Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Handoff - Letting Go

As a creative team, we get personally invested in every project we work on. Both designers and developers have a personal connection with the things we build. Every tiny image, link and button is fit into place with precision and love.

It should come as no surprise that it's hard to let go of control when it comes time to hand the reigns over to it's new owner - you, the client. To make hand-off a little easier for both of us, I thought we would list a few things that can help us both out.

1. Content Overload

Unless you're visiting wikipedia, a user is generally not looking for an opportunity to sit and read (primarily) when browsing for a product or service. For the most part, they want the key information presented quickly and efficiently with the option to read more if they would like more information. For this reason, you should keep content on your main pages short and to the point. If you have lengthy information that may be helpful, consider adding it as an article or a secondary page.

Although we usually allow for pages to expand to fit any length of content - it's a good practice to keep your text as concise as possible. If you will need to have pages that contain a lot of content - that should be something that's discussed before the site is designed so that we can take that into consideration too.

2. Copyright Protected Content

Acquiring pre-made images (photos or clip art) can be a tricky situation. Copyright law is much more extensive than most people understand, and infringements can be accompanied by significant legal consequences.

As a general rule, anything that's already on the internet (text, image, animation or otherwise) is protected by copyright law and you will need written permission to use it - unless otherwise stated. We will usually confirm that you have rights to use any content sent to us, but it's ultimately the responsibility of the site owner if content is being used illegally.

Image libraries are a great source of photos, videos and other media for us on your site. Using royalty free images means that after you have paid an initial fee, you have full rights to use that image however you like - for as long as you like. These images vary in price based on quality, size & the site you're on. but you can expect to pay around $2-$5 per photo.

Here's a few of the larger libraries;
- istockphoto.com
- dreamstime.com
- shutterstock.com (subscription based)
- gettyimages.com (royalty free AND rights managed images)
- sxc.hu (this is a free site, but most are not free for commercial use)

Note that using the watermarked image without purchasing the image is also illegal.

Copywriting is often a forgotten component to developing a professional site. The readability of your information, and the tone that is set on your site is a element crucial to high-level success. Hiring a professional copy writer to develop the full copy for the website and your company communications can raise your level of professionalism above most other small and medium sized organisations.

As with images, copying text from a competitors site is illegal, regardless of whether they will ever notice. Even changing a few words here and there is most likely inadequate to dodge a copyright infringement lawsuit. It can help to understand how a competitor ranks so high on searches by reading their text, but just re-write it in your own words and you're good.

Legal text again is something that is often overlooked or often copied. Speaking with your legal advisor will give you the best results for preparing your privacy policy & terms of service documents. Make sure they're specifically relevant to your site and your business, but most of all make sure that any claims you make in them are accurate. There's nothing worse than claiming something in your terms (that were 'borrowed' from a competitor), then having a customer finding you had breached them inadvertently.

3. Images

Regardless of how large the image shows on the website, the actual size of the image needs to be appropriate for the web. Photos you take with your digital camera (or even sometimes your mobile phone), need to be resized before you use them on your site. If you don't have any image editing software, you can use an online tool like smalljpg.com.

Try to keep the file size if any images below 40k for large photos, and 15k for smaller images.
Feel free to ask us what image dimensions are appropriate for your specific site.

Just for the record, the DPI (dots per inch) setting of a JPG file is not important as the display size (on a computer screen) is dictated by the screen resolution, not the print resolution. If the pixel dimensions are the same, there's no difference between a 300dpi file and a 72dpi file on a website.

3. Formatting

The key to a professional website is consistency. Headlines, along with body copy and callout text should all be the same font, size, colour and postion on every page. Images should have the same padding, borders & text labels.

While we can enforce content to follow very strict guidelines (overwriting any that you add), we prefer to leave a level of flexibility within the CMS tool for you to use it how you need to.

Be careful when copy and pasting as it can bring more than just text across. Embedded code, styles and scripts can be an unwelcome hangers-on that mess up the formatting and layout of the other content on your page.