Articles tagged as ‘Design Process’

Guide to Completing Projects On-Time

Part of being a web designer (or any other type of service provider for that matter) is dealing with the reality that deadlines are going to be a part of your job. Deadlines often have a negative stigma, but they actually freelancers and independent designers to keep themselves on track and to promote efficiency and productivity, which will lead to a profitable business.

Last week I wrote about some various steps to achieving a productive workday, and in many cases your days will involve the need to meet deadlines, or at least to make progress towards meeting the deadlines at a later date. In this article we’ll take a look at 10 different things that you can do to help yourself in terms of meeting deadlines on client projects.

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15 Steps to a More Productive Workday

Freelance designers, as well as those who work for small design studios, often face the challenge of getting the most productivity out of their time and achieving maximum efficiency. While this can be a struggle for anyone in a more “typical” job, freelancers have added distractions, unique challenges, and no one to hold them accountable. To be a successful freelancer you’ll have to place a priority on productivity and find ways that work for you.

Each of us is unique and no process will work for everyone, but all of us have plenty of things that we can do to improve our workflow. In this article I’ll cover some of the lessons that I have learned through my own experience. For me, productivity is a constant goal, and always interested in finding new ways to get more out of my time. I’m far from perfect in these areas, but making consistent improvements. Hopefully some of these things will help you in your own work.

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Developing a Client Process from Inquiry to Project Completion

Efficiency and effectiveness are equally important to freelance designers and small design firms (and large ones as well, but that won’t be the focus of this article). There are obviously any number of different things you can do to improve your workflow or to produce a better end result for your clients. One area for potential improvement is systemization or standardization of process.

The process of designing and developing a website for clients is rather complex and involves a lot of different steps. First, there is the initial contact either through an online inquiry or maybe a referral. Then comes a quote for service, a contract, the opening stages of the design, client feedback, revisions, development, completion, final billing and record keeping. Of course, the exact steps may vary from one designer to another, but the point is that a lot goes into the complete process of taking a client from inquiry to the completion of the project.

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Goals of the Re-Design Process

Re-designing a website is more than just giving it an improved new look. The successes and shortcomings of the existing site are invaluable in knowing how to truly improve the site and make the re-design worth the time, effort, and cost. Like any site design/development, a clear set of goals and purposes should be established […]

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What Makes Someone Leave Your Website?

Part of having a successful website is attracting visitors. Keeping those visitors on your site, however, is another topic altogether. Of course, once you have the visitor on your site you’ll want to keep them around for a while rather than seeing them quickly leaving to go somewhere else.

In order to do a good job of retaining visitors, increasing pageviews and time on the site, it’s important to think about what could cause visitors to leave. By knowing some of the major reasons that people are leaving your site, you can make adjustments to improve this situation…

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Tips for Part-Time Web Designers

Freelance web design can be an ideal part-time business. Starting on a part-time basis allows you to gain valuable experience and ease your way into full-time status rather than taking the plunge and the risk that comes along with it. During a stint as a part-timer you can learn volumes about what it takes to […]

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Questions to Ask Yourself When a Design is Coming Up Short of Your Expectations

All designers struggle at times to get a design to achieve a look that they are thoroughly happy with. Many times we’ll have an idea that really seems like it will work, but when it’s executed in code or in PSD format it just doesn’t look complete. Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint a specific reason that the design isn’t quite right.

In this post we’ll take a look at some questions to ask yourself when a design is not living up to your expectations. These should put you on the right path to identifying and improving the trouble areas. These questions focus primarily on the design, not necessarily the effectiveness of the site overall, the usability, or the content.

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Top Photoshop Plugins for UI Designers

Adobe Photoshop is still the premiere editing suite for most graphic designers. It’s been around for over 20 years and has a massive library of Photoshop plugins for all types of creative work.

But of all the graphic design disciplines it seems UI design is one of the fastest-growing markets. This is why I’ve collected the most significant Photoshop plugins as they pertain to interface designers for web & mobile apps. You’ll find 20 recommendations of both free and premium plugins to dramatically improve your typical Photoshop UI design workflow.

