Online retailers are always looking for how to best provide an enjoyable online shopping experience for their customers. The online competition is fierce. With so many options, how does a retailer make sure to retain its customers, acquire new customers, and continue to increase conversions? In short, a retail web design must provide a human experience. Web designers must go beyond basic usability to create a user experience akin to human interactions….
Articles by ‘Tara Hornor’
Freelancing is quite addicting. Being your own boss, setting your own hours, working from your favorite location, just to name a few. But every freelancer knows that the job comes with more than a few difficulties: dealing with clients, accounting, invoicing. And then there’s the part where you have to know how to sell yourself well enough that clients keep knocking on your door for more work. Your freelance website is one way to make sure that this happens…
Whether designing an app or working on your website’s mobile design, there are a few key elements every successful mobile design must have. In fact, these highly critical components are so important that without them, you won’t be able to design what your client really needs. And today, more and more users interact with content via their mobile devices, many times more often than a desktop device, so make doubly sure that your mobile design makes sense, is usable, and looks stellar!
While I can’t go into great detail in a single article, I want to give you some food for thought on each of these paramount elements. As a quick overview, I’ll be going over…
User interface design has to do with both the outer layer of a design and the placement of elements in the design, whether it be a website or an app. In simple terms, UI design refers to everything that users can see. However, the more important meaning involves the usability of a design. Just as with a street sign, if the design doesn’t provide clarity, then confusion can occur and scare users away, often permanently.
Of course, talking about the usability gets messy when it comes to terms. Many argue about the actual definition of labels such as UI and UX (user experience), and, really, it’s kind of a moot point here. After all, the “prettiness” and other visual aspects (UI) also have much to do with the usability side of design (UX), and this is why the terms UI and UX (user experience) are often used interchangeably, or at least why UX is more of an umbrella term under which UI falls and somewhat crosses. Because, really, both have to work together to really make a design stellar.
I like how Marci Ikeler puts it in a Quora forum on the difference between UX and UI designers: “Generally, what they [the company placing an ad] mean is: the UI/UX designer is a person who is responsible for strategizing, organizing, and executing an interface that accomplishes that company’s business goals.”
As a UI designer, you should definitely know the common – and not so common – mistakes made on various designs so that you can better help your client meet goals. If you know what to keep in mind while designing, you’ll be much more likely to create a website that matches your client’s description of “easy to use but makes a huge impression and leaves viewers with the right impression of our business so they buy lots of our stuff, forever and ever.” And, if your client insists on including any of the UI design mistakes listed below, you can make a valid argument for refusing…politely of course…
There’s just something authentic, nostalgic, and beautiful about hand painted signs. It’s one of those artsy designs that get me into a creative mood quite easily. I’ve even had to create a few of my own hand drawn or hand painted signs before and found out very quickly that my handwriting is atrocious when it comes to signage. This got me to thinking: what if there are hand drawn fonts out there that can easily fool people into thinking a sign was handwritten?
Sure enough, I found plenty of hand drawn fonts for reproducing hand painted signs, without using your hands. You just need a font or two with characters that look a bit scrawled, possibly wobbly, and – even better – ones that include alternates to really give each letter a more unique look. After all, when I write by hand, none of my A’s look exactly alike.
In the list below, I included both free and premium fonts so that you can find one within your or your client’s budget. And I tried to include a wide variety of styles while remaining within the hand painted signs look. Most are somewhat new, but I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple oldies but goodies because, well, a classic is a classic no matter how old it is…
Every website today should have an interactive design on some level. Why? In simple terms, interactive design makes a connection between the digital world and humans. Basically, interactive websites are designed for easy use. And who doesn’t want a website that users navigate confidently?
Interactive designs provide quite a few more benefits than just user confidence. They help with organization of a large amount of content. Interactions also increase time on site, meaning that people spend more time learning about a service or product. This in turn increases the chances that they will use the services or products.
