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May 23 2018

06:28

Ucraft Review: Building Creative Websites With Strong eCommerce Support

Creatives need to look creative online.  Unfortunately, this often means a trade-off in the eCommerce department. You may be able to make a beautiful, visual website, but that awesome portfolio is nothing without the ability to sell your merchandise, prints, and other products. That’s where Ucraft comes into play. This Ucraft review will outline the stunning website templates provided by the page builder and walk you through some of the excellent selling tools you need in order to make money as a creative.

Overall, Ucraft is dedicated to building better websites in a faster manner. Therefore, it delivers a true drag and drop builder so that you don’t have to learn about coding or much website development. You’re able to craft stunning, professional websites for photography, web design, writing, and art. Sure, others can take advantage of the Ucraft tools, but the company has focused quite a bit on helping out creatives with its strong media support.

Ucraft Review: The Best Features

An Awesome Free Landing Page Creator

The landing page creator is free, and you’re able to make your one landing page within minutes. You start the design process by choosing from a template. After that, all the changes are automatically saved and published in Ucraft.

Designer Tools with Drag and Drop Functionality

The designer tools make sure that you can add a designer touch to your website even if you’re not that into design. From a full UIKit for advanced modifications, to simple tools for adjusting headings, colors, and sizes, the Ucraft design end is as simple as they come.

Strong eCommerce Support for Regular Businesses and Creatives

The eCommerce plan (outlined below,) is pretty much what most smaller and mid-sized businesses will need. However, you can also upgrade to get extremely advanced tools for selling your products.

In short, Ucraft has social eCommerce options for selling on places like Facebook and Amazon. You also receive product SEO features, over 70 payment and shipping solutions, and secure transactions. What’s more is that Ucraft takes nothing in terms of transaction fees.

I like the fact that you can integrate with dozens of apps and eCommerce platforms. For instance, you may want to sell on a place like eBay or connect your store to Zendesk. Both are possible, along with several other integrations.

As mentioned, the eCommerce plan is pretty powerful, with support for 50 products, unlimited storage, payment and order management, and multi-currency support.

However, you can upgrade to higher plans to get things like more products available,  invoices, favorite lists, VAT support, tax exemptions, eBay selling, real-time tracking, and more.

A Free Logo Maker

The free logo maker from Ucraft is a huge advantage for small businesses and creatives. Logos of svg and png formats can be created.  Not only does it have some interesting designs for you to start off with, but you can get creative yourself and brand your website the way you want. What’s great is that after you design your logo it goes on your website and you also receive a file to use it elsewhere for your business.

Insert the logo into all marketing materials, include it in your email newsletter, and print it on your business cards. This is a truly free logo maker, which is not always the case when you sign up for something like this. Sometimes you get forced to pay or you don’t get to remove the logo maker’s branding. That’s not the case with Ucraft.

Ucraft Review: The Pricing

You can pay for Ucraft on a monthly or yearly basis. The yearly plans save you extra money over the long run and you get a custom domain, but you still have the option to pay per month if you’re still not up for the commitment.

One of the best parts about Ucraft is that you can go with the free plan to gain access to some wonderful landing page tools and more. After that, you have to start paying, but the plans are less expensive than much of the competition, and you get that coveted eCommerce support.

Here are the pricing plans on a yearly subscription to see what you receive:

  • Landing Page – Free forever. You get one landing page, customizable content, the option to connect your own domain, an SEO app, the option to invite team members, customer support from Ucraft, and free hosting. The only downside is that you have to live with the Ucraft watermark on landing pages.
  • Website – $6 per month gets you a custom domain, one website (unlimited pages,) a drag and drop builder, the removal of the Ucraft watermark, 24/7 customer support, over 15 integrations, free hosting, an SEO app, unlimited articles, multilingual tools, and more.
  • eCommerce – This plan costs $13 per month and it provides everything from the previous plans, a custom domain, support for 50 products, no transaction fees, over 70 payment and shipping methods, multi-currency support, SEP for products, payment and order management, real-time tracking, unlimited storage.

As you can see, these pricing models are pretty impressive. Most website builders cost more than $6 per month, and you’ll be hardpressed to locate many eCommerce builders for less than $13 per month.

What’s cool is that several other plans are provided if you want to upgrade past that $13 per month eCommerce package. For instance, a Pro plan is sold for $31 per month and an Unlimited plan is set at $60 per month. In short, if you want to expand your eCommerce store and get the best tools possible, that’s when you would upgrade.

Finally, all Ucraft users get the following for free:

  • Templates
  • SEO tools
  • Designer tools
  • A logo maker
  • Articles

Who is Ucraft Best Suited For?

As I talked about a few times in this article, Ucraft makes the most sense for creatives and small businesses. It’s less expensive than so many other website and eCommerce builders on the market, and the company does a great job with its modern, beautiful templates.

The features are still robust enough for you to scale up in the future, and you get the bonuses of the free logo maker, SEO tools, and templates.

If you have any questions about this Ucraft review, let us know in the comments.

The post Ucraft Review: Building Creative Websites With Strong eCommerce Support appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

May 22 2018

10:45

A Simple Introduction to Intrinsic Web Design

Every industry has its jargon, and almost its own language, in some cases. God knows web design has a lot of jargon, even if half of our made up phrases are fancy and nonsensical job titles. But for all of the silliness that comes with having to invent our own words and acronyms for things, jargon plays an important role: it allows us to communicate more efficiently with other designers and devs.

Sometimes, the person who (more or less) comes up with a concept gets to name it, as it was with Responsive Web Design. [Here I shake my fist at Ethan Marcotte out of long-standing habit. RWD is a good thing, but it gave me headaches for a while.] And sometimes someone comes along and makes up a word or phrase for something we’ve already been doing for a while, which is what (I’m reasonably sure) happened with Web 2.0.

Intrinsic Web Design (you can thank Jen Simmons for this bit of jargon) belongs to the latter category. We’ve already started doing it, but now we have a name for it. We thought it would be a good idea to write up a quick introduction to the concept, because it’s going to become a major part of the web design conversation going forward.

What is Intrinsic Web Design?

It starts with the Flexbox and CSS Grid modules. Ever since we decided that using tables for layout was impractical, we’ve been using the float property, along with a healthy dose of absolute and fixed positioning, to put things wherever we wanted on a page. This has worked well for us, but it was, essentially, a hack.

Nearly all of the web is built on hacky front-end code

Actually, it was a series of hacks. Then we started putting together CSS frameworks full of hacks. Then some very wrong people started using JavaScript to write their CSS full of hacks. Nearly all of the web is built on hacky front-end code, and it has gotten messy.

This is not to criticize the work of those who came before. Using hacky layout methods was the only way to get anything done. We didn’t have any other options. Now we do: Flexbox and CSS Grid are layout methods built into CSS itself. They are, you might say, intrinsic to the medium.

Get it? You see what I… yeah. Anyway. The aforementioned CSS modules are just the start of it. CSS is progressing to the point that we have the tools to properly lay out our designs exactly how we want them to be laid out, with no hacks, and certainly no help from JavaScript. Being able to create what we want with a minimal reliance on hacks, tricks, and outside libraries is a part of what Intrinsic Web Design is about.

Or to hear how the creator of the term herself puts it:

I’m just talking about layout, that layout itself, and the graphic design itself, had changed significantly enough that I wanted a new word so we could say, “Oh, yeah, that new thing,” and it includes CSS Grid, but it’s not just about CSS Grid. It’s also about using Flexbox, and kind of rediscovering what Flexbox is actually intended to be for.

Plus, it’s about using some floats sometimes, using things like CSS shapes or object-fit, using a flow content, using multi-column. Some of these things are old, and they’ve been around for a long time, but it’s about thinking about the whole system of layout, and how all these pieces fit together in a brand new way.

To put it another way, I think Intrinsic Web Design is about the shift from being limited by CSS’ capabilities to being empowered by them. It opens up a whole lot of exciting new possibilities.

Who Came up With This?

Jen Simmons. She’s a web designer and front-end developer who has worked with/for: CERN: the W3C, Google, and Drupal, and other small businesses. She currently spends her time as a Designer Advocate at Mozilla, speaking at conferences, as well as hosting and producing The Web Ahead, a fantastic podcast about the future of the Internet.

She also hosts the Layout Land channel on YouTube. If you want to learn about Flexbox, CSS Grid, and the other building blocks of Intrinsic Web Design, these videos are a wonderful and informative place to start. You should also check out her interview that I quoted above, where she and Jeffrey Zeldman discuss IWD and a whole host of other topics at length.

Entering a New Era

Things are gonna get wild as designers latch on to these ideas, and start to figure out what they can build with Flexbox and CSS Grid in conjunction with all of the layout methods we already have. I have no doubt that we’re going to see an explosion of new, or at least refined layout ideas. Then the JavaScript nuts are going to get involved, and that’s going to get truly interesting.

