This is a guest post by Nicole, a college student at the University of Michigan who has been doing web design for over a decade. One of her long time clients is CreditCardForum.com (a blog and forum for discussion of the best credit cards) and recently she had to undertake the task of re-designing the entire thing. In this post, Nicole will share that experience, including her tips for designing similar blogs.
There’s a big different between making a personal site and making one for a business. The look, feel, and functionality of a company’s site and blog is vital to their success…
What did this client need?
I’ve been Credit Card Forum’s exclusive designer for several years now. Over the past 12 months, they expressed concern that their site “looked dated” and they wanted something fresh and modern. As a business in the financial sector, it was important for them to have something that was clean, simple to navigate, and re-enforced their trusted brand identity as a leading portal for credit card reviews. Their message board runs on vBulletin and their blog on CMS, so my task was to re-do both platforms.
How did I go about fulfilling this client’s needs?
Whenever I set out to start a project for a client, I pay keen attention to the descriptions they asked for. I then try and brainstorm the best ways to accomplish them. For example, Credit Card Forum asked to re-enforce their brand identity in the new design, but they weren’t sure how to do that. I knew they had their fair share of media coverage, so I had the idea of using a quote from a New York Times article about them on the top of the page. This was a simple, yet straightforward way to accomplish that requirement and they loved the idea.
It’s also important to pay attention to the look and feel that the client is after. All too often, designers make things the way they want them to look, rather than what the client wants. Credit Card Forum wanted something extremely clean with upbeat colors. I ended up going with blues on a white background and they were very pleased.
Besides the aesthetic changes, there were also a few changes involving the functionality and layout that I needed to address. For example, previously Credit Card Forum featured their message board on their homepage. They asked to move that to an inner page and instead have clear, easy to navigate sections for the best credit cards (by category) on the homepage. I did this and set up very simple sections on the homepage for the best credit cards for college students, best credit cards for balance transfers, and so on. This accomplished the task, while keeping with the “clean and simple” feel they were aiming for.
While the main part of Credit Card Forum has been re-done, I am still working on the blog portion. To maintain consistency, I decided to basically use the exact same design but adapt it for WordPress. Before coming to that decision, I toyed around with other options, but finally I realized that when you can’t decide, usually the simplest option is the best. And guess what? The client ended up agreeing with that!
My advice for those tackling similar projects?
When doing a project for a financial business (i.e. the credit card comparison site mentioned above) it’s extra important to pay attention to these three factors:
- A Consumer-Friendly Design: Use the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach when coming up with the layout. Personal finance is already complicated enough as it is, so the last thing you want is a complicated website layout.
- A Professional Appearance: Let’s face it, money is a serious issue! People don’t take it lightly, so you should keep that in mind with your approach. It’s okay to add a little personality, but don’t go overboard… any money-related site should look professional.
- Easy-To-Read Fonts: Many people like to incorporate unusual fonts for their personal blog – and that’s fine – but for a financial site you want to make sure everything is easy to read. For example, you don’t want to use Comic Sans to list the fine print on a credit card application!
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