Good question. First, you can definitely improve your skill as a designer. Every time you see a page you really like, take a screenshot and save it to a special folder. Then when you need inspiration go have a look at all the pictures. I have about 100 of these and it's invaluable for helping me design stuff that doesn't look like crap.
If you hire someone, I wouldn't worry about a design being "not search engine friendly". As long as the important words aren't graphics, and as long as there's text links and adequate content, I don't think think the design matters very much.
One excellent compromise is to hire a *graphic* designer, and have them draw up what the page should look like, not in Dreamweaver, but in Photoshop. Then you can take that design and program it in yourself.
Here is what I do
I have a designer on board that does the CSS layouts, general overlook, pics, logo etc...
Then I take care of the programming and we make it happening by keeping form and content separated
BUT: my very first step is to give directions in order to respect my SEO recommendations.
I wish I were able to concentrate on all aspect of the web but SEM!
Indeed, it's a very good question.
If you have the HTML and SEM basics, you could always write pages in bog standard HTML (P and H tags) using CSS definitions within them, making it easy for you to concentrate on markup/SEM but ensuring you have the tags there to enable a CSS designer to lay it all out and do the pretty stuff.
I assume that you're writing the content? In which case adding a few tags and leaving the rest to someone else is a fairly efficient way to work.
|sometimes seems like such a waste of time |
It is. Stop doing it - concentrate on what you're good at, don't waste time on what takes you hours to only half finish.
This is a fundamental rule that I confess took me a good couple of years to realise. I haven't looked back, my productivity (and profits) went up 1000%.
|new design might not be search engine friendly |
CSS changes all of that. If you use CSS, your markup and content become separate from your design and layout.
This is a good thread for me. After 11 years and only one major facelift 6 years ago, my website looks old and tired. Unfortunately my design skills are still in the 90's. Maybe even the 80's. Silly me, I thought css was a phase! Coming up to speed is taking way too much time away from the actual business end. With top positions in the SE's, it is a scary proposition. I'm feeling your pain.
Any recommendations where to find a designer for css templates? What types of questions would you ask before hiring? I'm sure there is a wide range in fees. What would be standard/customary?
Thanks for the good advice. I'm gonna hire someone to build the templates + logos and I'll take it from there - adding content and making small changes. This way I'll still be in full control of my websites/content.
|One excellent compromise is to hire a *graphic* designer, and have them draw up what the page should look like, not in Dreamweaver, but in Photoshop. Then you can take that design and program it in yourself. |
I wish my coding skills were so good:(
If you use CSS and standards-compliant code your site will not only be search-engine friendly, it will be friendly to most browsers and even readers with vision impairments who depend on text-to-speech readers.
It's easy to find free CSS templates on the web. Pick one that is "source ordered". That means that the body of your content will come first in the source code, and the navigation elements on the side columns will come after. This helps the bots find your content more easily.
I know the basic rudiments of HTML and XHTML, like how to make a paragraph, headers and a blockquote. But learning CSS turned out to be way more than I bargained for. While I could learn it as a hobby and eventually become an adept, after several months of studying CSS books I realized it would take me too long to become proficient enough to make a robust business site.
What I did for my site was, I researched CSS templates until I found one that had the features I wanted. I wrote my content in a text editor using XHTML for paragraphs and such. Then I sent my pages and CSS template to a graphic designer and told him to "prettify" it. For about $125 he made artistic tweaks to the CSS template that made it beautiful.
My site is very easy to maintain because I just add pages by writing them in a text editor and linking them to the stylesheet.
If you go this route, make sure your designer is familiar with page validation and that all your pages validate. If you use XHTML, make sure any designers you work with are also familiar with it. I made the mistake of asking another designer to make buttons for my pages and she used HTML instead of XHTML. She broke my code and I spent hours and hours fixing it so my pages would validate again.
I wouldn't hesitate on hiring someone else to do this for you. Building up a good relationship with a designer can be very rewarding - for you both.
Any web designer worth their salt will understand the relevance of CSS based design + SEO and will work with you to achieve your goals. Be prepared to pay for it tho - cheap designers are cheap for a reason - generally they are either not very good, or they are inexperienced.
As of your SEO concerns you could ask a potential designer if he know anything about SEO before you hire him,many designers know SEO pretty good
when you feel that you can have all the jobs done, it's time to hire somebody. Employees will help you to enlarge your business. That's why people want them.
Dont worry about the site design. If it works, then the people will visit your website. Mark has proved this with his dating site. His site has an amateur design. Who cares? It works and so at any given time some 15,000+ users are online on his site. Provide some value for users. As you are a SEM, concentrate on that and as usual you will be in the first 10 slots.
I like cheap and nasty designs they look aged and authoritive in some places.
I'd hire a graphic designer to make up the bit's and assemble yourself with a view to swapping techniques.
I altered my main site from mostly straight HTML to CSS fairly recently. The next step is to have professional work done on the CSS aspect. I very strongly believe the most important aspect of a site is it's information, the visuals are important to not turn user's stomachs, not burn out user's eyes and provide comfortable navigation, perhaps in that order.
Thanks for your posts and information, I've learned an awful lot from you while lurking over the past few years.
You could also buy a template from one of the template sites and adapt it for your needs. These are very cheap to buy and many of them look very professional.
I did this with one of my sites. The first thing I had to do was re-do the html, create/edit the css and re-arrange the page format - but this is a good thing as it means that its less likely to be seen as duplicate content.
