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Mastering Website Graphics: Problems And Solutions

Jun 27, 2008
I'm a professional webmaster and in this job I have to cope with many different types of tasks involving website design and maintenance. Quite frankly, a webmaster has to be a "Jack of all trades", and naturally, some of the jobs I find more difficult than others.

Here's Something I Struggle With..

Of all the jobs associated with developing and running websites, the one which I find most challenging is the creation of graphics for my websites. Like many people, I am not particularly artistic. Also, some of the top-end graphics programs, such as PhotoShop, have a very steep learning curve, as well as being relatively expensive.

This lack of graphics expertise is widespread. There are many, many websites with a very amateurish appearance because of poor website graphics. Owners of such websites don't realise how important it is to have a professional looking site. Few people will buy from a website which does not look professionally designed. Well, would you?

The Importance Of Website Graphics

For a site to be easily readable, the text needs to be broken up with appropriate images. These make a web page much easier to read. And it doesn't matter whether your website is a sales page, a blog or a content-rich site aiming to make money from advertising - if your site isn't easy to read, people will leave the site quickly.

Also, presenting an image of whatever is being sold on a site will increase the conversion rate. This applies equally to digital products such as eBooks and software.

When Should You Use A Graphic Designer?

I do this when I can spare the money, when I need an exceptionally high quality graphic - and when I can wait the days and weeks for a graphic to be prepared.

You have, of course, the problem of finding a qualified graphic designer. You need to make sure that they can produce the quality that you need and that you like the sort of designs they can produce. Each graphic designer has his or her own style, and they will not all appeal to you. Have a good look at their portfolio - and check how long they are likely to take to produce the finished work. You don't want to delay the launch of a new site or product because the graphic designer works so slowly.

Why Not Use Existing Artwork?

There are plenty of resources of ready-made graphics on the web. It's not difficult to find collections of icons, banners, buttons and good quality royalty-free photos.

The trouble is that the same graphics get used time and again on different websites, and people will soon realise that you are a "cheapskate"! Not a good impression to make! Of course, you can use your graphics software to modify pre-made graphics. If you want to make certain that your website stands out, you need to have access to valuable content that is relatively unique. But again, changing graphics takes time and skill. Like many people, I am short of both of these!

There's also the problem of locating good sources of pre-made graphics. I've found that a lot of these collections of existing artwork are both repetitive and of poor quality.

What I Have Done To Tackle The Website Graphics Problem

I've been a professional webmaster since 1996, and so I've spent a lot of time tracking down good web-based sources of graphics. And in recent months, I've found web-based services which go a long way beyond just providing clip art and royalty-free photographs

Some of these online services are quite remarkable. There are services which let you create your own badges, buttons and banners without needing artistic skills. There are services which let you do amazing transformations of existing photographs. There are sites which let you design your own website and blog templates. The list goes on - and new online graphics services are appearing almost daily.

The great thing is that there is no charge for these services!

I started off by just having a list of these services. Then, I found it easier to bundle them into a bit of software that I built so that I could quickly select and use these website graphics services. I made sure that I could update this software easily as I located new services.

I passed a few copies of this software out to a few close friends to see what they thought of it. Their reaction was "Wow!! You could make a packet selling this". Well, I didn't particularly want to make "a packet" because I wanted to make it affordable to most "graphically-challenged" webmasters. So, when I added it to my "Webmasters CheatKit product range, I kept the price low, and it's become hugely successful.
About the Author
Ian Traynor is an experienced webmaster who has been helping less experienced webmasters for many years. His inexpensive "graphics in a box" software can be found at http://www.IanSays.com/WebmastersCheatKit/GraphicsWizard
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