Oblong Design Collective is a collective of volunteers who create designs for websites, print, video and other related areas. We are part of Oblong, a community resource centre in Leeds. Oblong has a non-hierarchical structure which means that volunteers and staff are equal. There are no bosses. Our clients are not for profit organizations or community groups, especially those without paid staff.
The websites we design can only be as good as the brief and content you supply. In order to help us to help you we have produced these guidance notes.
We use our technical skills to design, create and host your website. We can also create a logo for you and do illustrations, video work and related print work.
Once we have built your website we will train you how to update it. It is not difficult to do and you don’t need prior knowledge of websites to do it. If you get stuck you can always come back for more training.
The client writes the text copy for the website. We don't write it.
Only you can know what you want to say about your organization.
Also we don't update your website by adding new content to it. It is up to the client to keep the website updated; we can train you to do this but from then it's your responsibility.
Our volunteers come from a wide range of background but we are all looking to create portfolios of work to show potential employers, learn new skills or keep up to date with existing ones.
Some of us are design students, some have worked in design or related industries such as print. Some of us are very skilled but have difficulty getting a job for example because of a disability, lack of work experience or not being able to work full time.
All of us have limited time and other commitments outside of the Design Collective such as study, work, looking for paid work or caring responsibilities such as childcare. Most have low income or no income.
None of us are here because we have nothing better to do. All of us are committed to doing the best job we can and learning the best design skills. We would like clients to appreciate the time, skill and sheer hard work that is required to create a website.
Before you ask us for a website you need to sit down and think about several points:
Sometimes people just suddenly decide they'd like a website because everybody else you know has got one. But if you want to market your organization or provide information about what you do through a new website, then you need to have a clear plan of how you are going to do it.
Issues you need to consider are:
You also need to remember that not everybody has access to the internet so you will still need to retain other forms of communication.
Information about your organization and what it does is obviously needed on your website.
You may also want your logo, pictures, drawings or diagrams, videos, contact details or a contact form.
You may want links to other sites of interest.
You need to have all of this written or created before we can start on your site.
You also need to know what content you are likely to want to put on it in the future, for example occasional updates, news articles or posts, 1,000 word essays or anything else you can think of.
If you want your website to be a particular co lour scheme the same as your logo or literature, let us know before we start work.
You need to consider how much time you have got to dedicate to your website. Remember you are going to be updating it and looking after it yourself. There is no point in having something you do not actually use because you feel it is too difficult or takes too much time.
If you update your website once a year there is no point having a feature which enables you to post lots of news articles. We can advise you on how easy or difficult something will be for you to do.
We would like to point out here that it is actually worth taking the time to master using computers, the internet and websites, because there are enormous advantages to gained: cost savings from less printing and postage, time savings, instant communication of your latest information, a way to get new contacts and funders, just to name a few. Organizations which understand this tend to upgrade the importance of their website and are more likely to give their website work to the member of staff best suited to fulfil this important role.
Please bear in mind that if you ask for lots of different functions or you ask for a large site with lots of pages and complex navigation you will get a website with a more complicated content management system which is likely to be more difficult for you to use.
If you are not familiar with websites and you don't feel prepared to learn about them or you are uncomfortable with using a computer, we recommend that you keep your website simple.
In order to have a website you need a domain name and a website hosting service. A domain name is something like www.yourwebsitename.org.uk which people type into their browser to see your site. A web host gives you a place where your website can physically exists.
We help you to register your domain name; it isn't expensive. We can provide hosting for you for a small fee.
Not all hosting services offer the same features, for example many basic web hosting plans do not offer PHP or a mySQL database which we will probably need to build a website for you.
If you want to use a different hosting service from ours you need to ask our advice due to technical considerations.
Once you have decided what you want on your website and what you want it to do, we will decide how we are going to do your website. We look at what you need and advise you on which content management system to use.
We create most of the websites we do with content management systems. The reason why we do this is because we can give clients a WYSIWYG editor (WYSIWYG means ‘what you see is what you get’). This enables people to update their websites using an interface similar to a word processor which is easy to use. (So you don't need to know the computer code, "html", which is used for the website content.)
We like all text to be supplied as a word (.doc) file. You need to check it for spelling and grammatical errors. This is easy to do with word processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Open Office.
Open Office is free from http://www.openoffice.org. It is available for most computer operating systems including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. You can download it from http://download.openoffice.org/ .
If you do not know how to use a word processing program, or how to use a computer we have beginners IT classes where we can teach you. Contact Oblong for details. It is very informal and free.
Please do not ask us to type text for you from hand written or printed documents, because we have no volunteers to do typing.
If you are taking text from previously written documents check the facts carefully to make sure they are up to date.
Never copy information from other peoples’ sites or literature without permission because you will probably be breaking copyright laws if you do. If you see information on another website which you think is useful, the correct thing to do is to link to it. You do not need to ask for permission. We can make it so that the other site opens up in a new tab or window in a browser so people can easily come back to your site. If you link to another site you might want to ask them to link to you. The more websites which link to your site, especially popular ones, the higher up you appear in website search engine ratings. This is another reason why other sites will ask you to link to them and not to copy their content.
