Thursday 24 June 2010

Web Design

I am currently in the process of building a website for my portfolio of designs and photos, and what a challenge it has already become. I have been wanting to do this for quite some time, but now that it is summer, before I begin my new job next week as a photographer (yes it is true!), I wanted to take this time to build a website and get myself out there. This all started becoming more serious the other day when I went into a store wearing one of my custom necklace designs (designed and made by my mind and hands) and was asked by the girl working at the store where I bought it. I told her I made it myself, and she was quick to ask if I had any more, and if they were for sale. The truth is, I have been making jewelery for a while, and lately I have decided to start selling some, so finding out that someone might be interested in buying one of my pieces is really exciting! She asked me if I had a card or a website... I gave her my email address and the URL to this blog, because as of right now, I have neither business cards nor a true website. However, she caught me in a "transition" time... I had already started working on designs for business cards and a website, though none of them had been completed yet.

So, my personal homework right now is to finish my website and make business cards, so that if I ever come across another person wanting to buy my designs, I have a card to give them with a website to guide them to, where they can not only see a portfolio of my work, but also shop for selected designs as well.

So, that little tangent (a tangent from what, you ask?) is what leads me into what I meant to write this post about. Web Design.

I've spent the past few days drawing out ideas on paper, and on Illustrator to get a sense of what I want my site to look like. I've also been looking at other websites to get inspiration and to see how they function from a designers perspective... What do the links do when they are highlighted or clicked on? How is the page organized? What typefaces do they use? Why?
All these little details go unnoticed, for the most part, as a passive web user. But as a web designer (if I can even call myself that... with zero knowledge of web design under my belt), everything becomes a little more complex. As I try to come up with the design solutions of each aspect of my own website, I begin to see all the nit-picky design details that other designers have found as solutions for whatever design hurdles they faced in designing said website. I suppose I always knew, or assumed that I knew, that web design was complicated, but I, like most other non-web-designers, took most of web design for granted. I suppose a small part of me sort of just assumed that websites were spontaneously created by the infinite and powerful forces of the interweb without the need for humans to create them. But, I am wrong. Humans are constantly creating and building new websites for other humans to access through their internet-accessing portals (computers) and without these portals, there would be no way to see, feel, hear, touch, taste, or in any way experience a "website".

The internet is still a crazy and freaky concept to me. I am sitting in a puddle of internet right now, and so are you. I stepped in some internet when I got out of bed, and some internet got into my cereal this morning, and I ate it anyway. I even ran over a giant piece of internet while driving on the freeway!! How cruel...

Doctors have yet to discover what long-term exposure to this invisible, tasteless, odorless substance we call "internet" might do to our health, but symptoms are already beginning to show... starting with this false illusion of existence. Hallucinations! Or, as others call it - virtual reality. In deciding to create a website, I am deciding to create a web presence for myself (as if my activity on facebook, blogger, emails, etc, wasn't enough to confirm my existence) so that other people who have created web presences, or virtual realities, or hallucinations (whatever you want to call them) might be able to access me... the web-me, at least (which now a days, is the "me" that counts) and confirm that I am real, that I do things, that I sell things, and then we can all pick out the bugs from each others fur and teach our young to "fish" for fire ants for nutrition.
This gas, this substance that we bathe in, inhale, consume, this so-called "internet" - this is what web designers do. We are all, in essence, web designers - creating our avatars (facebook pages, blogs, websites) to confirm to each other that we are friends, or enemies, or that we are worthy of being hired, or worthy of being fired, or that we are in any way important or insignificant. We no longer need to rely on personal interactions to show each other what we are - the internet can do it all for us! 

Web design.

Designing the internet. Designing the invisible and untouchable spaces that somehow have become so solid and so real in our confirmation of us as humans, as real, as worthy. This must be the new frontier in design - if at one time, design was creating objects to sit in, to drink out of, to live in, now we are creating objects, ideas, realities for us to exist in. I now begin the process of designing my website... designing an invisible and untouchable thing that is so solid, so real, in my existence as a designer, or student, or professional. I am a website. I am real. I am worthy. I am human. Hear me roar.

Here is a list of other websites aka people who aim to prove their existence as well. Done beautifully, aesthetically minded, and with clarity and ease at the forefront of the design. I salute these web designs:

And on a different note, I noticed a few trends in my search for great web designs:
1 - HELVETICA!!! Wow... I am not sure if it is a lack of originality or simply the inievitability of Helvetica, but I saw this font everywhere, for everything.
2. "Hello my name is...." - I suppose this is an attempt to seem original and clever, to show that your business or your online presence is modern, youthful, and has a sense of humor. However, I just don't really like it. It's overdone, and sort of unprofessional.

