Guide to Building Quality Digital Products for the Web

There are dozens of premium shops and marketplaces to be found all around the Internet. Usually these are popular vendors which sell various types of digital products – e-books, website templates, tutorial videos, icons, graphics, the list goes on for a while. But the idea behind these eCommerce stores is earning money by selling digital goods as opposed to physical items.

I would like to use this guide as a reflection into how you can build high-quality digital products. Even if you aren’t launching your own store online it’s still a good idea to consider the quality of the items you’re building. So many custom freebies are online these days between thousands of digital artists across the globe. But talented web professionals can always tell the difference between quality and shoddy workmanship.

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Study the Masters

Probably the first step you should take is examining other talented work by very talented artists. 365psd always has fantastic resources which relate to icons, vectors, and web graphics. But additionally you can locate freebies related to other ideas such as desktop software and open source code snippets.

Github is full of developers releasing their code for other developers to branch off. If you need a specific solution for PHP or Rails then try checking the open repos first. Of course there are many other free websites which host a similar open source mentality.

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Building custom WordPress themes has become an extremely popular topic since the CMS has skyrocketed into popularity. Almost all the major blogs and news sources online today are powered by a WordPress backend. Not to mention there are so many people each day launching their own website for the very first time. Theming is one of the first issues you’ll consider when launching any new project.

Following Standards

For most file formats there are usually some conventions you should be following to release a premium new product. E-books for example are typically released in PDF documents with some type of cover illustration page. You can accomplish this using Adobe InDesign or any other similar software.

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But when you move into designing Photoshop graphics or coding templates the general standards become more clear. Most Photoshop gurus will layer their PSD files into groups, also splitting up effects onto a clipping mask. Label names are crucial so that you don’t have hundreds of New Layers confusing people who download your files online.

Websites are a bit more fluid since you can work on many different standards. Just follow the typical documentation for whatever language you’re coding and you’ll pick up on other small mistakes along the way. Templating engines like Smarty have great documentation which is easy to skim for important info.

There are even more products we could look into where each file type has their own associated idiosyncrasies. As an example any fonts you create should follow some of the more recent file types associated for the web(eot, ttf, woff, svg). Custom recordings or musical pieces are also easy to distribute since .mp3 files can be accessed anywhere. But leaving blank ID3 tags is a surefire way to send a red flag about your product’s quality.

Leave Traces and Copies

Depending on the resources you’re offering this may not apply to everyone. But as you are creating website templates and graphics you should keep all the original file formats to include with the final release.

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For example, you may offer a custom icon set with hundreds of individual 32×32 pixel PNG files. But if you created the icons in Photoshop you may also consider including one large PSD with all the icons put together. Adding a nice textured background can help with marketing to draw attention as a featured caption/image preview.

The same goes for website templates where you may start out coding in strict HTML5/CSS3 and then switch to a backend system. If you’ve got just the HTML demo code it’s worthwhile to offer this along with any custom template systems(WP, Joomla!, Smarty, etc). Just separate these into two folders placed together inside the same .zip archive.

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People who download these templates won’t need to install them before checking out how they look in a browser window. Also you are providing a step-by-step track of each phase during the development cycle. This is more handy for other web developers than general users, but almost everybody will appreciate the additional files.

Build on Open Source

The open movement has definitely changed my perception of web development, and the same is true for hundreds of others in the same field. When you can build a website with jQuery sliders and form validation the contents are much more valuable. So why should you reinvent the wheel and code all that functionality from scratch?

Be smart and build your code on top of already existing projects. If the authors require credit then certainly offer some links in your comments or an external a .txt file. But there’s no reason to shy away from open source for reasons of building your own better solution. In fact I would argue many web developers would enjoy grabbing a WP template which already utilizes jQuery.

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It makes your work that much easier since all the plugins and external scripts will work together all the same. If you’re building a WordPress theme it’s possible you can include additional features inside the functions.php file. Working with the open source movement will eventually lead to flawless code at a much quicker pace than working alone.

Push Beyond the Limits

The digital products of even 5 years ago cannot compare with many of the products being sold today. You really have to understand how trends are changing in your choice of media and follow along with the crowd. Ultimately your products must improve over time if you are giving careful attention to details.

Find out what similar artists are creating and place yourself just one more notch higher. Go that extra mile to add some pizzazz to your products which nobody else is offering. Good PR is often generated by the users online who find your products and fall in love with them. These customers are more than happy to share links with their friends and followers helping to promote your quality goods.

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But realize that you can’t stay at the top forever. You’ll have to keep learning and keep pushing beyond new limits. Over time it may be worthwhile to partner with another creative artist, or form a small team behind your ideas. Long-term dedication is what sets apart the high quality earners from the typical online marketplaces.

Final Thoughts

These ideas will require some time to reflect on your own skills before you can advance with brand new products. The Internet is a big place and there are lots of different skillsets you can build upon. Designers, developers, marketers, and writers can all strive for that top pedestal in quality and performance enhancements.

I hope these tips can get you thinking in the best direction for creating digital goods. Selling packages online or even giving away your resources will always bring about scrutiny. Don’t let a few naysayers get in the way of your passion. Continue pushing forward with new trends and keep yourself interested along the way. If you have any similar ideas or comments feel free to share with us in the post discussion area below.

Author: (103 Posts)

Jake Rocheleau is a passionate web designer and social media entrepreneur. He is frequently researching the latest trends in digital design and new-age Internet ideas. He's also an advocate for the social media revolution - follow his updates on Twitter @jakerocheleau.

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