Critiquing web site designs

I am often asked to critique web site designs DIY-style. Sometimes the only thing I can say that is positive about a design is that I like the use of a particular colour. I always try to be fair but honest.

I really think that there should be no excuses for having an ugly looking website, when you can easily buy a template for around $50 (although I clearly don’t advocate this method!).

Obviously there are create your own site using a ‘template based’ website and services, where you pay a monthly fee, but I have yet to see a nice looking website from this sort of service. It is sometimes a case of giving people false confidence.

I really admire people who really want to give it a go and I aways encourage it when I can. However, I am a firm believer in “know your strengths and weaknesses”. For example, I will leave the accountant to deal with my accounts and hope that he leaves the designing to the designers.

If I could offer any advice, it would be the following:

1. Keep it consistent. There is nothing worse than having the content and layout jump around the screen to put people off.
2. Make sure any images or pictures you use are of the same dimensions throughout.
3. Don’t use more than 3 styles of fonts and then only sparingly.
4. Never use red and blue coloured fonts (it may have worked in the early 1990s but not now)
5. Don’t overload the screen with information. White space is good, gives the eyes a rest and the chance for your content to shine through.
6. Keep all headings, titles and body text consistent (that ‘c’ word again).
7. Stay away from ‘comic sans’ font it’s not nice or funny.
8. Make sure that your navigation is simple and clear for the user to understand.
9. Don’t have a ‘splash’ page on a HTML site, it is just pointless. They were designed for Flash sites back in the early days when people were on dial-up and had wait for the page to load.
10. Keep it consistent (see a theme here?).

If all else fails there are more than enough good websites out there to take inspiration from, and then if that doesn’t work, you can contact someone like me and I’ll do it for you for a modest fee + chocolate buttons.

Princess Doodle logo

I was commissioned to design a logo for a new babies and girl’s accessories company. My brief was to use pink and lots of it.

During the conceptual stage, the client did ask for the ‘princess’ to be in lowercase, but I held my designer ground (stamped my foot) and I think the uppercase works well against the lowercase ‘doodle’.

I am really pleased with the final result. I also came up with ‘Princess Pea’ who is going to be used as a company mascot. Yay!

Website to follow shortly, watch this space!

To Twit or not to Twit

I was asked the other day what the point of twitter was. I struggled to describe what the concept was and why someone would use it. The only argument I could come up with was “Stephen Fry uses it!”

My friend was very perplexed by it as she read somewhere that ‘every student uses it’ and she didn’t know of any of her friends in her Uni circle that did use it.

I do use it for a project I am working on, but only as way of keeping my website updated with relevant information. I suppose it can be a passive way of ‘spamming’ a group of people (often complete strangers). However, even for a tech-addict like me, I do draw the line at twittering about when you are going to have a cup of tea or take a leak. Because frankly, who cares?


Payment in the form of art

‘Mr. Crayons’ has a cousin (several times removed) who is married to John Harris a very well reowned artist.

John always has issues with his computer and ‘Mr. Crayons’ has been the unofficial official IT support department for many years now. After an particularly irkesome computer glitch, John offered to paint a portrait of ‘Miss. Crayons’ as payment for all the time spent on said issue. The result, a 3ftx3ft original JH oil on canvas painting which we are delighted with.


I could get used to being paid in the form of art, it won’t put food on the table, but at least our walls will look pretty.

The colour pink

I have just been comissioned to design a logo for a hand-made children’s accessories start-up.  The detailed brief for the logo?

Pink, different variations, maybe dark pink…

I just love this sort of brief.

A good eye

I really believe that you can be creative in different ways.  There are definately artists, people who can draw and paint, and then there are those who are graphically minded with typography and layout, and then there are photographers.

I have always thought that ‘Mr. Crayons’ had a good eye for photography, although he can’t draw to save his life (self admitting). Having come from a family of photographers it’s only right that he should pick up some tips along the way.

However, I don’t think I really appreciated his talent until I was going through some of the photographs he took from our recent holiday.  Granted he does have a great camera and a lovely lens, but I think there is more to it than just having the right equipment.  They are the sort of shots that make you imagine what is beyond the picture, a rare gift indeed.

Art or just plain cheating?

I went to a local ‘Meet the Artist’ event held as part of a bigger festival.  There was a good mixture of artists and disciplines.

I came across an empty table/stand, and peered at the workstation to see what the artist was working on. I saw what looked like a inkjet colour printout of a photo of a field of poppies and some daisies, on top of which the artist had started painting using acrylic paints.

Now I am all one for using a photograph as reference and study aid, but had never heard of anyone painting directly onto the photograph.  My friend said that it was like ‘painting by numbers’. I am afraid I don’t approve and it was a good thing the artist was not present otherwise she would have received a disapproving look from me.

Differences between advertising and PR

As told to me by my very own personal PR guru.

The saying is you “pay for advertising and pray for PR.” In other words, you have complete control over the message with advertising, but you lose control with PR.

Oh, and in case you are confused as to where Marketing sits within all this, advertising and PR are a subset of Marketing.