What look for a creative small business website?
December 1, 2007 4:47 AM   Subscribe

What look to give a website for a creative but commercial/professional small business?

Six months ago I left a large consultancy to set up on my own as a freelance business consultant. I've begun thinking about expanding next year, and I want to build a website beyond the single information page I've got at the moment (I was thinking maybe 5 pages, nothing complicated). A friend who is a dreamweaver whizz will be helping me build the site.

I use trends to help companies with their strategy, so the business has to clearly be professional and slightly 'corporate' but also display a creative edge.
I want the site to suggest a 'company' - technically I am a registered company - rather than just me in the second bedroom, but I don't want to lie.

I would really appreciate any tips and suggestions on how this might be achieved in terms of the look/feel/content of the site, and any particular websites which you feel might be good inspiration.
posted by Marzipan to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hire a real designer.

I'm not joking. 99% likely that anything you and your dreamweaver wizz friend come up with will look amateur.
posted by missmagenta at 5:17 AM on December 1, 2007

"Hire a real designer"
Hiring a designer is not an option at the moment. Hopefully in a few months, but I need something in the interim
posted by Marzipan at 5:36 AM on December 1, 2007

You could go to a site like Template Monster and buy a decent looking template that should hold you over until you can afford a real designer.
posted by SoulOnIce at 6:27 AM on December 1, 2007

There is no shame in using a template. If Template Monster doesn't have something you like, just Google for more. There are endless designs available. The heavy lifting will already be done and your friend can customize it with your content.

Good luck.
posted by The Deej at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2007

Speaking as a real designer, here's what you do: take advantage of your limitation, making the look DELIBERATELY low-tech. In order of importance:

--Write and then brutally edit your five pages. Brevity and brilliance is what the text must convey.
--Do the entire site text-only.
--Maybe courier is the font.
--If there are photos/charts that are ESSENTIAL to telling your story, box em and use in B&W. Keep them equally simple, borderline crude, as the text-onliness. If there are no graphics that are essential, don't even attempt.
--Maybe, if it's appropriate, align your text in a consistent but SLIGHTLY unusual place.
--Take advantage of all the usual web-marketing advice: free white papers, lots of links to useful stuff, more-than-occasional blogging, email newsletter signups.

One of the mistakes amateurs make when attempting design is piling five or more different individual things that they "like" onto an execution-- sort of like chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherries all piled onto beef brisket.

It's the orchestration and end result you want users to have-- knowing where the puck is GOING to be-- that designers know how to do, and is the result of having done it successfully enough times to know when the thing "clicks". It's harder than it looks.
posted by jouster at 7:25 AM on December 1, 2007 [6 favorites]

And, yes, if you find a template that's absolutely PERFECT, then use it. But if you think "this one's ok" when you're looking at templates, then what you choose will look sterile and lack the conviction/force that a real custom site would have.

You don't need it to "suggest a company" you need it to suggest you're smart and trustworthy and have a track record.
posted by jouster at 7:30 AM on December 1, 2007

Jouster just said exactly what I was trying to find the words for.

Aim for the "I am too busy helping great clients with their trends to spend my time on a fancy website, so here's my plain text reasons you should hire me" approach.
posted by rokusan at 11:19 AM on December 1, 2007

Yeah, but look what a huge failure Drudge Report has been.

Oh wait...
posted by The Deej at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2007

Why not KISS and use WordPress?

You (or your friend) can use a very clean theme like this one, and just replace the header image. You can go nuts with the header design, and change the font if you want to, to get the aesthetic you're after.

WordPress has two kinds of content: Posts and Pages. To put content on your home page, you make a single Post, and it will turn up there. All four of the other pages you describe are, indeed, Pages and appear in the top navigation you see there.

You wouldn't have links, categories, or anything else on the right hand side that clutters that area up, just a short About Us statement or whatever you want to use it for, and it will not look bloggy.

Advantages: you can update your own text very easily. It will be coded correctly. It will take two hours, tops, from anyone who knows what they're doing. You will not be reliant on your friend to move every comma. Etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2007

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