Trends are the same in nature in any industry - they are just trends. They come and go, and ideas go from "awesome" to "lame" in no time. In the process of making a website, I want to remind myself of this, and avoid becoming "a fashion victim", even if I am allowing myself to become a victim of our times. I hope to do so as gracefully as I can... no bugs or fire ants. Just clean, beautiful design.

Must be Unfashionable. Must.

This is all for now.
Over and Out.


Christian Sisson said...

Nice article :)
Have you managed to design your website?
I'm glad that our website design served as an inspiration for you to do yours.

Good luck and all the best to you :)

catalina said...

Thank you so much for reading my blog!
I have been slowly working on learning html and css coding, but I have not yet gotten much done - school takes up all of my time! I hope to finish working on this project within the next few months.

Thank you, and great website!!

Christian Sisson said...

Hey Catalina, thanks for you kind words once again :)

Are you developing your website on WordPress or any other CMS? Or hardcoding it on html/css?

I recently stumbled upon Squarespace. ( Depending on how elaborated is your design it can be very useful.

One other thing you can do is set up your portfolio on Cargo Collective. That's a nice platform for publishing. On Cargo's homepage there are some beautiful featured websites.

I can help you if you need :) Just tell me if there is anything I can do for you.

All the best and cheers!

catalina said...

I started working just on dreamweaver doing html/css, but I am considering Wordpress or something like that to help speed the process.

Squarespace looks awesome! Thanks so much for telling me about it - I will definitely look into this site. And as for Cargo, I have actually already registered to use their platform, but I am not sure if I want to use them or not. We'll see! I've got to keep doing research.

I will surely keep in touch with you. Thanks again for all the help!! This has been really useful!

Best to you!

Christian Sisson said...

Sounds nice :)

Let's stay in touch. All my contacts are in the Studio's website! Feel comfortable to add me in any of the social networks if it's ok for you :)

All the best and good luck!

catalina said...

I actually just thought of a quick question for you:

I noticed your site uses WordPress - what sort of design flexibility/variety (without having to do actual coding) is available through WordPress? Is it easy to build a completely unique website without having to know html/css? And how exactly does WordPress work?

I did a little research on Squarespace, and it looks like a really great option, but I am trying to decide if paying money to use Squarespace would provide a significantly better experience than using something free like WordPress, or if WordPress is just as good, and also free.

Thanks for your help!!

- Cat

Christian Sisson said...

Hi Catalina!

One thing you can do to avoid touching any HTML/CSS whatsoever is to use a prefab WordPress theme. Maybe it's not a unique design, I mean, personalized for you but it is sure a nice way to start. For example, the theme I used was the Aperio Prototype, then I modified it to meet our needs (with a little bit of code because I'm no expert in it).

However, searching for a nice designed WP theme can be boring; it can take weeks until you find one, but it is worthy. You can find one that is perfect for you (avoiding touching code) or you can find one that is a nice starting point. In most cases, you can reach good results with CSS only.

The thing with WP is that it became so popular that there is nothing you can't find on the web about it. Any tutorial for the weirdest things exists out there. It is a powerful platform indeed. Maybe not the best, but I've never tried any other so far. There are also Drupal and Joomla, but I never used them.

WP works like Blogger. You have an admin area where you can manage your content without ever touching a line of code. You can use a prefab theme or you can design your own using a sandbox theme (a theme that is "naked" in terms of design but fully coded). The advanced guys build both code and CSS from scratch (that is insane!).

Squarespace is nice for people who don't know any code at all. It's like an advanced iWeb. Maybe it's better if you open a trial account to see if it works for you.

I got a few links here for a nice search on WP themes but I'm afraid that my comment might be flagged as span if I paste then here. We can continue our conversation via email.

You are most welcome. I can help you with the code and all that stuff.


Christian Sisson said...

Freshly released today on - - WordPress 3 essential training. Maybe useful :)

catalina said...

Oh wow, that is awesome, thank you!!!

PS - i sent you an email through your website - did you get it?

Christian Sisson said...

No, I didn't... did you send it via contact form? Send it to csisson at gmail. This one I'll get for sure :)

Christian Sisson said...

Hey Catalina! Long time no talk.

Have a nice holiday season :) Merry Xmas and a Happy new year!!

Needing to talk about your website, please contat me by email - csisson at gmail.

By the way, we talked about using Cargo Collective for your portfolio. I just launched mine yesterday at

Hope to hear from you soon.


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