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August 2008

2008-08 Joomla! Community Magazine

Joomla! Community Magazine - Learning

Site Integrator: Resources for Designers

Great ideas for finding design ideas

Written by Jennifer Marriott

One of the things I love the best about the Joomla! Community is how people share tips, tricks and resources with each other. Hopefully with this article I will be sharing some new resources to add to your designer "toolbox", some that I have used for years and some recently shared with me by others.

Google

The first resource, and one that I use every day, multiple times a day is Google. Google is your friend when it comes to searching for that special css technique that fixes a specific problem, or trying to find out why your design may not look the same in different browsers. It is also the place I turn to to find tutorials for image editing, web design layouts and just generally finding good information quickly.

CSS Resources

I have a love/hate relationship with CSS, and I think you would be hard pressed to find a designer that doesn't. The template forums are full of questions regarding CSS and why it is or is not working. Fortunately there are a huge number of sites dedicated to CSS from beginner level all the way up to experimental, cutting edge techniques. I have a list of sites I regularly visit to keep up on CSS techniques that would be way to long for this article, but I do want to share a few of my favorites.

For beginners I really like to recommend a visit to CSS Creator because they have a great layout generator, that creates a good example of simple layouts that can be picked apart to learn from, and a very good forum. Also for beginners the Zen Garden is a awesome example of a how you can take one page and style it a million different ways. I found CSS as a concept difficult to grasp at first, but by looking at examples, practicing by tearing apart and putting designs back together and constantly pestering my friends with greater knowledge for answers (thanks Toni Marie ), the mystery of CSS has become much clearer.

Once you have the fundamentals of CSS there are some really great sites that detail specific techniques. CSS Play by Stu Nichols is one of my favorites to visit to see how far you can push CSS to do interesting things. I really like to go to the demo page of his site for inspiration, especially his work on box models. A List Apart is another great resource for CSS tips and tutorials as well as providing solid information on pretty much everything related to web design. For interesting discussions on CSS I tend to keep an eye on the Sitepoint blogs and tutorials.

I could go on all day about CSS and I have only touched the surface on resources, just remember again that you can search for many more resources than I have mentioned. If it is CSS and it can be done, most likely someone has already done it and blogged about it. There are some great browser add-on tools to help you with CSS such as Firebug and the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox. Internet Explorer also has a Web Developer Toolbar.

Images

A question that comes up frequently on the forums is where to find images that that you can use in your designs. I really like Stock.xchng for finding stock photography. Two of the best reasons why I love this site is that the images are very high quality and free (please do read the usage rights of any image before you use it). They also have paid stock photography for very reasonable prices at their sister site Stockxpert. Stock.xchng also has some great photography, photo editing and image manipulation tutorials available on the site, and great interviews with the photographers that contribute.

Color Schemes

If you are looking for inspiration in terms of color schemes there are two sites I go to: COLOURlovers (thanks Wendy ) and ColorSchemer. COLOURlovers has a rich community of contributors that share color schemes and wall papers and is highly motivational to get your creative color flowing. ColorSchemer is a program that I can highly recommend as a toolbox must have that is so reasonably priced, it more than pays for itself the first time you use it because it takes the headache out of trying to find that perfect highlight or contrast color, it also has an awesome feature where you can load up a picture and it will create a color scheme from the picture. There is also a great community there that shares color schemes freely. For more inspiration regarding color, design, graphics, I also recommend browsing through Deviant Art (thanks Toni Marie) where there are also resources such as brushes, patterns and palettes for image editing programs.

General Design

There are a number of great resource sites that are actually lists of other great resources sites. I know that sounds redundant, but I have two that I think are great as a general starting point to find good sites to visit. The first one is a bit odd in design and that might just be the reason why I keep going back to it time and time again. Also it has great links to all sorts of goodies. Blue Vertigo is one of the most comprehensive web design resource sites I have ever seen. Everything from photos, images, fonts, and sounds to design sites and contests. It is definitely worth a visit. A similar site to Blue Vertigo is Skout. Arno Zijlstra, a truly great Joomla! web designer recently shared this site with me called Designers Toolbox and it has a wealth of great design resources, tutorials, and discussions on web design. It also features a Website of the Week for inspiration. Smashing Magazine has a lot of inspiration, tools, and resources for everything web, and their contests are an excellent opportunity to try your skills on new things.

Just to top off your information overload, there is a site I recommend that really isn't about designing the web, but help in designing your life as a webworker which is the Web Worker Daily. I could go on and on, but I think with all mentioned from first link to last link, you have a good foundation to go out and find the information that will help you design your sites. Have fun!