Reader Questions: Learning to code for different platforms & the ugly logo dilemma

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Sarah said,

I’m working on teaching myself how to code in hopes of breaking into the freelance world soon (much thanks to your advice and encouragement). I’m feeling fairly confident about my HTML and CSS skills (still working on PHP) but I’m not sure how to transfer my raw knowledge into actually coding for different platforms like Blogger and WordPress. So, my question is two-fold. First, how do you learn how to code for different platforms? Second, with platforms like WordPress that work on a template system, do you have a basic template you modify with HTML/CSS each time, or do you write all of your code from scratch for every individual site?

Once you have your coding skills down I’d recommend creating test sites for the platforms you want to work on. I have dummy Blogger, Tumblr and accounts along with two extra installs for self-hosted WordPress that I used to build client sites. You can use these sites to learn the system and play with different layouts and design elements.

I have blank templates that I created for each platform, which I use as a base for all my designs. They’re modified so I can edit and change them faster and because I created the template I know where each element is. No playing Marco Polo looking for a specific div or tag every time I go to build a site. It’s a giant time saver!

Alexa said,

I recently started working as a graphic design intern for two women who run an Etsy shop. They are really nice and their products are pretty, but they insist on using a logo I know is wrong. I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be, but the logo is unnecessarily complicated and illegible. Yet, they are really attached to it. My question is, how do you advice a client against something you know doesn’t work? I want to do good work for them, but having to work this logo into all of my designs is killing my motivation. Do you have any advice for overcoming this type of problem? Thank you!

Great question Alexa! This is something we haven’t talked about yet, but if you work long enough as a designer someone will eventually send you a horrible looking logo/graphic/photo that they LOVE (lovelovelovelovelove!!!) that MUST be used in the design.

Generally when this happens I decide at the beginning whether or not I’m going to try to push them in another direction. You can do this by providing extra logo/graphic/photo options as a bonus. Say something like – since we’re updating your site I thought you might like to check out a few options for a new logo as well. You can also gently list a few reasons why the logo they’ve provided isn’t working – sometimes people don’t realize the problem until you point it out. You could also take their current logo and fix it up a bit – sort of meet them in the middle.

But, sometimes the client will not budge and you’ll have to make that ugly logo work. When this happens I generally create the design including their lovely logo because they’re paying me and that’s what they want, but when I add the site to my portfolio I replace their logo with one of those alternatives I tried to previously sell them on. If they notice you’ve skipped their logo in your portfolio you can let them know it’s your policy to not display work created by another designer.

Any other designers want to weigh-in on the ugly logo dilemma?


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  1. says

    LOVE your ugly logo answer. I’ve run into this multiple times and not known how to address it. I typically skip putting the website into my portfolio at all, but I think your way is much better!

  2. says

    My employer suffers from the ugly logo syndrome as well. They are terribly attached to it because it was hand-drawn by the founder but it doesn’t wok most of the time. It’s too tall… but unfortunately there is no way in the world they’ll want to update it.
    I have to do what I can. I took the liberty of changing the color from an ugly brownish to a gray hue and it looks a bit better.

    About blank templates, what do you think about frameworks?

    I love these Q&A posts!

    • says

      Yes – it usually ends up that the client or someone they know created the logo, so they are even more attached to it.

      Frameworks are great, especially if you want to give the client options for updating the design themselves or if you want to start with a base template. I chose to create my own templates because I like to control every inch of the site :)

  3. says

    Great tips! I second Luisa’s question above about frameworks!

    I’m currently working on a website for a local restaurant that is being built around not one, but two ugly logos. One of them isn’t as bad and I was able to make it work in the site…but the really ugly one the owner loves and it looks like straight up clip art from Microsoft Word. What I did was instead of displaying it prominently on the site, was took a photo of the logo used in the business’ setting– in this case, the sign entering the restaurant. I used the photo in a slider on the site’s homepage so I was still using the logo, but it wasn’t ruining the site. It’s also kind of saying ‘Hey, I didn’t design this logo.’ A photo of a menu featuring the logo or a product could work as well.

  4. says

    This is great advice about the ugly logo. I would tell the client that I could use their logo although I think this new option may target their target market better (in other words… don’t insult their logo, but just nicely point out the consequences of using their logo). Often people don’t even realize WHY their logo isn’t the best – they just like it because they made it and it feels like them.

    You, as the designer, really have to be the expert; after all, they are paying you to do what they haven’t been trained to do, so don’t let them push you around and tell you how to do what they’re paying you to know how to do.

  5. says

    Thanks so much, Sarah! I’ve already got a dummy Blogger site set up and I’ll get to work on getting other dummy accounts set up, too. I’ll keep working on stuff and looking at the code for various sites and hopefully be able to coding for myself soon. Really appreciate the advice! :)