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jerseyjoe

Now's Your Chance

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For those who have been waiting to hit the clown on the nose and dump him into the tub, I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts. Let fly.

All IronWorks

Yes, I violate my own long-standing rants aboout reverse text on black. It's not right, but it's what the client wants and paid for. I still know that it's harder to read than the other way around.

Aside from that, comments of all kinds are welcome but useful suggestions will be especially appreciated. If I couldn't take the heat I would not be here in the bedroom . . . I mean, *kitchen.*

There are still images and descriptions to be added by the client. I will also be adding a Google map and driving directions link similar to that on the map page at Qcigars

Click on "For The Home" to see the new catnophoto.gif I created to replace the generic default.

As I write this I notice that I have failed to change "Product Code" to "Project Code." i think I caught all the others. Please let me know if you see any.

BTW, this is a "no prices" site. Every project is somehow different. Prices are negotiated and codified in a written contract unique to the project. When I get around to moving the site docs up into the left column, I will add a "Credits" doc to recognize the mod source.

There are a broad range of potential clients who might prefer a "no prices" site. Anyone who makes custom products, wholesalers who do not want retail buyers, art galleries, etc.

So,

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Ok Joe, as you are usually brutally honest with some of the others i think it only fair to do the same and i sincerely hope you don't take offence as its sincerely not intended
No offense taken.

I did try Featured as centered and it looked even worse. Unless I mis-understood how to edit its code, the text and the image (not the title) are controlled together. When they are centered, they break the rhythm of the other boxes. The effect becomes exaggerated when the image has a vertical aspect ratio, which some of them unavoidably are. So I put them left.

Your points are on target and sincerely appreciated. Thank you for them.

I'm making adjustments with your comments in mind.

Question: about the address embedded in topHeader.jpg.

Were I to create it as text, it would move around based on a visitor's screen resolution. Right?

I know I could play with it to answer the question myself but it seems to me to be obvious so I just went with the graphic. And, I'm expecting the client to pay for an SEO mod when we are done.

Question: re the catnophoto.gif (click on Our Portfolio > For The Home)

I think I'm wrong on the orange gradient color scheme. I think it should be red gradient based. Comment?

About the lack of radical design, the client's budget limits how much time can be invested.

What do you suggest for validating?

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Guest Rikki

I actually find white text on a black background easier on the eye than the other way around. Its not fun sitting infront of a TFT flashlight reading things all day :wub:

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Guest Brivtech

I'm going to be brutally honest.

Joe, whilst I appreciate that you are certainly the man who holds a passion for design orientated towards dial-up/slow connection users, I can't help feel the design is a little bland. It's not the colour scheme, there's just something about the way that it's been implemented.

If this was your own store, then what you have achieved is wonderful. But as you are doing this for someone else, I feel it to be lacking.

By the way, you need a capital N on "No spam; ..."

Sorry. :wub:

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I'm going to be brutally honest.

Joe, whilst I appreciate that you are certainly the man who holds a passion for design orientated towards dial-up/slow connection users, I can't help feel the design is a little bland. It's not the colour scheme, there's just something about the way that it's been implemented.

If this was your own store, then what you have achieved is wonderful. But as you are doing this for someone else, I feel it to be lacking.

By the way, you need a capital N on "No spam; ..."

Sorry. :wub:

The lower case "n" was deliberate. But your comment causes me to notice that the text is cramped to the search box.

Regarding the general design and it's lack of uniqueness, how much design would you do for $200?

Thank you for your comments. I don't think your comments are brutal. Honest? Yes, and sincerely appreciated for that.

As for my own comments in these forums, I would never boast of being brutal. To be brutal is also to be malicious, hurtful, unfair and unkind. Professionally, I'm more of a writer than graphic designer and I chose such words with great care rather than fall back on common speech. Blunt? Yes, but that's not the same thing at all as brutal.

EDIT BY JOE from TheFreeDictionary.com

bru·tal (brtl)

adj.

