graphic design

How To Choose The Best Web Designer For Your Small Business

By Ange Hammond

Whether you’re just starting out in business or you’re looking to take your business to the next level, there comes a time when you’ll consider getting professional help with your website. When you’re swamped with a growing to-do list, hiring a website designer can be just the lightbulb moment of clarity you’re looking for. Or it can be an experience you’ll want to forget, big time.

I’ve heard all the stories. The small business owner who paid top dollar for a simple 5-page website designed by a large creative agency. The freelancer who paid a deposit to a website designer who started out doing a good job on their design but then seemed to fall off the face of the earth, never to be reached again. And then there’s the entrepreneur who wanted to save money and signed up for a fiverr-type gig only to be bitterly disappointed with the results.

The problem is there are just so many web designers out there! In a time when starting your own business has become the new black, everyone with a bit of computer know-how is giving the ‘web designer’ label a spin around the block and it’s difficult to spot the good from the inexperienced.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options, let’s explore some things to look at when trusting your beloved online home to someone. You want to look for someone who’s the right fit for you and the type of small business you’re running. You want someone who knows SEO and will implement this on your website while they’re building it. You want someone who has both design sense and functionality in mind, not to mention your ideal client.

Judge a web designer by their website
Just like any other service or product we want to invest in, visiting a web designer’s website gives you valuable insights into their skills before going ahead with them. Have a think about the following questions when browsing their website:

  • Is there a logical flow of information?
  • Has the content on each page been broken up by photos and graphics to make it easier to read?
  • Is it easy to navigate around the website?
  • Is the website visually appealing to you?
  • Do their blog posts demonstrate the knowledge and expertise they possess?

Have a good look at their portfolio and get a feel for their design style. Each website they’ve created will be different of course, but there’ll generally be a consistent style to their designs. If their past projects resonate with you, it’s a good sign you’ve found your match.

Word of mouth
Rather than googling for a website designer, which will more often than not just expose you to the world of big design agencies, ask some business besties who you trust to give you some recommendations. There’s nothing better than word of mouth to find the best people to outsource to. If you’re still struggling to find the right fit, put a post on your favourite Facebook business group and see who’s out there in your community. Perhaps it goes without saying but do not engage with website designers who spam-email you, telling you that they can build your website on WordPress for $100. Only place your trust in a website designer who leaves you feeling that they understand you and your business.

The quote
When receiving a quote from a website designer, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure are included:

  • Your website will be both designed and developed by them.
    There are graphic designers who design websites but do not build them. If this is the road you want to go down, just make sure you’re aware of this and that you’ll be paying website developer fees on top of their quote.
  • Some SEO tasks are included.
    These tasks might include some keyword research, keyword placement for your pages’ titles and descriptions and your images being optimised for web. If there’s no mention of any of these things, ask them. These tasks form the basis of your website’s SEO and really are a no-brainer that they’re included.
  • Check the platform your website is being built on.
    I recommend doing some research on the platform of your choice (eg. WordPress, SquareSpace, Shopify, etc) and finding a web designer who specialises in it. There are many platforms to choose from so it’s important to choose the right one for the type of business you’re running. Keep in mind any website functions you want to include in a year’s time… plan ahead so you’re not having to change platforms down the track.

And then there’s the price. If your instinct is telling you that the website designer is the perfect fit for you but they’re a little bit out of your price range, have a chat to them about it. Chances are that they will be flexible and can give you a suitable payment plan so that you can pay off the project price in instalments. There may be some of the website features that you’re wanting that aren’t super urgent and they can be done at a later date when you have more funds to invest in your quality website.

Your website is one of the most important assets you possess when it comes to your business. It’s where your desired clients go to find out whether they want to work with you. It’s where your customers window-shop your latest products and purchase them online. Your website is just like a brick-and-mortar shopfront, only it’s on the internet, and it deserves the right person to create it and it’s also worth the investment. Taking the time to consider the options, coupled with trusting your intuition will ensure your future website takes your business to new heights.

Ange Hammond is an inspired web designer at Resonant Imagery who loves creating vibrant and easy-to-navigate websites. She’s most at home when helping clients attract more of the very people who can benefit from their valuable services and products. Using an intuitive design process, Ange creates beautiful, informative and professional websites that’ll do wonders for any small business.

5 Tips for Creating Great Graphics

By Mariah Liszewski

First off, why do graphics matter?

Short Answer: Because design matters.

Long Answer: Graphic design is also known as communication design. As a blogger, how do you get your message across? How do you connect with your readers? By communicating.

How do you communicate?