Non-coders especially should pay attention to what’s going on with Intrinsic Web Design, precisely because it will change, and is already changing what is possible on the web. Whether you’re strictly an in-the-image-editor UI designer or an art director, you should absolutely be researching what these technologies can do. Knowing what your front-end colleagues can do now will make your job easier.

Coders, they’re about to start asking for some crazy stuff. You should research it, too, if you haven’t already.

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May 21 2018

10:45
What’s New for Designers, May 2018
09:09

Questions to Ask Clients Before Starting a Project

Graphic design clients come in a wonderful variety, but every designer has their tales of horror to tell about the treatment they’ve received from some clients. Much of the time trouble originates from misunderstandings, so if the potential for this can be reduced from the start, it will help avoid the resultant problems.

Knowing what to ask is important, and then actually asking the necessary questions is even more important. In this article we’ll share the first part of that task, and it will be up to you to implement it when the time comes.

1. What is your budget for the project?

This is the most important question of all. Many clients have unrealistic expectations, and they may expect a fixed cost to cover everything they request. Asking this question up front lets the client know your costs may be not quite so fixed, and that they’ll need to adjust their expectations to suit their budget.

You will also be able to provide your client with better advice this way. When you know what the client can spend, you can begin calculating what options to suggest. For example, on-location photography is more expensive than stock photography, but gives much better results. You’ll be able to give advice that helps the client make the right decisions.

gif illustration by 

2. When do you need the project completed by?

Clients also may have unrealistic expectations about the creative process, not realizing it can take time to produce quality work, and expecting you to work like you’re on a production line.

Creative work is a process that normally takes time. We may have moments of intense inspiration which drive us to produce a masterpiece in record time, but normally there are many steps to complete: conceptualizing, research, drafting, editing, rendering, and so on.

If the client gives a tight deadline, get them to justify it. Sometimes clients just want the job done within a certain time frame, and there are times that they won’t really have a reason. Clients with a reason should get priority because they know what they want and why they want it.

3. Who is the intended audience for this work?

It’s very important not to waste your time going down the wrong path. You can’t make assumptions about who the client is attempting to appeal to. Also, having this knowledge, you can make suggestions that the client hadn’t thought of. This makes the client feel secure that they have chosen a professional who can help them make the right decisions.

illustration by 

4. What features in this work do you want to have emphasis?

Clients need to identify the image they want to project to their audience. If they don’t have a strong sense of identity and purpose, you’ll be wandering aimlessly with no reference point to begin from.

What may happen then is you’ll spend time designing something that the client may not necessarily like, and that happens because you’re not sharing a common vision.

The best designs happen when you and your client are in harmony about what the finished work should look like and what goals it should achieve.

5. What similar items appeal to you?

You may need to clarify this question. For example, if it is a website design project, you should ask the client which websites they like best and why they like those sites. If it is a logo design project, ask which logos of other companies are their favorites and why. And so on and so forth.

Asking this kind of question helps establish what the client finds appealing. That may not necessarily be what’s best for them, and you can advise them if you have knowledge that can help them make a better decision, but it also helps you avoid a situation where the client is not satisfied with what you produce.

When you know what the client already likes, you job becomes far easier, because you can design appropriately. Just make sure you get a decent number of favorites so you can find what the examples have in common.

6. What designs in this category are your least favorite?

This question is probably just as important, because it helps you recognize what things you’ll need to avoid. Nothing kills a project faster than not knowing what your client does not like to see in a design.

Again, you’ll need a decent handful of examples to get some idea of the common features that the client isn’t interested in. You can ask them why, of course, but the answers may be too vague to be really helpful.

What you’re trying to gain is insight into the client’s mind, and very few clients know themselves well enough to provide that insight directly. Seeing their likes and dislikes visually in front of you is far more useful in most cases.

gif by 

7. Do you have an existing design or style?

One of the most surprising things is clients sometimes forget to mention they already have a design or style theme that they need you to comply with. The more you understand about the existing corporate culture of your client, the easier it is to design for them.

Sometimes clients just expect you to know about them. They’re sure you will have heard of their business before and that you’ll know all about it. So they don’t tell you the vital information you need to know in order to produce the best results for them.

Getting that information is your job. You can’t leave it up to the client to tell you, because they almost never will.

Wrapping up

Asking these essential questions before you get started on the project is going to help you avoid problems and will also help you do your job more efficiently and effectively.

Nobody likes wasting time on a project and then not getting paid for their efforts. As creatives, it can be especially rough on you when a client rejects your work, and that can affect your confidence as you go to start on the next project.

If you ask the right questions, you’ll know the right way to go about the task, and the result is better for everyone involved.

header image courtesy of

The post Questions to Ask Clients Before Starting a Project appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

May 20 2018

10:45

Popular Design News of the Week: May 14, 2018 – May 20, 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.

Google Just Remade its Brand Again

 

Site Design: MetaLab

 

LayoutIt CSS Grid Generator

 

Typography Trends in Web Design

 

JavaScript is Good, Actually

 

How to Double your Page Views Without Publishing Anything New

 

Introducing Airbnb Cereal

 

Spirit is Out Now for Mac

 

On Design Changing the World

 

Crunch 2.0 – Insane PNG Image Optimization

 

10 Interaction Design Books You’d Be Crazy not to Read

 

Working Type

 

Design Systems

 

The Environmental Cost of your Internet Searches, Visualized

 

Final Notice by Unpayd – Send a Free Final Demand Letter to your Non-paying Clients

 

UI/UX Case Study: Dealsdate

 

Screely – Instantly Turn Screenshots into Beautiful Images

 

I Emptied my Savings to Buy a Newsletter.

 

Snapchat’s Redesigned Redesign Starts Rolling Out

 

If Trello and Google Calendar Had a Baby… Sunsama!

 

I Let Gmail’s New AI Write my Pointless Emails for Me

 

Flopstarter – A Platform for Bad Ideas

 

Lightning Fast Wireframing in Sketch

 

Making Profit from a Design System

 

Arby’s Made a Font, So…

 

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

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May 18 2018

10:45

6 Pointless Design Achievements You Should Totally Go For

Web design is a process of carefully planned and researched steps. You have a job to do, and users to satisfy. Ideally, everything you do has a purpose. There is a point to it all.

But life is weird, complex, and even fun sometimes. Sometimes, you end up doing something that might seem a bit excessive, a bit “out there”, or even downright silly. But you do it just because it makes you feel good to have accomplished it, or because it looked fun. In gaming parlance, we call these things “achievements”.

Achievements in gaming often don’t give you anything but a sense of pride and accomplishment. (That’s an EA joke for you fellow gamers out there.) But seriously, while achievements occasionally do give you an in-game bonus, they’re usually mostly pointless. You do these things just to see if you can.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some possible achievements that I think we should make official. If you think of more, please, please post them in the comments, along with any stories you have.

Make Another Designer Green With Envy

Okay, this is an interesting one, because you can do this on easy mode or hard mode. Easy mode is when you’ve been working in design for a while, and you show off your work to a brand new designer. I myself bestowed this achievement upon many a designer when I was new to the industry, because this design stuff looks like magic until you really get into it.

Hard mode is, of course, impressing an experienced designer. You can’t just get them to say “it’s good”. You have to make them wish they were you, and that’s tough to do. Bonus points if you can make a design celebrity publicly lament your superiority on Twitter.

My Score: I’ve only managed this on easy mode.

Get Your Site Featured on a Website Gallery

This achievement is mostly pointless because, if you’re freelancing, customers usually don’t browse website galleries. This is a distinctly web designer thing. That said, you can get a small in-industry bonus with other designers. It can possibly help you land agency jobs, too.

My Score: I have done this once in the long past, when you didn’t have to pay CSSMania to showcase your stuff.

Build a Site Full of Easter Eggs

We’ve all seen them: Vogue, of all websites, used to have well-dressed T-Rexes pop up when you input the Konami code. Then there’s Zurb with the cows. Google itself is known to incorporate little gimmicks when you search for things like “do a barrel roll”, and a full game when you search for “Atari Breakout”.

Now, it could be said that Easter eggs delight users when they’re found, but they are hardly essential to any website’s core experience. That said, they’re fun to imagine up, and fun to build. The only real downside is the amount of time it may take top implement them, which is why most Easter eggs tend to reside within the text of the code itself.

My Score: I’ve put amusing comments to myself in the code. That’s about as far as I’ve gone.

Convince a Client Their Logo Doesn’t Actually Need to be Bigger.

Client input is important. However, some clients tend to provide input just because they believe it’s expected of them. They feel compelled to make their mark, and put their stamp on the website, if only so that they feel it’s “really theirs”.

You get this achievement by convincing them to leave well enough alone. I mean, as long as you didn’t make the logo ridiculously small, it’s usually fine, right? But you forfeit this achievement if you use “the fold” as an excuse for not making the logo bigger. You have to convince them with the truth.

My Score: Nope. Never pulled it off.

