If you're designing a website for a target audience in graphic design, you're facing some challenging work. Here are some things to keep in mind to reach the people you want to reach.
Relevance, Relevance, Relevance
It used to be "location, location, location" in terms of setting up a new business. However, in the vast real estate of the web, the only thing keeping people coming back to your site is going to be its relevance to their work and their lives. In the field of graphic design, here are some of the areas you might want to feature:
- Portfolio Showcase: This is the obvious one, the place where aspiring and established artists can show their work. It can be both current work and past work, commercial designs and flights of fancy. The reason this brings people to your site is because, like all artists, graphic designers can be a bit vain and so they enjoy telling their friends/coworkers/clients about this "great site that's featuring my work!"
- The Bottom Line: It's not too hard to make art. Making a living at making art, on the other hand, is quite difficult. Pragmatic articles and discussions about things like taxes, rates, billing strategies, and pitching proposals to clients are all going to be relevant to anyone working in graphic design. Freelance Switch (now Envato) even went so far as to make a web comic about the joys of being a freelance graphic designer, and won a huge following thanks to the resonance that the comic inspires.
- Tech Talk: The tools of graphic design have gone far beyond pencil, pen, and paper. There are many tools, from the ubiquitous Photoshop to cutting-edge developments in HTML 5 that affect the way graphic designers work. Whether it's rating a new software or giving tips on how to better use old software, sites that provide this information are gold mines for graphic designers. Creative Cow started out as a forum for graphic designers and has grown into a great resource filled with tutorials, reviews, discussions, and more for all kinds of graphic arts.
- Legal Issues: One of the most confusing parts of working in graphic design can be the issue of copyright. Who owns a work? When is it legal to "appropriate" it in your own design? What is the difference between "influenced by" and "plagiarism"? Just trying to define "fair use" has taken up pages and pages of discussion, argument, and contradictory advice. At the same time, graphic designers aren't always flush with disposable income to spend on legal fees. Having this type of information can really nail your target audience.
The Easy & the Hard of Designing a Website for a Target Audience in Graphic Design
Probably the easiest part of a graphic-design oriented website is the graphic design itself. That's simply because no matter how much thought or cash you put into the design, there's going to be someone in your target audience that either thinks it's horrible or is totally convinced they could do it better, or both. The easy answer to a critic is to invite them to do just that: either re-design your site, or provide you with the means to pay for a "better" design. In fact, inviting your viewers to redesign the site might be just the kind of showcase and attraction that brings many people back. CSS Zen Garden invites designers to try their hand at revamping the site and "growing" their own blossoming CSS version of it. That has turned into an amazing resource.
The hardest part is simply the fact that a site like this is never "done." Issues change, tools change, and the kind of information needed by graphic designers changes. This means that for every issue listed above and for the ones that you haven't thought of yet, you'll need to keep updating the site. Content is king, but the king needs currency, and that means keeping your site up-to-date with the latest issues.
The best part about designing a website for a target audience in graphic design is that you are definitely meeting a demand. Designers hungry to listen and to be heard on the web will help make your site a thriving success.