Redesigning the Website. Part two.

Branding has been the focus for the last couple of weeks since I wrote part one.

One of the toughest clients a designer can face is themselves! So, I have tried to approach this as I would any other job and forget that I am my own client.

As a start, I created and filled in my own project brief which helped focus my thoughts on who I am, who I want to target and the best ways to portray my personality. This will all come in useful later when developing new content for the site.

Checking out the competition

The next stage was the ‘Competitive Audit’ where I spent time developing a list of websites by other freelancers and design agencies so I could really get an idea of which direction to head in. I developed 2 questionnaires for each of the competition, one to be filled in by Users (people who could be prospective clients) to discover what they like and dislike about the sites. The second form was for myself to make notes regarding what I thought worked and didn’t.

Those amazing, creative freelancers!

It would be unfair to go into details about these websites but one thing that i found interesting was just how much more varied and creative the freelance designers sites were. A fair few of the agencies were quite generic and a couple looked near identical!

I was really impressed with the themes and personalities that came through with some of the freelancers designs. OK, heres a few that I thought stood out in the looks department:

http://www.paulcurrah.com, a lovely consistent theme throughout

http://ramsaymacfarlane.com, a great, clean design

https://www.kevadamson.com full of fun personality

(If any of you happen to read this and do not wish to be included, please let me know and I will amend this)

This fools tools

As mentioned last week, I intended to discuss my chosen tools in this post, but got a little sidetracked. So here’s a quick run down:

My text editor of choice is after using Text Wrangler for years is Komodo edit. It’s free, it has auto complete and lots of helpful little features that make code editing so much easier. I did trial Sublime too, but for my needs I decided on the free option.

I spent a lot longer choosing a wireframing/prototyping tool:

Axure (great and full of features, but too many for what I need! I was after something with a quicker learning curve)

FlairBuilder (nice, low cost but I found it a bit flaky on my mac-I really wanted to like this more as on paper it fits the bill-I suggest you trial it if you are looking for a prototype/wireframe tool)

Balsamiq Mockups (a fun tool, well priced but not quite what I was after. I can see why designers love it though).

My final choice was Omnigraffle. It may be mac only but it was quick to get to grips with and has some really useful features for site mapping and other diagram creation if needed.

I should point out that I didn’t look at any of the web applications available as I wanted an app I could use without needed internet access.

Other tools include many web browsers, a pencil, pen, graph paper, Affinity Designer and Photo and I’m good to go!

Where am I now?

I’ll finish by letting you know where I am up to. The branding is currently about 10 pages of paper covering in sketches, notes and scribbles. A few of these have been circled to remind me to explore them further and ignore the rest. I’ve created a basic mood board and have a good idea what colours I’m planning to use but am now ignoring colour until I have my brand identity finalised.

I’m occasionally pondering content too and have realised that, yes, I am really my worst client evert!

Sorry, no images this week but thanks for reading and it would be lovely to get some feedback. What process do you use when designing? What do you think about my approach? Please, even feel free to give me constructive criticism about the current website.

Author: Gaz

Freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator. Based in Chester, Cheshire Designer offers great value design and branding for local startups, charities and established businesses.

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