Send a Client the Exact Same File When They Ask You to “Make it Pop”

Just like in the last example, this happens when you get a client who provides input because their “management style” demands it, and not because anything needs to be changed. Just send them back the same file, and see if they accept it this time.

If they do, you’ve saved yourself some time. If not, then at least you know they’re actually paying attention. Either way, you’ve gained valuable information.

My Score: I’ve never actually done this one, either. I got lucky, and my clients have nearly always provided more specific feedback, and would have known if I sent the same file back. I have sent the same file back by accident, though.

Write Humorous Temporary Copy, Have it Accepted as the Final Text

When you don’t have copy to work with, Lorem Ipsum and such like things often have to suffice. It’s certainly not ideal, but you can’t make content appear out of thin air. You can, however, write some silly things in your mockups, just for fun. I typically only do this with headings and other small strings of text. Paragraphs would be too much.

You score if any one of your silly ideas is accepted as actual copy in the final product. It need only be a line or two.

My Score: Yup, I got this one!

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May 17 2018

10:45

9 A11y Tips for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

The 17th May 2018 is Global Accessibility Awareness day, which makes today the ideal time to consider how inclusive our experiences are for those users who may be disabled, differently-abled, or temporarily inconvenienced.

2017 was a big year for website accessibility lawsuits. Seyfarth and Shaw reported that, by year’s end, there were 814 ADA Title III federal lawsuits filed against websites in the United States alone. Perhaps the most well-known of these cases was Juan Carlos Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc.

The blind plaintiff, Mr Gil, alleged that certain parts of the website essential to the shopping experience (like the store locator tool and coupon generator) could not be accessed by his JAWS screen reader. The reason why this case made such waves in the news is: one, because it was the first of its kind to go to federal court; and, two, because Winn-Dixie lost the case (as well as a lot of money and part of its reputation in the process).

While Mr. Gil wasn’t trying to purchase anything from the Winn-Dixie site, per se, this does still bring up an important question about what types of businesses are required by law to make their sites accessible.

So, let’s explore what it means to have an accessible website and which kinds of websites should take heed. Later, we’ll look at 9 recommendations posed by the Website Accessibility Initiative on how to ensure your site abides by the rules of accessibility.

What is Website Accessibility?

Website accessibility isn’t a difficult concept to understand. It simply means that a website is equipped to deliver an experience to all users, regardless of any disability or impairment they might have. And it’s not just about being able to see, read, or understand the content either; users need to be able to navigate through websites and complete transactions just like everyone else.

You may be surprised by the kinds of impairments that are affected by a lack of accessibility. Here are some of the broader categories:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Physical (think of someone with a broken arm or hand)
  • Geographic (for instance, users living in areas with limited bandwidth)

Website accessibility aims to address any limitations that may prevent the general public from being able to use a website that was explicitly built for public consumption.

Who Should Abide by Website Accessibility Rules?

The Winn-Dixie lawsuit was a big deal. It demonstrated that you don’t have to explicitly sell any goods or services online in order to be required by law to provide a fully accessible experience to all users. What ultimately matters is whether or not a website falls under the category of providing “public accommodation” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the case of Winn-Dixie, the judge ruled against the grocery store chain because the lack of website accessibility consequently affected the in-store experience. But that’s not always the case.

In another case from the United States, Andrews v. Blick Art Materials, LLC, Blick attempted to argue that, because it only sold art supplies online, that it did not technically fall under the “place of public accommodation” rule defined by the ADA. The judge, however, threw out their argument with the understanding that any business that deals with the public—either in person or online—should be held accountable for providing an accessible website.

If you’re designing websites for businesses or individuals that intend on offering a service or selling a product to the public, then website accessibility needs to be a part of your workflow starting now.

That said, it’s important to note that this will likely be a more common request you receive from clients based in the United States. While there are other countries where web accessibility laws have been established, most of them pertain to government and other public sector websites. While we wait for these laws to be revamped to account for more stringent web accessibility laws, it might still be a good idea to adopt the following tips into your workflow.

Design and Development Tips for Website Accessibility

Below, you will find web design and development tips from W3C and the Website Accessibility Initiative (WAI) on how to build websites that better accommodate impaired users.

1. Use Proper Tagging

Using header tags in text is helpful for a number of reasons. For one, the visual hierarchy of enlarged and stylized text makes it easier to understand content. But it also serves an important purpose in accessibility as the title tag and subsequent header tags of a page inform impaired individuals when they arrive at key points.

2. Write Descriptive Code

Some users rely on markup to figure out what is on the screen. So you will need to use markup that provides some context for what they’re seeing on screen. This should include things like the language attribute.

3. Be Careful with Color

Pay attention to color choice as well, especially as it pertains to text. When there’s a lower contrast between the text and background–usually with lighter fonts against white backgrounds or daker fonts with dark backgrounds—it can be too difficult for users to read.

Rely on strong indicators like underlining, animation on hover, large call-to-action buttons, and high contrast text.

The Senior Living website does a great job with high-contrast text (and also large text).

4. Use Big Text

Use a font size that can be reasonably read from any and all devices or screen sizes. Beyond that, you may also want to integrate with a tool that enables users to increase the font size if it isn’t large enough for their needs.

5. Make It Keyboard Accessible

Some visitors will access your site using a keyboard.

If interactive elements (like the menu) are not tabbable or keyboard accessible, you’re going to have serious problems.

The Consumer Reports site is tab accessible.

6. Create Ultra Clear Forms

Contact forms are an important element in websites.

Without them, you would have to rely on in-person or telephonic conversions (which just isn’t going to fly with a modern audience). So, pay extra special attention to these. Here are some tips:

  • Provide instructions on how to fill out the form.
  • Include descriptive and clear labels for each field.
  • Make form fields tabbable in the order in which they appear.
  • Use big, bold error messages with exclamation points, shading, or warning symbols, to indicate problems to your users.
  • Do not use CAPTCHA.

The AARP website has a well-labeled and easy to populate contact form.

7. Add Supportive Text

In order to ensure that everyone can consume your visual content, add supportive text.

  • For images, use alt-text that describes the photo as well as captions.
  • For videos, add a transcript below or active captions within it.
  • For podcasts and other audio, include a corresponding transcript.

Also, be sure to give users control over any of this media that auto-plays, including video, audio clips, and image sliders.

Freakonomics includes transcripts of each of its podcasts.

8. Use Abundant White Space

It may be difficult for some disabled individuals to focus on what’s most important if pages are cluttered. Use abundant white space to frame the most important parts of your site while also providing enough breathing room for them to comfortably view your content.

9. Include Orientation Cues

Another way in which you can guide users through a site is by including orientation cues. Of course, navigation is an important part of this.

You can also add breadcrumbs as well as strong UI elements that draw users down through the page. If all else fails, add a search bar to the top so they can instantly look for what they need.

Nordstrom uses abundant navigational cues.

Wrapping Up

All in all, I would say that enabling a site for website accessibility is beneficial for all parties. Your site’s ability to deliver a consistently high-quality experience for all users will lead to higher times on page, lower bounce rates, and, ideally, greater conversion rates. This, in turn, will give your site a more favorable ranking in search… and who doesn’t want that?

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May 16 2018

10:45

Take Control of WordPress with New Elementor Pro 2.0

Elementor 2.0 is an innovative approach to site building in WordPress that lets you customize any part of your site, with absolutely zero coding knowledge.

A plugin rather than a theme, this flexible approach means that you can use Elementor 2.0 to manage your site design, and unlike some WordPress site builders, you won’t be tied to a particular theme; Elementor 2.0 works with almost any WordPress theme from any vendor, as well as custom themes.

Build everything on your WordPress site exactly as you want it, without having to switch themes to find the right functionality, or pay a developer’s fees to personalize your template.

A Comprehensive Site Builder

There are dozens of different theme builders that will allow you to change the layout of your static content, but they nearly all tie you to fundamental elements of the theme, such as the header, or footer. Elementor 2.0 is designed to free you from that restriction by enabling the customization of those hard-to-change elements such as your header.

Using intuitive tools that enable you to build your site in a familiar WYSIWYG style, Elementor 2.0 is one of the simplest ways to make these changes, all the while confident that the code underpinning your design is robust and properly implemented.

All of this functionality was available before, but reserved for those coders who knew how to drill into the WordPress codebase. Elementor 2.0 puts the power to customize your site in your hands.

Intuitive Workflow

Elementor 2.0 has been crafted for speed. To make changes, simply install the plugin and you’ll find the Elementor option added to your dashboard menu, and you can now create new templates at will. Everything works instantly, giving you control of your site in a few clicks.

To speed up the editing process Elementor 2.0 features theme element widgets, such as an author box, a site logo, or a featured image; these and other elements can be combined to rapidly develop real-world WordPress solutions. To build templates, either start with one of the pre-designed options and customize it to suit your site, or build entirely from scratch.

All of Elementor 2.0’s code is fully responsive, meaning that you can create a design and be confident that it will look exactly as you intend on any device. You can even create premium features like a sticky header—an essential component of modern UX—so that your menu will follow users up and down the screen as they scroll.

