Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Building the right website

I really enjoy building, designing and managing websites. I've had a number of sites over the years, usually comic-centric, but I've also built a few for outside vendors. One thing I really love doing is consulting from a design and content point of view, and it's something I'm exploring further as a way to make a living.

My day job at WWE often consists of building landing pages from the available kits that the developers make in Drupal and generally it is a lot of fun because it's a great way to visualize your ideas.

I actually prefer Wordpress. It's super-easy to learn, really flexible and can really do a lot for little to no cost. Most of the website I like to build are Wordpress based and I often go for templates that are heavily customizable. I don't have a developer background, my focus has always been on content, but I love the design aspect of everything.

I recently relaunched the website of my local comic store, I based it off the template I use for mostly because it's one of my favorite layouts for a magazine style of content heavy site.

The next project I moved on to was creating a site for my upcoming graphic novel, Patriot-1. I knew going in what I wanted the site to look like and the content pages I was wanted to feature to show off the book. I'm not taking the approach of posting the book online for free, mostly because small press creators need all the help and support they can get to create their passion projects and the best way to do it is by actually purchasing the product.

Nevertheless, I mapped out the site, created the location and immediately began searching for a Wordpress template to build from.

The one problem with Wordpress is that unless you are a developer, you are at the mercy of the limitations of a template. There are a few that have a great support system and helpful developers, but many are "limited, until you pay." I don't like that mainly because it defeats the purpose of open source.

Regardless, I think I finally found a simple, clean and effective layout and I've been toying with it for the past few days. It's different than my original vision, but that's okay - the goal is what serves the product. That's the most important takeaway of web design. You can have all the bells and whistles and codes in the world, but if your site isn't easy to navigate to meet your primary goals, then you've already failed.

I'm planning on unveiling the site shortly, but it made me think about the entire process of building a site.

I've seen a lot of good ones, and a lot of bad one from a whole range of products. I've been through a number of site redesigns at WWE - each one with the same goal... maximize viewership and product exposure. It's all about audience building.

But really you have to find a layout and theme that not only matches your product, but also presents whatever it is you are trying to feature in a clear and easy to navigate manner - bring your vision to life and intrigue visitors enough to keep them clicking and learning more about what you are offering.

Ultimately, I want the Patriot-1 site to be informative, a destination for extra content surrounding the book and of course, a simple place to order it through a visitor's preferred vendor.

At the end of the day, it's all about what is right for your vision, whether or not it ends up how you originally intended.

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