I want my new website to look good. Personally, I have poor aesthetic sense, but I do appreciate a well-designed product. So I need to get a solid design for my site. This is the third milestone in The Ostrich website project roadmap. This post is a project progress report, summarizing the completion of the milestone.
If you’re reading this on my site, you can see the resulting design. I think it looks good. The components of the design you see here are:
- Branding & WordPress design by Gootte.
- WordPress theme based on BuzzBlog Theme. The theme was customized to my branding as part of the Gootte design project.
- Components of the site design used throughout external platforms. Social network pages and profiles, newsletter template, etc.
Read on for some more details on the design process.
To design or to outsource?
With my previous blog, at itamaro.com, I didn’t invest much effort in the design.
As mentioned before, the site was powered by WordPress.com. While they do offer various themes, the free selection is somewhat limited, and further customization is also limited. So I opted for consulting my lovely wife, letting her choose one of the available free themes. She also helped customizing the theme where possible. She created the old site header image and background texture.
It was good enough. Not great. Not professional. Just good enough.
For The Ostrich iteration, I wanted something professional. Beyond good enough.
Given my limited free time and aesthetic sense, it was clear that self-design is out. Outsourcing the design is the only option.
Design outsource options
It didn’t take long to realize that outsourcing the design isn’t going to be cheap. Far from it. It seems to be the single most significant components in the project cost. So better get it right!
With such significant cost, the primary requirements from a freelance designer are:
- Great references, experience, and portfolio.
- WordPress expertise.
- Reliable designer, who will be willing to iterate and improve until we’re satisfied.
The first option that came to mind was using 99designs. The prices are sane. I should be able to choose a design out of multiple submissions. I have the option to choose none if I’m not satisfied with any option. Seems like a safe option.
But the 99designs model doesn’t fit well with my requirements. I don’t really get to choose who I work with. And there’s always the chance that my design project drowns in the crowd, and doesn’t get any attention. Or even worse, just enough attention to get just a couple of bad designs.
This was enough for me to decide to look for something else. Consulting my lovely wife again, she recommended the professional WordPress design studio Gootte. That got most of my requirements covered.
Design project with Gootte
First thing, I started exchanging emails with Hila, the designer behind Gootte. Not really knowing what inputs a designer needs, I just explained the general branding concept. This can be summed up as:
- An Ostrich should be a main theme in the design and logo.
- I want the result to look professional, but also fun, not taking itself too seriously.
- The design should be clean. Mobile responsiveness is important.
After a few more exchanged emails, we set a meeting to discuss the design project face to face. Hila wanted to understand what kind of content I plan. What feel and vibe I’m trying to achieve. What’s my budget. Whether I am interested in a complete WordPress project, or just a few graphical elements. Whether I’m looking for a strategic analysis process, building “brand language”, etc.
At that meeting, we were able to define the scope of the design project. This can be summed up as:
- Designing key graphical elements – logo, and avatar image (based on the Ostrich concept).
- Choosing an existing WordPress theme.
- Customizing the WordPress theme to make it look good and unique.
- Incorporating the graphical elements in the theme, achieving consistent look and feel.
- Producing variants of the graphical elements for 3 main social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+.
Following the meeting, Hila went on to execute the project. The highlights:
- Hila came up with ~10 potential ostrich images to choose from. We purchased the 3 I liked most. The idea was to make 3 logo drafts and see which one worked best. I think all of them were from iStockPhoto.
- Hila prepared ~10 avatar design drafts. I chose the one that I liked best:
- Hila prepared ~3 logo image (or header image) drafts. I described the elements I liked most in each option, and Hila made a final version based on my feedback:
- Hila prepared 2 social network cover images for each of the 3 selected social networks:
- Hila suggested 6 professional WordPress themes. Most were from thmeforest, for around $50 each. I chose the one I liked best – BuzzBlog Theme, by Hercules Design.
- Hila set up a mock WordPress site on her server. She customized the selected theme, and incorporated the graphical elements.
- After several iterations over the mock site, digging into the settings and options, the project was done. The resulting mock site is the base of what you see now.
Hila gave me full access to the mock site on her server (including WordPress admin user, and FTP access to the server). This allowed me to take it from there, without depending on Hila. This was quite convenient for me.
I guess that for other projects, that go for the full turn-key WordPress site, Hila takes it from the mock site to the production site as well. But this wasn’t what I wanted.
I think I got a good looking, clean, professional site design. I hope you agree (if not, let me know!).
I’m glad I decided from the beginning that I’m not going to do it on my own. The design project was indeed a project on its own. Outsourcing that project to a professional meant two things for me. One, I got results that are much better than anything I would have done myself. Two, while Hila was working on my project, I was able to work on other aspects of The Ostrich website project.
If you would like to use Hila’s services too, start with visiting the Gootte website. You’re welcome to ask me for an introduction, if you prefer.
I’d love to hear your opinions on the resulting design, or the process. The comments are open.