Designing for Results Online
Creative Director, Bryce Hancock let us pick his brain in regards to the thinking behind the refresh of the Virtuosa website and we also convince him to part with some of his expertise on the subject of Web 2.0 design.
Did the design grow over time or did you know exactly from the start what it should look like?
Although you might have a few ideas to begin with, I don’t think you ever know what a design is going to look like once finished. You start with a blank canvas, a concept and perhaps a bit of online inspiration and the design evolves from there.
Would you say it was easier to design something for your own company?
I think as a designer you are always most critical of your own work, so designing your own website or corporate identity is a real challenge. We went around in design circles, banged heads and went back to the old drawing board a few times before coming up with a design that we felt best portrayed who we are and what we are about… designing for a client is much easier; that is possibly why we are already working on phase2 enhancements.
What was the main consideration for the design?
It was important for the website to encompass the identity of Virtuosa, the look and feel needed to be a true extension of the brand.
A fully Flash based website can very often showcase the creative abilities of a digital agency very well, but does not do much for the effective marketing of that website. Our ambition was to bring across both our passion for design and our endearing focus on delivering measurable results online.
Another consideration was that we wanted the website to conform to the latest web trends both in design and functionality. A big driver for our design team was to feature on the now very popular CSS Mania, a veritable Who’s Who of the latest CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) friendly web designs (the largest showcase of its kind in the world). Virtuosa did not only feature but scored a 10 in user votes….
When you start the design of a new site where do you begin?
We generally start with a detailed site map and page architecture before looking at the design of a website. This serves as a blueprint for any good design. We like to understand the key content areas of the site and how to direct traffic to those areas. A simple way of looking at it is when a user visits a website he generally has a problem that needs solving i.e. he is looking for more information about a product or service, wants to research a company, or he simply needs to find the location of a business. The quicker you can solve that problem for the user the more effective the site is. Once we have a good idea of what these basics are we then move on to the design – this is the fun part!
What in your opinion is the biggest difference between web design and traditional design?
Whether we like it or not digital designers are governed by various elements that do not apply to graphic designers. When designing a webpage the digital designer needs to consider, paper size (screen resolution) page weight, searchable SEO content and working with a limited web friendly font selection. There is often a fine line between having a fantastic looking, functional page or a page that no one will see because it loads too slowly, does not work correctly in all web browsers, or cannot be indexed by search engines. So the bottom line is Graphic designers need to stick to what they know and visa versa.