Though you are right to say that there are so many ways to advertise these days, (online especially), I would argue that a business card is less about advertising and more about a simple form of communication. It's a potentially sealed deal, or at least a "call to action" (as they say), when meeting someone one-to-one. A business card won't do the job for you, but it will connect you to your contact details which someone will then have to hand. It may not create business immediately, but when a potential client recalls you and your services, there's a better chance they'll get in touch if a business card is lurking in their wallet or desk drawer.
What kind of information should be included on a business card? How text-heavy should it be?
As with many applications of graphic design, "less is more" usually rings true. However, when it comes to deciding which contact details to include, technology has provided us with various portals of communication. Tricky part is understanding which ones your potential clients prefer to use. Having two to three options covers a lot of bases. Whether the person wants to speak to you right now (telephone) or just wants to know a bit more or is shopping around (email), the important factor is how you want to receive these forms of communication. If you're often not around to pick up the phone, for example, then it may do your business more harm than good to include a telephone number.
Is there a standard size that should be adhered to?
As with many formats there sadly isn't an international standard, but most are similar. This is presumably based on pocket/wallet sizes, (being a similar size to things like credit cards). To stand out, many companies and professionals are now breaking this mould. Some opt for bespoke die cut shapes, different ratios and even different materials. The key is then to ensure that the attention-grabbing factor outweighs the frustration of the card perhaps not fitting comfortably into a wallet...
Would you recommend choosing a card with content on both sides, or would one side be enough?
"Less is more" still applies here, but having a whole other side and not using it is just wasted. It shouldn't necessarily be an opportunity to pile in more content, but more a space to say something about you/the business visually. Branding aside, a cute photo of a kitten would be better than a blank space.
Do you have any tips for creating a logo or image that others can connect to you?
Tricky one. It's hard to suggest a tip without going into the whole reasoning behind branding, but I would say that it is well worth having a logo or image. The shorter the thinking time between associating your (business) name with what your business does, the better. Branding is something that shortens that gap.
How important is colour choice?
It depends on what you're trying to achieve. As with all visual factors, (shape, size, weight, font) if it communicates the wrong message then it could produce serious negative results.
Comic Sans is known for causing a bit of a stir when it comes to the wonderful world of fonts – what should be considered when choosing a font?
All kinds of things should be considered, from how you want to come across to simple technical aspects such as legibility.
There are plenty of different templates, not to mention low prices, at several online one-stop shops for business cards... opinion?
I accept this is part of the commercial world but, like many things, if you want to take cheap options then you're likely to get cheap results. If you want to be perceived as generic then go for something generic. Technology is putting more control in the individual’s hands. This is great for people who may never have had the opportunity to create their own branding before, but this does create a sea of mediocre (more often than not: bad) output. Although you could argue that this helps the truly good work shine. My frustration with the availability of these “one-stop shops” in terms of what I do is that many don't believe there is a genuine skill (or even talent) to graphic design and thus think it isn't worth paying for because the impact of bad design often isn't instantly obvious.
What’s the difference between creating business cards in Word and drafting in a graphic designer to do the job for me?
Likely the difference between a good and bad business card, haha. Again, it often isn't obvious to people what looks good and bad because it's not their job to make this distinction. Also, Word is simply the wrong tool. Terrible analogy, but I don't try to cook my dinner in the fridge.
When it comes to printing the cards, where do I start? What do I need to consider?
Printing is the final stage of the product and should be considered as carefully as the design itself. Paper weight, type, quality, and cut are just as important as the design factors. Again, as with anything, if you go for quick and/or cheap, the quality will suffer. If you go to a professional printer’s (and not chain store that offers a whole range of products and services) then you are more than likely to get back something professional. Professional printer's will be run by people who not only know their stuff, but will actually care about the product you're trying to create.
Thanks Adam, this has given us plenty of food for thought!