Also if you’re a Sketch user then take a look at our list of Sketch plugins made specifically for UI designers…

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Elements Every Successful Mobile Design Must Have

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…

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Daily Practices to Overcome a Creative Block

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…

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Elements of Design: How to Find the Right Composition for Your Web Design

All elements of design – from typography to iconography – relate to the overall composition. Each full webpage offers an intimate feeling to visitors before they even notice smaller details. In this way, compositional design techniques are some of the most important things to learn regarding web design. To internalize composition, you’ll need to practice. A […]

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The Guide to Understanding Micro and Macro White Space in Web Design

Digital interface design follows many of the same rules as print design. Composition refers to the overall layout and white space plays a big role. Many things help to define a composition, but white space is one of the most important concepts to understand.

Learning to use white space is more about hands-on practice and experience. But you can absorb plenty of great ideas by studying how other websites are put together. I’ve organized some tips and general ideas to clarify the overall picture of white space and how it defines composition for website layouts…

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9 Crucial Tips To Help You Stop Procrastinating Now

The freelance designer has a job that many people envy. Being able to work from home or anywhere with an internet connection, having flexibility with working hours, avoiding a rush hour commute, and being able to wear whatever you want to work are some serious perks. However, working independently and working from home brings plenty of challenges as well. One of those challenges is procrastination.

In a typical job, you would have a boss that has a big influence on how you use your time and what you focus on. But when you are working on your own, it is up to you to stay on task, and procrastination can easily set in.

Sure, you have clients that you answer to, but they aren’t looking over your shoulder or able to see what you do with your time throughout the day. Without some discipline and a few tricks to beat procrastination, you can easily wind up missing deadlines and letting projects drag on for too long.

If you want to work more efficiently, get projects done faster, beat procrastination, and be more profitable, here are 9 tips to make it happen…

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Merging Responsive Web Design Ideas for Desktop & Mobile

Web designers have taken on many more roles in just the past few years. It’s now quite common to find designers who also specialize in frontend development, UX design, and even some backend development. One of the newest trends of responsive design is crafting a single base of HTML/CSS code which can fit properly into any browser window.

There is an intricate balance between desktop and mobile web browsers. Now more than ever it’s crucial that web designers find a balance for all users in every major website. Responsive web design is more than just supporting mobile devices – It’s truly about creating flexible layouts with page elements that can shift and rearrange themselves according to the current viewport.

In this post I’ll explore some responsive web design ideas to help get your creative juices flowing and hopefully leave you feeling ready to make some changes to your sites if needed…

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6 Crucial Interview Questions To Ask Clients Before Accepting a Job

As an agency owner, I often receive questions about our client and web project on-boarding process. When a lead comes in, what are the right interview questions to ask potential clients before accepting a job?

From a client’s perspective, I’ve noticed that asking technical or design-oriented questions causes more problems than not, and of course, we aren’t just hired hands. When a potential client contacts you, consider yourself a business consultant and approach their project as a solution to a problem they current have–not someone who takes the exact need of the client and blindly builds it on command.

To understand a potential client, you have to understand their problem. This is by far the biggest question you will be trying to solve in the discovery phase. After determining their problem, you must explore the scope, cost, and timeline of the project. You’ll notice most of these questions revolve around the project management concept of the triple constraint. Let’s dive in!…

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6 Efficient Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Work Smarter, Not Harder!

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…

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Five Key Practices To Keep Your Creative Job Engaging and Avoid Burnout

avoid-burnout

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?

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How To Wireframe iOS App Interfaces using Photoshop

fireside-ember-app-wireframes

Much like building a website, mobile app design is a very detailed procedure. Although it may not be sociological rocket surgery(some might say otherwise) but even the best app designers will spend years studying the craft and still have a lot to learn. One of the earlier stages in both website & mobile app design is called wireframing.

This is a bare-bones template of the layout which includes the most important page elements. Content should be kept to a minimum used sparingly on an as-needed basis. Wireframing pushes a direct focus onto the experience – basically how a user will interact with the application. Many designers prefer to draw these by hand but there’s always an option to design wireframes using graphics software.

In this post I’d like to offer an introductory guide to wireframing for iOS apps, and specifically how this can be accomplished using Adobe Photoshop. Other programs like GIMP or Sketch also work just fine. The goal would be to create a layered wireframe which can be edited and rearranged to fit a working mobile app prototype.

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How to Help Your Client Decide if a Native App is Necessary

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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How to Keep Common Editing Goofs from Ruining Your Great Design

Oh no!

How did you miss it? The client’s name is misspelled on the design you turned in. How embarrassing.

