Just wanted to post a follow-up from my first post here :
After taking in some reviews of my design, I ended up buying http://caodesigns.com/premium-business-template/ (you can see what I ended up with at www.geekhealth.org..)
I think it was money well spent. Here is my story, I hope it has some worth.
About 6 months ago I had an idea for a health information web site… I knew there were already many out there but I had a different take on them, and hopefully the idea pays off.
Anyway, I didn’t know much at all about CSS or “proper” web design when it came to page layout. I’ve been a software developer for years but I usually stayed away from the graphical aspects.
Not having enough money to pay for a custom design, I decided to first learn enough HTML + CSS to get the basics. As I started learning I started up a project for the new site.
As time went by I learned quite a lot. I visited PSDTUTS and NETTUTS often and tried to follow the advice I got from those sites as well as others across the internet.
BUT … I kept moving forward with my layout and design.. I kept in elements that I thought “looked neat” or effects that seemed cool.
In the end I came up with a functional site, but I had overlooked a few key items:
1) The site was very dark.. something I like but it didn’t fit with the standard clean and light design most other health information sites have.
2) The navigation was not working. I used something I came up with instead of keeping it simple and consistent with other sites. Analyzing my traffic quickly showed me people were just not exploring my site.
3) I didn’t have others review and comment on the design early on or during the development. I ended up coding 60+ pages before publishing. I really wish I had asked for opinions earlier in the design process. It didn’t take too long for people on sites like themeforest to offer up good advise once I asked for it. This is something I will make sure I do earlier on in the process from now on.
The main things I have learned from this experience: 1) Have others review early and often.
2) Just because a look or an effect is cool or new, it might not have a place in your design.
3) Take the opinions of others well… It would have been very easy to be offended by some of the comments I got.. but they were honest. By taking their advice I think I now have a much cleaner looking site and hopefully people will use it more.
Finally just wanted to say “Thanks” to everyone who helped point me in a better direction.