1. Extremely ruthless or cruel.

2. Crude or unfeeling in manner or speech.

3. Harsh; unrelenting: a brutal winter in the Arctic.

4. Disagreeably precise or penetrating: spoke with brutal honesty.

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Guest Brivtech

Number 4 fits. :wub:

For $200, I'm wondering it it would have been a good idea to buy a ready made custom skin and tweak it about a bit.

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I guess we have charge different rates for our work.

For that $200 I spent a total of two hours in reviewing what the project involved, an hour or so writing it up in a formal proposal and contract, persisted through four broken appointments before I got my downpayment on a fifth try, and two more before I got my materials, hand installed a fresh copy of CC (not the cPanel way), created the original logo based on tweaking one of a number of proposed original designs, created a two-column layout, tweaked the css and tpl files and made three or four design idea submissions until the client was happy, prepared the photos in Photoshop (cropping, resizing, optimizing for the web, uploading, and installing about ten or so images), creating a few sample categories and projects, installed the catalogue mod and fixed its short-comings, wrote and installed the home page and site docs texts, created a Google site doc, spent hours tutoring how to maintain the site in the future and had to chase the principal through three more missed appointments to get my final money And I still am due $67.50 that the final payment left out.

(The CC registration and copyright removal fee was paid separately at the time I set up the hosting).

In other words, a fairly typical project.

So, I sincerely ask, what hourly rate do you charge? What would you charge to do what I just described and how much would be left to do a kew-ell new design - or even for a paid skin?

Lest I be mis-read, I am not as testy or emotional about this as a quick reading might give the impression. I genuinely don't think that there is any money left for third-party skin or going Frank Gehry.

Or am missing something? (now, now, don't go there; let's keep it friendly).

Joe

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Guest Brivtech

Hello Joe,

If you spend a whole hour on writing up legalities/formalities, then you need to consider ways of streamlining your administration. I would fire any of my administration/sales staff if they took that long, unless it was an exceptional contract for the likes of Coca Cola for example! We use a modular one-size fits all system, where anything that's irrelevant can be removed. Takes no more than 10 mins to write up a detailled contract. I programmed it to work through a database, where I simply tick boxes, and type in additional custom content.

Hand-installing CC. Thats literally a 10 min job. You can go watch TV while it's uploading. Creating a database in the hosting admin panel takes a couple of mins. Registering the domain, again a couple of mins. Performing the installation with those settings, no more than 5 mins. Mind you, I think I've overlooked the fact you're on dial-up still. In which case, by not investing in broadband, means that your computer is being tied up for hours on end when it should only take a matter of minutes. I would consider you being on dial-up in your business to be likened to a tree surgeon using a pen-knife instead of a chain-saw. Having a fast (and reliable) internet connection is so important to us that we have 2 providers, one on cable, and the other on copper wire (phone lines). before I decided to get dual-providers, there had been 2 occasions in the past where our internet was out (For up to 2 weeks), it was crippling, and involved lengthy emergency-dial-up sessions, or numerous trips to the local internet cafe (Who would not let us install our own software, or use our own computers). I couldn't sleep for that week - I found out it was because of all the coffee I was drinking.

I use Xara Xtreme for all my artwork. I can create a final logo within 15-30 mins, depending on the complexity. I have Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, Corel Graphics Suite, but only ever use them for artwork conversions when things need to be sent to the printers. Before I got Xara Xtreme, I used to use Illustrator all the time, afterwards, I converted to Corel DRAW. I've been a professional graphics designer for about 14 years, so quickly knocking up something that looks half-decent is not a problem.

Personally, although I can see you are offering exceptional value for money, I think you are underselling yourself, and are capable of more. You need to streamline the processes involved, which will save you time. Time = money, so that saving can be invested into a better design for the client, either a tweaked third party skin, or more time working the one you have. As Steve said, there are some wonderful designers around, and their skins command good value, within an affordable price range. It's funny, I started out as a programmer, became a graphics designer, turned back into a programmer (Although I still do graphics design work, just more programming), and I really hate designing cubeCart skins. It's such a chore! :wub:

Customers who don't want to embrase new technologies because they are scared of it, will do everything possible to play down the importance, and devalue it, which in turn puts pressure on you to lower your price in the face of losing out. If you can't streamline the process, is it worth bothering when so much time and effort is invested into the client? Could that time not be better spent on finding more profitable customers? It's easy for me to make these comments from the outside, without knowing more about your business, how it works, and what other factors may need to be determined.

