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Website design generator

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Post Thu Dec 14, 2006 4:45 pm

Website design generator

Hi all,
We have had a website now for quite some time but would like the ability for visitors to design their own (very basic) sign online.
ie. a generator that you can enter in the dimentions / text colour / text body.
The generator would then show a preview of the finished sign and calculate the cost.
Any ideas as to who to approach/ expected approximate costs would be welcome.
Paul.
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Post Thu Dec 14, 2006 5:07 pm

If I was to do it - it would be done after a Flash applet (or similar) to allow them to pick & chose options.

No idea as to the cost of getting a VERY accomplished programmer to do it - but expect into the £1000's.

The downside of giving them the tools is that you may end up producing some horrors "it's what I spent 3 hours designing last night" for what might take you 5 mins...and you'll still have to re-generate thier design.
Besides - designing & laying out is what we get paid to do, not re-hash something a 3 year old drew!

Another downside to letting them in effect price their own job is that you'll need a fanstastic program running just for that AND you run the risk of getting undercut on every job. Having a set price table is much easier, but still takes away the 'feel' that applies to most pricing jobs. Can you get more money, or advise them of a better solution...if price drop by 5% can you get it...that sort of thing that's best done with you in the loop.

Personal contact & being able to advise / enthuse is a BIG part of the sale. Websites are great for contact details & portfolios..and to sell fixed items at a fixed price - but the custom nature of signage needs a human touch I feel.

ps. Is your site aimed at the local market or UK wide. Without getting great ask/altavista/msn/yahoo/google hits (in top 10 on page minimum) or yell/scoot coverage websites struggle to generate income.

Not trying to put you off, but your money may be better invested on general advertising, not giving the home user a toy.

Well, that's my feelings on the matter!! Keep the contact personal..it generates better business & customers.

Dave
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Post Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:00 pm

Re: Website design generator

Paul Munford wrote:Hi all,
We have had a website now for quite some time but would like the ability for visitors to design their own (very basic) sign online.
ie. a generator that you can enter in the dimentions / text colour / text body.
The generator would then show a preview of the finished sign and calculate the cost.
Any ideas as to who to approach/ expected approximate costs would be welcome.
Paul.


Paul, I was approached as a beta tester for a guy in the states that did this very thing, almost exactly as you described, some years ago.

He invested huge money in a website, and in truth, it was very good.

The problem I found in my testing is that you were letting total novices do something that was sometimes not easy, even impossible, to produce economically in computer cut material. Some designs were very labour intensive, and no matter how he designed the price generation, some times the prices were way to cheap in real terms.

The other problem was the costs he needed to charge in order to recoup his R&D.

He overcame that hurdle by offering a yearly license I think.

End of the day I think he went broke, or changed direction, because he found most sign shops wanted more control over the design process, not less. They certainly didn't want their client base to control the design process. Like anything of a design nature, each of us do a design with application being in the back of our minds.

When a client submits artwork, they have no idea of the application woes on some vehicles etc, so it was always a lottery if the actual design was going to work for the application.

He found most people would not accept his suggestion of changes, with the attitude - "I want my design and I don't care how long it takes you, but I don't want to pay a fortune either, after all, I've done the design, which is the hard bit".

He got very little support from the US sign industry at the time, and the $us > $au conversion made it prohibitive for the average small sign shop here in Oz.

Sorry to be so negative, but it has been tried, and failed miserably.

I always thought it was a good idea in theory tho.

I ask people to send me a pdf of their design and I quote from that. Pdf being a universal file, just about everyone knows of the format, so it works well for me, and its heap cheaper.
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Post Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:20 pm

I have seen a couple of these on sites in the UK. I think they are a great idea. As David said though you would need to drive traffic to your website and get it high up the search engine listings.

Personally I don't see a problem with using someone elses design if its for print only. I can certainly understand the difficulties of trying to design and cost vinyl signs, but a straight forward design your own sign and have it printed should be relatively easy to cost I would have thought. Some sites even have the ability to upload your own images onto the banner for an extra personal touch.

The sites I have seen are predominantly for banners, but fixed sized signs on a variety of substrates should be just as achievable.

Just my views.

As for who to approach, there is a virtually limitless number of web designers/programmers who will work to your brief, but again don't expect it to be cheap.

Robert
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Country: United Kingdom (uk)




Post Fri Dec 15, 2006 1:34 pm

I sway more to the "leave it to the designers" - the outputted work will go down with your signature on it (written or word of mouth). If it looks great then fine but.......

....the culprit will not admit to it being his / her own work if disparaging remarks are flying around (obviously will take the credit when receiving praise so you can't benefit).

A plumber wouldn't drop off a load of copper pipe and tell you to have a play around with it until I get there (or would he?)

Col
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Post Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:19 pm

Great response, thank you.
You raised a few issues i had'nt even considered.
On our site we have a "get a quote" page where prospectve clients can fill out a (very basic) spec. form and we respond with a cost and proof by e-mail. More often than not we have no personal contact, the order is received and the job goes out! I feel that we could increase productivity and reduce the time we spend designing these "simple" text signs by allowing the customer to do it.
These days so many people have basic dtp skills and a simple wysiwyg generator would be a natural extention of our services.
I've contacted a few web designers for outline costs and ideas and waiting to see what comes back.
Thanks again for all your veiws on this, its great to be able to get relative feedback.
Paul.

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