It is helpful if you can tell us what content needs to go on what page. It is much easier to write the content first and then org anise it into different pages, headings etc. We can help and advise with this. If you ask for something which is a bad idea we'll let you know (politely of course!).
Pictures should be supplied as separate files, not embedded in a word document because this causes us problems. Photographs are best supplied as jpegs.(Jpeg files are compressed and there is some loss of image quality. We can convert TIFF or Photoshop files to jpeg.)
Logos are best as gif or the original vector graphic file if you have got it (.eps, Illustrator or Coreldraw file). If you are not sure, ask.
It's better to send us a selection of formats than try to chose which one is right if you don't know.
Images for websites need to be very compressed, we do this for you and we can teach you how to do it.
Also never use pictures of posters with text on them on your website because blind and visually impaired people cannot read them.
We can do the work for cost price but we really appreciate donations because we need new computers and software to keep on providing the service. We will give you a guide to recommended donations.
The design work we do is released under a ‘Creative Commons’ license. We do this so people can use work in their portfolios, and nobody can subsequently sell the design work and make a profit.
Let us know as soon as possible. We'll try to resolve any problems.
This may seem a stupid question, but many people ask us for a website and haven't considered that they're going to need to write something for it. It's not unknown for people to ask us for a website, supply no content and then ring up asking why their website is not finished!!
There are numerous difficulties with this. If we do not have all if the content it is difficult for us to create the website because the design depends on the content. For example if we are expecting numerous pages with several hundred words your website would look odd if we designed it then discovered you actually want five pages with two or three paragraphs on each one. People often give us a list of headings but when they actually get round to writing the content for the website, they realize that they want to change the headings, add new ones or remove some. Sometimes we never get content for a page, and the website ends up having a blank page which does not look very professional.
This shows how important it is to spend some time planning your website.
No. You don’t need to know anything about websites, we have all the knowledge. It is much more important to know something about marketing and have a clear strategy to promote your cause. The output of your marketing process is good for the input of our website building process. Us computer people like this kind of thing.
The simple answer is probably not without causing us a lot of difficulty.
Unfortunately this is a very common request. In some cases we have had to start websites from scratch. This is very frustrating and time consuming for our volunteers. We end up having to find time to work on your website when we did not expect it, and not being able to do other things we need to do in our lives.
Building a website requires writing a lot of code and setting up various things which have to be removed and done again if you change your mind. If we were a money-making enterprise these changes would cost you hundreds or thousands of pounds. If you were employed by a private company and cost your employers this amount of money with nothing to show for it, you would be in a lot of trouble and you could lose your job.
Please do not take advantage of our volunteers because we are working on a voluntary basis.
By all means show us styles you like.
But you need to be aware that sometimes there are technical considerations.
For example a big image across the whole background will not be suitable for people who have slower internet connections and may cause difficulties for people with less than perfect eyesight.
Also we can't copy something if it is copyrighted. You need to tell us what you want before we start work, otherwise we end up having to start your website again.
Another option is for us to do a design -we usually start from a colour scheme based on your logo - and then ask for your comments and then work work together to make a good design which you like. Please have confidence in us we're designers.........it's what we do!!!
Yes. Again tell us before we start work.
Yes. You'll need to give us a brief such as what you want from your logo, how you are going to use it and who your clients are so that we can design something appropriate. We can do your logo in different formats suitable for websites and print, and we can make it so you can use it at a small or large size.
Probably not. Templates depend on technicalities of websites such as how they are put together and which content management system they use.
This depends on the license. If there is no license then the picture is covered by copyright laws by default in this country. If you bought the picture from a library or it is from a collection you bought, there is a good chance you will be able to use it. If you got it for free, then it is likely you will only be able to use it for personal projects, which does not include any form of publishing or distribution including putting it on a website.
Some pictures have a Creative Commons license which means you can use it with certain conditions including putting the license details or a link to it on your website.
Never steal pictures or content from other sites, it is usually illegal and it is easier than you think to get discovered. The consequences range from a take down notice from a very irate individual to a fine or court case. There is no requirement in law to prove you knew you were breaking the law with copyright laws. Check everything carefully if it was done by someone else! They could have stolen it without your knowledge.
If you have paid a photographer, artist or designer to create something for you, it remains their copyright unless you have bought the copyright as well. If you want to use their creation on another project you have to ask for permission and will probably have to pay royalties. Every artist and designer also has moral rights including the right to have the work attributed to them and the right to not have their work used in a derogatory way. These rights can be waived but unlike copyright they cannot be transferred.
There are number of myths about copyright including that the web is a general free for all where laws do not apply and that you can use anything you like for free as long as you use it for a non-profit making purpose. Neither of these is true. You are also not allowed to make a derivative work from another person’s copyrighted work.
‘Royalty free’ does NOT mean you do not pay for the image, it mean you purchase it once then can use it as many time as you like as opposed to paying a royalty every time you use it.
There are plenty of image libraries where you can buy photographs and drawings.
