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August 21 2018

10:45

Introducing Crello Animation Maker

Crello is an innovative design app from Depositphotos that’s simple to pick up and use, and outputs high-quality results. In an increasingly saturated design tool market, it could be the best tool you’ve never tried.

Now, after the popularity of Crello, Depositphotos are releasing Crello Animation Maker. A brand new set of features that enable anyone to convert design assets into engaging animation for the web, in just a few clicks.

Introducing Crello Animation Maker

Crello Animation Maker is designed to enable anyone to quickly and easily convert Crello designs into animated assets for use on social media, or in adverts.

Formats_Crello

It’s an incredible tool for marketing teams, who can take existing designs and create new campaigns in minutes, without having to pull the design team away from other tasks. Animation Maker gives you the tools to respond to the fast-paced world of social media, and maybe even take your brand viral.

Create animated posts for social media.

With Animation Maker you can easily add animated emojis, icons; combine video backgrounds with photos; even add illustrations to designs.

Crello Animation Maker gives you the option to output your designs in various formats, so you can export in the right format for Facebook, Instagram, and others. You can create 3 sizes of video: 1080×1080 for social media posts, full HD video clips, and Facebook cover videos.

Create Facebook cover videos.

Quickstart with Crello Animation Maker

Crello comes with over 12,000 professionally designed templates, which gives you a great starting point for any design. Once you’ve selected your template you can customize it to your heart’s content, or use it as-is as the basis of your Animation Maker design.

There are even dedicated Animated Maker templates you can use to kick-start your process. With templates, animated icons, illustrations, backgrounds and badges, all created by professional designers, it’s easy to get pro results.

Enhance_Crello

Crello Assets

Crello comes with a cornucopia of assets to grace your designs. The huge library of over 65,000,000 images and illustrations, and over 250 free fonts, means you’ll always find the right visuals to communicate your message.

The templates are split over 33 different formats, from posters, to fliers, to social media banners. Lacking inspiration? There are even themed collections to get you started.

Crello comes with millions of assets to use in your designs.

Who Should Try Crello?

Crello is designed to offer just as much help as necessary to get results. Beginners will find that they’re easily able to generate the kind of quality designs that usually require years of experience, and industry-tested pros will find everything they need to make life simple.

Perhaps the best use-case for Crello is in the vibrant startup scene; Crello enables teams to create all kinds of visual assets, without diverting the team’s graphic designer from key tasks like branding, and UI design. Professional developers will also appreciate Crello for those occasional jobs that previously had to be outsourced.

Crello is free to use, and all of the new premium motion features are free to try. If you decide that you want to keep on using the animation and video features you can upgrade to a pro account for just $9.99 per month.

Head over to Crello today, to try this incredible design tool for yourself.

 

[– This is a sponsored post on behalf of Crello –]

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08:00

SEMrush Review: Complete Digital Marketing Toolkit?

This SEMrush review discusses everything you need to know about the solution- it’s primary features and functionalities, plus pricing and overall usability. And to help you further, I’ll also throw in SEMrush’s weak points.

Search engine optimization is not the easiest thing right now. Getting noticed by Google takes a considerable amount of resources, time and persistent efforts

That’s why a good rank is always refreshingly satisfying. Breaking through to the first page of the search results alone places you in the category of sites attracting 75% of the organic clicks. And if you’re good enough for the first spot, the result is essentially 33% of the clicks.

It almost feels like winning the lottery, right?

But, let’s be honest here. Deep down you know that making it to that position is not the end game.

Maintaining it is even harder since competition at the highest levels is usually extremely fierce. You might go to bed as the leader, then rise up in the morning to find your site a couple of spots behind.

To make matters worse, Google is not dependable when it comes to conserving the status quo. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, a simple algorithm update might be enough to kick your site into oblivion. And probably even blacklist it.

We’ve all been there. And many actually recognize the possibility of backsliding. That’s why, as a matter of fact, 72% of business leaders believe that their enterprises will be vulnerable to threats emanating from digital market disruptions in the next three years.

Think that fear is a bit too familiar? In other words, do you think you have what it takes to effectively wage war against your competitors?

I tell you what. I know the feeling. So, I’ll cut to the chase here and walk you through a tool that’s predominantly leveraged for SEO and competitor intelligence.

But first, what is it all about?

SEMrush Review: Overview

Ask me about keyword research, and I’ll give you a list of tools optimized for it.

Switch to SEO site audit, and I’ll still mention multiple solutions off the top of my head.

Curious about playing dirty too? Well, I can also introduce you to a couple of web-based competitor intelligence services that give relatively accurate insights.

And so forth.

Now, we’ve barely scratched the surface here. By the time we’re halfway done, you’ll have integrated several third-party tools into your site. And there’s no problem with that. Apart from the obvious fact that it’ll be pretty cumbersome switching between them to coordinate your entire digital marketing strategy.

So, guess what? How about combining all these channels into one comprehensive suite?

Well, that’s how they came up with SEMrush in 2008.  With the concept of placing everything under one roof.

 

Quite simply, SEMrush is a powerful digital marketing suite that merges social media marketing, SERP, keyword research and implementation, backlinking, content marketing, paid ad campaigns, PPC, and SEO- to support streamlined marketing through one central dashboard.

All things considered, SEMrush is particularly known for helping its users go beyond their standard jurisdictions, into their competitors’ territories.

And what’s the point?

Well, get this. By granting insight into your competitors’ digital marketing strategies, SEMrush essentially facilitates counter-strategies from a vantage point.

Such provisions have seen this toolkit grow exponentially over the years, to host more than a million regular users.

By the end of 2016, in fact, SEMrush had expanded its reach to more than 160 million keyword databases in the US alone, 70 million in Canada, 95 million in Australia, 80 million in the UK, 45 million more in India, just to mention but a few.

Now that, admittedly, sounds impressive, to say the least. But, does SEMrush live up to user expectations? How much can it support your digital marketing efforts?

Well, let’s find out.

This SEMrush review discusses everything you need to know about the solution- it’s primary features and functionalities, plus pricing and overall usability. And to help you further, I’ll also throw in SEMrush’s weak points.

SEMrush Review: Features

Dynamic SEO

Confused about the best keywords to optimize for Google?

Well, it turns out that SEMrush provides organic research to help site owners establish the golden keywords that will get you that highest possible ranking.

For the best possible results, keyword assessment is based on several critical parameters. Some of the primary ones include competitive density, CPC, search volume, traffic, and overall trends.

Fair enough, but keyword optimization is only a small part of the whole SEO framework. The rest involves technical elements like page loading speeds and link-building.

That’s why, thankfully, SEMrush extends its features to offer a complete site audit on all SEO technicalities.

How, you ask?

Basically, its engine crawls through your site to analyze things like page loading speeds, hreflang attributes, AMP issues, images, HTTPS implementation, content, etc. Any errors that would affect your ranking are then identified for prompt resolution.

Consider duplicate content or broken images, for instance. Normally, it would be difficult to notice such discrepancies. But, SEMrush is capable of detecting even some of the smallest issues that might be hurting your overall ranking.

And speaking of ranking, SEMrush also comes provides a handy position tracking function. It closely monitors your site’s position across all search engine platforms, including Google’s local search versions. Consequently, even the slightest shifts in SERPs are identified quickly, to help you implement a counter strategy in good time.

Now hang on a minute. What counter strategies are we talking about here?

Well, all these insights are extremely valuable. But there’s one problem. They are as good as dead if you can’t figure out the most effectual response strategies. And that always boils down to your SEO expertise.

But, guess what? Instead of leaving it at the error-detection stage, SEMrush also proceeds to handle the heavy lifting for you. It provides helpful suggestions to improve your site’s SERP according to Google’s current algorithm set up.

Paid Ads Insight

By now, we pretty much acknowledge that organic search drives Google SERP.

