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College and university websites have a lot of roles to fill. They need to provide information for prospective students (both new and transfer), parents of students and prospective students, current students, and alumni. In many cases, they're also the gateway to the school's intranet and the public face for both academics and athletics. They often need to include reams of information in a way that makes everything easy to find. It's a huge challenge.
And the truth is: most collge and university websites are horribly designed. Either they look like they were designed fifteen years ago and then forgotten about, or they're so overloaded with information that it's almost impossible to find what you're looking for.
But not every college or university website is horrible. There are some excellent sites out there, and below are some of them. If you know others, please share them in the comments to this post!
A Pattern Language is a book about architecture that was written in the 1970s, before the Web as we know it was even conceived. But the book provides hundreds of valuable patterns for community planning and architectural design, many of which can easily be applied to online communities and social networking websites.
Niche social networks are popping up online all the time, with many designers and developers taking advantage of pre-built social network platforms and making little modification. It makes sense, after all: why reinvent the wheel when perfectly good ones are available?
But if you step back and really consider how your social network or online community is set up, you might be able to improve the user experience and overall user satisfaction by leaps and bounds. Looking to other fields, such as architecture and civil engineering, is one way to gain new ideas without having to reinvent the wheel.
Inspiration can be a fickle thing. Most designers, when lacking ideas, turn to design galleries to find ideas. But there are a few problems with that approach. The most obvious is that when taking inspiration from similar mediums, there's a fine line between "inspired by" and "copied". To some extent, looking at established website designs can also be somewhat limiting, especially if you're looking for a fresh solution to a problem. [Links checked March/06/2017]
There are so many things designers could be turning to for inspiration outside of design galleries. We've cataloged a dozen of those places below, along with where you can find inspiration for each of them. Share any other inspirational sources you might have in the comments.
In the previous two parts of this series on color theory, we talked mostly about the meanings behind colors and color terminology. While this information is important, I'm sure a lot of people were wondering when we were going to get into the nitty-gritty of actually creating some color schemes. [Content Update: August 2017]
That's where Part 3 comes in. Here I'll be talking about methods for creating your own color schemes, from scratch. I'll cover the traditional color scheme patterns (monochrome, analogous, complementary, etc.) as well as how to create custom schemes that aren't based strictly on any one pattern. By the end of this article, you'll have the tools and skills to start creating beautiful color palettes for your own design projects. The best way to improve your skills is to practice, so why not set yourself a goal of creating a new color scheme every day?
If you’re going to use color effectively in your designs, you’ll need to know a few color concepts, as well as color theory terminology. A thorough working knowledge of concepts like chroma, value, and saturation is key to creating your own awesome color palettes (which we’ll get to in Part 3). [Content Update: August 2017]
In Part 1: The Meaning of Color of this color theory series, we covered the meanings of different colors. Here, we’ll go over the basics of what affects a given color, such as adding gray, white, or black to the pure hue, and its effect on a design (with examples).
There are few things in design that are more subjective—or more important—than the use of color. A color that can evoke one reaction in one person may evoke the opposite reaction in another, due to culture, prior association, or even just personal preference. [Content Update: August 2017]
Color theory is a science and art unto itself, which some build entire careers on, as color consultants or sometimes brand consultants. Knowing the effects color has on a majority of people is an incredibly valuable expertise that designers can master and offer to their clients.
Designers spend hours perfecting websites, whether their own or their clients'. When you've invested anywhere from a few days to months in a website, the last thing you want is for someone else to steal the design without even giving you proper credit (or compensation). And if you're a template or theme designer, it's an even bigger problem. After all, if your templates are available online for free, a lot of people won't bother paying for them.
So what can you do if you've discovered that one of your designs has been ripped off? What should you do? Read on for a complete guide to steps you can take to protect your intellectual property.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be one on TV, so the advice here should not be taken as legal advice. Before taking any of the actions mentioned below, check with a lawyer or other legal expert to see what is allowable in your state or country or to see if additional options are available to you.