Now, a great many websites probably only need anywhere from a small to a medium amount of interaction to create that connection between a website and a human, for instance, clickable buttons that change color or animate when hovered on. Only a few need the high level of interaction such as the examples I discuss below…
Creativity in web design, graphic design, illustration, and any other creative profession is an integral part of daily life. And if you, as a creative professional, have ever experienced a creative block, you are certainly not alone. Keeping the creative juices flowing and fresh day in and day out can take a toll after awhile, but some daily practices can be the medicine you need.
Even if your dream and your passion is web design, a daily job in this field can suck the passion right out of you. And believe me, as an online writer for over 7 years, I feel the suckage right down to my very bones. So, this article is as much for you as it is for me!
If you have come to the point where walking up to your computer to start work each day (or night, depending on your routine) leaves you feeling drained, then it’s time to make changes. Below are some daily practices you can start to enhance creativity. I know that “daily practices” can sound a bit intimidating, but most of them are very easy, will add only a few minutes to your day, and are actually quite fun. I have tested them all, and found out that all work for me, with varying degrees and with different twists. So, like me, you’ll need to pick the ones that work best for you, and add them to your daily routine in a way that works for you to really renew your creative flow…
You as a web designer have the responsibility to suggest the right style and amount of animation necessary. A website should have enough humanity (via motion) for viewers to connect but not so much animation that it distracts from the message. Animation should increase the usability of a site, not make it more confusing to navigate. But of course, the nature of some websites allow for much heavier animation than others.
The following are 10 websites that utilize animation in varying degrees. Some are fully interactive animated websites, while others only include animation in certain sections of the design. All are great examples of when and how animation works for a variety of purposes…
Designers who keep up with the latest tricks, tools, resources, and trends remain competitive much more easily than those who never check in on what’s new. And one of the easiest ways to keep your skills sharp and savvy as a graphic or web designer is to follow the best design blogs in the industry.
The only problem? There are way too many to choose from, it seems, especially if you are a newbie to online blogs. And, not every design blog is worth your time. So, I have put together a list of web and graphic design blogs that are my favorite and what I believe to be the best for a designer’s “continuing education.”
While there are many more excellent blogs to be found, the following list is limited to those geared to both graphic and web designers as well as developers. The list excludes blogs of a purely inspirational nature, since these, while certainly inspiring, don’t offer much in the way of actual skills. Another important part of this list are several blogs that offer freelance/ business advice and a few that help designers stay on top of the latest industry news.
Now I know that you don’t have the time to follow all of these, but my recommendation is to browse through each one and subscribe to those that interest you the most. You can always unsubscribe later if you find that some of the design blogs aren’t helpful to you…
Being a freelancer is hard work. Not only do you have to keep up with work projects but you also have to keep track of invoicing, communicating with clients, marketing yourself, and even making sure you have enough work for upcoming months to keep bills paid. This can make freelancing quite time consuming and exhausting. Thankfully, there are solutions to keep clients flowing in without taking away from the actual money-making tasks.
Bringing in new clients can be less of a pain and time suck with the right methods, and seasoned freelancers are just the ones to ask. The following 11 freelancer designers are experts in the field and have a lot of experience in client acquisition. So, we asked these experts the same question:
What advice can you give on finding new clients and/or making yourself visible enough that your work queue remains full?
While their answers vary slightly, most of them show that gaining new clients can become almost automated, if you put in the right leg work in the beginning. As you read through the advice below, you may want to think about which fits you the best. Every freelancer varies in their gifts and skills, so pick the method that will be easiest for you to keep up with until the time comes to let your efforts bring the clients to you…
One way to make a larger than life impression with your web design is with a fullscreen video background. I’m not sure if it’s the same for anyone else, but when I visit a website with a high quality fullscreen video right there above the fold, I am mesmerized. And suddenly, I justify the time to explore around the site to find out more about this wonderful organization that stated its message so artfully and gave me such a powerful feeling.
