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The Problem

I am in the process of designing a 'deal' tracking kind of site except rather than offering discounts on products or specific deals as such, The site offers a 'hub' for viewing and tracking store discounts that would otherwise be up to the individual businesses to market and attempt to reach customers.

The site operates in the sense where a business account has access to marketing and tracking tools for discounts, 'buy x get y free' or freebie kind of offers they are attempting to advertise and a consumer account has access to tracking deals they want to be notified about and generally browsing for different discounts from specific businesses or fields.

I've come to a point where i'm having trouble deciding what is ultimately the best way to compromise between how the adverts look to users and the operation of each ( displayed in either a list or grid view ) while at the same time offering each business enough freedom to market themselves or their offer the way they would do so independently.

The current concept (in all of its spectacular infancy) looks like this:

concept


The Question

How can I build the best compromise between the business side and the consumer side whilst still conforming to a scheme well but allowing enough freedom to business so as to be a realistic and appealing avenue to invest in?

expanded

  • I could build a completely open space for each business to do whatever they want resulting in a ridiculous mess for the site and the consumers.

    vs

  • I could constrain things ridiculously which might look great but will ultimately drive most businesses away by locking them into something that doesn't fit with their personal marketing ploys.

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1  
There is no question yet.... –  slawrence10 Jan 5 '13 at 2:19
    
@slawrence10 Fixed :) –  Michael Zaporozhets Jan 5 '13 at 2:30
    
I'm not entirely clear as to what you feel the compromise is. Could you expand on that a bit? –  DA01 Jan 5 '13 at 3:23
    
@DA01 updated ;) –  Michael Zaporozhets Jan 5 '13 at 3:33
2  
The purpose of marketing is to reach users. So I think for the site to thrive, it absolutely has to be customer-centric. It sounds like the bigger challenge is that this is maybe a start up? If so, you need to figure out what makes this site different than the rest of the deal-a-day type sites. –  DA01 Jan 5 '13 at 3:36

3 Answers 3

Use Gestalt principles of perception to maintain uniformity across the site. To make things look uniform, you could:

  • Require that all images uploaded be of a uniform dimension.
  • Give the background behind all text a uniform color or texture.
  • Display the same information at the same location in each advertisement (time left in one place, percent discount in another, ditto for price, description, title, and any other fields you may have)
  • Make sure that there's a clear boundary around each advertisement (so that if a company submits an image with edges that would blend into the background, it will still appear as a foreground figure).

Your current layout already does a good job of preserving uniformity, so I included the above list mainly as a sample of things you should be sure to keep in the design. To increase the freedom of businesses to market themselves independently, I would suggest you change the following:

  • Increase the size of the image area. Make it about 150%-200% as tall, and give the companies full freedom to put whatever they want (including text or a collage of multiple images) that area.
  • Create a logo place at the top of each entry for the company's logo.
  • If you get feedback that suggests the companies need still more freedom, you may want to consider letting the companies specify a color associated with their brand for certain small areas of the design.
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1  
Also, as a random side comment, change the Goonni logo. The G is hard to read. –  3nafish Jan 5 '13 at 3:53
    
It looks better when it's not a crappy downsized lazy copy out of fireworks haha but yeah i know. –  Michael Zaporozhets Jan 5 '13 at 13:42
    
back to the question though, As a webdev > designer I want the advertisements themselves to stand out however making the adverts much larger seems like it would then make more sense to constrain this page into a list view only. It seems like a waste of screen realestate though. Thoughts? also the reasoning behind the 'customisation' contraints was really more to do with equality between smaller and larger business so as to not give advantage to a business with a sales/design/marketing team vs "Tim's local bakery" –  Michael Zaporozhets Jan 5 '13 at 13:50

The 2 options you provide are not mutually exclusive. You should combine them. That's what all CMS's under the sun are doing.

You should let the users have the freedom to customize things if they choose to, but still offer a set of preset themes, so that they can base their own customizations on them.

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Templates are definitely the way to go. MailChimp for creating newsletters is quite close to the concept you're trying to provide.

First provide good templates - perhaps submit a request to 99Designs to get a range of templates - if just you do the designs, what you like might not appeal to your clients.

MailChimp will actually allow the designer to completely write their own HTML and CSS and they provide a guide (http://mailchimp.com/resources/guides/mailchimp-for-designers/).

You could perhaps make people pay to get full access to edit the HTML / CSS as happens on the custom CSS upgrade on hosted wordpress.com so that only those who really want to will create custom designs.

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