But, make no mistake. That shouldn’t be the basis for dismissing paid ads. In fact, here’s the deal- PPC leads have 50% higher chances of buying something compared to organic visitors. That’s why businesses are now generating an average of $2 ROI for every $1 spent on Adwords.

Quite promising, but that’s just the average. So, of course, it’s possible to achieve even better returns. But you’ll need to eliminate all the possible errors in your ad framework.

It’s common, for instance, to see inappropriately placed PPC keywords competing against each other. To resolve such a problem, SEMrush provides a PPC keyword tool to identify and remove negative keywords, in addition to refining the entire keyword list.

When it comes to drafting the precise paid ads, SEMrush also comes in handy with its Ad Builder.  It makes the whole process much easier by not only capitalizing on your rivals’ ad templates, but also supporting dynamic keyword insertion for optimal ad relevancy.

Content Optimization

Have you ever invested heavily in content, hoping for the best, and then managed to acquire only a handful of leads? Have you ever been so discouraged by the results that you started believing that content marketing is a bit overhyped?

Well, the fact is content is still king. It’s three times as effective as paid search, and generates 200% more leads than outbound marketing. Most importantly, it forms the foundation for search engine ranking.

So, it makes sense that SEMrush attempts to go beyond keyword research here. To further sharpen your content marketing, the service helps you identify exactly what your target audience is interested in through its topic research function.

To top it off, SEMrush additionally comes with brand monitoring to inform the subsequent content distribution strategy.

Social Media Tracking

In essence, we can’t discuss digital marketing without mentioning social media.

Now, it turns out SEMrush has also engineered tools that delve into the deep stuff. Using just likes and comments to judge results is so last year. So, its tracker scans extensively for profound critical analysis.

You can track the relevant hashtags across Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, discover the principal content types preferred by your target audiences, follow up on all the social media data through PDF reports, plus keep an eye on third-party social media marketers handling your enterprise’s channels.

Come to think of it, however, you might not even need a third-party marketer. SEMrush’s social media poster might be an adequate alternative for a standard small business. It basically automates the posting process, allowing you to queue and schedule posts, curate content, and post to multiple platforms simultaneously.

And to establish the best practices, SEMrush acts as a window to your rivals’ social media methodologies. You get to learn about their posting patterns, top-performing posts, and their corresponding successes across the chief platforms.

Competitive Intelligence

Ok, we’ve mentioned a couple of helpful features for tracking competitors on different channels. But, they only add up to a fraction of SEMrush’s overall competitive intelligence capability.

To get collect comprehensive information about your enemies, you have to be equipped for the Bond-level of spying. That’s how the bulk of the leading brands have been able to remain dominant in the first place. As a matter of fact, 90% of the Fortune 500 companies actively engage extensive competitive intelligence.

That said, SEMrush provides data on your rivals’ SERP, organic keywords, SEO progress, social media marketing strategies, and content efficacy. Through traffic analytics, you can further establish your competitors’ traffic sources, compare traffic response patterns to the corresponding marketing tactics, plus weigh your site against its primary opponents, as you review the respective key metrics.

 

And you know what? You can also track your paid search competition through SEMrush’s advertising research. I was able to follow my rivals’ ad trends, establish mobile and desktop keywords they’ve been leveraging, plus monitor their top results, overall expenditure, and individual PPC tactics.

SEMrush Review: Pricing

The type and level of functions you’re able to adopt, overall, depends on your specific subscription package. And to cater to different types of users, SEMrush has structured its packages and their corresponding prices in line with the expected usage scales- from freelancers to enterprises.

For starters, you can take advantage of the free-trial offer. Unfortunately, it’s only applicable for 14 days, you’re essentially limited to SEMrush Pro.

Then comes the four fundamental packages:

Pro- For startups and freelancers with a limited budget. Costs $99.95 per month, or $999.40 per year for annual prepay subscribers.

  • 5 scheduled PDF reports
  • Standard features
  • Crawls through 100,000 web pages
  • Tracks up to 500 keywords
  • 5 projects
  • 3,000 daily reports
  • 10,000 results per report

Guru- For developing marketing firms plus small and medium enterprises. Costs $199.95 per month, or $1999.40 per year for annual prepay subscribers.

  • Branded PDF reports
  • All Pro features
  • Standard features
  • Historical data
  • 20 scheduled PDF reports
  • Crawls through 300,000 web pages
  • Tracks up to 1500 keywords
  • 50 projects
  • 5,000 daily reports
  • 30,000 results per report

Business- For enterprises with a large web presence, e-commerce projects, and large agencies. Costs $399.95 per month, or $3999.40 per year for annual prepay subscribers.

  • Product listing ads
  • All Guru features
  • Standard features
  • Historical data
  • Branded PDF reports
  • 50 scheduled PDF reports
  • Crawls through 1,000,000 web pages
  • Tracks up to 5,000 keywords
  • 200 projects
  • 10,000 daily reports
  • 50,000 results per report

Enterprise offers flexible features to large organizations with extensive needs. Its price is negotiable.

  • Unlimited site crawling
  • Standard features
  • On-site training
  • Custom keyword databases
  • Custom limits

Who Should Consider Using SEMrush?

Before we settle this, let’s look at what you might not like about SEMrush.

As you’ve probably noticed from the pricing strategy, cheap is not a word you’d use to describe SEMrush. $100 per month, for instance, is considerably costly for startups and freelancers.

But, I guess you could also argue that it’s reasonably priced if we compared it with the alternative option of adopting numerous tools from different providers.

Now, while combining all these functionalities streamlines your overall marketing strategy, here’s the kicker. Learning the ropes as a beginner is not as simple as it sounds. Only experienced marketers are able to leverage the tools effortlessly right off the bat.

And then, here’s an issue I didn’t quite pick up, but many experienced users have raised it on multiple platforms. That SEMrush’s data might have some discrepancies here and there. But that’s a rare occurrence it seems.

That said, SEMrush is best suited for digital marketers. But don’t let that stop you from giving it a try. You can still leverage it as a freelancer or business owner.

The post SEMrush Review: Complete Digital Marketing Toolkit? appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

August 20 2018

10:45

20 Freshest Web Designs, August 2018

Welcome to our roundup of the best websites launched (or relaunched with significant updates) this August. The Summer’s almost over, vacations are less frequent, and we’re starting to see businesses gearing up for the Fall. This month we’ve included some great e-commerce, some design agencies with a difference, and some products with marketing challenges.

There’s a huge trend for bold color, subtle animations, and scrolling effects this month. And not before time, big type is making a comeback. Enjoy!

Epicurrence

The creative conference for creatives that don’t do conferences, Epicurrence 2018 takes place in Yosemite later this month. The accompanying site uses stunning illustrations and subtle parallax to draw the user into the spirit of the event.

Angelo Sanvito

Angelo Sanvito is an illustrator, UI and UX designer, and motion graphics designer from Milan, Italy. His simple site shows off the very best of these skills with a series of portraits of famous artists. When it comes to personal sites, it’s the epitome of “Don’t tell, show”.

Atomize Design System

The Site for the Atomize Design System is beautifully minimal. It of course follows its own best practices, but there are also some excellent details. Take a look at the custom icons for the different features all based on the branding. Detail like that takes time.

Lisa & Ryan

Picking a design agency to take your brand forward is a difficult task. Lisa & Ryan do a great job of explaining who they are, why they’re a great team, and why you should pick them.

Bellvoye

If you’re looking for a wee dram, then the Scottish Highlands is probably your first port of call. But if you’re looking for something a little different, then you might consider meandering south to France, thanks to this exquisite website for Bellvoye.

Swiss Typefaces

Swiss Typefaces is a type foundry with an audacious attitude to color. With so many type designs presented in black and white, it’s refreshing to see hot pinks, acid greens, and lots of magenta all thrown into a single design.

