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Graphic Makeover for Your Website
Building a website is not unlike building a house. Supporting and growing your website is also very similar to decorating your house.
Website Graphics on a Shoestring
First of all, get used to the idea that there is no end to it
You can always do more for your website! You can always find yet better images, better icons, better image rotators, newer plugins and modules to highlight various content elements on your site, and so on. You need to know where to stop. Remember, your revenue won't come from graphics. So long as your website looks nice, pleasant and professional - you are fine!
Second, it can cost you a fortune!
Just like with decorating your house, if you are not prepared to invest time in looking around, you can spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on decorating and beautifying your website. To avoid this, you need to know where to shop and you how to do some things on your own. You won't need to learn HTML, CSS or PHP. Just how to use some free and simple tools. But most important, you need to find good sources and good tools. To me, good means "free, sufficient, and easy to use".
Third, you can do a lot with a little if you focus on important things
If you ever watched those home decorating TV shows, you'll know what I mean. In 24 hours for the cost of $1000 those guys can transform an ugly dungeon into a cocktail reception hall. Sure, they have "free" labour available to them, but they don't invest this labour into rebuilding a water tank. They focus on highly visible things, including such accents as candles, pillows, vases with flowers, wall decorations, and light fixtures. If you know where to shop and prepared to spend $500, you can literally transform your living room into a show room by changing or adding just those small accent items. The key here is to know where to shop and select those items carefully so that they complement each other and work together as an ensemble.
The same principle applies to graphic makeover for your website, only in this case, we don't need to spend $500. In fact, we don't need to spend anything at all.
Website Elements That are Like Candles, Pillows, Vases and Wall Decorations
If you already have a website that is based on an open-source web content management system like Joomla - you are in luck. Updating and adding visual web elements to spice up your website would be a breeze. But even if you don't have Joomla or other CMS, this task will still not be daunting, especially if you plan it carefully. Here is a list of three web elements that have a huge visual impact on our perception but require little investment to upgrade:
- Top image slider: If you are using Joomla, you can install a nice image slider on your home page which would be the centre piece of your whole website. Joomla Extensions have a large collection of various image sliders. Just don't select those based on Flash or else your site won't be mobile friendly. The key is to select images carefully, invest time in looking for something unusual, something funny or something telling. All you need is 3-5 images or photos.
- Banners for calls to actions and sales buttons: Those are good both for visual appeal and business! If you want your visitors to sign up for your newsletter or download your product demo, create a highly visual banner (box) for this type of calls to actions. Focus on 2-3 most important ones, do not overwhelm your visitors' attention.
- Typography elements, such as ordered lists, check marks, and other formatting stylistic details: Thanks to Cascading Style Sheet or CSS files, you can update you entire web site's formatting by adding a few lines of code to one file!
We take it as a give that you would have sit down and create an inventory of what you'd need to update and how. Create a list of all elements and assign colors to them, provide screen shots for illustration purposes.
How Good are You with Graphics?
If you are not very good with color coordination or not very inventive with graphics, use pre-made templates! There are pre-made templates available for everything nowadays: website themes and templates, buttons, banners, Outlook emails, Word documents, brochures, PPT presentations, what have you!
Visit several reputable web design houses, like Joomlart and Yootheme, find a template with a nice color scheme and typography elements (do not pay attention on the layout of the template in this case!) and use their schemes for your own purposes with minor modifications.
Then use free graphics resources to find banners, buttons, icons and other stylistic elements. Modify them by adding your own text or other non-visual elements - and you got professionally designed graphics at no cost.
Free and Easy Graphics Resources and Tools for Your Website
If you are like me, who likes simple solutions to complex problems, then this list will come handy:
- 50 great free tools with corresponding commercial clones we won't miss
- Take quick screen shots and send them as a link instantly, without saving and then sending them as an attachment: Jet Screen Shot
- Create and modify graphic elements, even complex graphics: GIMP
- Free alternative to DreamWeaver to update web pages: Kompozer and here is more free web publishing tools for Windows
- Fantastic free icons for a myriad of concepts: Icon Finder or Find Icons
- Fantastic graphic resources for everything you can think of: Graphic River
- Screen casting and video tools: Camstudio and Youtube
- Images and Photos: iStockPhoto and Flickr
- Less known resources for images and photos, which means fewer chances of someone using the same images as you:
phototakeusa (scientific images)
For more templates, visit my Ottawa SEO website, the Resources section.
With a little research and a little effort, and especially if you are using Joomla or other open-source CMS, you can have a great graphics makeover for your website for next to nothing. Enjoy!
photolibrary (prices start at $49, good quality)
superstock (price range of $100-$300)
ad stock images (price range of $49-$400)
aflo photo agency (price range of $49-$400)
jupiterimages (price range of $49-$400)
fototekimages (by Carol and Mike Werner – some really cool stuff!)