Now, notice I said “high quality” in my statement above. I’m sure most of you have come across websites with a video background that caused your opinion to drop several bars. So have I, and it’s less than disappointing. Usually my experience with these slow loading, poor quality fullscreen video designs ends up with me frustratingly exiting the website as quickly as possible. Fullscreen video backgrounds only work if they have the following components…
With over 160 million visitors per month, IMDb (which stands for Internet Movie Database) can easily claim the title of the most popular movie database on the web. However, many would agree that the website is in dire need of an update. The app, while much better organized than the website, could use some changes as well. And really both the site and app should have a similar appearance instead of the current problem of neither looking much alike.
Many designers have taken it upon themselves to update the IMDb design. In fact, there are a lot of IMDb redesign concepts out there, but not all are any better than the current design. The following list, though, include some really fantastic redesign concepts. Some of the designs below would be excellent as is. Others have some great ideas but are a bit incomplete. All, however, are worth taking a closer look at on the designer’s portfolio, so be sure to click on your favorites to see more of the designer’s explanation for different design elements…
The age-old battle between designers and their clients rages on. Your client expects a certain type of design from you. They give you examples of what they want. Then they share their goal for this design, and your heart sinks. You know that they need something entirely different than what they expect to accomplish this goal.
Steve Jobs said something very wise about designing a product for a customer: “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And the same is true of design clients.
Now, of course, some clients are the perfect client. They tell you their needs, their goals, and may even give you a couple of examples, but they leave the whole of the project up to you. When you present your design, they are in love and can’t wait to hire you for their next project.
But many times, designers have to be prepared to either sell their soul (i.e. creative pride) to get paid or be prepared to walk away from a project into which they have already put too much time. Any time you cross a client, you will probably need to be prepared for one of these worst possible outcomes. Remember the saying, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”?
Very often, you may only have to compromise a little on your design pride to get to the invoicing part of the job. But disagreeing with a client’s opinion is no light matter, which is why you need to know exactly why you should not always design to client expectations…
A creative resume or curriculum vitae is one document you can’t skimp – and this is true for anyone but especially designers and other creative professionals. When applying for a job, the first impression you create is the strongest and longest lasting one. The same is true when making contact with a new potential client. That first impression has to help you stand out from your competitors.
Most of the time, that first impression is made online via an online application, your website, an email, or even social media. Hopefully, you already have a strong website, either a personal portfolio or your freelance business site. And hopefully your social media pages continue your personal or business brand look and feel. But what about your resume?
While Amazon.com started out as a small ecommerce store selling only books, it grew into the world’s largest retailer in a relatively short amount of time. This impressive company has now expanded into a retailer of almost any product you could ever want or need (including fresh groceries), publishing, instant streaming, and much more.
Being in the spotlight makes it, of course, vulnerable to criticism, including the design of its website and apps. But many of these critiques are not over-reaching since it wouldn’t be hard to find many to agree the site is a bit cluttered.
As such, lots of different Amazon redesign concepts have emerged over the past few years. Some create an entire new look for the site. Others only make a few changes to the interface to clean up the design a bit. And while all have differing opinions on how Amazon and its apps should look, all support the similar idea that it may be time for a touch up to the Amazon designs. Let’s take a look!…
Telework teams are becoming very common these days, especially with the growing amount of tools available to help companies keep remote employees accountable. In fact, an article on telecommuting in the NYTimes.com mentions that “those who work at home tend to put in longer hours and are often more productive.” Small business owners and freelancers can certainly vouch for this and know just how beneficial building a team remotely can be, even if only for single projects…if you have the right team building techniques in place, that is.
The entire process can be a bit intimidating if you have never used a virtual team before now. Hire the wrong members, and you could get burned pretty badly and may even lose valuable clients. Without the right processes, possibly even training, and of course the right technology, building effective teams is nearly impossible.
On the other hand, using team building techniques that have been tested by those who have forged the road before you can make your experience a very positive one. A telework team can save you money, time, and energy, providing you with a much better outcome for your clients than you could have produced on your own.
