Design | 24 October 2014

Content strategy & design

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If you know even a little bit about WordPress, you probably know that there are thousands of themes out there. Some are available for free and some “premium” themes can cost you anywhere from around $10 to $100 or so. Many premium themes even allow you to customize the colors and layouts – making them “your own”. If you are tech savvy you can put together a good-looking site quickly and easily. But bottom line: They just don’t compete with a custom design.

What is this custom web design of which you speak?

The value of a custom website project is that it is designed and developed for your specific content and business needs. Let’s take a recent project as an example. We were so excited to work with opera soprano Priscilla Coblentz on her brand image and a custom WordPress website. Priscilla is Philly-based but performs all over the world. Before we met with her to discuss design ideas and strategy, she had some new promotional photographs taken by pin-up photographer Celeste Guiliano. This intrigued us and then… we saw them!

Say it with me: "WOW!"

Say it with me: “WOW!”

Content should never be an afterthought

We got right to work and our mission was clear – these amazing photographs would be integral to the custom design. We don’t always have a ton of images to work with. Some website projects are very minimal. For example, our recent project for Exceptional Connections was text-heavy so we utilized graphics based on their branding (that we also designed) in the website design itself. But with some sites, like Priscilla’s, media is woven into the design through custom graphics, slideshows or full-width background images.

Below you can see some of our early (read: rough) concepts that utilized photography as a main component and see the evolution of the design.

How do we harness this amazing photography and add harmonious design elements

How do we harness this amazing photography and add harmonious design elements?

We worked on various ideas for placing both the logo and the navigation system

We worked on various ideas for placing both the logo and the navigation system.

We work together with our clients to figure out what content should be featured and where - then we design with that in mind!

We work together with our clients to figure out what content should be featured and where – then we design with that in mind!

A combination of concepts brought us to our final design direction for Priscilla's new website.

A combination of concepts brought us to our final design direction for Priscilla’s new website.

And what about mobile?

Yes, most premium WordPress themes are responsive, meaning they will scale up and down accordingly for any screen size and device. But another benefit of custom design work is that your specific layout, content and graphic elements are also considered. This is something that a paid theme simply cannot provide! Often times, responsive themes scale down in a very predictable way utilizing a one-size-fits-all solution for the placement of logos and mobile menus. These solutions can often be effective, but they are probably not the best way to present your business’s content across mobile devices. What if your logo’s shape doesn’t coincide with your theme’s responsive layout? What if your photos or icons don’t fit the theme in a natural way?

Our goal with Priscilla’s site was to scale it appropriately without losing the impact of the photographs. The tone of the website – glamorous, fun and a bit campy – is maintained from super wide desktop all the way down to the mobile phone without losing any functionality.

The final website for Priscilla Coblentz shown at desktop, tablet and mobile widths.

The final website for Priscilla Coblentz shown at desktop, tablet and mobile widths.

Paid themes provide quick, down-and-dirty functionality while allowing you to change colors and choose from a myriad of preset page templates. They can be really great tools when starting your business or if you’ve had a brick-and-mortar shop for awhile and are just now getting your business online. But do you really want your website to look like hundreds of other websites? 

Custom work is created for your business’s needs and it shows in the details! The difference in cost between a template and custom work is big for sure, but it the end, you get what you pay for. And with the internet being potential customers’ ultimate window to your business, custom work is worth the investment.

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