Eleven Plants for Dum Dums

Part design exercise, part typography sampler, part horticultural guide, Eleven Plants for Dum Dums is a beautifully designed single page site with awesome illustrations galore. You’ve rarely seen green so lovingly applied.

Posthaste

Do you remember the video arcade classic Paperboy? No, me neither (ahem). For those too young to have wasted hours on Atari’s worldwide smash, MailChimp have released this fun game. Steer Freddie through the streets delivering as much mail as you can.

Boy Smells

Purveyor of scented candles for men and women, Boy Smells have gone super bold with their type, and super committed with their restricted color palette. The result is a site that feels very modern, and very confident.

End Family Fire

Family fire is the unhappy occurrence of an accidental shooting as a result of an improperly stored firearm. The End Family Fire website leverages art direction and interaction to educate on the potential risks, so you can keep your family safe.

Appointed

Great work is helped by a great workspace, and of course by great design tools. Appointed’s site perfectly captures the spirit of the workspaces it is trying to create by exuding pure calm.

Goat

Goat are selling something difficult: second hand shoes. Professionally cleaned, and graded, they offer everything from rare sneakers to everyday kicks. To grab your attention, Goat uses intrigue right from the get-go, this is a great high-impact design.

Coralie Reiter

Coralie Reiter makes exquisite jewellery out of natural materials like shells. The delicate nature of the items being displayed is perfectly balanced by the use of pastels throughout the site to add life, and energy to the collection.

Art & History Museum

We’re used to hero images featuring smiling models peering out at us. Art & History Museum brilliantly subverts the cliché with a comical look from a stone figure. The rest of the site for the Brussels museum is just as carefully curated.

Renegade Craft

Renegade Craft is another site using bold typography, subtle (and not so subtle) animation, and bold color blocks. Promoting craft practices across the USA, the site’s a positive use of parallax.

Hawkins New York

Selling interior design products is difficult in a competitive market, but sites like Hawkins New York are finding a new design direction by merging classic minimalism and a new-found love of color to ply their wares.

Arche68

The color blocking and dynamic typography of Arche68 is almost an assault on the senses. It takes some clicking to discover the purpose of the site (they sell accessories) but the bold approach to design is right on-brand.

Curate Labs

There are lots of design ideas on the web, but rarely does a design agency lay its cards on the table to the extent that Curate Labs have. They tell you what they believe, because that’s at the heart of what they do.

Moving Brands

Moving Brands present their portfolio split across the screen using the unique geometry of their logo. With clients ranging from Apple to Sony, you’d be right to expect a creative approach, and they deliver.

Stack

Stack offers subscriptions to a diverse range of magazines for those who like their print media a little more random. As a source of design inspiration, not least thanks to its bold color palette, it’s fantastic to browse through.

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08:28

Security Essentials for Site Developers and Admins

Of all tech topics, security is possibly the most complex, and certainly the most important. This is because security is always evolving. It is a forced evolution, as we must adapt to constantly emerging threats.

There are various levels of security that we’ll have responsibility for. The first level is ourselves or the organization we work for. The second level is our clients. And the third level is the users of the websites or applications we develop for our clients.

Despite our best efforts, clients will always find ways to undermine the protections we provide for them. They rely on us as IT professionals to help them stay safe, but paradoxically also rarely follow the safety advice we provide them with. Most users really are their own worst enemies.

What we need to do, then, is make it as difficult as possible for clients to compromise their own security, while also making it as easy as we can for them to do the tasks they need to do. Achieving both goals to perfection may be impossible, but in this article we’ll cover some things you can do to cut down the risks of a security breach occurring.

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Protecting your own devices and data

You are the first line of defense for yourself and your clients. If your systems are compromised, then everyone you work for could be at risk. Here are some recommendations for the minimums you can do to avoid operating in an increased risk environment:

  1. Use a secure desktop operating system. This is the single most basic upgrade you could make, if you’re not already using a secure operating system. The most secure operating systems are Linux, Unix, and BSD. You should be using one of these operating systems as your primary desktop operating system.
    The bonus for both developers and administrators is you get access to a much larger library of free development and security tools, and most of them work better than their Windows or OSX equivalents. To really operate in paranoid mode, choose the more secure Linux distros such as Parrot, Qubes, and Tails.
  2. Maintain separation between the operating system and your data. If you’re running Linux or Unix, this is easy. You simply make sure that you have created a partition or separate hard disk to host your home partition on. Then all user files will survive any number of operating system installations, and as a bonus can be accessed from multiple operating systems on multi-boot systems.
  3. Use a journaling file system to help prevent data loss if your system crashes or is halted unexpectedly.
  4. Mirror your home partition. Regularly back up important files and use file versioning to avoid unintentional overwrites.
  5. Consider using cloud backup (not to be confused with cloud sync, which is nowhere near as safe and secure as a genuine backup). Sensitive data should be encrypted before being uploaded.
  6. Keep your system up to date, never ignoring security patches. Systems that use rolling updates have the advantage that you’ll always know when patches are available, what needs patching, and why.
  7. Train people within your organization to be alert to social engineering methods that may be used against them to gain access to your systems.
  8. Avoid running software from unverified sources. When downloading software from trusted sources, verify file signatures to be certain you have an authentic copy.
  9. Maintain the physical security of your computers, especially when traveling. Carrying your laptop everywhere may not be practical, but it’s better than letting some evil maid corrupt your BIOS. If it’s really not an option to carry your computer, lock it up in a lockable case and secure that case in a safe or otherwise as best you can.
  10. Always remember it’s better to be paranoid than to be an idiot who got hacked.

illustration by 

Protecting clients

Keeping clients safe from IT threats is difficult, because they don’t all understand the scale of the threat they face. Many will also have the view that if their site is compromised, then it’s your problem to sort out, not theirs.

Many sites have been exploited for years without the site owners being aware of it, because most malicious attacks against sites are not supposed to let their presence be known. You therefore can’t rely on the clients to inform you of problems. You’ll need to take a proactive approach.

  1. Try to educate your clients about the risks. Most of the problem is due to ignorance that there is any risk to be on guard against.
  2. Inform corporate clients that the greatest threat they will face is insider threats created by their own employees and contractors (often inadvertant, but not always so). Also make sure they’re aware of problems like social engineering, shoulder surfing, and dumpster diving.
  3. Keep servers patched. Perform regular backups.
  4. Scan for evidence of back door exploits or other malicious activity. Designing the file and folder structure for the site to be as simple as possible will help make detection easier. Know which files should be in each folder. If you see new files that are not familiar or seem to have computer generated names, that’s a serious red flag.
  5. Know what files should be in the cgi-bin folder (for most sites, that will be no files), because this is a favorite location for stashing malicious programs.
  6. Periodically check the htaccess file to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.
  7. Code that you write is unlikely to make extensive use of encoding and decoding strings, or to contain heavily encrypted content. If PHP files contain unusual code, it’s not very likely that those are legitimate files. Unusual character encoding instructions are also a giveaway. It’s not likely that your legitimate files will be encoded in Windows-1251 encoding, for example.
  8. After confirming a breach, change your passwords. Check file permissions are set correctly for all files and folders. Monitor signs the intruder has returned. Even after changing your password, the attackers may have a way in. You’ll need to be sure they don’t. Set your server to inform you by email when any changes are made to the server.
  9. Help your users choose passwords appropriately by explaining the rules to them in a way they can understand. This is how most people like to set their passwords: 

    jenny23This is how system administrators usually advise them to set their passwords:

     

    n@^2z`jGAnd the problem is the first password can be cracked in seconds, while the second password can be cracked in a few hours. Also there is no hope whatsoever that the user will remember the more complex password. Here’s an example of a password that would take several lifetimes to crack and could never be forgotten:

     

    Ialwaysfly@40,000feetCharacteristics of the above password include: Over 20 characters in length, mix of upper and lowercase characters, includes both numbers and letters, includes non-alphanumeric characters, easily memorable. A similar example might be:

     

    fishingeverySunday@10amOr:

     

    asImove^inlife,Iwillnever4getwhereIstartedThere’s really no limit to how creative you can get with passwords, and there is so much more advantage with

    asImove^inlife,Iwillnever4getwhereIstarted compared to n@^2z`jG. The first example (41 mixed characters) would take until the end of time to crack and is easy to remember, while the second example (8 mixed characters) can be cracked in under six hours and is almost impossible to remember.Don’t think you can just string words together and everything will be fine, because the hackers are onto that. You still need to mix cases and use non-alphanumeric characters, but certainly length is more important than complexity as things stand now. Combining both gives you an edge over those who use only one or the other.