So, where to start? With the hiring, right? Wrong. Before you ever start looking for your team members, you first need to come up with a plan. The same NYTimes.com article from above points out that telecommuting “works best when a company has developed a plan, including the best technology to use.” The following will take you from the very beginning, your plan of action, to the actual management of your team using the right resources. Of course, you have to decide what works best for you, but these tips should give you a great starting point for the best possible results in building a team no matter the length of your project…
The Facebook news feed has needed an updated look for awhile now. It’s understandable, though, that Facebook hasn’t redesigned the site. Users have learned the layout, buttons, and links. A redesign, especially a major one, could meet with lots of protests and complaints. I wouldn’t want to deal with all of that.
On the other hand, a redesign would probably provide Facebook with a huge publicity boost that would be worth the angry tweets. And, let’s face it, anyone who felt strongly enough to boycott Facebook would be back once they got to the unbearable stage of withdrawals.
But, there is no rumor in sight to indicate Facebook will make a change any time soon. Still, it’s fun to play “what if,” which is what we can do with the following Facebook redesign concepts. The following concepts are really impressive, even those that are a bit incomplete. Yet, even the ones that leave out some key elements that would need to be included give us a good glimpse of just how fun a new design could be. Some of these redesigns are even of the iOS and Android apps, which are also a bit outdated.
So, take a look at these Facebook redesign concepts…
Online marketing is one of the more important aspects of a successful business, large and small alike. For freelance graphic designers, web designers, web developers, or other freelance creatives, a strong online marketing push in the beginning of your freelance career could be THE factor upon which your future rests. Sure, you gotta have skills too, and people skills, and so on and so forth. But if all of these other aspects are in place but no one can find you, well, then, you may as well be stuck in a hole.
Even if you are one of the lucky few graphic designers who gains clients right away from referral after referral until the end of your days, you still need some basics in place just in case your referrals decide to look you up before trying you out. A strong and positive online presence usually gives the impression that you are an expert in your field. But how, exactly, is a strong and positive presence on the web achieved? The answer to this question can be found in the resources below, and the exciting part is that they are all fabulously free.
Photography is one of those skills that comes in handy for any creative career. If you know how to take and edit a great photograph, then you can save yourself some time and make a little extra money. Of course, some jobs will simply require the work of an experienced professional, but very often as a graphic or web designer, your client may not be able to afford the high costs. And you can offer photography as an extra service to add on to the invoice. First, though, you will need to find some learning resources for DIY photography before advertising this service, and photography tutorials – both videos and articles – are an excellent place to start…
Well, they’ve finally done it. Microsoft has announced that it is removing its clipart from the Office Suite and replacing it with a Bing Image Search. After years of no one actually using the product, it was definitely time for it to die. In fact, it was probably safe to assume that the Office clipart has been dead to designers and developers since, well, always. And most of you readers already know that much better alternatives abound…
Searching for the perfect modern font for your brand can be quite exhausting and overwhelming with the incredible amount of font collection websites available. It does help if you have some specifics lined out first, such as the look you want your font to portray, and of course as a brand, you will also need […]
It’s that time of year again when nearly every business is offering holiday sales and specials as consumer activity increases by leaps and bounds. You may even know of fellow freelancers who offer discounts for the holidays, but is this something that you should do as a freelance designer? Do holiday sales hurt or help graphic design freelancers?
The first thing to realize in order to answer the above questions and ultimately decide whether or not to extend discounts is that every freelancer is different. You have different goals than the freelancer just down the street from you. And not just because you are a graphic or web designer. Discounts may work for the web designer across town but not for you – it all depends on your unique situation…
What defines success and “making it”? Not everyone has the same definition for successful freelancers. For some, it could be to become wildly famous in the industry. For others success may come when they can pay their bills as their own boss. For still more, a successful freelancer may be one who works with lucrative or infamous clients.
The freelance graphic and web designers and developers below fall into at least one of these above categories for freelance success. Some of them were formally trained and some self-taught. A few of them worked for agencies before going freelance. Others have been freelancing from the beginning. They all seem to specialize in more than one skill set, even if they have one niche that seems to draw them most of the time. One thing is for sure, though: each of the following stories are quite inspiring…
One of the most common fights my husband and I had in the beginning of our marriage involved getting tasks done. Whether it was as small as carrying in groceries or as big a task as moving, he always wanted to take time to figure out the most efficient way to get the job done, while I just wanted to hit it head on and get it done without wasting any more time. After all, on smaller tasks, I often had it done by the time he had come up with a plan. On the other hand, he ended up saving us a lot of time and energy with the methods he’d develop for the bigger tasks.
