Inspiration Ideas Talking Out Loud (TOL)
I try and build a concept around the function of the site. Say it is a site about toasters. So I do some research on toasters and look at old advertising for toasters. Some cool sites I have seen mimic old 50s ads and really work. I look at how different cultures would toast bread before toasters. I also look at relevant history around the concept and propaganda associated with it. By the time you do this for a couple of days you have enough inspiration to do a network of sites (which is good for me being a designer and needing to pump out a couple of mock ups). I try and stay away from looking at other sites unless I casually find them. It will make you have a narrow view of design. Nothing worse than looking at templates and other things to stop the creative process dead in its tracks. Look at other mediums and see what visuals were used for that concept.
For redesigns. Write down a list of all the "stuff" I want in the site. I included the parts of the site that I still like. The parts that I intended to add shortly, and the stuff that I'd like to make room for. These requirements are all over the map, from design issues (bigger pictures) to content stuff (better integration of advertising).
Start sketching out structures that could accommodate all the content I want. Try EVERYTHING. Menu at the top, menu at the right, left, etc. I could whip off a design in about 10 minutes, and then analyze it to see what I liked and didn't like.
Define the CSS attributes. Create quick HTML
I ended up checking out the Webby awards site and found a baby products store that was very nice. I also look at stock photo sites.
I've been there, brain freeze, writer’s cramp, creative starvation.
If I look at other sites it throws me out more.
I start with a clean canvas, no graphics; add links, tables and essential text.
Leave it alone, do something else, come back and think about cosmetics.
More often than not, I scrap the first stuff I did but the end must justify the means.