Anything that the client wants outside of the box should be charged by a reasonable hourly rate. You need to be the one to find the balanace between earning a living, and offering something better than your customers to get business; I think in your case, you are offering price as the selling point, which could undermine the perceived quality of your services. Remember that a site on a low budget forms part of your portfolio and will be scrutinised by new potential clients.

It may be worth contacting a few of your local competitors, and seeing what they would charge. It may give you a better idea of how competitive you are. The rate you charge, depends on your market, what you offer, and what you want to achieve. One thing to watch out for - If your client is demanding an exceptionally low price, it could be because their business is having difficulties of its own. Late payment is often an indication of poor cash-flow or bad administration, and you'll need to put measures in place to handle this.

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So, aside from all the ancillary running around, but just as regards the actual project work, how much would either of you charge for

creating the subject skin,

making it into a no shopping cart catalogue,

creating the logo and topHeader,

preparing the photos,

creating categories and products,

populating them with the photos,

writing the text for the products and the home and site docs,

?

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Guest Brivtech

So, aside from all the ancillary running around, but just as regards the actual project work, how much would either of you charge for

What I charge, what you charge, and what Steve charges, and what other people charge can all be different, as we are probably targeting different markets, which in turn command different pricing rates, not to mention, how your organisation is set up to process the workload, and what deals you may have done with suppliers (For instance, an arrangement with a designer to get a bulk-discount because of volume purchases). There is no magic price. You need to know what people offering similar services to yours within the markets you are addressing are charging.

creating the subject skin,

I hate CSS, but for me, I'd say an hour, including graphic elements if it's an entirely new skin, rather than another skin I've already designed, and simply re-worked a bit. I try to create custom skins that I can recycle with minor tweaking. That way I can invest more time into getting a nice design made, and less time in customising it from scratch for different people.

making it into a no shopping cart catalogue,

I have my own pre-programmed modifications that can turn prices or ordering off on the flick of a switch (actually, the click of a mouse), so 20 seconds. I simply upload the modifications over an original upload, and it's all done instantly. :)

creating the logo and topHeader,

Max 30 mins. Many companies have a logo already.

preparing the photos,

This really depends on what has been provided. I charge an hourly rate depending on the work involved, minimum 30 mins fee. In some cases, the customers have provided their own artwork. Other times, it's scanning out of a catalogue, which takes just under 5 mins per image to scan, crop, colour-adjust and save, less than that if there's multiple images within a scan.

creating categories and products,

As I'm on 28MB broadband, it takes moments to open the admin pages, and susequently type in the categories and products. I'm a fast typer as well, having been typing for the past 27 years, and it's second nature to me. I try to encourage the customer to do this if possible, building their confidence in the system. I find mush of the problem is that people are nto computer savvy, and are simply afraid of the unknown, and believe they lack the skills required to do anything that appears complicated (but in reality isn't).

populating them with the photos,

I organise scans by product code where possible, and again with broadband, locating and uploading takes an instant.

writing the text for the products and the home and site docs,

Again, try and let the customer do it, if they need the help, then I'll do it at the going rate. Most the the time, the customer wants to provide their own text, and they email it (or as recently, save it to a floppy disk - Yes, people still use them!). I simply, cut and paste, after running it through Microsoft word to check for spelling.

Nothing has to be over-complicated. Try and encourage the customer to do their part. Many of them are lazy (or have various alternate attributes which could be mis-interpreted as this), and need a little push, or some additional help. If you are clear to them that all addititonal work is charged for, and they are genuinely on a tight budget, then they usually are more open to trying to help out.