To see your design live, all you have to do it click the ‘publish’ button and choose the conditions under which your new element should appear.

Conditional Elements

One of the features of Elementor 2.0 that we like the most is the conditional option: Once you’ve finished designing an element for your site, you can choose the conditions under which it will be displayed.

Let’s say for example that you want to design two headers: one for your main site, and one for your blog; Elementor 2.0 allows you to create them both and set them so that they will appear on the right pages; even when you’re creating repetitive UI elements you can apply them intelligently.

Create different footers for your site and blog, or a unique footer for your contact page, or even different designs for personal blog posts and professional blog posts. The biggest benefit to conditional elements is that you retain control of what elements appear when.

Design Dynamic Content

Many pages on your site, your home page for example, are static pages. Your blog posts however—the part of your site that WordPress really excels at creating—are dynamic. Dynamic pages pull content in from your database, so you can’t always be sure what that content will be.

The challenge this creates is that while static pages can easily be previewed in your WordPress dashboard, dynamic pages cannot, and each dynamic post could significantly affect your design. Elementor 2.0 solves this issue with an innovative preview option that really should be built into the WordPress core: With Elementor 2.0 you can choose which post content to preview a page with, giving you an unprecedented overview of your design right in the dashboard.

As well as elegantly handling static pages and dynamic posts, Elementor 2.0 allows you to create archives like category pages and search results, even a custom 404 error page; all the control you need to manage a modern WordPress site.

Conclusion

You shouldn’t have to choose between the freedom to switch themes and the ability to modify your site; with Elementor 2.0 you don’t have to.

Fresh to the market, Elementor 2.0 is a significant advancement in the control WordPress developers have, enabling them to edit almost any theme with ease, and with absolutely zero coding knowledge.

Not only is Elementor 2.0 a boost to creativity, but it’s a boon to timetables too. Delivering site-wide changes in a fraction of the time it would take to hand-code them could give you the competitive edge you need.

With a unique visual approach to theme building, Elementor 2.0 opens up new possibilities for WordPress professionals.

 

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

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May 15 2018

13:00

Adobe XD CC is Now Available for Free

In a step clearly intended to maintain dominance in an increasingly competitive market, Adobe have announced that XD CC (eXperience Design) is being released to the community as a free application.

XD is amongst the most well-rounded, reliable, and innovative UX design applications available; by making it free of charge to both Mac and Windows users, Adobe are hoping to make it the de facto choice.

Intriguingly Adobe executives are now openly referring to XD as Adobe’s flagship product—a moniker previously reserved for its 25 year-old, raster-editing, behemoth Photoshop.

We believe Adobe XD will be as big as Photoshop, if not bigger.

— Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer & Executive Vice President, Adobe

It’s a trend that reflects recent changes in the design industry, as designers are increasingly asked to integrate user experience principles and methodologies into their workflow.

Yes, I Said Free

The official release name is the “Adobe XD CC Starter” plan, which is neither time-limited, nor feature-reduced. There is one version of Adobe XD, and it is identical whether you’re using the free plan, or you’re a fully paid up Creative Cloud subscriber. The XD CC Starter plan even includes Typekit and CC Library integration.

The cynical amongst us will question how Adobe can afford to do this. The last few months have demonstrated with shocking clarity, the truth behind the adage that if you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product.

It may be more astute to ask whether Adobe can afford not to do this. Great design tools are regularly being launched at very reasonable rates, often gratis. From Sketch to InVision, the competition is stiff and Adobe is often—perhaps part-fairly—perceived as maintaining a stable of out-dated and over-priced applications.

Since XD’s beta release, there has been a tangible buzz of excitement around it. Talking to Adobe product evangelists, it’s clear they can’t quite believe how good their own product is. XD may be seen by Adobe business strategists as a gateway application to the rest of the Creative Cloud suite.

 

There is one limitation of the free version of Adobe XD: You can only share one prototype, and one design spec, at a time. (There’s no restriction on the number of files you can save.) If this is too onerous for you, there’s a $9.99 single-app plan. However, for freelancers working on one project at a time, it’s no restriction at all.

Adobe seem to be targeting freelancers to build a grass-roots community that drives demand, while funding it by charging agencies who require more flexible sharing options.

Photoshop “Killer”

For years we’ve been calling applications “Photoshop-killer” and recently that has been extended to “Sketch-killer” as Bohemian Coding’s offering spreads. It’s a click-bait approach that fuels social media, but is rarely fair to the application being discussed. However on this occasion, “Photoshop-killer” may be an appropriate title.

There are (believe it or not) still professional designers who layout websites in Photoshop—if you’re one of them, then more power to you—but the lure of XD may now be too strong for even the most rehearsed designer. Especially as XD now opens PSD files natively, giving you unfettered access to your old assets.

In addition to Photoshop integration, the latest round of features includes Sketch integration, password-protected files, drag and drop asset swapping, and pasting to multiple artboards.

Over the next few months the XD team expects to ship enhanced animation features, and improved asset management. The most anticipated items on the roadmap are the UI element animations, enabling designers to accurately describe the intended feel of an interface for richer experiences.

Import from Sketch

Drag and drop symbol swapping

Paste to multiple artboards

Password protected export option

Adobe Want to Give You $10,000,000

Adobe are also launching a $10million fund—to be made available as either grants or investments—for the development of XD plugins that enhance what they are now calling “the XD ecosystem.”

If you’ve been developing Sketch plugins, now is a very good time to think about porting to Adobe XD. If you think there’s a major feature missing from XD, then Adobe may pay you to develop it.

Adobe’s $10million fund is welcoming applications from both experienced teams, and individual developers. As well as cold hard cash, Adobe will give you access to tools, early previews, and access to experts, so you can develop the most robust version of your plugin possible.

You can sign up for access here.

Should You Try Adobe XD?

XD, arguably unlike some Adobe products, is exceptionally good. From the initial beta-release until its official launch just six months ago, the XD team has continually impressed with its drive to keep pushing XD’s potential. Whilst I’ve never considered “cheap” to be a particularly desirable aspect of a professional-grade application, XD becoming a realistic option for more designers will only increase Adobe’s commitment to the product.

Adobe XD may not have everything you need for your design practice, but it is continually evolving and carries none of the baggage of Adobe’s other products.

The expectation for design careers is that experience of UX processes will be increasingly desirable over the next five years, as will fluency in UX design tools. Adobe have the financial clout to make XD the global standard, something that they appear determined to do.

The free XD CC Starter plan is available right now.

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May 14 2018

10:45

20 Best New Portfolios, May 2018

Welcome back, readers. It’s May, and that means the weather’s getting hotter. Stay inside, away from the evil, evil sunshine. Relax, grab a lemonade, and browse through this month’s collection of portfolios. This time around, we have a whole lot of grid-based minimalism with black borders, and some other stuff, too.

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.

Frank Chimero

We’ve actually featured a previous version of Frank Chimero’s portfolio once before, back in February 2016. Where the previous iteration was mainly focused on selling his writing, this version includes portfolios for his design and illustration as well.

It’s still pretty simple and modern, but there’s now a definite tendency toward using more images. Also, those pencil strokes in the background are a very nice touch, and fit thematically with all of the work he does.

Platform: Static Site

Jacqui Nguyen

Jacqui Nguyen is an architect, and her one-page portfolio pulls off something I didn’t expect to see this month: an accordion-based layout that I actually kind of like. It doesn’t hurt, mind you, that it’s styled to look vaguely like a file drawer.

I have a weird love for office supplies I never use. Anyway, that slight touch of skeuomorphism is just enough to set her site apart without delving into the realm of leather textures and other abominations. Above all, it is functional. That feels appropriate for an architect.

Platform: WordPress

Tej Chauhan

Tej Chauhan combines the presentation style website with pseudo-brutalism (read: minimalism with monospaced type) in a way that I find interesting. On the one hand, you have the presentation-style layout and handling of images for the portfolio, plus the nigh-unusable navigation so prevalent in presentation sites. (The red dot is the menu button.) On the other, every other element is near-brutalist in its aesthetic.

I wouldn’t adopt Tej’s approach to navigation, but the rest of the design presents some interesting contrast in style.

Platform: WordPress

A Friend of Mine

A Friend of Mine is a design agency that took on an interesting challenge when designing their portfolio: limiting the sense of style and personality as much as possible. Their whole shtick is that they tackle every problem differently, according to the situation. They don’t have a “house style”.

In execution, this means that their site is as simple as possible, taking minimalism to its practical extreme. I like to think that the constantly changing background color on the first part of their home page is a symbol of their commitment to doing everything differently as-needed.

Platform: Static Site

Studio Six

Studio Six’s agency portfolio is basically a study in what you might call corporate elegance. It has some of the hallmarks of artsy work, some fantastic typography, and the some of the restraint of your average corporate site. It manages to strike a balance between all of the elements that you don’t see to often.