If you want something on your website, write it yourself, create it yourself or pay for it.
Yes you can, but try to avoid using them for essential information you want everybody to read. Where possible put information on a standard web page.
If people have to go to the effort of having to download, virus scan and open a file, the chances are that they won’t bother. If they have a slow internet connection, it will take a long time to download. Some people struggle to do things like set up their browser to download PDFs. You do not need to supply web pages as PDF files so that people can print them out, we can make it so that they can print out the pages from the ‘print’ button on a browser.
PDF files are fine for archives of things which previously appeared in print for example an annual report or information leaflets.
PDF files for websites need to be very compressed to make them small. The best program to use is Adobe Acrobat Professional if you have got it (you have to pay for it though, it is expensive). If in doubt ask us for advice. You can send us the original files for us to make the PDF if you don’t know how.
Word (.doc) format files are problematic because either you need to buy a copy of Microsoft Word to open them or you need to have an alternative such as the free Open Office. Not everybody will be able to work out what to do if they have a .doc file but no Microsoft Word program. Your file is likely to look different in every program used to open it especially if you have used fancy formatting.
If you have your PDF files or Word files on your website then when you send out emails you can put a link on the email to the file instead of having to email the files. This is especially good if you are doing mass mailings because people have all sorts of different email accounts and PDF attachments can cause various problems especially if they are large. Also if you do a mass emailing of PDFs you'll soon exceed your bandwidth and have to pay more for your web hosting.
If you have PDF files or Word files on your website make sure it is clear from the link that it downloads a PDF or Word file otherwise people think it is a link to a normal web page and some will think their browser has crashed if they don’t see the page they are expecting to appear. Never put PDF files or Word files on a navigation menu.
The law now says you have to provide reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities. You can create your personal website how you want but anything providing information for the public needs to be accessible to people with a range of disabilities. In website design this includes things like making websites accessible to blind people who use screen readers to access the web, and providing good contrast between text and its background for people with less than perfect vision.
Sometimes the visual appearance has to be compromised to provide good accessibility. This is a good thing because normal sighted people rarely read something if it is more difficult to read than normal. Pictures should have alternative text content.
We can do most of these things for you. If you are expecting your website visitors to have difficulties because of problems reading or understanding language, such as some people with learning disabilities, you will need to write your website content accordingly.
The only guaranteed way of doing this is to pay to be at the top. There are numerous things which go into getting your website high up in search engine results.
Things which you can do include writing content relevant to your subject, having headings and links with words related to your content and getting other websites to link to you.
You must update your content regularly.
Making sure you promote your website and get lots of visitors is also very important. You should include links to other sites because that is how search engines usually find you. We can help by giving your website SEO friendly links and writing good and efficient code. We can also put in keywords and descriptions for search engines. It is helpful if you can supply these, we can give advice. Keywords are what people type into a search engine when they are looking for something.
Yes. Most of the time, we can write code to get round these problems. There are some things we cannot change such as the style on forms which often depends on the browser and the operating system it is being use on. We check the website in different browser for you so you do not need to worry about it.
Most websites have notices such as copyright on the footer. There are legal reasons for this. What is wrong with letting your clients know you have used a professional content management system for your website? You get to use it for free for putting the notice in the footer, otherwise it would cost you a lot of money.
Also we would be grateful to have a small link to us in the footer of your web pages, to say we designed your site.
No. We don't want to start a job then have it cancelled because you have got funding to pay somebody. It wastes our time. If you get funding, you can pay us to do the job for you.
It depends how it was coded. If it was correctly coded according to the latest web standards as defined by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) www.w3.org/ then we might be able to copy and paste it to a new site. If it was created by a WYSIWYG web editing program such as Frontpage, or it uses old standards such as HTML 4 then probably not.
It depends on the technical features of your hosting service. You will need to find these out or let us find out; we will need to have your username and password for your web host. If it is a poor host it may not have the features we need.
This is fine if you are going to watch your site all the time every day, but if you aren't, somebody could post a comment you don't want on your site and it might be a while before you remove it.
If somebody posts something insulting or illegal at best it won't make your organization look good, at worst it may result in getting you into trouble or in extreme cases end up on the evening news on TV.
Also don't think that once you have deleted a post it disappears because if search engines such as Google have had chance to find it they will save the information for a couple of weeks.
It is better for people to be able to make comments in a more private way such as by email or via a contact form.
Counters are not very accurate and not really a good way of analyzing website statistics.
It is better to tell us want you want your website to be able to do rather than asking us to put in a particular feature you have seen elsewhere. We can advise you if you aren't sure.
You can have just a contact form instead. People wanting to contact you just fill in the form and it gets sent to your email address without them finding out what your email is.
You mean HTML emails. Yes we can. It is much better than sending out newsletters with attached PDF or Word files, which causes all sorts of problems. See the information above about PDF and Word files on your website.
No, always ask for advice. We don’t bite!
Probably not. We would prefer you to ask things rather than get it wrong or cause us problems. We don't assume you have any knowledge about websites.
Yes please! Somebody recently let us have a free morning on their go-karting track, it was brilliant!