The worst thing is when you work hard for a customer and have little to show for the effort. Having once almost ruined a relationship because of this, working until late at night for almost a month, and then having the customer not pay me (and therefore not finish the project), I avoid this at all costs, and I'm better off for it. It was a lesson to be learned, which I am now grateful for. (But you still owe me money Sandy Smith! I know where you live! :wub: )

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So, if I understand both answers, you seem to agree my customer got value for his money and there was no basis to provide more than what he got for that fee, such as a custom skin or even a tweak of a bespoke one.

He bought a nice little Honda. It will get him where he is going. He couldn't afford a Lexus.

Other than the welcome advice in the first two responses regarding the need to fix a few minor issues, I think I did a good job.

I've built at least a dozen CC sites that are not all that different from this one, each a variation of Legend. All those clients are happy. Most of those paid in the range of $2,000 / 2,500, plus annual hosting fees of $240 (prepaid). All are still in business, the original one is now well into her third year, importing and selling out a 40-foot container of costume jewelry every few months.

I'm not offended that you are disappointed that I am not doing more imaginative design. I'm giving my customers what they need, with special attention to issues (screen resolution, legibility, effortless navigation, download speed, avoiding kew-ellness, focusing on basic commerce principles) that a few other designers dismiss as unimportant. I wonder how many of their first dozen CC sites are still in business after 12 months?

Guys, I appreciate your comments. Sincerely. It's OK with me that we do not agree on every issue. I genuinely need and welcome feedback from people like yourselves who have different views. You and I are not in business to please or impress each other. My customers are all that matter to me, bottom line, and I'm sure it's the same with you. So far, I'm doing OK with that attitude.

As of upcoming Jan 04, 2008, I will have been making a living off this stuff for exactly 14 years. I have clients in 7 countries.

Thanks again for your feedback. unless someone has something new to say about these issues, I'm moving on.

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Guest Brivtech

All those clients are happy.

That's the most important thing Joe. if you're happy as well, then you've cracked it.

Steve, I really love your avatar! It cheers me up every time I see it! :wub:

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Guest webicon

Hi Joe,

As per Rikkis statement - White on Black is actually better for reading on screen- Its no coincidence that TELETEXT, Live Stock feeds, news feeds, default RNIB accessibility stylesheet are all white on black (all are designed to be read on screen). The whole white backgrounds came about in early days of web because inline html styles meant that when you went to printer you wasted all of your ink with the black backgrounds. The standard soon became black on white. However with todays css standards you can offer a seperate stylesheet for screen and print and never waste ink again Hurrah!

After nearly 10 years in front of a white screen all day (used to be a web designer) my eyes are burnt out from the white backgrounds and now if I spent more than a couple of hours in front of a screen I start seeing spots floating past my eyes - :sourcerer:

Still - can't complain - I have my cubecart store making me money in my sleep!

Anyway asides from that - I'd like to offer the following feedback:

  • The bright red description text (also on the about us page) for the product list on this page is a bit hard-to-read (single lines for titles are fine but rows of red, really hurts!) - perhaps should be the light blue of the 'welcome guest' text?
  • I do not necessarily think that the text at the top is worth of a H1 tag - it is an address. *personally* I would keep as an image as you have it, and add a link to that image so that if I clicked it it would go home. In addition add an alt to the image that had a couple of keywords on it that were more meaningful than the address.
  • If this is just a catalogue - as it would appear to be without any 'add to basket' buttons - Perhaps you should have a siteDoc that tells the customer how they go about ordering - do they phone - do they have to visit the shop, can they pay by mail order form? i know you already have a 'how to find us' button - but assume your customer is stupid - tell them explicitly what they must do to get teh products. I had a catalogue last year and was forever being emailed by customers asking how they add the product to the cart!!

IMHO - theres nothing wrong with customising the stock skins - if you deliver what the client wants, using best standards, at a price they are happy with - then the job is done.

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Kudos, Joe. I like the stock CubeCart skins. Though you've moved on, I would like to say that you've given your customer great value for $200.00 IMO

Interesting comments about white on black by you guys, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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