Platform: Static Site and/or JS App

Katie Shillingford

Katie Shillingford is a fashion stylist, and her site goes for that magazine feel without trying to completely copy magazine layouts. It’s actually one of the better examples I’ve seen of adapting a print medium’s aesthetic to the web, even if it is loaded down with slideshows galore.

Platform: Static Site

daji studio

daji studio is the portfolio of Kenji Yoshida, a sound designer. You might expect, then, to be blasted by audio the second you open the page.

But lo and behold, Kenji is polite. No audio plays until you click one of the many “play” buttons scattered around the pleasing grid-based design. Be like Kenji.

And the site looks cool, too. The audio visualizations that take over the whole screen when you click a play button can be jarring at first, but overall, I like them.

Platform: WordPress

Hiatus

Hiatus is a team of video editors, and their site is deliciously creative. From making their branding look kind of like a pause button, to the rustic style of their site, to the layout that literally keeps the branding front and center at all times, this thing just… well it made me look.

Plus, unlike most video studios, they don’t hit you with a bunch of auto-playing video. You have to actually click on a project and then click play, so you’ve got plenty of time to set up your headphones first, and it won’t hurt your data caps unless you want it to.

Platform: Static Site

Under After

Under After is another minimalist portfolio that spices things up with just a hint of an illustrator’s touch, here and there. The site’s strongest point is really its typography, but the general layout is pretty snazzy as well.

I actually really like the way they designed those testimonials, and it might be the first time I’ve ever said that. Or not. I just know I don’t say it that often.

Platform: Static Site

Base

Base is a branding studio, and they’ve gone with a website design that forgoes any real fancy touches, and gets straight to showing off their work. It’s simple, it’s clean, it looks good.

Platform: WordPress

Mathilde Serra

Mathilde Serra is an art director with a strong emphasis on type. Combined with the strong colors, and a penchant for illustration, her portfolio looks classy and creative.

It’s so good, it’s almost worth the pre-loader. No but really, go look through the case studies. They’re beautiful.

Platform: Static Site

Johanne Roten

Johanne Roten is a Swiss graphic designer, and the Swiss style definitely shows in her work. It’s got that feeling of near-extreme-minimalism we’ve come to associate with our favorite some of our favorite designers from there. It’s also maybe one of the more well-organized one-page portfolios I’ve ever seen.

Platform: Static Site

Make Architects

Make Architects is an interesting portfolio, and not just for its design, which looks darn good. It takes that asymmetry-focused minimalism that got so popular last year, and combines it with a more business-friendly aesthetic.

It also spends half of its home page showing off not just their work, but advertising how they work. ie. it’s an employee-owned company, etc. They put just as much effort into letting you know what to expect from their business practices as anything else. It’s an approach I’ve seen before, but these people do it right from the get-go.

Platform: WordPress

Studio Thomas

Studio Thomas is one of those studios that has, with some mild animation aside, chosen the dead-simple look for their site. I am rather partial, though, to the header/navigation. It takes an interesting approach to telling the user where they are on the site at all times, putting the page title right up top with the site’s name.

It’s like they think telling you what page you’re on is equal in importance to telling you who they are. And I can’t say I disagree.

Platform: Vue.js / Nuxt

MAD

MAD has also gone for a dead-simple look, but they’ve given their type and visual flair a distinctly playful look through very small touches. It’s a subtle kind of full-site branding, but it gets the message across while keeping the site usable and readable. I can get behind that.

Platform: Static Site

Artomatic

Artomatic is bringing us yet more of that minimalism with lots of black borders that is this month’s theme. Well, there’s also a sense of carefully-imposed order, and one of the nicer approached to video that I’ve seen.

Platform: Static Site (probably)

Creative Media Design

Creative Media Design is a German design studio with a style that you might call simple, professional, efficient, and quintessentially German. True to the ambitions stated in their name, though, the site is livened up with the excellent use of accent colors, and a few small touched of handwriting-style type.

Platform: WordPress

MD

MD is yet another site on this list competing for “most minimalist thing since blank paper”. I mean, portfolio slideshows aside, it has a one-column layout. And yet, it still looks good.

Platform: Static Site

Drexler

Drexler’s studio portfolio spices things up by going back to the old asmymmetry. I mean, what’s old is new again, right? Or at least what’s old is a refreshing change of pace in a sea of grid-heavy aesthetics.

Platform: WordPress

Josh Sender

And lastly, Josh Sender has introduced me to the beautiful Romana BT family of typefaces. Just look at those headings. I mean, the rest of the site is good, but those headings are beautiful.

I also rather like the approach to the navigation used on this one-page portfolio. It’s simple, efficient, and mostly stays out of your way, while never being exactly hidden.

Platform: WordPress

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05:48

Exclusive Freebie: Start Up Icons

Every day there’s a new opportunity, a new venue & new horizons for the entrepreneurs with the aim to make it happen, that’s why we’re looking to help: check out the latest free icons pack from Iconshock.com & bypeople.com: 30 unique items, including vector Adobe Illustrator & SVG Files, also adding PNG’s in three different sizes.

All the icons in this pack are free for both personal and commercial projects, so you won’t find any limits to focus on the important: make your business profitable and sustainable!

Get these amazing icons from here

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May 13 2018

10:45

Popular Design News of the Week: May 7, 2018 – May 13, 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.

Why You Should Never Use Pure Black for Text or Backgrounds

 

Curtains.js – Easily Animate Images

 

Meet Hadron. A Tool that Makes Design with Code Easy and Visual

 

The Deadly Trap in User Interface Design & How to Solve it

 

Solid Tips for Creating a Design Portfolio

 

Toddler Creates New Beer Label Design

 

The Next Big Thing in Type

 

25 Free Fonts to Enhance your Next Design Work

 

Charity Website: A UX Case Study

 

Site Design: Tribute to Akira

 

Reddit’s Designers and Users Aren’t Seeing Eye-to-eye Over Site’s New Look

 

Eden – UX Design Process

 

YouTube Music is Testing a New Player UI and Queue Functionality

 

How to Build a Responsive Type Scale with Bootstrap

 

I/O 2018: Our Definitive Guide to Design

 

CSS Custom Properties and Accesibility

 

Developing the Star Wars Opening Crawl in HTML/CSS

 

What Every Product Leader Should do in their First 60 Days on the Job

 

Google Drive Gets a New Interface to Match Redesigned Gmail

 

Google’s Material Design Guidelines Have been Updated

 

Intro to CSS – Free 20-part Course

 

Front-End Tooling Survey 2018 – Results!

 

The History of Iron Man’s Original HUD

 

Don’t Be a Rockstar & Other Pro-Tips for New UX Designers

 

User Onboarding: How to Get the Little Things Right

 

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

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May 12 2018

09:47

Comics of the Week #434

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…

Left brain search

Ironic poster

 

Copyright violator

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

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May 11 2018

14:45

Google Finally Makes .App Available

It’s been three years since Google spent $25 million on the rights to the .app domain. Finally, the company is making this top-level domain available for purchase. Early access ended May 8th. And the domain is now up for public purchase.

Why is this so important? For obvious reasons, .app will be ideal for all app developers. The .app domain allows for new domain names that might have previously been taken, as well as makes it easier to remember. 300-500 websites are created each minute, so this opens a lot of new doors for app developers.

Google came out and said that they are not limiting purchases to app developers exclusively. Of course, it wouldn’t make much sense to use a .app domain for something other than an app; but to each their own; Google isn’t restricting it, nonetheless.

Google is also requiring HTTPS for everyone using .app websites. Over the past few years, Google has increased security, and has the numbers to back it up. Last year, 64 percent of android users using Chrome were protected, and 42 percent the year before. This is all thanks to Google’s decisions, which include flagging websites using HTTP to send and receive private information. This year, Google has stated that they will be flagging all websites not using HTTPS as insecure, starting this July.

Before launching publically, Google sent private invitations to VIPs. Some of those that the reached out to are already live using .app names. Some of those users include Cash.app, Picnic.app, Trail.app, and many more. For a full list and to check a domain of your own, click here.

Google also came out and mentioned that the aim for this launch is to make domains affordable. They also mentioned that the prices for wholesale would be around $12-15 and full retail would be about $20. Not bad compared to .soy and .how.

This could mean big business for Google and registering developers alike. Hurry up and get registered while domain names last!

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10:45

18 Twitter Accounts Every Web Designer Should Follow in 2018

When you think about social media marketing for your web design business, you may be inclined to focus on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Dribbble. After all, visuals play a major part in the conversations that take place there and you are in the business of creating engaging visual content.

That said, I would argue that Twitter is the best social media marketing platform for a web designer. This is especially so if you’re looking to do more than just show off samples of your work (which really isn’t a recommended practice anyway):

  • Follow web design experts and thought leaders;
  • Find inspiration for your own web design work;
  • Stay attuned to what’s happening in web design and web development so you can become the go-to-expert for your clients;
  • Have engaging conversations with other web designers;
  • Have engaging conversations with potential clients and fans of web design, in general.