    Most dictionary based attacks focus on English because it’s the most widely used language and most of the best sites to target (in terms of the value of what they can yield) are sites managed by people who speak English. If you know another language, use it when creating your passwords.

    As excellent as 

    asImove^inlife,Iwillnever4getwhereIstarted is, it’s still not as perfect as aMedidaQue^enLaVida,nuncaolivdarededondecomence because this adds yet another layer of complexity, forcing the cracker to resort to brute force.Learning another language just to create better passwords may be a bit much, so the other thing you could do is just become (or stay) really bad at English when you design a passphrase. For example:

     

    asImoov^inlyfIwillnevar4getwhereIstarted 

    For the ultimate, you could use badly spelled foreign language words and replace all the vowels with Leet vowels: 

    4M3d1d4Qu3^3nL4V1d3,nunc40l1vd4r3d3dond3c0m3nc3 

    I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have the patience to type that. Still, it is a very secure password, and forces the cracker to do an insane amount of work (to hopefully then discover that all they’ve accessed is a collection of cat pictures).

  10. Make sure clients understand the dangers inherent in sending sensitive information by email, Skype, etc.

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A special note for developers

A quick and easy cultural shift for developers to adopt that would prevent countless security breaches each year is simply to minimize the external dependency chain of their sites. We are needlessly connecting to third party hosted scripts. Many of these scripts may have their own external dependencies. All for the sake of saving a few bytes.

Whenever possible, we should try to host all our scripts ourselves. A popular third party hosted script is a tempting target for an attacker, because by gaining control over the script, it is possible to run exploits on thousands of computers.

Concluding remarks

Computer security is a never ending challenge, and there is big money to be made on both sides of the challenge. The stakes are very high, and no one is completely safe, even those who believe they have nothing to hide. Winning is mostly a matter of using common sense and staying alert, never allowing yourself to become complacent.

header image courtesy of 

The post Security Essentials for Site Developers and Admins appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

August 19 2018

10:45

Popular Design News of the Week: August 13, 2018 – August 19, 2018

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

Scroll Bouncing on your Websites

 

Site Design: Kommigraphics

 

How Ikea Quietly Tweaks its Design Around the World

 

Screenlife App – A UI/UX Case Study

 

Reviewed: New Logo and Identity for Evernote

 

Fairtrade Website Redesign – A UX Case Study

 

Why Designers Don’t Want to Think When They Read

 

A Small Tool to Help You Generate Color Scales in an Instant

 

Font Flipper — Tinder for Google Fonts

 

How to Choose a Name for a New Product (with Minimal Stress)

 

Neede – An Online Design Resource Library

 

You Can’t Research Without Context

 

Tini.Es

 

Study: Blue Light from Screens Can Steadily Blind Us

 

How to Create a Customer Journey Map [step by Step]

 

The Design is the Implementation

 

CanSnippet CE – A CMS for Sharing Code

 

10,000 Original Copies

 

HoverSignal – Increase your Website’s Conversions with Notifications

 

100 Days of Motion Design

 

Being a Great Designer is About More than Being Great at Design

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Aspect Ratio

 

Are Gutenberg’s Bad Reviews a Sign of Failure?

 

Using Micro-interactions to Enhance Search

 

How to Launch a Side Project in 10 Days

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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August 17 2018

10:45

The Real Problem With Pre-Made Themes

Designers, developers, site owners… lend me your eyeballs for a bit. There’s something rotten in the state of pre-made website themes. Alright, I’ve offended The Bard quite enough. But you get my point, right? Themes have gotten a bad rap for a variety of reasons: they can have bloated code, content must be designed to fit in them rather than designing them to fit the content, et cetera.

But they’ve also gotten really good. Many are made to be modular, so you only use and load the code you need. People have gotten a lot better at coding things to load fast, and there’s a theme for nearly every conceivable need. So maybe it’s not as optimized as it could be, if you’re not getting Amazon levels of traffic, regular hosting should be fine, right? And again, there’s a theme for every conceivable need! It’s just so convenient.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, (mostly) wrong.

Let me tell you a little story. A long, long time ago in February of 2018, I had an idea. Well, really I had a few ideas of things I desperately wanted to write about, but no one was paying me to do it. And honestly, keeping up a blog on the topics I had in mind wouldn’t be all that feasible. I like my projects to have a beginning, middle, end, and perhaps most importantly, a deadline.

So I thought, hey, why not make some niche/authority sites on these topics so dear to my heart? There’s no reason niche sites have to be predatory glorified ads with terrible aesthetics and UX. I could make them better. And I could just leave them up when I was done, with minimal updates. And hell, I don’t even need to design them! A wiki or knowledge base theme for WordPress or some other CMS would do quite nicely for my purposes.

I found plenty of themes…I very nearly dropped money on

And so I went theme hunting. I found plenty of themes in the categories I had in mind, including some absolutely beautiful premium themes I very nearly dropped money on. That would have been a terrible waste of my cash.

It’s because, you see, each and every one of these themes depended on JavaScript for their most basic functions: displaying any content at all, navigation, and search. (Now I told myself I wasn’t going to get back into this particular crusade. I told myself I could stop writing about how completely depending on JavaScript is a terrible idea. I wasn’t going to do this anymore, darnit!)

But people are getting ripped off, and I can’t stand for that. If you’re selling a theme that depends on JavaScript to work at all, you’re selling a site that is going to break under certain conditions. Whether it’s a slow connection, a plugin incompatibility, some ad network gone rogue, or a random browser hiccup, it’s going to break. If you allow a web product that’s intended for daily use to be that fragile, that’s an accessibility issue, and it’s a rip-off.

It’s one thing to build a JavaScript-dependent site for a client who knows the risks and chooses to take them. It is quite another to sell templates like that, especially without any warning. These things are only sometimes implemented by professional designers or developers who want to save time. They are very often implemented by beginners who are just learning a bit of HTML even as they use your theme.

More than that, these were wiki and knowledge base themes. Those are the kinds of sites people go to when they need help. Customer support and educational sites should be the least likely to break, period. This is a case where both the customer and the user are being let down in a big way.

People will always want flashy stuff, fine. We can’t help that fancy animation grabs the eye, and I don’t blame theme designers for using it as a selling point. But you owe it to your customers to implement fall-backs for every JavaScript element that might break. You owe it to them to at least make your basic layout, navigation, and any forms work under just about any condition. Ancient browsers notwithstanding.

you owe it to your customers to implement fall-backs for every JavaScript element that might break

In my mind, a lack of progressive enhancement, or at least graceful degradation, is the single biggest accessibility nightmare to plague the wonderful world of pre-made sites and themes. Customers are buying these things without knowing exactly what they’re doing, and it’s bound to end in misery. And here I thought bad planning was the biggest problem for theme-based sites.

Yes, implementing fall-backs for everything is difficult, but that’s why you charge money for these things. If they were all that easy to make, they could all be free, right? No, I don’t expect you to code your themes for every version of IE, and yes I realize that most premium themes come with support of some kind or another.

