Fine Art & Graphic Design vs. Website Design. A most difficult transition.
Just a few years ago, I knew very little about web design. I have had many years experience as a fine artist and graphic designer. The artistic skill set has always come very naturally for me
I wanted to step up my income, so I enrolled in the portfolio school, Creative Circus, in Atlanta, GA, to study design and advertising. Great plan! I could transfer my skills to the advertising world, and have a more stable income! No brainer .. right? Yeah .. it was. Until I stepped into my first web design class! I thought my first concept was brilliant, and it “looked” so COOL! But each time I brought the print outs into class, they got pummeled. No, this won’t work. This is confusing. The colors won’t look right online. etc .. etc … etc.
I was so frustrated by the end of the quarter! I had managed to eek out an “acceptable” page, but it still got hammered by the people on my finals panel.I also discovered that I was not alone. Many other fellow, artist, students, were having just as much difficulty as I was. Fast forward to current days. I now design websites for a living. This is something I thought would never happen! I now see why the transition is so difficult, and want to share my discoveries.
This is a great quote to remember,
The following are some rules I try to stick to.
- User friendly websites are not art. Don’t get me wrong, a good website needs to look visually appealing, but combining strong visuals with a great UI (user interface), is key.
- Websites that look like fine art, confuse most people
- The pages should be clean, and well organized
- Always keep up with new trends and tools! How many websites do you see that look like they were created in the 90’s, and haven’t been touched since?
- A large number of people going online, aren’t web savvy, so with that in mind ..
- the navigation needs to stay in the same place on most pages
- people do not normally read large blocks of text, HOWEVER, you will have to have good content / text for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes! Just don’t expect people to read it, and don’t put it all on the home page.
- people like photos, videos, and shiny buttons!!
- every day users will get very frustrated, and leave, if they can’t navigate through the site easily, so KEEP IT SIMPLE
- Pastel, beachy, colors normally look horrible on a website
- Plan your structure in a grid layout, and keep it consistent throughout all of the pages. It avoids confusion, and makes content easier to place.
- Take advice from friends and family with a grain of salt, unless they are trained in website design. They have no idea, and you shouldn’t expect them to.
- Your client most likely has been looking at competitors’ sites, which in most cases, are poor design. Educate your client by showing them well designed sites before showing them your comps.
With the general rules out of the way, I want to point out the most difficult challenge for artists trying to design a website. Artists always try to be different. They have learned that crafting in a very unique style is GOOD and makes them stand apart from all other artists. With web design, there are standards and rules that just have to be followed, and artists have a difficult time “coloring inside the lines”. This is where the disconnect happens, but there is hope!
If you want to be in high demand, create designs that are dynamic and creative, while keeping within the boundaries. Analyze other sites you like, study UI, and current trends, apply your creative genius, and you’ll be well on your way.