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Karen Dodds of Dodds Design writes with a powerful message for web designers...

Determining the Audience & Content

"There is much more to "design" than just pretty graphics."

The other day I found out that I'd lost a bid to design and develop a web site. When I inquired about the determining factors, they said they didn't want to sign a contract, deal with use rights for original illustration, or pay the price I was asking.

I want to focus on price, and the qualitative issues that determine it.

At the same time they told me my price was higher than the others, they said it was clear that my design was the best. They just weren't going to pay more for it.

I understand. Budgets are budgets. You want the best you can buy for the money you can spend. Me too. But the point is there is a lot more to "design' than (literally) meets the eye.

Consider furniture stores...

Furniture stores are a good analogy. Take IKEA and Bloomingdale's. They sell different furniture, right? Both look pretty good.

IKEA hires designers to do their furniture, the designs are up to date, and the prices are affordable.

Bloomingdale's specializes in high-end furniture including well-known American and Italian designers. Their prices are correspondingly higher; sometimes much higher than IKEA.

But each store is doing quite well selling to its particular audience. IKEA can't offer certain features and services and still have low prices. For example, you're expected to lug your own furniture home in a box and assemble it.

Bloomingdale's justifies higher prices by offering better quality and services like home delivery and set-up. Everybody seems to be aware of the differences, and what it is they're getting when they choose to shop at one over the other.

But this does not seem to be true for the web design profession. There is much more to "design' than just pretty graphics. Good design is critical where it is also the least apparent. For example, web graphics can be beautiful, but if you leave out image height and width tags, or the file size is too large, they'll take forever to appear and your visitor will leave the page rather than endure the wait.

Determining the audience and the content they expect to find may not seem like a design issue, but it is. In fact, if it isn't done right, the prettiest graphics in the world aren't going to matter because even if you manage to get visitors to your site, they won't come back.

These are some of the design qualities that seem to get lost in a determination of how much "design" to pay for. And yet, especially for businesses whose future sales, marketing efforts, and industry reputation are tied to site traffic, it doesn't make much sense to go for skin-deep design.

Designers must be better communicators about the differences in design and between designers. Just like furniture stores we are not all the same, we don't all provide the same level of quality and service, and our prices reflect that.

Bloomingdale's can't afford to sell its furniture and services at IKEA prices. Can you?

Karen Dodds -- Dodds Design

Dodds Design

Dodds DesignDodds Design, a woman-owned graphic design and marketing communications firm, offers a complete package of website design, creation and maintenance for Internet or Intranet sites, including graphic design, navigation and content development, database integration, CGI and JavaScript, GIF animation, Quicktime video, audio and Shockwave presentations. It also handles advertising and marketing support for the client's website.

"We create dynamic web pages with meaningful connections among people, ideas, art and technology. We create useful and compelling web pages that entice an audience to come back. We engage an audience by providing an impressive website filled with absorbing content and true interactivity."

Dodds Design has been actively involved in leading-edge technology for its clients since 1989, and has received more than 20 design awards from the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington, the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Illustrators, the Ad Club of Washington, Print Regional Design Annual magazine and Folio magazine. The company was recently featured in an article covering web page design in FullBleed, a publication of the Art Directors Club.

Karen Dodds has taught design courses in the Publication Specialist Program at George Washington University, and Typography and Design at Northern Virginia Community College. A member of the Art Directors Club of Metropolitan Washington since 1980, Karen Dodds has just completed her second three-year term on the Art Directors Club Board of Directors as President. She is currently serving as Chair for the Advisory Board to the ACDMW, whose current mission is to educate the business community on the impact of good design on a company's bottom line.

Dodds Design is currently working on a video of Eastern Market in Washington, DC that will provide a brief history of this historic landmark, a look at the state of the Market today, and brief interviews with individuals who will bear the impact of any changes to the Market. Dodds Design also contributes to [police] "Beat 26" by maintaining a web page designed for the Capitol Hill community, and by creating a map of each month's crime statistics for the newsletter as well as the web page.

Dodds Design


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