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Chapter 3. Developing the Content > Finding out what your client's visitors nee...

Finding out what your client's visitors need

During the initial stages of the client/designer relationship, you need to figure out what your client's grand vision for the site is. If your client doesn't have a grand vision but wants a Web site because everyone else has one, you might have a problem. If, however, your client does have a viable product, service, or cause, there are probably several hundred sites devoted to the same product, service, or cause. The following list shows some methods of ascertaining what visitors will require from your client's site:

  • Visit the Web sites of your client's fiercest competitors. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If your client's competitors have successful Web sites, explore the sites in depth. Make sure you do your exploration with the client so she knows what type of material you'll require from her to complete your design. Bookmark the sites and refer to them when creating your design. Of course, creating a blatant copy of the competitor's site is not good practice. Put your own spin on what you consider are the most successful elements of the sites you visit.

  • Find out which elements are considered standard for a Web site in your client's industry. For example, all photographers have galleries of portfolios, and most e‐commerce sites have some sort of catalog and online shopping cart. Savvy Web site visitors expect to see these elements when they visit sites. If your client's site doesn't have these elements, visitors might go elsewhere for their needs.

  • Poll existing customers. If your client has an established bricks‐and‐mortar business, he has another excellent resource for determining content for the site. Ask existing customers which Web sites they frequent that offer services similar to your client's.

  • Decide whether the site should be interactive. Many Web site owners have customers fill out questionnaires, while other Web sites entertain customers with interactive games or quizzes that relate to the product or service being offered. Find out if interactive elements are usually associated with Web sites that sell products or services similar to your client's.

  • Find out what technology your client's intended audience uses to access the Internet. All Web site visitors want a fast‐loading site, and this information can help you provide that. Your goal as a Web designer is to make an attractive, fast‐loading site. The definition of fast‐loading varies greatly depending on whether your client's intended audience uses dialup modems, DSL modems, or cable modems.

  • Find out whether visitors of Web sites of businesses similar to your client's expect bells and whistles such as Flash movies or PDF documents. If they do, make sure that your content is backward compatible. For example, if you create Flash content that works with only the latest version of Flash Player, you're potentially alienating a large part of your client's potential customers.

  • Find out whether visitors like to personalize their experience on Web sites similar to your client's.

Dealing with copyright issues

Copyright laws protect creators of original content — such as writing, art, photographs, and so on — from people using unauthorized copies of their work. The copyright laws also apply to Web designers. When you create a Web site, you're using content supplied by your client. If your client indeed created the text and images you're using on the site, he owns the copyright to this material. If, however, you use material such as photographs and music that were not created by the client, you must license the right to use this material as part of your design. If you've purchased a collection of clip art or purchased stock images from one of the stock art houses and your license allows you to use the image as part of a Web design, you're covered under the copyright laws. Notice the caveat we include regarding your license? That's right. Just because you bought it, doesn't mean you can use it. Some licenses are very rigid and allow a limited number of uses for an item. Many licenses also prohibit significantly altering clip art.

The best defense here is to read the fine print before using any item that you've purchased, or are contemplating purchasing, for use in a Web design. If you purchase a collection of images or music for use in your designs, make sure they are royalty free. If not, you're responsible for paying royalties to the copyright owner of the work. Copyright laws also protect logos. If your client sells a product line and requests that you use the product logo on the Web site, make sure this is permissible by the company who manufactures the product. In most instances, your client has to agree to certain terms in order to display the licensed version of the logo on the Web site. The written word is also copyrighted. If your client provides you with verbatim descriptions from a product catalog or another Web site, he might be in violation of the copyright law. Certain items can be copied and used under the Fair Use Doctrine. Even though you're using material that might be copyrighted by others, the manner in which the material on your site is presented is unique and should be copyrighted by the owner of the site you're designing.

Another copyright issue is the completed site. You can copyright the site by adding the following at the bottom of each page: Copyright 2007 by your client. All rights reserved. In the end, the best defense is a good offense, which, in this case, means that you and the client should create as much of the content as possible. If your client presents any material that might be questionable, strongly suggest that he contact legal counsel. Attorney's fees are a lot cheaper than paying for duking it out in court.



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