Theme authors just need to recognize that when JavaScript breaks, it most often only breaks for some of the end users, and only some of the time. But those end users could have turned into paying customers for the people who bought the themes, and now they probably won’t. And that’s on us designers and developers, no one else.

Well, now I have to go design my own wiki/knowledge-base style theme (probably for Grav CMS, at this point), because somebody needs to do it right, and it might as well be me. To quote Taylor Swift, “Look what you made me do.”

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August 15 2018

10:45
8 Design Mistakes That Spell Disaster

August 14 2018

10:45
Create Beautiful Websites Easily with YOOtheme Pro

August 13 2018

10:45
What’s New for Designers, August 2018

August 12 2018

10:45
Popular Design News of the Week: August 6, 2018 – August 12, 2018

August 10 2018

10:45
5 Ways to Deal With Projects for Friends & Family

August 09 2018

10:45
10 Ways to Design Your Website for Mobile Speed

August 07 2018

10:45

How to Build Client Loyalty

Web designers are some of the hardest working people I know. Which is why I don’t envy them having to design websites and other content for clients while managing their freelance design business and continually being on the lookout for new clients.

Something I’m reminded of when I think about this, however, is the fact that it’s 25% more expensive to find new clients than retain the ones you already have. It makes sense when you think about how much time you put into scouring the web for clients, reaching out in the hopes of pitching your portfolio, and, possibly, onboarding them as a client.

it’s 25% more expensive to find new clients than retain the ones you already have

Retaining clients, on the other hand, just doesn’t require as much work. You’ve already laid the foundation and established a relationship with them. It’s simply a matter of doing things along the way that prove your continued value to their business while also occasionally surprising and delighting them. This is where loyalty comes into play.

Client loyalty is typically evidenced by one of three actions:

  1. A client continues to purchase the same service or product from you.
  2. A client is willing to be upsold or cross-sold on other services or products you offer.
  3. A client regularly refers others to your business.

In so doing, the client has demonstrated that they prefer working with you over all others.

For web designers, client loyalty is huge. Think about how much easier it would be to run your business if you had a steady and predictable stream of revenue coming through. Not only that, consider the fact you’ll be able to work with the same clients (that you hopefully love as much as they love you) through the years. In exchange, your clients get a high-quality web design partner that helps their businesses grow.

7 Ways to Build Loyalty with Your Web Design Clients

In order to build loyalty with web design clients, you have to first figure out what they value most. This will differ from client to client, and industry to industry. However, these 7 ideas should get you thinking about how this could work for your business.

1. Handle the Initial Project Like a Pro

The work you do on a first-time project will lay the groundwork for any future relationship you have with the client, so make sure your process is refined and your service/solution is the best it’s ever going to be.

Take a look at Sonja Leix’s process for a good example of this.

Every base of the web design lifecycle is covered and well-explained.

For your own business, consider some of the following upgrades:

  • Create a client contract (if you don’t have one already) that covers every angle.
  • Conduct thorough research into a client’s background before meeting and, again, before commencing work.
  • Invest in a professional grade project management and collaboration platform.
  • Designs can go out of style fast, so always design with the future in mind.
  • Specialize. If you don’t have a design specialty or industry of focus, get one. It’ll make you a more effective designer if you’re awesome at one thing instead of being okay at a few.

2. Communicate Like a Partner

From the very first interaction you have with a prospect to the very last you have with a current one, be ready to leave a positive impression. While I realize that can get tricky—especially as you enter feedback stages—always remember that: 1) you are here to create something your clients will love, and 2) you are the professional designer that knows best.

If there happens to be a disconnect between what the client wants/loves and what you believe is the better course of action to take, the way you communicate may make all the difference in the world.

The 215 Guys are a fantastic example of this. If their website is this straightforward, relatable, and welcoming, think about how smooth their communications and relationships are when they actually work with a client.

3. Anticipate Their Needs

Web design agencies aren’t the only ones that can create tiered design packages for clients. Freelance designers could and should be doing this too. After all, your clients aren’t all going to be the same size or have the same needs as everyone else. Why not anticipate those needs to by developing packages that account for those varying needs?

Here’s an example from Tina Cook who is not only a web designer, but a marketer and coach as well.

As you can see, her packages are also a great way to up-sell clients and also get them thinking about what she can do for them in the future.

4. Offer Monthly Retainer Services

Even if clients didn’t think about what would happen after the completion of their project, you can bet they will quickly come to that realization once you’ve handed it off. Websites are a lot of work and not a lot of business owners, managers, or marketing executives have the time or know-how to maintain the design or create content; let alone do anything advanced like A/B testing.

So, have those monthly retainer service packages well-defined and ready to share with those clients when they inevitably call you a month or two later with the following: “Can you just make this small tweak?” “Can you help me publish my blogs?” “I feel like there’s more we should be doing, but I’m not sure what that is. Help!”

5. Offer Other Design Services

If you like the idea of having recurring monthly services to offer clients, but don’t want to do design tweaks and other support or testing-type services, think about using your design skills in other ways. For instance, you could design:

  • Fonts
  • Icons
  • Illustrations
  • Infographics
  • Blog visuals
  • eBooks or white papers
  • Email marketing templates
  • Social media skins
  • Branding elements
  • Website templates

Or you could branch out like Sumy Designs has done and offer writing, SEO, or development services.

6. Commemorate Special Days

From the very get-go, pay special attention to the shared moments that are important to you and the client. Like when you completed your first project together. Or celebrating the anniversary of your partnership. Send them a small gift for each special occasion or simply give them a discount on the next month’s services. Take this time to show them you value them as a client and partner.

7. Launch a Loyalty Program

Taking the last one a step further, think about launching a loyalty program. This means giving clients something extra—something that no one else has access to—in exchange for their continued loyalty. Some examples:

  • Lower pricing for signing long-term contracts.
  • Free month of service in exchange for referrals.
  • Discounted services when they try something new you’re about to launch.
  • Monthly rebate for paying each invoice by the 10th.
  • Free hour of support each month for filling out survey.

A loyalty program also gives you a chance to share high-quality blog and newsletter content with clients. Since they’re already primed to watch for offers and news from you, this is an audience that will be really receptive to this.

Focus on Loyalty

If you haven’t focused too much on generating longer-term relationships with clients by building loyalty, it’s not too late to start. Focus on creating opportunities in which you give them even more reason to trust you and to prefer your services above all others. If you can regularly give them something of value, you’ll find that they’re more willing to keep working with you or, at the very least, refer others to you.

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August 06 2018

10:45

20 Best New Portfolios, August 2018

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Our Secret Reptilian Overlords, I asked for more color in last month’s article, and you have delivered. It’s August, now, and to distract myself from the oppressive heat, I have gathered some 20 of these more colorful designs together for your perusal.

So as you might guess, there’s a fair bit of variety this month. There’s still some good old monochromatic minimalism for those of you who like that, so never fear. There’s just a bit more balance, this time around.

Note: I’m judging these sites by how good they look to me. If they’re creative and original, or classic but really well-done, it’s all good to me. Sometimes, UX and accessibility suffer. For example, many of these sites depend on JavaScript to display their content at all; this is a Bad Idea™, kids. If you find an idea you like and want to adapt to your own site, remember to implement it responsibly.

karlssonwilker

The karlssonwilker agency site is a blow to the eyeballs. Whether or not that’s a good thing is going to be down to personal taste; but I literally can’t remember the last time I saw an actual animated kaleidoscope effect used on the Web.

I definitely can’t remember the last time I saw one used this well. There’s also a rather interesting use of flowchart-style layout on the “About” page. Yeah. Flowcharts.

Platform: WordPress

iconwerk

iconwerk is the first icon designer portfolio that I’ve seen in a while. It’s a meta work of genius. Before you can click on individual projects, you’re given a grid of images that contain icons, clients lists, and other snapshots of their work, but also kind of look like icons in their own right.