  • You write blog posts.
  • You produce content.
  • You express your thoughts & experiences.

Graphic Design enhances all of that. Visually. Subconsciously. Imagery and design bring your content to life.

One of the biggest things that turn people away from blogs is bad graphics. Bad design is distracting and unsettling. Some people can’t focus on the content (regardless of how good it is) if their eyes are constantly trying decode the graphics surrounding it.

The bottom line: Bad design interrupts your user’s experience.

Your graphics should be there to enhance your message; to engage the user; to tell a story...not make your readers run the other way.

Here are 5 tips to help you create great graphics:

1. Brand Colours

It’s important to stick with your brand colours in your graphics so that your blog looks consistent. You want your readers to start recognising your brand on all platforms.

How does that happen? Visual consistency.

If one of your readers is scrolling on Pinterest and they come across one of your blog graphics...you want it to be COMPLETELY obvious that it’s your brand.

More brand recognition, means more trust. More trust, means more traffic.

Sticking with brand colours is also important so that your blogging graphics don’t stick out like a sore thumb on your website. You want everything to flow smoothly.

2. Typography

Along with branding colours, you probably have 2-3 fonts associated with your brand – Make sure these fonts are paired well together. If you have more than that, I would highly suggest reevaluating some of them.

Not sure what fonts go well together? Search “Google Font Pairings” and you’ll get a ton of font pairing examples!

Besides font faces, you can also play around with font sizes and weights to create visual hierarchy. The bigger sized font might be used for a title and the smaller size can be used for the content….play around with sizes and see what you come up with.

Just remember not to make your graphic too chaotic….when in doubt, subtract elements.

3. Images

The easiest way to ensure a good blog graphic...use a good photo. High quality images are very important. You don’t want your graphics to look all grainy and pixelated.

Where can you find high resolution images for your posts? All over the internet. You can find really nice ones for free, but they usually take some time to find, or you can buy stock images.

Besides the quality of the actual image, it’s important to keep your image relevant to your content. Blog images that don’t match the brand/message can become very confusing to readers. You want your graphics to drive the message home...not end up producing more questions.

4. Balance

No one likes graphics that are too busy. It hurts your eyes...literally. If you’re using a stock image, try to balance the design on the image with the text. Don’t make one area look heavier then the other.

Another part of balance is white space. What is white space? Exactly what it sounds like, blank space. It gives the readers eye somewhere to rest while still enhancing the users visual experience. Just remember, simple is better, especially when an image is being thrown into an already crowded sea of text.

Not sure if your graphic looks too busy, or unbalanced? Ask someone, get a second opinion on your design. Sometimes brains can be put into overload mode when designing. Take a break and come back to the image with a clear head. A fresh look never hurt anybody!

5. Inspiration

Don’t know where to even begin when it comes to designing your own blogging graphics? I have good news for you...you’re not the first one to start creating them.

Before you start bashing your head against the wall for ideas, spend some time taking a look at other blogger’s graphics, especially in your niche. It can help you get an idea of what your target audience is used to seeing.

Now, I’m not saying copy anything, but use it as inspiration. Maybe try to remix it, and add or subtract something from their design. Twist some colours and fonts. Combine a few ideas. Think outside the box without reinventing the wheel. Go on Pinterest and take a look at all of the different blog post graphics on your feed. Take note of things you like, things you don’t, things that work, and things that stand out. Try to figure out the feeling that image gives you. Graphics are ALL about emotion. You want your readers to FEEL what you’re saying. You want them to pick up what you’re puttin’ down.

After you have some ideas...go create something. You learn by doing. Practice makes perfect!

Did you know that visual information (like graphics) are processed 60,000 times quicker than written information?! Crazy. I know. So be strategic with your blogging graphics. Let it bring your content to life. 

Mariah is a freelance web designer/developer who specialises in WordPress. She used to focus on the fine arts, like drawing & painting...until she fell in love with the digital world of designing and coding. She blogs over at Mariah Magazine where her topics are geared towards helping bloggers and small business owners understand the internet a little better...one post at a time.

Want more information on Blogging, Small Business, Web Tips/Tricks, Social Media and WordPress? Stop by and say hi on Facebook and Pinterest.

How to display your ebook in an iPad

By Michaela Latavanha

I'm sure you have created an awesome ebook you want to share with your tribe or use as an incentive for your newsletter. 

You’ve also probably seen on other websites the cool images of iPads displaying their ebooks (in the design world those are called mockups) above the newsletter sign­up form and wondered how they did that.

It's a lot easier than you might think, and you don't need a PhD in Photoshop. 

