Daniel Watrous on Software Engineering

A Collection of Software Problems and Solutions

Software Engineering

Software Licensing: User interface design high quality, low cost alternative

A few days ago I put together some sketches for the user interface design for the software licensing platform. I also showed how I create a video for freelancers that explains the important points of the design and gives them instructions to bid and then create the design.

The real cost of web design

You get what you pay for! That’s as true today as it has ever been. I know that when I outsource to low cost foreign providers, the quality of what I get back will be lower than choosing a seasoned, US based contractor. While I would never ask someone to work for free, the challenge is that I don’t have a minimum design budget of $1500 to invest as part of this experiment.

Quality too low

In my effort to beat the real price, I posted the design job on Elance and oDesk. On Elance I hired a designer that I had used in the past. His designs work well in all browsers, but this design was looking startlingly similar to the last one he did for me and it was a little too plain for my taste, so I cancelled the contract.

I got a couple dozen bids from oDesk and finally narrowed the field to three or four designers. After cancelling the contract on Elance, I started to discuss the job with the few candidates that were left on oDesk. The communication errors were too much and I finally closed that job in frustration.

themeforest saves the day

I then remembered a website called themeforest that sells website templates. I knew they sold wordpress and other CMS templates, so I figured I would check for plain HTML templates. It worked out better than I could have hoped. They have specific templates for selling products (think landing pages), with product comparison tables and much more. They also have admin templates, which is exactly what I needed.

The best part is that the cost is extremely low! I found two templates that will do exactly what I need for under $20 each. Here they are if you want to see them.

Uniqueness vs. Budget

Some argue against using themes or templates because then your site looks like everyone else’s. In the proper context this argument makes a lot of sense. For example, if a very large company with a big public presence chose to use a theme that was widely used elsewhere, it may cast doubt on the authenticity of their site.

However, for a site that is likely to get small amounts of traffic and be presented to well isolated (and carefully selected) groups within a market, the likelihood of a uniqueness collision occurring is low. If the experiment proves successful and the resulting revenue is sufficient, there’s nothing preventing you from pursuing a quality custom design in the future.

Prototype plan

After this experience, I plan to make themeforest one of my first stops for creative design for software prototypes in the future.

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