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  1. #1
    ljm
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    I guess I'm not that creative a person, or at least my innate creativity hasn't been fully realised just yet. Y'see, I can code a site no problem. The problem arises with making a site look good.

    At the moment I have a plain HTML page with a small header. It's only a glossy black gradient with an outer glow, but I can't think of how to take it further. This happens a lot. The other problem is moving away from what I term, 'The CSS Look': the design that is angular, has 1 pixel borders around everything and basic background colours, and generally looks like it's been designed by someone who hasn't really experimented. Pimp That Snack is the prime example.

    Using other sites for inspiration is hard because I do not want a site to look too derivative of others. I don't want something that is a blatant copy of another popular site.

    So, I have my ambitions and my ideas, but no skill to get good results. I know I'm not the only one who is like this (or at least I hope so), but I'm intrigued: how many of you find it hard to design and easier to code? If you used to be like that, did you just keep practicing until your skills improved considerably?

    Finally, I guess if this topic takes off (I intend it to be a discussion rather than a cry for help), are there any resources for us challenged people that could maybe point us in the right direction?

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Holy Promethium's Avatar
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    I think really you need to try and free yourself from a coding mentality. It can hold you back on the designing front.

    Using photoshop to do mock-ups helps no-end.

    You're not going to get a really wow design from the start. sometimes its about just plugging away at it until the right idea hits.

  4. #3
    Senior Member filburt1's Avatar
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    With WDF v6, this is the first design where I've changed my approach towards design--I often implement PSDs provided by designers at work, not actually design sites.

    When creating the WDF v6 design, I intentionally kept web design itself out of my mind, meaning ignoring the possible constraints caused by using HTML and CSS. Instead, I simple messed around with what I thought would look good rather than thinking "how am I going to get this to show up like this" or "how could I possibly add rounded corners to this?" In the end, I really liked the design that I came up with, and I actually found it easy to implement as well.

    I spend several straight hours browsing a library of pure CSS sites for ideas. I'm not creative. I bought "The Zen of CSS Design" for either WDF v5 or v6, I can't recall which, for the same reason: inspiration (not the same thing as "I like this design, I think I'll rip it off").
    filburt1, Web Design Forums.net founder
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  5. #4
    Senior Member planetgman's Avatar
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    I agree that you need to look at other sites for inspiration. Look for things that you like or elements of a site design you like and incoporate that into your own design.

    Don't over think it. I have met few designers that are great coders and great designers.
    Most have a strength on one side or the other. A great coder can still have a good eye for design, just do some research.

    Good luck......
    GMan

  6. #5
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    Just so you know -- I'm with you. I think it's also nice to have people who are willing to advise you on what looks good and what doesn't as you go along. That way, you can peek into the thought process of those who know better than you. I've still got a very very very long ways to go before I'm worth anything as a designer, but that's helped me a little.

  7. #6
    Senior Member Steax's Avatar
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    Looking at other sites doesn't really count as blatant copying. No matter how "unique" any design is, with the millions of websites, it's simply impossible for a design to be absolutely unique. There will be another site similar to yours - it's inevitable. For that reason, there's nothing wrong with "observing" another design. Better yet, don't think another design is just "good". Thing "why is it good?", "does it work well?", "is it intuitive?" and so on. Use things you learn from other sites to build your own.
    Note on code: If I give code, please note that it is simply sample code to demonstrate an effect. It is not meant to be used as-is; that is the programmer's job. I am not responsible to give you support or be held liable for anything that happens when using my code.

  8. #7
    ljm
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    I've found all your advice exciting and interesting to read. From a personal standpoint, maybe I take the wrong approach: my method is to try and code the layout before trying to shoehorn a design into it. I'm probably quite na´ve in thinking that'd work well!

    But yeah, about inspiration. I look at other sites and choose bits I like and dislike, and how I think they'd work, it's just I prefer not to take too much influence. I've seen countless video sites copying YouTube's look, for example, and Apple's designs are frequently copied - with disastrous effect.

    Practise makes perfect anyway!

  9. #8
    Senior Member -chris-'s Avatar
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    One thing to keep in mind, is that most sites have some way to contact the owner or designer. If you like something about the design, why not email the designer and ask about it (ie., How did you create the backgroud? What inspired you? How did you come up with those colors?, etc.)
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  10. #9
    Senior Member Eddy Bones's Avatar
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    It's really difficult to code a layout before you have a layout. It's even more difficult to design a layout before you know what kind of content you'll be displaying on the site. Content is always first. I don't say that because of the boring old cliche - "Content is king." - I say it because it's true. I've gone through a few design iterations on sites that failed horribly because I didn't sort out the content requirements with the client firsthand. Not to mention the fact that they were completely design-illiterate and wanted a crap layout to begin with....

    I've read that a lot of people do the markup first which theoretically works because by that point you should have the content and be able to lay it out semantically and whatnot, but usually that only works in theory. It's just easier to know what you want in terms of layout before you touch your code editor.

  11. #10
    Senior Member karinne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ljm
    how many of you find it hard to design and easier to code? If you used to be like that, did you just keep practicing until your skills improved considerably?
    To answer your original question: I use to have a really hard time designing. I was a better coder than anything else. Photoshop?! pffft ... who needs it! I've got CSS.

    Yeah well ... that didn't get me very far. :laugh:

    Just recently, in the past year, my designs have finally become something I'm very proud of.

    My latest sites like APICA, my portfolio site, blog site and just recently a design for a member at another forum, are designs that I'm very happy with.

    I feel like I'm starting to "get it". So ... how did I do it? Well ... I spend ALOT, and I mean ALOT!!!, or time on the many showcase sites out there. Getting inspiration. Whether it be the glow stuff for button or just the nice subtle gradients in the content area.

    Anyways ... the moral of the story is basically what you said ... keep practicing You should see how many drafts I have for my porfolio
    [a web design portfolio - Currently NOT AVAILABLE for work | web design | Re-coding | PSD-to-HTML]
    I'm also on: virb - facebook - twitter - flickr - del.icio.us


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