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Getting Started on Designing Great Sites

Your design skills are up to par with the big boys and girls of the industry? Hopefully this article with help you get on the road to improving those skills and help you create a masterpiece… or at least something that will get you noticed in the right way.

If you don’t have a background as a graphic artist and decide to start designing websites, you might find yourself frustrated with your lack of skills. Your designs may look like they still belong in the 90’s and well… those years are well over now (thankfully). So what does it take to create beautiful sites like:

jsm-now

cmoll-now

duoh-now

And I could go on an on but this isn’t another “20 of the best designs” post, no… this is about you and how you can get yourself to create more functional, while still looking awesome, sites.

Everyone starts somewhere, yes… even those guys

If you think Veerle Pieters started with a site like the one she recently designed, you are sadly mistaken. Everyone started with the abuse of flash or the really annoying animated gifs or the dreaded <blink> tag.

Back in November 2008, Jason Santa Maria wrote a post about putting his first design back online. Quite a few jumped on the wagon and so here are the results from our 3 designers I chose above:

jsm-old

cmoll-old

duoh-old

So there you have it… hope that made you feel a bit better.

So how do we go from ugly to beautiful?

1 word: practice

And lots of it. Fiddling around with pen and paper, Photoshop or Illustrator (or your other favorite graphics program), going to tutorial sites and learning how to use your tools.

Yes… learn how to use those tools. Whether it’s Photoshop or Gimp, there’s tutorials out there to help you familiarize yourself with them. Learn how to apply filters in the right way (sometimes, less is more). Learn how to create glows that make text look more tasteful. Learn how to creativly apply watercolor or grunge brushes.

Copy them

Your read that right: copy them. Take sites that your really love and try to re-create them in Photoshop, in HTML and CSS. Can you? Yes? Good! Now don’t go stealing their designs and putting that online!

By simply trying to re-create sites, you learn techniques. Some you like, some you don’t but at least now you know how to apply them so you can create your own masterpiece.

Reviews and Critiques

Getting other people to review and critique your work is often the best way to grow and force yourself to do your best. Take everything with a grain of salt and don’t be offended if someone tells you they don’t like it. You can’t please everyone after all but if the general consensus is that it needs work… then it needs work.

I hope this will help some struggling designers on the road to improving their design skills.

And remember, practice makes perfect.

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