You spend a lot of time your designs. As a result, your designs look great. And your clients love them.

There’s something they won’t love, though. That’s an editing goof. Yet, probably because they’re not focused on words, many designers overlook the importance of editing the copy that goes with their design.

editing-errors1a

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7 Top Tips for Balancing Multiple Web Design Clients

Being a freelance web designer can be a bit like being a juggler. By that I mean that most of the time you have more than one web design project you are working on. You have to keep all of your projects going and on schedule. The juggling act can be a real challenge.

Juggling Multiple Clients

If you come from traditional employment background, balancing multiple clients is probably new for you and it will probably require you to change your attitude and your work habits.

In traditional employment, the employer assigns projects to you based on your current project. They also tell you which projects are most critical and which are not. If they’re a good employer, they’ll also make sure that you’re not too overloaded and provide you with constructive feedback.

As a freelance web designer, things are completely different. You’re responsible for finding projects to work on. It’s very easy to accidentally overload yourself. In addition, many clients do not provide feedback. And not only do you have to keep one organization happy–it’s likely that you will deal with multiple clients, often at the same time.

If you’re having trouble balancing multiple clients, this post can help. In it I provide seven tips to help you work more effectively with multiple clients.

If you liked this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.

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Is Responsive Design Still King in Today’s Mobile Age?

Asking the question, “Is responsive design still king in today’s mobile age?” requires some explanation. The first bit of information necessary for this question to make sense is the fact that mobile device use has increased exponentially in the last few years. According to an infographic from DigitalBuzzBlog, in May 2011 only 35% used a smartphone and 17% still had no cell phone, but by May 2013, these numbers had increased to 56% smartphone users and only 9% without a cell phone. In fact, mobile web use is growing 8 times faster than use in the 90’s and 2000’s. And half of average global mobile users access Internet primarily or exclusively on a mobile device. So a website that works for a mobile device, which include tablets, is necessary for any company to remain accessible and competitive today.

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How to Improve Your Focus and Get More Done

Did you ever wonder why you are more productive on some days than on others?

A lot of the time it’s focus. Many of us are more focused on some days than on others. When we lack focus, we tend to work more slowly.

You may think that you can’t do anything about how focused you are. You may think that you just have to live with however focused you happen to be at any given time.

focus1

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How to Deal Effectively with Drastic Deadlines

Do you have a deadline problem? No matter how much time you have to do a project, do you always feel rushed? Do you frequently deal with deadlines that seem too drastic?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone in your deadline struggles. Most freelancers have trouble with deadlines at some point in their freelancing career. Web designers and developers are no different. In fact, most of them deal with tight deadlines all the time.

drastic-deadline

Dealing with deadlines can create a lot of stress. Nobody likes to miss a deadline.

Fortunately, there are some tactics you can use to effectively deal with most deadlines–even drastic ones. In this post, I take a look at 19 of those tactics–focusing on what you can do before, during, and after your project.

If you like this post, you may also like 7 Tips for Prioritizing Tasks Effectively.

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How to Keep Your Design Project Estimates from Being Guesses

Estimating design projects is a time-consuming process. But a good estimate can mean the difference between a profitable design project and a costly project failure.

Creating an accurate estimate can be a lot of work, especially if you’ve never worked for that particular client before.

Photo of a sign for estimates.

Sadly, for many designers project estimates are little more than guesstimates. This is a real shame because it takes a lot of time to create even a bad estimate.

In this post, I’ll share three techniques for creating more accurate project estimates. I’ll also share some tips and resources to make your estimates more effective.

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How to Take Back Your Time & Increase Your Productivity — Plus 11 Great Productivity Tools

Did you ever finish a day of hard work and feel like you got nothing done?

Believe me, you’re not the only one. Time management is a challenge for many professionals, and web designers are no exception.

If you’re also a freelancer, how well you manage your time may also affect how much you earn. So, it’s important maximize your productivity whenever you can.

Unfortunately, we all have many demands on our time. Often, it’s the little things that slow us down the most–things we might not even think about.

productivity
Image Source: lett -/=

In this post, I’ll show you how to increase your productivity by identifying three common problems that keep us from being as productive as we should be. I’ll also share 11 productivity tools to help you get better control of your time.