We both finally came to see that one-time, small tasks were easier to do my way – just get ’em done. But for large tasks, I now wait for him to come up with a plan-of-action before getting started. And I’ve also realized that these principles apply to freelance work – for writers, graphic designers, web developers, or really anyone who works for him or herself. Some one-time tasks are simply easier to just get done. But those tasks that you will do over and over again, you can definitely come up with a plan and use the right resources for Designers to work smarter, not harder…
In a way, each one of us is creative, and many of us are fortunate enough to be able to have creative careers as well. We are writers, designers, programmers, and creative tactical workers, and we chose the careers we did because we grew attached to the particular form of creative work we discovered.
Now, if only we could be creative — and genuinely enjoy that creativity — all the time. That creative focus we get now and then doesn’t last forever, and it most certainly doesn’t have an ‘on’ switch. All creative jobs, even those that we are passionate about, eventually end up becoming boring.
So how can we continue to stay engaged in our work? How can we reignite that creative spark we miss when we’re feeling discontent?
As one of the top social media networks in the world, Twitter’s design has to appeal to millions of users from multiple cultures, languages, and regions. So far, its design has worked well, especially its infinite scrolling feed with super convenient tweaks. For instance, Twitter allows users to view other users or a tweet in more detail and then exit back to the feed in the same exact spot in the list that they left off. This makes getting through a ton of tweets very quick and easy.
However, there are other areas of the design that are a bit more confusing. For instance, the arrangement of links to other pages and features simply is not intuitive. Plus, there are too many buttons, such as the Me button when you can already access your profile by clicking on your name in the left column. And, some may agree with me here, the look is a bit outdated. Twitter could really use some additional UX changes…
As a freelancer, I don’t get many opportunities to surround myself with similar creative minds to keep me sharp. While attending meet-ups and co-working can be great ways to engage with others, it can often be time consuming and expensive since I usually work from home.
Lately I’ve started listening to a variety of different podcasts for graphic designers while I’m doing tasks that don’t require as much concentration.
The great thing about podcasts is that I can keep my eyes on the task in front of me. And it’s a much more efficient use of my time, since I’m keeping up with industry news, learning about new apps, and learning new skills. Watching the latest season of my favorite TV show is, of course, more fun but arguably much more distracting.
So, in my search for podcasts over the past few months, the following 29 podcasts are the best ones I found in the freelance and graphic/web design industry. Some are specifically related to business topics that I find useful, while others are more for industry news or design skills. I also added a few of my favorites that are geared toward web development for those of you who enjoy coding more than designing.
As one of the most popular websites on the web, Craigslist certainly gets a lot of attention when it comes to the topic of redesigns. As a service, the idea is brilliant and that is why it is the huge success it is today. While the UX works fine, the design itself is quite controversial because it has only had minor updates in the past 15 years.
There seem to be two different thoughts on the design for Craigslist, hence the controversy. Some believe that the reason the UX works well is because the design is perfect for this site. Others believe that the reason Craigslist offers a positive user experience is simply because it has always been this way and everyone is comfortable using it.
All of the incredible Craigslist redesign concepts out there do seem to make it obvious the site needs to be updated. And I’m pretty sure that both parties on each side of the controversy may agree that the design is not very pretty and could use at least some more minor updates.
The following list includes a wide range of redesigns, from complete identity redesigns to a minimal update of the current website design. Browse through the list below to find out which one is your favorite and then feel free to leave your opinion in the comments below…
Gmail has needed a redesign for awhile now. The interface is quite cluttered and not at all easy to use, and the apps for iOS and especially Android are even worse. While drastic improvements have been made over the past few years, there could still be a lot of improvements made. Word has leaked that Gmail may be working on a redesign, and a pretty drastic one. Mashable explains the new Gmail features, which include some interesting additions such as Finance and Travel labels…
Good stories leave a lasting impression. Even if the audience can’t remember exact details, years down the road, they will still remember if it was “awesome,” “horrible,” “sad,” “funny,” and even to what degree of emotion the story evoked. Brands who have a strong story provide the same long term results as a movie or story. And just as with a poor or boring story that is easily forgotten, a brand without a stand out story is quickly forgotten and replaced.