That’s right, they put icons in your icons, so you can look at icons while you look at icons.

Platform: Static Site

Humbert & Poyet

Humbert & Poyet is an architecture firm, so expect a lot of the usual: animation everywhere, elegant serif type, and text overlapping onto other elements. As is usual though, it’s all about how these elements are combined. In this case, the result is a visual treat that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Platform: Static Site

Juicymo

Juicymo is a mobile app developer, and their site goes all in on the flashy visuals you might expect from them. We get gradients galore, a lot of diagonal lines (a personal favorite of mine), rounded corners, and overall it’s just bright and colorful.

Really, it’s as if Web 2.0 and flat design had a baby. This makes it stand out, and I rather like it. Man, I never thought I’d miss rounded corners.

Platform: Static Site

Effectlab

Effectlab brings us back to that good old flat design with strong type and animated geometry on the home page. Further in, we get some overlapping elements, and a strong use of their admittedly limited color scheme.

To bring us back to the typography, I haven’t seen a lot of Greek websites. But even so, the text feels beautifully rendered, and some of the more rune-like characters absolutely bring out the nerd in me.

Platform: Static Site

Jveb Studio

Jveb Studio uses light animation and background illustration to fantastic effect. With a clearly modern-yet-artistic style, this is a simple-looking site that nonetheless has a fair few moving parts under the hood. Give it a look.

Platform: WordPress

Buzzworthy Studio

Buzzworthy Studio showcases their projects with a list of names, like many sites do nowadays. Overall, their style is clean, playful, and very marketing-friendly, which works for them. Animations is clearly emphasized, but not overwhelming, and I particularly like the way they use color.

Platform: Static Site

Fortnum & Fox

Fortnum & Fox also embrace the dual-color background, but takes more of an earth-tone approach for the most part. But instead of only using this theme on the home page, the site doubles down on the dual-background theme, featuring it prominently when displaying portfolio items.

As presentation sites go, it looks elegant and fancy. It takes some inspiration from print design, without feeling trapped by its inspiration.

Platform: WordPress

Eric Van Holtz

Eric Van Holtz’ portfolio goes big and bold with both color and type, combined with a light dash of animation, and a penchant for those diagonal lines I like so much. It’s a design that doesn’t hold back, and so is memorable.

Platform: Static Site

Salva Lopez

Salva Lopez’ portfolio seems to embrace the “split website” theme as well, with all of his photography organized in “personal” and “commissioned” categories. It’s a simple site with little text and lots of galleries, but that’s basically what you want from a photography portfolio, no?

Platform: WordPress

2xElliott

2xEllliott is a design consultancy, so their site’s aesthetic embraces that sort of corporate-elegant feel we’ve come to expect from that sort of agency. There’s a heavy emphasis on imagery, art direction, and not using more pages than you have to.

By that I mean that clicking on navigation items like “News” or “Contact” will open up a side panel to show that content, since there’s not enough of either to warrant their own pages. It’s a bit JS-dependent for my taste, but I otherwise like the approach.

Platform: WordPress

Canopy Films

Canopy Films’ site takes a highly grid-based approach to showing off its videos, and the grid itself is… animated? I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how that’s done; but it’s actually a pretty cool effect. And that’s coming from Mr. I-wish-sites-depended-less-on-animation. The rest of the site is fairly clean and modern, and is just generally worth a look.

Platform: Static Site

JOJX

JOJX goes for that dead-simple minimalism that was everywhere in last month’s article. Since it’s a portfolio site for directors, that works just fine. It’s just you, some navigation, a video, and a title. What more do you need?

Platform: WordPress

Humble

Humble takes much the same approach to showing off its video portfolio as JOJX, above. They use more color, though, with a bit of asymmetry and element overlap thrown in. It’s an excellent example of how two designs that are very similar on paper can have wildly different personalities.

Platform: WordPress

David Collins Studio

The David Collins Studio site takes me way back to like, a month or so ago, with its serif type, and minimalist collage approach to the art of the portfolio. It’s simple and elegant, and fairly effective.

Platform: Static Site (?)

Barkas

When you first load this portfolio up, it kind of feels like a spreadsheet that’s much prettier than it ought to be. As someone who kind of likes spreadsheets to begin with, that’s actually a compliment.

I’m not a huge fan of the cursor change, but otherwise it’s a good-looking portfolio that gets straight to the point.

Platform: WordPress

Pigment

Pigment shows off their work in a decidedly modernist fashion, with lots of white space and good old black borders. I do find their two-column approach to the actual portfolio items interesting. It looks like a good way to prioritize some of your work while not quite hiding the rest of it.

I also kind of like the way it looks like most of the content is “floating” above the rest of the page/background. It’s an effect you don’t often see in such a relatively flat design. It’s depth without any trace of skeuomorphism.

Platform: WordPress

Pierrick Calvez

Pierrick Calvez’ site is pretty much peak minimalism, but it’s good-looking for all that. I appreciate the way the zoom function works on individual portfolio images, and the typographical style of the whole thing.

Platform: Webflow

U-P

U-P is hard to classify. It’s so reminiscent of the Wild West days of the Internet that it’s almost brutalist. And yet, it looks good in a way that is sometimes a little cramped. Despite its design roots, it follows fairly modern usability conventions. It works, even if it sometimes seems like it shouldn’t.

That’s always impressive.

Platform: Static Site

Dexter Navy

Dexter Navy’s site is an odd duck, and I quite like it. Some photographers and videographers have collage-style sites. Others do that “preview-on-hover-over-the-title” thing. This one manages to combine them both in a riot of color and movement that still manages to feel purposeful.

The photography and video are mixed together delightfully. I also quite like the horizintal-scrolling image galleries for each project.

Platform: Static Site

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August 05 2018

10:45

Popular Design News of the Week: July 30, 2018 – August 5, 2018

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers. 

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Note that this is only a very small selection of the links that were posted, so don’t miss out and subscribe to our newsletter and follow the site daily for all the news.

Evolving the Firefox Brand

 

The Age of the Wordless Logo

 

How I Built my Side Project and Got 31,000 Users the First Week

 

Art and Copy: Bridging the Gap Between Design and Content

 

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Staggering Data Visualizations

 

Educational Website Design Trends to Follow in 2018/2019

 

Six Lessons Learned by Creating a Design System at a Fast-moving Start-up

 

CSS Color Playground

 

Amazon Dark Patterns – Censuring Unhappy Customers

 

Stripe Issuing

 

Why We Decided to Drop LESS for SCSS

 

Feediary – Your Favourite RSS Content, with Zero Tracking & Zero Ads

 

Sketch Vs Adobe XD: Which One Should You Use?

 

How to Get Users Hooked on your Interfaces

 

The Impact WordPress has Had on the Web

 

The Software Design Trends that We Love to Hate

 

Evaluating Best Buy’s Website Design – A UX Case Study

 

Slack Copywriting: What They Say to 9.6 Million Pageviews Every Month

 

Napkin Note – Email Yourself Quick Thoughts on the Fly

 

Emojicom: Giving Feedback Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

 

“Painterly Pantones”: Photographer Edith Young on her Art History-inspired Series of Colour Palettes

 

You SHOULD Learn Vanilla JavaScript Before JS Frameworks

 

Digital Psychology

 

The Myth of Human-centered Design

 

Pattern Journey – A Process for Extending Design Systems

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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August 04 2018

10:21

Comics of the Week #438

Every week we feature a set of comics created exclusively for WDD.

The content revolves around web design, blogging and funny situations that we encounter in our daily lives as designers.

These great cartoons are created by Jerry King, an award-winning cartoonist who’s one of the most published, prolific and versatile cartoonists in the world today.

So for a few moments, take a break from your daily routine, have a laugh and enjoy these funny cartoons.

Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below as well as any related stories of your own…

Time is money

Time machine

 

Designer boot camp

Can you relate to these situations ? Please share your funny stories and comments below…

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August 03 2018

10:45

5 Ways to Keep Designing When the Power is Out

There’s a certain peace to be found at night, when the world goes dark and silent. You might settle down on the couch for a moment, and just soak in the absence of noise and bustle. However, if you’re at work, and the world goes dark and silent, it’s a lot less comforting.

At the very least, it means a delay in your work. If you’re a freelancer, that could very well mean a delay in getting paid. It’s stressful, and it can happen anywhere, to anyone. First world countries can’t always prevent power-outs. Countries like Mexico can set their clocks by them. How do you know it’s rainy season? The power’s out. Oh, and the rain.

Now, this isn’t always a terrible thing. A break might be just what you need to gather your thoughts, relax, and get ready to work like mad when the power’s back. Or, you know, you might just relocate to a place that has power and wi-fi, if that’s an option.

But what if it isn’t? Let’s say all of your machines are desktops, and you’re expected to stay in the office. I mean, power-outs don’t usually last all day. And maybe you have a tight deadline. How can you stay busy, and perhaps actually make some progress before the lights come back? Well, let’s start with the more practical ideas:

1. Brainstorm

If you’re lucky, or at least less unlucky, then this is happening during the planning stages of your design and development cycle. So start planning. There’s nothing stopping you from grabbing your coworkers (if you’re not a one-person studio), and brainstorming the time away. Throw some ideas around!

Now, assuming you already have some plans, you could go over them. Well, if you printed them. Or, go back and revisit ideas that you might have decided to talk about later. Well, it’s later now, and you don’t have anything better to do.

Go over the core of your current plans, see how they could be improved. With the ability to jump straight into the work taken away from you, you might see something you missed, or you might come up with something better.

2. Wireframe on Paper

Now, assuming this isn’t already a part of your process, grab a pencil and some paper, and start drawing out ideas fast. If you’ve already done some of the actual mockup work, try drawing out bits of the interface from memory. Use these drawings in your brainstorming session to see if you can’t come up with something better.

If you already have some hand-drawn wireframes, haul them out and keep iterating. Even if you don’t use the new or updated designs, they might help you to remember why you made certain design decisions in the first place. If nothing else, affirmation is motivating.

3. Develop a Paper Prototype

If you have a lot of downtime, why not try your hand at some arts and crafts? Paper prototypes are basically layers of paper designed to imitate a digital interface. Putting one together will give you a prototype you can actually touch and (to a very limited extent) interact with. All you really need is a paper, a pen(cil), and some scissors. Heck, work on it enough, and perhaps you could show it to your boss or clients later, to help answer any questions they might have.

Here’s a great article on how to make paper prototypes, with examples.

4. Grab a Book

Okay, so you’ve done all the planning you’re ever going to do. Or there’s no point because the plan has gotten sign-off from above, and everything is set in corporate stone, for now at least. What next? Grab a book. Specifically grab a book on web design, typography, accessibility, branding, graphics, or anything else you can imagine!

And don’t let anyone tell you that continuing to educate yourself, grounding yourself in basic principles, or just seeking inspiration isn’t a practical thing to do. The results will show themselves when the power comes back on, and you tackle the project with new vigor, and perhaps some new insight.

5. Try your hand at predicting the future

Okay, I am not one of those guys who will tell you that visualizing success is the key to achieving it. Doing stuff and not sucking at it is mostly the key to success. However, taking some time to visualize the future of what you’re building is still a useful thing to do in small doses. Just sit there, alone or with colleagues, and imagine the thing is already built. Picture your users, and the way they might integrate your product into their lives. Make it a meditative thing.

Spend five minutes on this if you’re a normal person. If you’re an over-thinker like me, maybe schedule a solid hour. Either way, you may very well come out of this exercise with a renewed will to make it happen. Or better yet, you might identify some previously unforeseen issues, and address them before they ever become a problem.

And hey, this is something you can do even if you don’t have enough natural light for most of the other things on this list.

Conclusion

A power-out doesn’t mean your work has to come to a complete, screeching halt. Mind you, it’s not a terrible thing if it does. Unexpected breaks are good for people. But if you just have to keep going, you can often make tangible progress with a little creativity. Otherwise, you can at least make sure you’re ready to tackle your work with a vengeance as soon as the lights come back on.

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August 02 2018

10:45

Reading Waterfall Charts to Focus on Page Speed

There’s no question that making your website’s pages load fast is important. Research shows that people start to lose focus on something after a single second, and lose interest completely somewhere between 4 and 10 seconds. There’s even a direct correlation between slow load times and losing sales, according to Amazon and Kissmetrics. But who has time for complex tools like reading waterfall charts? The easy solution would be to just keep files small and design simple, right?

Maybe not. Modern design trends are heading towards animation and detailed, fullscreen images. If you don’t have these assets, your site may look washed out next to your competitors. And while these features may increase user engagement and sales in a vacuum, they don’t do anything for you if they bog down your site so much that nobody ever sees them. This isn’t even mentioning the fact that Google started including page speed in their ranking algorithms.

Big media isn’t the only things that can slow a website down, either. This is where a skill like reading waterfall charts can come in handy, as these tools provide a powerful analysis of every step between DNS connections and a full page render.

The Best Starting Point: Reading Waterfall Charts

Tools like Pingdom and Google PageSpeed Insights can give you a decent idea of where to start, but the truly best starting point in a waterfall chart, like the ones provided by Web Page Test. These in-depth tools give you an impressive breakdown of everything that’s loading on your site: when they start, when they’re visible, when they finish, and how they relate to every other file. While Pingdom and Google may point you in the right direction, a waterfall chart will show you exactly where to go.

After you run your test, you’ll see a general score at the top of the page, just like other tools.

It’s important not to get distracted by this, though. The true power of this tool is a simple scroll away, by reading the waterfall chart itself. Below you’ll find the first one third or so of the same site’s test.

While the chart may seem overwhelming, it’s not too difficult to read. Every element is classified, and every class is color coded. On the left is the name of the file or resource (hovering over it while provide the full file name and location), and on the right the time is tracked in seconds, from when it starts loading to when it’s visible to when it’s done.

Even though this site scored an overall “A,” we can see there are some images that could tighten up the load speed significantly if they got some attention. If we want to go ever further, we can see that some fonts are taking a while to load, and something is spitting back a 404 error as well. Looking at the entire chart, we can start to pinpoint the exact files that are slowing our site down, and address them accordingly.

Addressing Issues Accordingly

Every website is different, and will require different fixes and maybe even different paths to those fixes than the next site. However, there are a few general tips for keeping your site lean and quick.

Optimize Media

Optimizing media simply means reducing the file size of images or video without sacrificing quality. This means they don’t take as long to transfer to a user’s browser, which means they don’t take as long to load. The actual process is pretty technical, but you can find tons of free tools online (Google PageSpeed Insights will even offer to do it for you when you run a test).

You can even preserve quality across devices by using the srcset attribute in your image tags. This lets you provide the tag with multiple images of varying resolutions and sizes, and the browser will choose the best one to serve to each user.

Minify Files

Like media optimization, minifying files is all about reducing file size. Most sites pull from a wide array of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other files. All it takes to minify them is to cut out unnecessary characters: spaces, line breaks, comments, etc. It’s generally best practice to keep two files: a “pretty” one for development purposes and a minified, “ugly” one for production. You could do this manually, but it’s much easier to run your files through a free tool instead.

Defer Loading of Files

If even a minified Javascript file is slowing your site down, you might consider deferring its loading until the rest of the page is loaded. For external files, you can accomplish this with a simple attribute on your script tags. Though if a plugin grabs these files automatically, and you don’t even see the script tags, things can get more complicated. For internal files, you can separate your code into “necessary for loading” and “unnecessary for loading,” put the unnecessary code into a separate file, then put this script near the bottom of your closing body tags.

