Monday, February 17, 2014

Crash Course for DIY Websites

It's hard to watch TV these days without seeing commercials for DIY website builders.  One commercial that sticks out in my mind proclaims something along the lines of "You always thought you could build a website yourself, and in fact, you can, and it's really easy with our service."

As a web designer, this is similar to saying "Rothko paintings are just squares on canvas, I can do that." or "Rappers just have computers make the music; I could do that."

The truth is, you can't.  At least, not with a lot of practice.

For evidence of this truth, look around at some of the DIY built websites.  The fact that you can intrinsically tell which ones I'm talking about already means there is a gap between professional designers and non professionals, but even still, you don't have to look far to find some neon colors, all caps text, and an over abundance of center aligned paragraphs.

Even still, using a DIY site or CMS can be beneficial for individuals or businesses that update their content frequently; it is best for the developer and business if they do not have to constantly bug a designer to add text or change photos.

This post serves as a "crash course to web design" for anyone using these services, or any WYSIWYG editor.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the skill of organizing information so it is easy to find for your end users.
  • Navigation should be coherent and efficient.  Keep main links to a minimum, and be aware of broad vs. narrow navigation patterns.
  • Conduct adequate user research to know what are the most frequently requested content items; make them as easy as possible to access.
  • Be organized with your information.  Is the information on each page relevant to each other?  Can it be split or combined to make more sense?
  • Keep your goals in mind.  What is the sites purpose?  How can information be presented to more effectively accomplish its goals?


Color Theory

Color theory is the selection of colors that is pleasing to the eye and psychologically appealing.
  • Stick to a limited color palette, of 3 to 4 colors.  Use an online tool to help you pick your colors.
  • Use good contrast between backgrounds and text.  This has improved dramatically in recent years, but still causes problems.  Black on white is still the best. This is bad.
  • Avoid ultra bright extremes, and opposite colors on the color wheel.
  • Remember your warm and cool colors and their effects on psychology and even physiology. 


Content Design

Content design is designing your content to be readable on the web.
  • Use bullets; users typically scan web pages and rarely read them top to bottom.
  • Stick to left alignment.  Left-to-right language users can read more efficiently when the left margin is aligned; that way our eyes know where to return after a line.
  • Make links meaningful, and keep content relevant.  This will help improve your listing on search engines.
  • Use minimal bold our underlined text.  The less it is used, the better effect it will have.



  • Brevity is key for the web; use only the most important information.
  • Take a minimalist approach to web design.
  • Keep your site updated.  Out of date websites scare potential customers.
  • Remember to keep your website accessible to all users of different abilities.
  • Stay educated.  Remember sites you like, and study them.  Read blogs and follow web designers on Twitter.  There is tons of information out there.


Hopefully this will serve as a starting place for those DIYers out there.  Don't hesitate to ask a professional developer for help; we're happy to give tips and critique for those willing to listen and improve.  

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Connect Kentucky Award

It's been a long time since a post, but I wanted to pop in and talk about some work I've been doing.

I've been developing tour websites alongside of two historians. We're basically taking walking tours and putting them online, so you can take them with your smartphone. We've completed one site for Augusta, Kentucky. It's located at One is currently in the works for the City of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and should be finished this spring.

For our work, my colleagues and I were awarded the Connect Kentucky Small Business and Technology award. The press release is located here:

Thanks for reading!