can also be a drawback. Just because a designer has less experience doesn’t mean that he or she can’t build a beautiful site for you. Before you base your decision solely on how many sites they’ve built or how long they’ve been in business, think about this:

  • Many long-time designers are stuck in their habits and might not be willing or able to give you a cutting edge website (if that’s what you want).
  • Younger designers are more likely to have gone to school to get a Web design degree. While this isn’t vital either, it does tell you that this person has academic knowledge that an older designer might only have through practice.

Designer Fees…the same rule applies here as with anywhere, “you will probably get what you pay for”.  “Free” means you’ll get a very bad site or very very little, or maybe you’ll get a good site, and then when you ask them to make one change they’ll never answer your calls.  Volunteering and barter is different than free. If you run a non-profit, you might be able to find a Web designer to volunteer time for your website. If you offer a service that is valuable to the designer, you may be able to trade for their web services.

Remember, web design is a specific expertise that only a qualified and trained individual can deliver.  If you need a plumber, you don’t call a florist.  If you need an electrician, you don’t call a hairdresser.  The world wide web might be somewhat new and you may be wary of how to navigate the process of entering it….but you will probably need the expertise of a qualified individual or company to help you, web design is a specific skill set like any other specialized trade.

Read more helpful information on hiring a web designer at about.com>>>