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Why Designers and Content Strategists Need to Work Together

Content creation, content strategy, content marketing–these are all trendy terms right now, but nothing that web designers need to worry about, right?

Wrong.

Design and content are two sides of coin. They are both necessary for an effective website.

Imagine yourself in a grocery store searching for a package of flour. On the shelf, side by side, are two bags. Both bags contain the identical type and amount of flour. Both bags cost the same amount of money. But one bag is beautifully designed with an eye-catching graphic. The other bag is plain beige and the only design element is the word “Flour” in a plain font.

Which bag would you be most likely to notice?

As designers, you probably realize that bag with the eye-catching graphic is more likely to catch a customer’s eye. The well-designed bag is probably also the package of flour you bought.

Web design is like product packaging. Good design determines whether the content reaches its intended audience. Bad design means the content is likely to be ignored.

In this post, we explain why content strategists and designers need to work together. We also share some tips to help you add content strategy to your design process.

If you liked this post, you may also like Why Writers and Designers Need Each Other.

design-content

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5 Excellent Options for Creating Proposals

A major part of being able to secure clients for design projects is the ability to present proposals and communicate with clients who are trying to decide which designer to hire. Having a professional-looking proposal that provides the right details for clients will help to increase your conversion rates and to land more work.

There are a few different web apps that exist for the purpose of helping with the creation and the management of proposals. In this post we’ll take a look at the leading options, along with some templates for printed proposals.

Bidsketch

Bidsketch

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Top Wireframing Tools Every Designer Needs to Consider

As an ardent designer, I am sure you might have experienced the tedious task of gathering feedback on page layout and navigation. Web design requires proper planning and communication for completing the project fruitfully. To assist you throughout and to make your web designing process uncomplicated, you need a wireframing tool.

Using a wireframing tool is indeed a fast and easy technique to plan the layout and to easily communicate your ideas with the clients. This part of design supports the entire web design process starting from its preliminary stage. Its unique ability to detect any errors at the early stage has made wireframing a valuable practice for web designers worldwide. While there are numerous wireframing tools available over the internet, locating the most prominent ones can be a daunting task. With that in mind, here I am going to give you a sneak peek into the top tools every designer should consider.

Balsamiq

Balsamiq is a rapid wireframing tool that allows the users to create sketch-like mockup designs for websites and applications. With 75 pre-built controls to select from, this amazing tool helps you to design anything from a super-simple dialog box to a full-fledged application ranging from a simple website to a rich internet application.

Balsamiq

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5 Basic Tips for A/B Testing

A/B testing is arguably the simplest way to analyze the effectiveness of a particular component of your marketing campaign. Some consider this synonymous to split testing. Others consider it as a variant of split testing, with multivariate testing being the other.

Entrepreneurs who observe a sharp decline in their sales and conversions can run this test to bring back the vigor of their site. A/B testing, after all, provides one of the most efficient ways to know more about consumer preferences. This allows businessmen to device strategies that can guarantee an increase in their profits.

In the vein, web masters can garner an idea on how they can tweak web designs to get more visitors on the landing page. Suffice to say, A/B testing helps developers determine all the right adjustments on colors, buttons, layout, and web content that can get them ideal results.

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You Only Have 8 Seconds

It’s important to realize that web design is not just about making a site look good. Just focusing on the visual appeal will not enable your site or business to achieve the goals that you have set.

Do you know that an average website visitor takes just 6-8 secs to decide whether to stay on your site? Most of the visitors are not ready to grant you more time. So, what can you do in these 6-8 seconds to convey your real message, when you already know that other websites are just a click away? If you don’t really understand how they think, behave, what influences them, how to persuade them and how they finally make their decision then you have a problem. We will take a quick tour of few important things that matter in the very first seconds.

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Establishing a Client Intake Process

One of the most important aspects of the web design process is getting to know the client, their customers, and the specifics of what they want and need to get out of the project. Without this knowledge you could create an amazing design, but it really won’t matter if it doesn’t fit the specific needs of the client and doesn’t communicate effectively with their customers. Most designers would prefer to get to the actual design work quickly, but it’s important to do your due diligence during the client intake process.

Communication during the client intake process is critical because it is needed to get the designer and client on the same page, helps to avoid lost time from unnecessary revisions, establishes the responsibilities and expectations of both the designer and the client, and it sets the foundation for design decisions that will be made throughout the project.

