Having a gallery of web page design samples is an integral part of any web entrepreneur's toolkit. Potential clients want to see examples of prior work before they will trust their brilliant idea to any designer.
More than that, samples can help a client more clearly focus on exactly what it is that they want in a design. It helps formulate a site based on the needs of the client and avoids the potential hazard of "feature creep." This disease occurs when an initial plan is continually "improved" with more and more options until the original vision is lost in a morass of added and unneeded features.
Unless a designer is working in specific fields that call for very similar, cookie-cutter websites, having a gallery of web page design samples is no substitute for face-to-face client communication. There is the risk that a customer would see a beautifully rendered site and be struck by the impulse "I want that!" as opposed to "I want what I need!" Ideally, the gallery would be a launching point for ideas, rather than a destination.
Selecting Web Page Design Samples
There is something to be said for the idea of quality over quantity in creating a design gallery. While most designers have dozens, perhaps hundreds of sites under their belt, having all of them on a page is going to be visual overload for a client. Most likely those sites will fall into various categories, and ideally the designer will pick the absolute best examples from each category.
How to Categorize
There are various methods of taxonomy for picking out the categories for your design gallery. Below are some examples of methods, with ideas for the kinds of elements in each:
Customer Type - This would represent the wide variety of clients a designer has worked with successfully.
- Commercial Retail
- Artistic & Creative Portfolio
- Real Estate
- Community Groups
Design Styles - A chance to show off the stylistic variations in a designers palette.
Web Technology - Any designer is going to have to work within a larger framework of some type of web technology, and having these listed will help clients who are working with developers choose the appropriate method.
- Straight HTML
- Cascading Style Sheets
- DHTML and Database-driven sites
Tagging the Work
These categories and examples are only intended as guidelines, not as rules. Every designer will have their own particular way that their sites will fall into place. However, a technique from the "semantic web" trend can also be useful, the concept of tagging.For example, a website that is for a Real Estate Developer may fall into several different appropriate categories:
- Commercial client
- Uses many images
- Video walk-throughs
- Dynamically updates with each new sale or completed project
By coming up with a selection of appropriate tags, a designer with even a small portfolio can show a broad spectrum of skills and techniques attractive to clients.
Neglect Not the Eclectic!
With the plethora of web designers out there, it is sometimes hard to stand out from the crowd. Having a category called "Eclectic" or "Fun", where a web designer's pet projects reside can make the difference between landing a client and losing a sale. This makes room for the coincidental tipping point, when a designer finds out that a client shares the same passion for Japanese anime topiary or some other common interest. That connection will help ease the negotiations throughout the rest of the project.
While a gallery of web page design samples could be as simple as a list of links to the various sites, there are several disadvantages to this method:
- Not all sites remain active or updated
- Links direct clients away from the designer's site
- Visually, lists are at best boring or at worst intimidating
Worse, it gives up an opportunity for the designer to show their own style, through the layout of the page, the creation of interesting icons that beg to be clicked, and the way that the designer can convey the information in an effective way. These are the things clients are looking for in web designers in the first place. The most important sample in any designer's portfolio might just be the portfolio itself.