Bait & Switch Blog

It began with a couple of texts with a similar theme, “I am so overwhelmed.” Then some light humor began peppering the conversation, “I am doing x and y and z; while you sit around and eat bon bons.” Next came the bait. “Can we work on the website? Come over and let’s get a feel for it.” Somehow she knew that once I arrived and found a delicious spread of food that I would stay and that once I got my hands on the website, began playing with the design template, changing the colors and trying new pictures as backgrounds that I would volunteer to take it over…the switch.

But in all seriousness, I took over the website design from mom and I was so completely overwhelmed. I think a few days passed before I even opened the link. Web design was all so new to me. I like to think of myself as a creative person so I wanted to incorporate some of that to the site. Websites seem very cookie cutter in their layouts so I really wanted ours to stand out. I learned very quickly that I had unrealistic expectations. I had just enough free will to do things so long as they fit the template. Even things I thought came standard, like a search bar or traffic counter, were not. 

So, as I delved more and more into web design, I learned so many things. Here are a few helpful hints you can reference when you begin your own web design journey. Please keep in mind these helpful hints came from my experience using sitesell.com. However, some or all may apply if you chose a different web designer.

Helpful hint #1: it is really complicated to pick a template if you don’t have an image for your background and it is just as difficult to pick an image if you don’t have a template. So, how does one go on? I recommend finding a style of template first before actually picking one. Do you want one, two or three columns? Do you want a big or smaller picture in the header? Do you want to use an image for your background or stay with a solid? Answering these three questions will help you significantly in this process.

We knew we wanted an image for the background and for it to be large in the header and so we turned to Shutterstock where you can purchase the licenses to images, video clips and pieces of music for a flat fee or monthly subscription. They have a Basic package of 2 for $29, 5 for $49 or 25 for $229. They also have a Professional and Team package which acts like a subscription where you can get so many images for so much per month. We chose the Basic package but ran into issues deciding on how many. We knew that 2 images were too few but we just couldn’t conceive of using 25 images so we chose the 5 images for $49.00.

Helpful hint #2: Begin thinking of what will be the first image everyone will see. Early on we had decided we wanted this to be a place people felt like coming back to. We knew there would be a ton of information yet we wanted it to inspire people, we wanted a feminine twist on the dense subject that is medical billing. So we chose a darker, abstract picture with vibrant colors that had nothing to do with medical or billing but what we thought would scream, ‘the possibilities are endless.’ In the end, we were worried that anybody searching for medical billing would see our site and think it was a mistake. Our goal is to be your number one source of information regarding medical billing, coding and insurance and we weren’t confident that was clear with the particular image we had chosen. So, back to Shutterstock I went.

Helpful hint #3: if you can afford it, go for the 25 images. Here’s why. We didn’t plan on using a ton of images for our site but there was no way to really preview an image to see if it fit our design. I did wise up after our second purchase of $49.00 for another five images and started to copy the image into a picture folder and upload it into the background, with the Shutterstock watermark still across it first, before I decided to purchase the image. It did, however, became all too difficult with size adjustments. In order for an image to fit the entire background of your website in Site Sell, it needs to be a certain size but when you copy an image from Shutterstock, you don’t have the options to pick the appropriate size as you would if you had bought it.

So I had to use some critical thinking skills. I knew I wanted a bigger picture in the header so I began to look for pictures that fit the theme that had some detail at the top and a solid at the bottom and I found the one displayed on our site. If, on the other hand, you find an image you love for your site, it’s really quite simple. Try different template designs until you get the perfect one. For me, it was all about making sure the picture within our background was highlighted yet did not overpower the content of our site.

Now, you may notice that we have a two tone look to our site. The top half is turquoise and the bottom half is white. Helpful hint #4: if you are working on a background and you can help it, choose the largest image on ShutterStock. Unfortunately, the image I chose, although beautiful and ultimately perfect was a giant hassle. I had to download a free trial of Adobe Illustrator to even open it, and I couldn’t get it much bigger than the original. I like to think that I am a fast learner and pretty tech savvy but learning Site Sell and Illustrator while juggling an infant felt a little too much like a brain explosion. It did, however, work out for us as I really love the two tone look of our website; despite it being an accident.

Back to the hints, once you have an overall look of your site, it’s time to enter content. Helpful hint #5: before you even begin building, storyboard your site. By storyboard, I mean discovering how many tier one, two and three pages you will have. When people first enter your site and click on the navigation bar at the top or along the left or right, how many tabs will there be? Those are tier one pages. Next decide which tier one pages will have tier two and/or possibly tier three pages. Having an overall idea of which content will fit where is one of the key things to building a site with fewer hassles.

So, this is my introduction into web design 101. Up next, my list of the pros and cons of  Sitesell.com.


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