New website for childrens' book illustrator

Emily Bolam blog entry
We've just finished a new website for children' book illustrator Emily Bolam and it was a treat from start to finish. Emily came to us with a clear idea of what she wanted from the site and some references from other websites so we could get a good visual feel of what she was looking for.

As with any website where the visuals are the star attraction, we felt it was the job of the design to get out of the way, so decided to keep things as simple as possible - nice tidy sans serif body and navigation and a hand-drawn Google font for the main title. The rollovers on the front page disappear on tablets and smartphones, but the galleries work well across all devices - visitors can use a mouse or trackpad on their computer and simply swipe from side to side if they're using a touchscreen device.

Thanks to Emily's organisation and enthusiasm, the whole thing was completed within a week of her first getting in touch. This is a great example of how you can save money on a website if you're organised and prepared to respond quickly as new versions of the site are uploaded.

When Flickr, Blogger, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook turn evil...

flickr-logo copy
Quite often when we build a website for a client, they'll already be locked into using another service. Some might have a Facebook page, others are in love with Instagram, a few are Twitter addicts, while some have their entire photo library stored on Flickr. (Note the absence of Pinterest - this is because none of our clients are 16 year old girls. Yet.)

We love services like Flickr and YouTube and Vimeo because they take the heavy lifting away from our own websites - handling both the storage of stuff that takes up a lot of space and the bandwidth required to serve it up to visitors.

But you can come a cropper when titans like Twitter or even mini-behemoths like Tumblr change the way they allow third parties like us to access their information. This is why Twitter widgets suddenly stop working, or blogs hosted on Tumblr refuse to show up without warning.

Putting your precious eggs into someone else's basket has advantages - usually in terms of cost because you save on hosting - but there are disadvantages too, mainly because you're no longer in charge of looking after your own data. And whether that data is pixels in a photo, frames in a video, words on a blog or zeroes and ones on an MP3 track, you may want to think about balancing the cost savings against retaining control over the content that you've created so lovingly.

Save money on your website #2: Photos

When it comes to building a website on time and therefore on budget, photos - good ones - are often the cause of an avoidable bottleneck. Your smartphone may have a 22 megapixel camera but it's still a cameraphone and it doesn't necessarily turn its owner into a photographer- no matter how clever the technology. Indeed with a few exceptions - outside shots in good light where the subject doesn't move - home produced photos will rarely be good enough to use on your website; and they certainly won't match the clarity and composition of those that come from the camera of a professional snapper. There are other exceptions of course - Instagram-style pictures that have been filtered up the wazoo can sometimes be effective, and deliberately scrappy photos in the naive style have their place - but on the whole if you want a professional job, then use a professional.

That can mean hiring a photographer (we know some great ones right here in Brighton and Hove) or using what's called a stock photo from a picture library. Although the latter have a bit of a reputation for cheesiness, there are so many libraries offering such a wide range of photos and photo styles that we can almost certainly find something that works for your website.

So here are our top photographic tips for your website:

  • use good quality, professional photos where possible - this is especially important for people shots
  • If you want a slideshow of images, try to pick ones that are the same dimensions (rather than all different shapes and sizes)
  • If you want a gallery of thumbnail images that appear in a lightbox when a visitor clicks or taps on them, then you can mix and match images of different proportions
  • If you've got a photo that looks a bit fuzzy to you, don't use it - it'll look fuzzy to everyone else as well!
  • label your photos, give them names that make sense so it's easier for us to work out which one is supposed to go where
  • if your photos are supposed to include a caption, make sure you provide one (and try and make sure it's roughly the right length)

If you can hit all these marks with your photos, incorporating them into a website will go much more smoothly and increase our chances of bringing everything in on time and on budget. Next time: text.

Save money on your website #1: Be prepared

checklist blog
If you really want to help us stick to a budget then you need to be prepared, be prepared and be prepared. We'll help you with the initial structure of the site if you need it. We've got a handy free Website Checklist that will help you to refine your ideas and really think about what you want from a website, why you want a website and what you think it might look like. We couch this is simple terms and ask you what you like and don't like, as well as suggesting various features you might find useful to incorporate on the site. This helps you to get organised and helps us to understand what's going to go on each page.

But before you press 'go', the most important thing is to have the material you want us to use, ready and waiting. That means:

  • a logo
  • any existing branding like a typeface/font or colour scheme
  • good quality photographs that are the right dimensions for the job (a banner slideshow that has photos that are the same size and shape will look better than one where they're all sorts of different shapes and sizes)
  • Links to any professional bodies or societies, so that we can source logos from them in the correct file format
  • And most important, the text you want to use on the site (this may not be perfect or finished, but the closer it is to the real thing, the quicker this will all go)

If you can have all these things ready to go when we start creating the site, we'll have a much better chance of sticking to the budget. Next time, we'll look at photographs in a bit more detail.