Object Caching

Object caching is when files like HTML and images are temporarily stored on a user’s browser after they load. This is great since it means the page doesn’t even to reload fresh every time somebody hits the back button, or even when they come back a week later. There are tons of plugins on the market to help cache automatically, but it’s possible to do it yourself using APIs (like in WordPress or Drupal) if you so desire.

GZIP Compression

GZIP compression is fairly standard practice, but isn’t totally universal yet. The details of this practice could take up a blog post by themselves, but there’s a quick way to see if this even needs your attention with the “Check GZIP Compression” tool.

These are fundamental techniques for keeping your site loading fast, but there are more complex means available. It all depends on what exactly your site needs to reach those snappy load times. Hopefully learning about reading waterfall charts has pointed you in the right direction!

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August 01 2018

14:45

How to Design for IPhone X

Designing for the iPhone X will bring some new challenges, but also some new design opportunities. In this article, I’ll share a few suggestions that will help you design apps and games that look and feel great on iPhone X.

Display Specifics

iPhone X has a new high-resolution, rounded, edge-to-edge Super Retina display has a resolution of 1125×2436px. While it gives designers more space for display content and allows them to create a genuinely immersive experience, there are a few things that should be considered when designing for this device:

1. 3x Image Scale Factor

iPhone X has 3x image scale factors (@1x,@2x, and @3x). When rasterized images are needed, be sure to include both 2x and 3x image resolutions in your app image resolution catalog. Also, it’s recommended to use SVGs for glyphs and other flat artwork that requires high-resolution scaling because they are resolution-independent.

2. New Display Dimensions: More Screen Space, More Content

iPhone’s X display dimensions are 375pt width * 812 pt tall. On a 3x display this equals 1,125 px @3x width * 2,436 px @3x tall. In portrait orientation, the width of the display on iPhone X matches the width of the 4.7″ displays of iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8 so there shouldn’t be any difference in the amount of information presented along with the narrow dimensions of these devices. But the display has a different height: the 812pt height is 145pt taller that 667pt of 4.7” displays. This additional height of iPhone X provides 20% more space for content.  

3. Consider Aspect Ratio When Creating Background Images

When designing background images keep in mind that iPhone X also has different aspect ratio than a 4.7” display. Background graphics created for iPhone’s 8 16:9 aspect ratio needs to be adjusted to satisfy the technical requirements of iPhone X . To prevent the negative outcome, it’s better to compose images so that critical visual information remains visible regardless of display aspect ratio.

4. Don’t Position Elements In Display’s Edge Corners

Rounded corners bring another challenge for designers: every element that is positioned too close to the viewport’s edges may get clipped or covered by the sensor housing. It’s critical to inset controls and other elements to avoid this.

5. Use Safe Area Layout To Display Content

Safe Area layout helps avoid underlapping system UI elements when positioning content and controls. On iPhone 8 the Safe Area is the same size as the viewport when no bars are visible. On iPhone X the Safe Area layout is inset from the top and bottom of the screen edges even when no bars are visible on the screen. This helps you to prevent interface elements from getting clipped or covered.

However, there two exception for the Safe Area: the app’s background and vertically scrollable views. Vertically scrollable views, such as tables and collections, should extend all the way to the bottom of the display and extend to the edges rather than be constrained to the Safe Area zone.

6. Don’t Worry About Native Components

If your app uses native iOS component (such as navigation bars, tables, collection views, tab bars, etc.) and you worry about how they’ll be adapted for the iPhone X, don’t worry! They will be inset and positioned automatically.

Home Indicator

iPhone X changed one of the iPhone’s interactions basics, the home button is legacy now. Before iPhone X users who wanted to access the app switcher or the Home screen clicked the iPhone’s home button to do that. For iPhone X the same process is available when users swipe up anywhere along the bottom edge along the display. Swipes are the new clicks.

In the attempt to replace the home button with a gesture and make it intuitive, Apple offers information about the interaction in the format of an indicator at the bottom edge along the display; a small line that lives on the bottom of a screen.  This indicator is displayed over iPhone X app’s interface. You’ll need to account for this when designing your app.

Notice a white line at the bottom, that’s the new home indicator. It notifies you that you can swipe up to go back to your Home screen or into multitasking.

7. Avoid Placing Interactive Elements Near the Home Indicator

It’s best to avoid placing interactive elements such as buttons in close proximity to the indicator or you’ll risk having them overlapped with the Home indicator. Simply leave some whitespace near the home indicator by placing non-scrollable elements within the safe area.

8. Don’t Draw Special Attention To Home Indicator

The home indicator isn’t a decorative element. Don’t mask it, and don’t call special attention to it.

9. Use Auto-Hide For Full-Screen Experiences

When presenting full-screen visual content such as videos, it’s possible to use auto-hide to hide the Home Indicator.

Notch Area

The notch area is perhaps the most controversial part of the iPhone X design. Some people think it’s visually appealing; others think it’s ugly. But as designers, we can use the screen space available in the notch area for good.

10. Don’t Mask the Notch

Some designers try to make the experience on iPhone X look like similar to the experience on iPhone 8; they place black bars at the top to make it look like an old-school app. It’s better to avoid that – this will only make your app feel inconsistent with other apps on iPhone X. Your app or game should always fill the entire display it runs on.

11. Don’t Hide the Status Bar

If you currently hide the status bar in your app, it’s better to reconsider this decision. Since the status bar area is taller (previously is was 20pt high, now it’s 44pt) and you have more estate to display your content. Add content that is useful for your users.

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10:45

Firefox Working on a Rebrand

Hey guys, remember Firefox? Remember the Mozilla Application Suite? That second one isn’t relevant, but everyone knows that nostalgia is an attention-grabber. Now that you’re here, let’s move on with that first item: Firefox. It’s getting a logo change… eventually. The Mozilla foundation wants your help deciding which direction to go.

The Firefox logo as we know it was a collaboration by Daniel Burka, Stephen Desroches, and the inestimable Jon Hicks. It was they who introduced us to that little blue ball, and the weirdly-charismatic-even-when-we-can’t-see-his-face fox.

Over the years, though, it has been changed, and simplified. As our collective Western aesthetic evolved, and as screens got smaller and smaller, it needed to change with the times. And now, once again is changing, because Firefox isn’t just a browser anymore; it’s the head of a product family, as Mozilla themselves put it in their own post on the topic.

Since a product family needs to more or less match, visually speaking, Firefox’s logo needs to change to allow more flexibility. It needs to be adaptable to other software. To this end, the branding team at Mozilla has come up with two different branding systems, and is looking for feedback on them.

To have your say, leave them a comment on the blog post linked above.

Note that neither of these systems are anywhere close to finalized. Mozilla even refers to them as “a work of fiction” at this point, which should tell you about how close they are to being implemented. Every icon has yet to undergo quite a bit of iteration before any decisions are made.

System 1

This first system emphasizes thick geometric shapes, and a strongly yellow-to-red palette, though there is some variation in the color. Of the two, this almost feels a bit more “classic Firefox”.

System 2

The second system introduces a bit more color variation, with thinner lines.

My Opinion

These design systems both seem very, very corporate, which I suppose is appropriate, now. I do not think, however, that they are devoid of personality or history like some other recent logo redesigns have been. This is an actual evolution of the brand, rather than a surgical removal of everything fun and/or dated.

Like many in the comment section of the original post on Mozilla’s blog, I think the Firefox icons from System 2 should be combined with the other icons from System 1. It just seems to fit better that way.

The only thing that worries me a little is this quote at the end: “With your input, we’ll have a final system that will make a Firefox product recognizable out in the world even if a fox is nowhere in sight.” I don’t think they actually have any plans to remove the fox imagery; but if that question ever comes up, here’s my community feedback: Keep the damn fox, mmmkay?

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