Many web programmers confess they have a weak background in graphic design. They erroneously suppose art is a genetically inherited trait and not a learned experience. If you have the gift—great—but if you don’t you can compensate with low-tech shortcuts and workarounds. Sharing this information is the overall goal of this blog.
Reverse Engineering Website Themes
With a screengrabber—now built-in to most operating systems or as addons to browsers—you can capture attractive screens and start archiving ideas. There are also archival websites like www.designmeltdown.com. In the classic portion of the Design Meltdown site are thousands of screens and hundreds of classification. There is even a nice section on principles of design. I recommend visiting and reading the principles. But it’s a discouraging place when you suddenly recognize web design is just rearranging colored boxes inside a rectangle. Get over it.
Don’t Be Tempted to Buy
A book evolved out of the designmeltdown website: The Web Designer’s Idea Book: The Ultimate Guide To Themes, Trends & Styles In Website Design by Patrick Mcneil. I have read this book and quickly sold it. I don’t recommend it for your reference library. It has a seductive title. Get it through Interlibrary Loan instead. You cannot reverse engineer websites from a book of printed pictures.
HTML Color Picker: A key tool for reverse engineering a website.
There are lots of freeware color pickers. A color tool is an application, utility or addon. They are usually found within graphics software and online. They are used for color management, creating color schemes, picking colors, and more. They sometimes feature a color harmonization interface, a color picker, RGB and hex conversion and manipulation, a collection of saved schemes, and other similar features. Web masters, designers, developers, and professionals that work with other types of screen or print media use these tools in their work. Do I have a recommendation? No. It depends most upon your operating platform and programs you use—including your browser. Firefox has lots of nice addons—but many don’t work on Linux machines. So you must decide. Find one.
A Picker Isn’t a Color Expert
A color picker allows you to explore other designers successful color combinations (themes.) You may wonder where I’m going based on the blog entries thus far:
1) I’ve talked about how web fees are dropping and lowtech can combat the price erosion.
2) I’ve talked about The Big P Corporation and how they won’t let online color tools use their reference numbers.
3) and now I’ve mentioned screengrabbers and color pickers.
While these topics may seem random, soon I’ll tie the ideas together and show how to find the right theme fast for your new website project.