Twitter isn’t a one-trick pony like some other social media platforms you might find yourself on. While you should still take time to be active on those, Twitter definitely is deserving of your time and energy. Mostly because of how many kickass web designers are there.

To make the most of Twitter, I would suggest you follow the right people from the very start. Not only will this help you build a base of high-authority web design experts around you, but it will also give you a wealth of information to tap into it whenever you want it (or perhaps even when you least expect it).

The following are some of the best web designer accounts you’ll find on Twitter. As you’ll see, they don’t spend time talking about irrelevant matters or sharing content without any thoughtful insights alongside them. These guys and gals know their stuff!

1. Abduzeedo/Fabio Sasso

Google designer and founder of the Abduzeedo design inspiration website, Fabio Sasso’s ABDZ account is a must-follow. His direct tweets demonstrate a real dedication to sharing the work of other designers while his retweets never fail to provide followers with relevant and insightful tips from other design experts.

2. Andy Sowards

Although Andy Sowards is a web designer (as well as programmer, gamer, and all-around geek), I’m not going to promote his Twitter account for that reason. Instead, I’m giving it a shout-out because this is exactly the kind of content freelance designers (or any freelancers managing their own businesses) should be seeing on a daily basis.

3. Brad Frost

Brad Frost is a Pittsburgh-based web designer, writer, speaker, and consultant. Clearly, he knows his stuff.

So, if you’re looking for someone who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to web design, and, more specifically, about has some really great practical advice on things like UI design and design systems, follow him.

4. Catherine Dionne

Catherine Dionne, UX Director of the Kryzalid web agency, has an interesting Twitter feed. It may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely worth following along if you’re interested in the future of user experience; specifically, in technologies like AI and blockchain that are expected to come even more into play in the coming years.

5. Chris Coyier

If you’re a fan of the CSS-Tricks website or you spend a lot of time on CodePen looking for CSS and JavaScript snippets to streamline and enhance your designs, you’re going to really enjoy Chris Coyier’s Twitter (he’s had a hand in creating both). His feed has a good mix of original tweets and retweets around CSS and web design.

6. David Teodorescu

David Teodorescu is a UX designer with an awesome Twitter stream to follow along with. Even if UX design isn’t your thing and you opt not to follow him, please do at least take the time to glance through some of his posts this year. He shares a lot of process-driven insights as well as tips on how to work smarter as a designer. There’s a lot to learn here.

7. Ethan Marcotte

So, uh, you know that whole responsive web design thing? Yeah, well, Ethan Marcotte is the one who coined the term back in 2010. It’s almost a decade later and it appears that he continues to be a web designer and thought leader worth listening to.

8. Heath Howard

Heath Howard has been designing websites since the early 2000s, which makes any insights or advice he has to give on the matter quite valuable.

There is a good mix of content here, from launching a new business to learning how to code websites with HTML5 and CSS. He also shares the occasional web designer/developer meme, so it’s also a worthy follow if you appreciate a good distraction every now and again.

9. Jeffrey Zeldman

Jeffrey Zeldman has been a designer since 1995, but most of you probably know him as the man behind the “Apart” brands (A List Apart, A Book Apart, An Event Apart). There is a good hodgepodge of posts, not all of which actually have to do with web design (like a post about tattoo design from April). I’d say that if you find something like this post entertaining, Zeldman is a good one to follow:

Nobody is at your website or app to gaze lovingly at your navigation. ‘I didn’t like the Grand Canyon itself, but I did enjoy the fonts they used on their signposts,’ said nobody, ever (except maybe a graphic designer).

10. Jen Simmons

Jen Simmons, Designer Advocate at Mozilla, has a pretty clear narrative that runs throughout her Twitter: CSS Grid is essential if you want to design well for the web.

Whether you already have an interest in using CSS to improve your skills as a web designer or you want to learn more about how grids can streamline and improve design results, this is a Twitter account you must follow.

11. Jonathan Torke

One of my favorite things about this account is how often Jonathan Torke posts to it. It’s obvious he has a lot to say about the state of web design, so I greatly appreciate this steady stream of insights. And they cover so much: UI, UX, JavaScript library suggestions, upcoming design trends, design technologies, and so on. It’s just a really great collection of design information from around the web that’s sure to both educate and inspire anyone who follows him.

12. Jon Phillips

Jon Phillips is a UI and UX designer whose Twitter feed is much like what you’d expect. He promotes content that not only gets other designers thinking about UI and UX in smarter ways, but it heavily promotes the research and planning parts of the design process. I’d say that if you find your own research and setup of web design projects to be lacking or you just want to get a better handle on it, check him out.

13. Justin Mifsud

If you want to get better about designing for the user experience, Justin Mifsud’s Twitter account is a great one to start with. He is the founder of UsabilityGeek and, yet, with all the posts you’ll encounter in his feed, you probably wouldn’t know it because of how much high-quality content he shares from other awesome usability sources.

The best part is that he usually isn’t in the habit of throwing up a link and copying just the title into the message. He lends real personal insights to his posts, so you know he’s taken time to read the article and extract something valuable from it as well.

14. Katrin Suess

UX designer Katrin Suess has what I like to call a very vibrant Twitter feed. Yes, she shares content about user experience design. But there’s something very well-rounded about what she offers here. You’ll find content that has to do with SEO and marketing, for instance, which is great because it acknowledges that there’s more to web design than just the heavy-duty UX work that gets a lot of airplay.

15. Kostas Hatzis

Kostas Hatzis’s feed is a really well-rounded aggregation of web design, graphic design, and UX design articles from around the web. I would say this is a must-have regardless of what your particular specialty or areas of interest are. And you have topics ranging from fun and controversial (like “5 Times Nudity Shook the Graphic Design World”) to practical applications (like “Lesser known CSS quirks & advanced tips”).

16. Luke Wroblewski

Luke Wroblewski has worked for a number of high-tech, forwarding-thinking companies like Yahoo and eBay, which is a solid testament to his prowess as it pertains to the web. While he has done a lot in the way of designing products, I would say that his insights into UI design (especially for mobile interfaces) would be incredibly helpful for the modern web designer.

17. Val Head

What’s really great about Val Head’s Twitter account is that she shares content that is truly click-worthy. And it’s not just because it has to do with the subject of user interface design and animations (which isn’t always the case, though it’s the majority of it). No, it’s because she shares thoughts like this that really provoke followers to read more:

Why does brutalist web design even exist? Maybe it’s the bad influence we all need.

18. Webdesigner Depot

How could we possibly conclude a list of inspirational Twitter accounts without appending our own. Webdesigner Depot’s Twitter account is the best account to follow if you’re looking for community and inspiration, design news, tools, resources, and more.

Wrapping Up

Whatever it is you seek—more valuable social media connections, inspiration for your web design work, or a chance to engage more with your community—these web designer Twitter accounts are a great place to start.

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May 10 2018

14:45

Material Design Redesigned

Material Design came into the world in 2014, announced at the Google I/O conference. It combined and reinforced many of the concepts of flat design that designers at large had already embraced; it also enhanced it a bit. Material Design was also one of the first major design systems to stray back into skeuomorphic territory with its subtle drop shadows, and emphasis on approximating a tactile or “material” interface.

Nowadays, we just call it 2.5D, but I want to start calling it “skeuomorphish”, so that’s what I’m going to do. Anyway, Material Design has become a hugely popular design system, with many people using it to get their apps and websites out faster. And now, Google has made that even easier.

Enter the redesigned material.io. Google has revamped the entire experience of the site, added new documentation, new downloads, and new tools. All of this information is now divided into three main sections:

  • Design
  • Develop
  • Tools

Design

This is possibly the meatiest section of the site because it’s where they put all of the theory. It’s a design system first and foremost, after all. The code used to implement it is almost incidental.

Here you’ll find an overview of all of the major concepts from Environment, to Shape, to Communication. It gets pretty in-depth. There’s also a pretty large section that deals with the individual UI components of the system, how they’re supposed to be used, etc.

There’s also a section full of general guidelines, and a very interesting set of case studies of real apps built using Material Design. If nothing else, go check that out to see all the different ways you can implement one single design system.

Develop

This part of the website is the bit developers (hence the name) will be looking for. It basically just offers code-related documentation for each and every UI component. The cool thing is that you can find the components in four flavors (so far):

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Web
  • Flutter (Google’s own cross-platform mobile app SDK)

Tools

Lastly, we have a small but useful (and presumably growing) collection of tools.

Material theme editor

This one is interesting: It’s a Sketch plugin that’s designed to help you quickly and easily make global changes to your implementation of Material Design. Basically, it’s there to help you implement your own branding with the system. Sketch users will no doubt love this.

Icons

This is just what it says on the tin: a massive set of icons to use in your apps. They come in five aesthetic flavors, too. Well, they’re all monochrome, but if you implement them with the provided icon font, or download them as SVGs, you can quickly change that through CSS whenever needed.

