WPDFD Issue #29 - August 01, 2000

Step back.

First consider the problem, then decide the best way to solve it! Your doctor doesn't prescribe the latest designer drug without establishing what exactly is wrong with you and considering all the other options for treatment first.

That's professionalism!

Every design problem has its own set of peculiarities and requirements. Not only do you need to establish what these are but you have to prioritise them too. To hit the target, you can use a precision rifle or a scattergun - one spot-on solution or a number of solutions that are slightly differently focussed. Even doctors don't always know the exact way to treat an ailment, they may have to try a few alternatives - there's nothing wrong with that.

The target audience

Identify the audience profile and surfing environment. Lowest common denominator Sites that people can access with any computer, monitor or browser. You can’t assume any particular screen size, colour depth or plug-ins. The majority market Sites that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, excluding the minority ‘bottom end’ Assume at least 800 x 600 at 16-bits, sound and the most common plug-ins and technologies - JavaScript, Flash, etc.

The Objective

Establish the purpose of the site which may focus on one, or include several of the following requirements:- To inform To provide information where the end result is not directly sales related. Educational and scientific sites. News sites. Public or special interest sites. To entertain Sites that entertain or amuse without selling anything. To advertise or promote To provide information about companies, products and services that are sold through conventional channels.

Scope

Establishing the designer’s responsibilities for the project. Mechanical Assembling a Web page from supplied elements using basic HTML/JavaScript. Providing basic page layout and navigation. Uploading files and managing the server space. Site maintenance/updating. Creative Conceptual design. Overall site concepts and architecture. Graphic design:- Illustration, photography, animation, logo design etc.

Budgets

Many clients have no idea what they should be paying for a Web site. They will get a huge spectrum of quotations from companies and individuals of many different levels of competence and won't really know what is the 'going rate', if indeed there is such a thing. If you can show them exactly what they will be getting for their money - in terms of end results - they will be more confident about hiring you and paying what you ask - provided, of course, they can afford it, which is another story!

A Case History

Time Out London Guide An interactive 'Point and Click' electronic book 'Tomorrow's Newspaper' Startup Screen The 'NewsCaster' An imaginary PDA with a colour screen Spreads from the 'first' electronic newspaper NCSA Mosaic, the first net browser displaying prototype pages for the Electronic Telegraph When I was approached by the Daily Telegraph to do an interactive visualisation of an electronic newspaper back in 1993, there was a realisation that the dissemination of daily news on sheets of paper had an uncertain future.

Before you even think about designing a Web page, whether it is for yourself or for a client, there are some important questions that must first be addressed. I have always believed that, where design is concerned, getting the brief right is half the battle. You can't possibly solve problems when you don't know what they are! And when you have that blank sheet of paper or Photoshop window in front of you and are looking for inspiration to get started, knowing where you are heading is a great help.

Budgets

Many clients have no idea what they should be paying for a Web site. They will get a huge spectrum of quotations from companies and individuals of many different levels of competence and won't really know what is the 'going rate', if indeed there is such a thing. If you can show them exactly what they will be getting for their money - in terms of end results - they will be more confident about hiring you and paying what you ask - provided, of course, they can afford it, which is another story!

Administrative and Legal

Again, I can't give anything but very general advice. I work in the UK. Formal contacts are almost unheard of here, I've never had one in my life. In the USA, contracts are virtually mandatory. Depending on where you live and work, you need to know about your legal rights, what you can and can't do and what your responsibilities are. Things get even more complicated if you are working for clients in other countries with different legal requirements.

In the world of advertising, every product must have an image and certain attributes that set it apart from all others. The image is partly visual and manifests itself in the company logo, corporate colours, typographic ‘house style’. But, it goes deeper than that. The visual imagery is there to project an underlying product (or company) personality, and to complement that image, the product must have a USP - Unique Selling Proposition.