Essentially I was using its general look and feel (but vastly tidied up the code for SEO). The site performs as well as any of my other SEO sites - appearing in top positions for my chosen keyterms.
I too have noticed that I've been spending time on SEO at the expense of my design skills for some time. For this reason I've been spending some time each day teaching myself some fireworks stuff.
> I very strongly believe the most important aspect of a site is it's information
I very strongly believe, that the most important aspect of outsourcing anything for fees is a clear evaluation of the potential return on investment. Even if the time spans two or three years until this investment breaks even, there should be a very clear plan/estimation on how the money spent for design-aspects will improve income and how this could eventually be measured. I admit, that for SEO-purposes information is THE most important starting point, but OP claims experiences in SEM, not SEO.
> I like cheap and nasty designs they look aged and authoritive in some places.
That's a good one. Indeed you might set benchmarks and establish your very brand with an indivuidual design, but there is definitely a cutting lower edge.
As always, any serious advice depends on the details.
vivalasvegas, whats the broader branch of you website, or can you add your url to your profile?
Desing does have its own influence for the search engines but what i believe is, when you are looking after the SEM part you can always help your deigner with the keywords and the type of look you want to have.
Then you can always modify it and change accordingly. whats important is the content, anchor text and the links.
I heard an audio interview with Markus where he said if your site looks amateur-ish, people may be more inclined to sign up, purchase, return to your site because they feel that making money is not your priority, as opposed to sites with corporate looks/templates and pretty smiling women. Imho a lot of the templates on monstertemplates look good, but wont “work” exactly for this reason.
vivalasvegas, don't waste your time paying for templates. Those guys just want to make money and don't have your interest at heart. Nowadays one can get away with a simple design. Best thing for you to do is grab a 3-column CSS layout which makes it easy to change your site at any stage. Agreed with tigerflag, "source ordered" is best.
Stick to a simple design, but outsource only your images for optimal download size and to add a professional design flare to your site.
“Good artists copy, great artists steal” - Picasso
And you know the best part about web design, you can see every brush stroke for free.
|I heard an audio interview with Markus where he said if your site looks amateur-ish, people may be more inclined to sign up, purchase, return to your site because they feel that making money is not your priority, as opposed to sites with corporate looks/templates and pretty smiling women. |
Exactly how I feel when hunting for links.
|vivalasvegas, whats the broader branch of you website, or can you add your url to your profile? |
I meant hiring a designer in general, not just for one website. The industry I'm involved in is Communications.
I see different opinions on this now. The truth is I too prefere simple, clean design. But a website can look simple yet professional. My websites are not that ugly for I've been improving them for quite awhile. Sometimes though I realize they still look amateurish no matter what I do and this bothers me.
We did a major design change in 2003. We went from an amateurish looking site complete with clipart, to a profesional looking site.
Both sites (old and new) had quality product, at good prices, and the site was very easy to navigate.
Converting to a profesional looking site made no difference in sales.
Look at Google, Retro works for them.
There's lots of free templates available on the net. Just do a search for "free CSS templates".
Open Source Web Design has more than 1000.
|The truth is I too prefere simple, clean design |
Your biggest problem may be finding a designer who designs with a simple, clear design. Many designers (no all so nobody go taking my head off) like to show off what they know and simple designs just do not do this. It's not all that challenging for them, is the mind set. IMHO and I am not a real designer, simple designs are the hardest to pull off looking professional.
Do you, by chance, know anyone who does great graphics/design work but isn't much for SEO and could use your skills? I'm in a similar boat in that I know what looks good, but I just can't seem to get there myself. I have a friend who's incredible with graphics and design but she's not so comfortable with the coding/networking/system administration stuff. We have a sort of deal going where I do coding/techie stuff for her, we sort of build up the hours, and every so often, she'll redesign one of my sites.
It's the ideal setup in my opinion. Doesn't cost either of us anything but time, and we more or less break even because even though we lose the time that could be spent on paying clients, we also don't have to pay out money to hire someone to do it.
I'm all for the swap arrangement, if possible.
The plain ready-for-CSS layout idea is a great one too. I think my next site "design" will go in that direction.
Vegas you can:
service your car
paint your house
complete your accounts
clear your drains
... the list is long. The point is you could do any of these things yourself. It may well be cheaper in the sort term than using and "expert". But how much time is it going to take you? And what else could you be doing with your time? And will the long-term results be really worth the initial saving?
You wouldn't expect a web designer who admits to be "not very talented" at SEO to optimize his site for search engines. So why should an SEO expert who states he is "not very talented" at design even ask whether he should use a design expert?
With the correct brief from you, your designer will be able to give you the exact feel you are looking for - whether corporate 2006 or small-town 1980s. The should also be able to separate content from design to enable you to maximize your sites's SE potential...
Think about craigslist, it has one of the lamest designs on the net; however, people like it.
|Think about craigslist, it has one of the lamest designs on the net; however, people like it. |
Craiglist does not work because of its design - it works despite of it.
I think that its design plays little part in it's popularity - it is functional, accessible, SE friendly, usable and has well ordered, interesting, fresh and relevant content - becasue design has all but been omitted from it's development it leaves the window open for a big improvement IMO.
>>>>>> Craiglist does not work because of its design - it works despite of it.
I agree. Craigslist works because it's craigslist.
People just toss out that previous statement whenever it suits their philosophy.
Myspace is popular because it's myspace. Same with google.