Color tool

Basically, it’s just a color palette generator, but it’s specifically designed for Material. It gets the job done.

Gallery

Last but not least, the gallery is basically Google Drive for stuff built with Material Design. It’s designed to host Sketch files, so you can inspect them. The service itself can link you to relevant developer resources for Material Components, when appropriate. And naturally, you can share your work, and collaborate on projects.

In Summary

For anyone looking to dive into Material Design, this is probably one of the most complete resources out there. It will also be the place to look to find information on the system’s newest components, and I have no doubt that they’ll release more tools. If Material is your thing, material.io is exactly where you should be starting.

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April 23 2018

06:06

How Does Free Graphic Design Software Stack Up?

Graphic design is an easy kind of business to manage, but a difficult one to get started in. Until you have built up a decent number of regular clients, you may find you must watch every penny closely. If you are in this situation, the prices of popular graphic design software will be quite a shock.

One of the true luxuries of running your own graphic design studio, however, is that you’re not locked in to using any particular software as you would probably be if you were an employee of somebody else. That means you’re at liberty to use whatever helps you get the job done efficiently.

The idea of free graphic design software may sound exciting, but is it really up to the task? Will it allow you to create professional quality work without the high cost? Let’s find out.

1. PhotoShop vs GIMP

 GIMP default interface

GIMP is often touted as a replacement for PhotoShop, but this isn’t strictly true. GIMP does not come with everything PhotoShop has, because the GIMP developers wanted to create a lean application that does not have bloat. In consequence, most of those “missing” features are still available, but have to be added in after you have installed GIMP.

You can do almost anything in GIMP that you can do in PhotoShop, but some things (like creating primitives) require additional steps. Previously GIMP didn’t have as many features as PhotoShop, but it is gradually drawing level, and may one day overtake it.

 GIMP in Single Window mode

GIMP advantages:

  • Free. You’ll save at least $600 compared to buying PhotoShop, and significantly more over the long term because there’s no upgrading or subscription fees.
  • Open source. This is good for many reasons too complex to tackle in this article, however you can read Advantages of Open Source Software if you want a quick summary of the primary advantages.
  • Cross-Platform. GIMP works on just about every major operating system, plus a few minor ones. PhotoShop definitely does not do that.
  • No licensing worries. Because it’s free, GIMP can be installed on as many computers as you want, and it can be shared freely.
  • Easier to use. A bit of a controversial point because people who have a lot of experience in PhotoShop don’t relish the idea of learning a new system, but GIMP actually is a lot easier to use.
  • Dockable detached tool bars. Most people who are migrating from PhotoShop will initially prefer GimpShop or GimpPhoto instead of authentic GIMP, but actually the detached toolbars of GIMP are a strength, not a weakness. If you’re not aware of their power, it’s because you’re not working in a multi-screen environment (and you definitely should be).  You can throw all your tool bars onto one screen and work on the image in the other, which means you can see more of your image at a higher zoom level, with no pesky toolbars getting in the way.
  • One-way PhotoShop compatibility. This means you can open PhotoShop images in GIMP, use most PhotoShop filters and brushes in GIMP, and export GIMP files to PhotoShop format. However the reverse is not true. PhotoShop can’t open GIMP files, save to GIMP format, or use brushes and filters that were designed exclusively for GIMP.
  • Uses less resources. PhotoShop is a hungry beast in comparison to GIMP. The entire core GIMP package installs in under 20MB of space, while PhotoShop requires about a gigabyte. PhotoShop also typically uses more CPU and RAM resources while running.

PhotoShop default interface

Advantages of PhotoShop:

  • Higher level of industry recognition. PhotoShop has for many years been so far at the top of image editing tools, it has almost achieved the same status in that field as Google has achieved in online searches.
  • Adjustment levels. You may need these, but not everyone does. GIMP only uses physical image layers.
  • Supports CMYK effortlessly. In fact PhotoShop was mainly designed for editing CMYK images. To get the same CMYK functionality in GIMP, you need to install it separately.
  • Supports RAW images. GIMP can only do this if you open it using UFRaw.
  • Single interface window. This is, in some ways, a disadvantage on multiple monitor set ups. Novice users, however, find it easier to deal with a single interface window. GIMP can support this in two ways. The obvious one is to use GimpShop or GimpPhoto. The built-in way is to choose “Windows → Single Window Mode”.

Final verdict: GIMP doesn’t replace all of PhotoShop’s functionality, but it replaces enough of it to make this software a serious contender. The difference in price, especially considering this is not the only software you’re going to need, is a major factor in favor of GIMP.

The best way may be to start with GIMP, customize it to work like PhotoShop (which is very easy) and then transition to PhotoShop once you find you truly have a need for the additional features.

2. Inkscape vs Illustrator

Adobe illustrator is the market leader in vector graphics, and indeed it has so many powerful features for the professional designer, it probably deserves to be so popular.

Inkscape is very capable too, however. Basically the situation is if you can’t draw something well in Inkscape, you won’t be able to draw it well in Illustrator either.

 Inkscape default interface

Advantages of Inkscape:

  • Free. You’ll save a lot of money by using Inkscape instead of Illustrator.
  • Open source. You can inspect the source code, modify it, recompile it, etc. You could even create your own entirely new vector graphics application based on Inkscape’s source code.
  • Cross-platform. Works on all major operating systems.
  • Easy to learn and use. Inkscape is a bit simpler than Illustrator, so it is easier to learn.
  • Imports more image types. This is self-explanatory.
  • Saves directly to SVG. Illustrator can do this too, but doesn’t do it as well, and you need to select it when you save, or your file will be stored in proprietary AI format. Inkscape defaults to SVG.
  • Easy object cloning. It’s amazingly easy to clone anything in Inkscape. Not only that, but the latest versions of Inkscape allow you to create tiled clones, so you can quickly create interesting patterns without all the work of manually positioning each tile.
  • Easy object duplication. What’s the difference between a clone and a duplicate? If you make a change to a cloned object, all of it’s clones will change as well. If you make a change to a duplicated object, only the active copy is changed.

 Adobe Illustrator default interface

Advantages of Illustrator:

  • Industry standard. Looks good when listed as a skill on your CV.
  • Supports gradient meshes. It’s not every day you’d be likely to need to make use of a gradient mesh, so whether this point is a deal-breaker depends on the kind of work you do. This advantage is being stripped away as you’re reading this, because the next release of Inkscape is going to include gradient meshes.
  • Allows more than one stroke color and fill color per object. When you draw a shape in Inkscape, every line of the shape border or path border is continuous and only one color can be used. Illustrator allows you to mix and match.

Final verdict: If you’re any good at drawing, there’s nothing you can create in Illustrator that you can’t create in Inkscape, but Illustrator offers a few extra tools that make the work a bit lighter. You can easily overcome Inkscape’s few limitations, however, so the decision to spend a lot of money on Illustrator needs to be considered carefully.

Before we sign off on Inkscape, there’s just one more myth to bust. Many people declare that Illustrator is better because Inkscape doesn’t do CMYK color. This simply isn’t true. Using a simple plug-in, you can create CMYK output.

3. Scribus vs InDesign

Scribus and InDesign share a common purpose, but that’s about all they share. Both are quite competent at DTP, but InDesign is a far more mature product.

 Scribus interface (image by Nicolas Vérité, CC2.0-SA)

Advantages of Scribus:

  • Free. You’ll save money using Scribus instead of InDesign.
  • Open source. Scribus could use some improvement. It’s open source nature allows for that.
  • Cross-platform. Scribus works on all major operating systems, plus a few more obscure ones.

InDesign interface (image by Mike , CC2.0-ND )

Advantages of InDesign:

  • More intuitive interface. Most users who have used both find it easier to learn InDesign.
  • Better text handling. Scribus still has some room for improvement when it comes to editing text. InDesign works perfectly.
  • Better documentation. If you need help with Scribus, you’ll spend a lot of time on Google and browsing forums. InDesign has mature documentation and plenty of additional support to call upon.

Final verdict: If you need to do a lot of DTP work, InDesign may give you better workflow, so it may be worth the investment. If you only occasionally dabble in DTP, Scribus can do virtually everything InDesign can do, and does it for free.

4. Blender vs Maya

Most graphic designers rarely need to delve into the cruel and punishing world of 3D images, but Blender (free) and Maya (proprietary) are the leading tools in 3D graphics creation and 3D animation.

 Blender interface (image by Dany123, CC3.0-SA)

Advantages of Blender:

  • Free. Which is amazing, considering how good it is.
  • Open source. If you want to change something, you don’t have to wait for somebody else to fix it. You can fix it yourself.
  • Cross-platform. Works on Windows, Mac, Linux.
  • Built-in game engine. This can be used for any kind of animation, plus simulated physics reactions.
  • Built in cloth simulator. If you need a flag to flutter in the wind, Blender makes that easy. There’s also a fluid simulator, but that’s not an advantage because Maya has it too.
  • Many add-ons available free or cheap. There are add-ons to let you easily generate trees, rocks, weeds, debris, roads, cities, people, and so on. Most of these are free or cost little compared to Maya add-ons.
  • More intuitive modeling system. It may depend slightly on your personal style, but many people who have worked with both find Blender’s modeling system more intuitive.