Having a set process for client intake can help to streamline the process and save time. Additionally, it will also help to ensure that nothing is missed or skipped accidentally, and it will help to make the communication smoother and less time consuming for clients. While there will always be differences from one project to the next that may require special attention, the major aspects of the client intake process will be applicable to almost all of your projects.

At Vandelay Premier we have released a resource that we feel can be an extremely valuable resource for helping freelancers and small design agencies with the client intake process. Many designers use questionnaires to help with gathering information from new clients, so we created a resource to help with this process. Our Design Brief Print and Web Template has an InDesign template that includes a variety of common questions that help to gather the basic information that is needed on most client projects. The questions can easily be edited in InDesign to customize the document to meet your needs.

Design Brief

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17 Tools For Making Awesome Client Presentations

Ask five designers how they handle client design presentations and you’ll get five different answers. Some like to do their presentations in person, accompanying their designs with printouts detailing specific highlights. Others prefer utilizing an online screen sharing experience and talking their clients through their design in real time. And then there are those who simply ship off the jpgs in an email outlining the design’s main points. No matter what your method is for revealing your design, it is important to use tools and resources that can make your presentation successful. Without further ado, here’s a list of some of the best apps and tools for delivering the perfect client presentation.

Calls and Screen Sharing

Join.me
It’s simple, easy, and free. Either join someone’s screen share or share your own. You can invite up to 250 viewers into your screen share and can even let them take control of your computer. Join.me has a great list of features, such as internet calling, chat, and file sharing, which makes it a great all-in-one solution for screen sharing presentations.

Join.me

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7 Keys to Effective Blog Re-Designs

Many blogs get re-designed every couple of years, if not more frequently. Re-designing a blog brings a number of challenges because more content is being added to the site all the time, new types of content may have been introduced since the last design, and the priorities and goals of blogs often change or evolve over time. This means that when re-designing a blog you’ll need to take some time before jumping into the design work in order to think about how to prioritize the right content, how to make it easy for visitors to find what they want, and how to use the design to make the blog more effective at achieving it’s purpose for the owner.

The success of a blog re-design is more heavily influenced by a proper planning process than it is by the design skills of the person creating it. A blog can get a fancy new design that looks great, but if it doesn’t help to make the site more user-friendly and it doesn’t do an effective job of achieving the blog’s purpose, the impressive look ultimately has very little impact.

In this article we’ll take a look at 7 keys to the blog re-design process. These are all things that should be considered at the time of the re-design in order to make the site more useful for visitors and more effective for its owners.

1. Same Design Style or New Approach?

Most of the time when a blog is re-designed it will maintain a similar style or look and feel, just with an updated approach. Brand development takes time, and if a blog has established a certain identity with its audience you will usually want to maintain that identity through the re-design process. However, there are some cases where the re-design presents the opportunity for the blog to go in a new direction. This includes color schemes, logos, and general design styles.

One of the first decisions that should be made is whether the blog should keep a similar style to the existing design, or if it should feature a new design style. Think about the blog’s current audience, how they view the blog and the brand, and if that still fits with the direction the blog is headed.

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15 Invoicing Tips for Designers and Freelancers

Most designers don’t particularly enjoy the financial side of running a business, but handling it properly is a necessary part of being a freelancer or running a design agency. The financial side of the business includes invoicing clients, and in this article we’ll look at some tips and best practices for invoicing.

1. Decide on an Invoicing App or Software

There are plenty of online invoicing apps available that have been created with designers and freelancers in mind. Additionally, there are some software options as well. Using either an online app or software to handle your invoicing will allow you to save time and to have better organization over your invoices and receivables, as opposed to using a manual system or spreadsheets.

With so many options to choose from (see 20 Invoicing Tools for Web Designers), you should be able to find an app or software that includes all of the features that you need, and ideally, not a lot of those that you don’t need. Online apps are available in a wide range of prices, some are even free. Prices will usually rise as more features are included, and most invoicing apps will have a few different plans according to the number of invoices and clients that you need to manage.

If you’d like to avoid monthly or yearly fees of online apps, you can purchase invoicing software for a one-time fee and manage an unlimited number of invoices and clients.

For invoicing software we recommend Fanurio. For online apps we recommend FreshBooks. Find a solution that meets your needs and it will help you to have more accurate invoicing and financial records with less time commitment.

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