Deciding what to do once you've purchased a domain but haven't yet launched the website is always a bit of a conundrum. Leaving up your domain registrar or Web host's generic page seems unprofessional, especially if you're trying to drum up advance press for your new project. At the same time, you don't want to spend too much time on a temporary page when you really should be working on the website itself. [Content Care Dec/12/2016]
The best thing to do is create a simple "Coming soon" page to notify visitors of what will eventually be there. Good "Coming soon" pages come in two basic varieties: the informational design, which simply tells visitors what will be there after launch; and the page that invites early visitors to sign up for updates or even to request a beta (or alpha) invitation. Below are some great examples of each, followed by some best practices for creating your own "Coming soon" page. You definitely won't see among these the generic "Under construction" page (with the cute construction graphic) that used to litter the Web.
Let's face it: Web-safe fonts are very limiting. Maybe a dozen fonts are out there that are widely enough adopted to be considered "Web safe," and those ones aren't exactly spectacular for much other than body type. Sure, Georgia, Arial or Times New Roman work just fine for the bulk of the text on your website, but what if you want something different for, let's say, headings? Or pull quotes? What then?
You have a few options. Many people just opt for more elaborate CSS font stacks, with their preferred fonts up front. But that still leaves a big chunk of your visitors seeing the same old Web-safe fonts.
Enter dynamic text replacement. In addition to font stacks, why not replace the heading text with an image, embedded font, or bit of Flash? The methods described below are easier than they sound. And the end result is that the vast majority of users will see the beautiful typography you want them to see. A word of warning, though: don't use dynamic text replacement for all of the text on your page. All that would do is slow it down and frustrate your visitors. Instead, save it for headings, menu items, pull quotes and other small bits of text.
Selling online can open up huge new markets for many businesses. When your store can be open 24/7 and you can reach a global market without the costs of mailings and call centers, it can be a huge boon to your business. But there are plenty of things to consider when designing an ecommerce site. It's not as simple as throwing up some shopping cart software and plopping products into a database.
There are tons of mistakes that online retailers make every day, all of them avoidable with a little careful planning. And even if you're already committing some of these mistakes, most of them are easy enough to fix. Avoiding them will greatly improve the experience of your customers.
Below are 15 of the most common mistakes that e-commerce sites make, as well as advice on how to avoid or fix them. Take the advice under consideration before embarking on a new e-commerce project or when thinking over your current ecommerce site, and make efforts to follow the recommendations outlined here.
What would you do if you were suddenly stranded on a desert island in the middle of nowhere, with only a USB drive, a dial-up internet connection, and a barebones computer with no software outside the operating system installed? Of course, you'd use the internet connection to call for help first, but what about after that? How would you keep your design business going?
Okay, maybe a scenario that's a bit more likely would work better. What if your computer crashed, wiping out all of your data and programs, and you have a deadline in two days? Or maybe you want to be able to pick up and leave at a moment's notice without taking anything more than a change of clothes and a USB drive. If you have the apps below, neither of those scenarios would be much of a problem.
The apps on this list can help you with everything from coding to graphics to running your business and managing your projects, all from a single USB drive. And while USB drives are getting bigger all the time (last I checked a 64GB one wasn't too badly priced, and that's 4GB more storage than my current MacBook has), you still need special programs in most instances to have true portability. The apps below are just that: truly portable and small enough to fit on a USB drive (often a very small USB drive).
CSS Font stacks are one of those things that elude a lot of designers. Many stick to the basic stacks Dreamweaver auto-recommends or go even more basic by just specifying a single web-safe font. But doing either of those things means you're missing out on some great typography options. Font stacks can make it possible to show at least some of your visitors your site's typography exactly the way you intend without showing everyone else a default font. Read on for more information on using and creating effective font stacks with CSS.
There are a huge variety of font stacks recommended. It seems every designer has their own favorites, what they consider to be the "ultimate" font stack. While there is no definitive font stack out there, there are a few things to keep in mind when using or creating your own stacks.
First of all, make sure you always include a generic font family at the end of your font stacks. This way, if for some strange reason the person visiting your site has virtually no fonts installed, at least they won't end up looking at everything in Courier New. Second, there's a basic formula to creating a good font stack: 'Preferred Font', 'Next best thing', 'Something common and sorta close', 'Similar Web-safe', and 'Generic'. There's nothing wrong with having more than one font for any of those, but try to keep your font stack reasonably short (six to ten fonts is a pretty good maximum number).