 Maya interface (image by Mr Ben, CC-3.0SA)

Advantages of Maya:

  • None.

Final verdict: Blender wins this one really easily, because Maya costs so much and doesn’t deliver anything really special. On the other hand, Blender is free and does deliver a lot. You can do really incredible things with both items of software. Maya is really great, but so is Blender, and the latter just happens to be free.

Something else to think about: on average it might take up to two years to make a feature-length animated film, and if you’re using Maya, you’ll probably spend quite a lot of money just keeping your software and expensive paid add-ons up to date.

So does free graphic design software really stack up?

The answer is a solid maybe. So much depends on what you want to do and what you need to do. What we can say with some certainty is that most of the popular free graphic design software, with the exception of Scribus, is good enough to get you off to a decent start.

The software you use is not what makes you a great designer. It’s how you use the software, your talent, and your attitude to getting the job done that makes all the difference to the quality you can provide to clients.

header image courtesy of 

The post How Does Free Graphic Design Software Stack Up? appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

April 12 2018

14:19

Freebie: 100 Awesome Photos from Moni’s Photo

Moni is a young artist who loves photography. On Moni’s Photo you can download all the photos for free and use them for your personal and commercial projects.  Moni’s Photo covers various topics from business and technology to nature, animals and more.

All photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CCO) license which means you can copy, modify, distribute and use them for free, including commercial purposes.

Download the best 100 photos beneath the previews.

Get the free photo pack from here.

The post Freebie: 100 Awesome Photos from Moni’s Photo appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

March 28 2018

12:43

The Best Ways to Quickly Publish a Blog or Website

Every business needs an online presence. A blog or a website is necessary, and it is preferable to have both at once. Social media is optional, although some would have you think otherwise.

The principle purpose of your social media, if you have it, should be to help boost the profile of your blog or website. The opposite is not true.

The importance of having a website or blog is so determinative in terms of reaching the full potential your business can achieve that it’s really not something you should delay implementing for too long.

Before you can sell or persuade, people need to be able to find you. The easiest way to get found is to have a website telling people who you are, where you are, what you have, and why they should do business with you.

You need that online presence established now. So what’s the best way to achieve that goal as quickly as possible? That’s the topic of this article.

First, have some idea of what you want to say

Far too often business owners rush to get their website online without actually having anything meaningful to say. As mentioned above, the minimum your website should contain is:

  • Who you are – the company name, and optionally the names behind the name
  • Where you are – the physical location of your business (city, at least)
  • What you have – description and images of the goods and services you offer
  • Why people should do business with you – there are thousands of other businesses competing with yours for attention. You must have some competitive advantage to help you stand out from others, and you’ll need to make it as obvious as you can.

illustration courtesy of deomis 🔹

Those are the bare minimums you should include on your website or blog, but you can certainly include more information. You can never have too much content on your site, you can only have too little.

But quantity of content is not what you’re really aiming for. Quality is the most important factor, and that is in terms of:

  • The usefulness of the information to your audience
  • The presentation of the information
  • The user experience (UX) factor

Should you fail on any of these criteria, the success of your site will suffer, and in turn the success of your business will be affected.

The golden rule of business websites is you should publish quickly, but never without a plan.

Site should be adapted to fit the content

Another common mistake many people make is to choose pre-made templates and then massage their content to fit the style of the template. This is a wrong approach for many reasons.

The main reason is because it limits what you can show, which will diminish the usefulness and presentation of the information (two of our main criteria listed above). The other reason is because your site risks being too generic. It won’t stand out because it lacks sufficient customization.

If you’re not great at coding and design, go ahead and use a generic template, but choose one that is very open and easy to modify later. A template that is too complex may look “impressive” but it will make it much more difficult for you to update your site in the future.

illustration courtesy of 

Keep your focus on the content

Everyone wants a good looking website, but that should not be your priority in the initial stages. Your priority should be to get your content online so Google can start indexing your content as soon as possible.

Once your content is published, you can go back in and add things to make it look more beautiful. Getting page rank is more important because Google is more likely to see your page before any humans do, and the robots from Google care more about things like quality content and accessibility than they do about aesthetics.

In fact, they’ll possibly rank you higher initially for a website that doesn’t have a lot of background design because the page will load that much faster. After genuinely improving the look of the site, it’s unlikely you will lose rank.

Getting attention from Google early is good for you because apparently Google keeps the rank of a new site artificially low for some time after it is created. Once your site has been online for sufficient time, Google allows it to rank naturally. For some reason, Google equates longevity with trust.

In general it takes around six months for Google to stop thinking of your site as a “new” site, and at that point you will normally see some improvement in your page rank as long as you haven’t ignored any other SEO factors that would be detrimental to your rank.

Choose an appropriate publishing technology

There are plenty of different ways to publish a website, but remember that our goal is to get our site online as quickly as possible. You don’t want to rush it too hastily and publish without a plan, but you also don’t want to be waiting weeks to get online because every day counts.

With it taking approximately six months to attain rank, every extra day is costing you potential business and page position. So let’s cut to the chase.

You need to choose a publishing platform that will allow you to get up and running in the fastest time. Currently the two leading contenders in this category are SquareSpace and WordPress.

Rather than going through all the details of comparing them here in this article, we’ll just link you to a comparison that already exists. Go check out this excellent side-by-side comparison of SquareSpace vs WordPress and then come back to read the rest of this article to find out what to do next.

illustration courtesy of 

Build the site

Now that you’ve chosen an appropriate technology to help you get your site online quickly, and you have a solid plan of what you’re going to create, it’s time to actually build it.

This doesn’t have to be your final website design. In fact, what you create at this stage may look nothing like your eventual website will look. The important thing is getting your content online and indexed by Google. All the beautification can be done at a later time.

You’ll simply begin adding your content in an appropriate way to the site template you’re using. Ideally we think it should be the simplest and least feature-rich template possible, so you can come back later and customize it heavily (and you’ll avoid that generic website look), but it’s fine if you find some awesome template that you can’t resist.

Just remember to make it sufficiently different to what everyone else using the same template has done, or you’ll look like you don’t care about creating a good site.

If you have skills to design and code the site yourself, go right ahead and do it. If you don’t have much confidence in your skills, consider hiring people to help you out

You’ll save time by getting help, so your site will be online faster. You’ll also have the chance to use the time you save to learn the skills you need to learn, which could be valuable in the future.

Test the site

Launching without testing is a fatal mistake. This doesn’t just mean opening it up in a browser and looking at it. You need to actually have somebody read the site and give you feedback. The more people who do this, the better.

Take notes at this stage, but don’t do anything with them. That’s for your redesign stage that comes after launching your site.

illustration courtesy of 

Launch the site

Congratulations, you are ready for your site to go live. Remember this is not your actual site that you’ll be keeping in perpetuity. It is your early version site that you’re just publishing as quickly as possible for a robot to read.

Once you’ve launched the site, the clock starts ticking on your first robot read, and the six month wait to get a proper Google rank begins reducing from that point forward. But this is no time to rest on your laurels.

Start your redesign immediately after launch

This is the time you will return to the feedback you received and start making improvements. You’ll update the design, add new content, fix and extend the navigation, create internal and high value external links, and you’ll do all this while following the best practices to avoid the wrath of Google from descending upon you.

The three reasons you waited until now to do the redesign include:

  • You need the content up quickly. That’s the priority every time, as long as the content itself is correct and not full of errors. Do spend some time to craft that, and also consider hiring a professional copywriter to create compelling content for you.
  • Google rewards you for updating your content, and the more regularly it’s updated, the better. The exception is if you update your content with duplicate content that was lifted from another site. That will have negative consequences.
  • You have plenty of time now to relax and do the job properly, crafting an incredibly good design with no pressure. You’ll get the best result and you can easily slide that clever background design and extra functionality in behind your existing content.

Publishing your website quickly is a great idea, and if you follow the advice above, you’ll get the best results while avoiding the common mistakes that lead to failure.

header image courtesy of 

The post The Best Ways to Quickly Publish a Blog or Website appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

March 26 2018

07:12

Exclusive Freebie: E-commerce Icon Set

Add a touch of class to your shopping site! This Flaticon E-Commerce Icon Collection has everything you could think of for both your personal and business needs. These icons are set in a range of attractive colours that can really liven up both your business and website endeavours.

Each icon is available to download in the SVG and PNG formats. Furthermore you can find more e-commerce styles on the Flaticon website. Free for personal and commercial use!

Download this awesome pack as SVG from here

For the PNG files check here

The post Exclusive Freebie: E-commerce Icon Set appeared first on Inspired Magazine.

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