Once you have gone through the preliminary steps of planning your step (to recap, planning your sitemap, structure, genre, colors, layout, and navigation) it is time to choose the images that you will include with your content and to enhance the layout of your site. Choosing appropriate and legal images can be a fun part of planning your first web site. Here are some tips to help you coordinate your images with the rest of your planned components.
The Legal Basics
Beginner web designers have a multitude of graphical web resources available to them – all free for only a link back to the graphics site. Usually, as web development skill advances, designers turn to other venues to offer cutting-edge graphics. The most logical solutions come down to two choices. Make your own. Or buy them from a pro. There are other choices of course, ones that compromise one´s online integrity and challenge the often unspoken ethical code of web designers. Simply, “Thou shalt not steal!”
Anyone who has taken the time to learn graphical software programs and advanced to the point where they can make decent graphics can relate to this dictum. Graphical design is not a piece of cake for most of us. It takes hours to master a good program like Adobe PhotoShop, Illustrator or PhotoImpact. It takes even more hours to carefully birth a splendid new graphic. Many talented artists offer free use of select collections of graphics for other web designers to use, IF they are given credit for their reations. Other artists offer legitimate use of their art without credit, IF a fee is paid. But most absolutely forbid the uncredited use of their work, or the addition of their selections into collections available through a third party on another site. Credit needs to be given where credit is due. To read more about this problem go to R.I.G.H.T.S. which stands for “The Redistribution in Graphics Has To Stop” – a site that offers support to stop the illegal use of graphics by web designers offering graphic and web design services inexpensively that include stolen graphics. Another excellent page to look at is What is Copyright Protection?
Finding Legal Sources
You have a multitude of choices related to accessing free or paid graphics from various creative graphics creators on the internet. There are many who offer absolutely free ones, without the need to link to them. Others, (and understandably so) require acknowledgement through the placing of a text or banner link back to their site in exchange for free use of their creations (click on the temple image above to see an example of this). Still others require you to buy a license to use their products. If your site is going to be a commercial venture, this charge might be higher than if your site is a personal one. The point is to find graphics that meet your visual needs, budget, and genre in a responsible and legal way. You can not simply punch in an image topic, say “cats” in Google images, then just take whatever suits you. Instead, search for ‘free cat images” and follow the creator’s instructions for crediting and/or payment.
Creating Your Own
There are literally thousands of websites that offer free use of clipart and graphics for budding web designers. This is fine, in the beginning. Once you get serious though, it´s time to learn to create your own images for your website. The first step in learning to create dynamic graphics on the computer is to invest in the best software available that fits your preferences and your budget. The industry standard software for digital design is Adobe Photoshop, which retails for about $250 to $650 (depending on the vendor and version you choose) and takes awhile to master. If you are serious about web design though, this is the program of choice. There are also several other programs that are more economical, and prove effective for web design. You can read more about other popular graohics programs at Digital Graphic Design: Getting Started. Another free choice that is touted as being similar to Photoshop is the open source software program G.I.M.P. which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program.
Things to Keep in Mind
Images are not just the pictures or clipart that you will use to illustrate or embellish your content. They also include the headers, buttons, bars, icons, backgrounds and other structural image components used on a web site. To choose an aesthetic coordination of images, it is important to consider the previous steps you have taken to plan your site, namely your selected navigation scheme (are you using buttons, a bar, or text links?), colors, genre (what metaphoric imagery would match this?), layout (how big should your buttons or bars be?)and so on. It helps to apply the priniciples of color theory to this part of your planning – use variations of your selected colors to enhance and coordinate your visual presentation.
Another consideration is to make sure that your images download quickly. Make sure they are small in kilobyte size (best is under 100 kb) and are saved as either jpg, gif, or png formats. If a particular image is very large in size even after compression, try slicing it up into sections and coordinating within a table so that the pieces line up seamlessly yet download quickly. All of these suggestions apply to photographs as well as clipart and other graphic creations. Once this part of the planning is done, you can move on to the final step, planning your content.