Graphic designers, web designers, web developers, illustrators, design agencies, and others in the graphic design field have to stand out from the competition. If you have a unique skill set, then you probably won’t have trouble finding work or clients. But web designers and graphic designers seem to be found in abundance these days, so creating a brand that prospects and clients remember long after an encounter with you is vital.
Turning your graphic design brand into a memorable story is one powerful way to stand out from the online sea of designers. With a strong story, you make yourself more personal and, therefore, easy to approach. You make yourself real, and clients want to connect with real people, not a company. A story told well also evokes strong emotions, which last longer than a plot line, making it that much more likely that customers will remember you years down the road…
There are many articles to be found on how creative professionals can market on Twitter, Pinterest, even Linkedin. Yet not many seem to push Facebook as a social media focus specifically for web designers. Many experts mention LinkedIn, Twitter, Behance, Instagram, and other creative portfolios as top social media networks for creative professionals, and it’s easy to see why.
You have to go where your audience is. Web designers should market themselves to businesses, startups, non-profits, and one of the best places to connect with professionals in the corporate world is LinkedIn. Twitter is great for making connections with other web professionals who can lead you to new clients, and Behance is a common portfolio platform that many use for research.
Yet Facebook is also an excellent platform on which web designers can create important connections, and it doesn’t take as much time as you would think. You may decide that Facebook is not the platform for you to spend the majority of your time for social media marketing, but it still is too valuable to completely pass up.
Every one of your clients wants to (or at least should want to) stand out from their competition. To be distinguished is to be memorable. Your client’s job is to provide a solid business. Your job as a web designer is to make sure that they get both noticed in the first place and remembered so that they have an audience to whom they can demonstrate their excellence.
Creating a standout website design is not exactly the easiest task. It is much easier to pick a common layout and fill in the blanks or to pick a design trend and build a website around it. Neither of these methods will help you create a website that breaks the mold, though.
When writing most articles, I usually end up on some news blog at some point or another searching for facts, statistics, or a reference to back up my opinion. As a health nut, I often find myself browsing through nutrition or fitness blogs for updated findings on health.
The problem is that many of these informational or news websites make it extremely difficult to do what I do best when I need to digest a bunch of information in a short amount of time: skim the content quickly to pick up the main points. Why is so hard to skim these articles? Because the blogs break up the information into several pages. These multi-page articles (also called slideshow or pagination posts) require me to click somewhere on the page to get to the next section in the article, thereby forcing me to spend way more time than necessary reading an article.
Knowing how to create a strong brand is incredibly important whether you are a freelancer, own an agency, or have just graduated from school. In fact, for many web professionals, their business brand IS their personal brand since they are usually the sole provider of services to clients.
Web designers, developers, SEO experts, online marketers, and other Internet careerists have to make sure that their brand stands out in a unique way. After all, they are competing with thousands of others advertising their web services online. Another part of building a strong brand is the ability to connect emotionally with prospective clients. This way, clients feel more of a connection and even an investment in you, and therefore are more likely to turn to you when they need your services.
More and more people across the world are using their mobile devices to access digital content. According to eMarketer, mobile phone use will grow from 61.1% to 69.4% worldwide. The same article also claims that nearly one-fourth of the global population use a smartphone monthly, but by 2017, this number will increase to 50%.
American cell phone use has already surpassed the global numbers. The Pew Internet Research discovered that as of 2014, 90% of American adults own a cell phone, and 58% of those cell phone owners have a smartphone. Interestly enough, though, America only ranked number 13 in the 2013 list of countries with highest smartphone penetration. The top 5 in the list were United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Norway, respectively:
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