There are two ways of doing this, using handy sites like Place it, Dunnnk and Magic Mockups,  or using Photoshop. 

Using Photoshop means a few more steps but you have a bigger variety of options. If you don't have Photoshop, you can always download the 30­day free trial over here.

Before you start you will need to download your mockup. I've created a Pinterest board with a few iPad mockups to choose from. Alternatively you can search "iPad mockup PSD" or "styled iPad mockup". 

I recommend visiting sites like Creative Market, Etsy, QuaqlGraphic Burger and Freebies Bug to find great quality mockups. 

Look for the ones that say they use Smart Layers or Objects. Those are the ones you want to download.

You will also need your ebook cover image ready, saved as a JPEG or PNG and on hand. 

Let's start.

I’m using a free mockup from Tomodachi in this tutorial. You can download it here.  Once you have downloaded the mockup, open it in Photoshop. The first thing you want to do is look for the layers panel. It should be on your right, if it’s not there click Window > Layers

In the layers panel, you will see clearly marked layers. In this case, they have separate layers for each object, a folder layer for the iPad & background layers. 

Tip: If you are not sure what the layer is you can click on the eye icon to the left of the layer to switch it on and off. This way you can see what has disappeared and know what the layer is.

Placing your ebook cover image on the iPad

Step 1: Look for the layer where you need to place your cover image into. This layer is normally a smart object, is highlighted with a color and named something like "place your design here”. 

If the layers are in a folder, like in this case, click on the arrow between the eye and folder icon to open up the folder.

Step 2: Now that you have found the right layer, double click on it. Make sure you double click on the layer icon, it's in between the eye icon and the layer's name.

Step 3: It will then open up another Photoshop file. Hide any layers that are in that file by clicking on the eye icon next to the layer in the layers panel.

Step 4: Place your cover image inside this Photoshop file by clicking File > Place.

Your cover image will be placed on its own layer. You want to make sure that the image is covering the whole artboard (the white & grey checkered blocks area).

You will see there is a border around your image, this means we can resize it. Just hover over any corner until you cursor turns into an arrow. Hold down shift (to keep the proportions), click & drag until you are happy with the size & hit enter.  If you don’t need to resize the image, just hit enter.

If you've hit enter too soon and still need to resize your cover image click Edit > Free Transform to get the border around your image. 

To move the image around, click & drag the image after you have hit enter. 

Then click File > Save and close this Photoshop file. 

Go back to the original Photoshop file and you will see your cover image has been placed on the iPad. 

Advanced: Moving objects around

Step 5: Make sure your move tool in the toolbar is selected. 

Step 6: Make sure the layer of the object you want to move is selected. Then click & drag the objects around.

Step 7: If you don’t like a certain object you can hide the layer by clicking on the eye icon to the left of the layer.

Saving your image for the web

Step 8: Once you are all done and happy with the way the image looks click File > Save for web. Then select PNG, resize the image to your liking and click Save.

Now you are ready to upload the image to your website or a design.

If you want a high ­quality image click File > Save as and select JPEG or PNG from the drop down menu.

If you have any questions or need help, feel free to ask, I’m happy to help.

Michaela is a beach-­loving graphic designer living in Brazil. You can find her over at Bonfires & Ukuleles where she helps barefoot adventurers design their online businesses. Design that acts as their silent ambassador so it can help generate an income for them while they are off on an adventure. 

Every week she sends a design tutorial & resource newsletter that helps the non-­designer business owner design visuals for their Instagram, blog, website & more. She teaches them how to create designer-­made looking visuals & bend professional designer tools to their will without breaking a sweat.

You can also find her on Instagram

Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo & Tomodachi

Behind The Blog Scene // Jess of From Rain To Shine

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Online connection is a power thing and I think any blogger who has fostered true friendships both online and off can attest to that power. Despite living thousands of miles away and never having met, there are bloggers I immediately connect with and Jess from Rain To Shine is one of them. Perhaps it's because I used to live in LA and when I read Jess's posts I get SO nostalgic for the West Coast or maybe it's because I want to be a graphic designer in my next lifetime, but whatever it is she's great and I couldn't wait to introduce her here as I know you'll love her too!

Describe your blog in 3 words…
Positivity, Parties, Pantone
What is your blogging manifesto?
Discovering positivity through pen, lens + pixel. 
Top 3 blogging essentials?
My Mac Book, the Adobe Creative Suite, an open + inquisitive mind.
My biggest blogging moment/milestone was....
Getting to speak at Alt Summit on Graphic Design for bloggers was pretty awesome.
My dream collaboration would be?
Kate Spade...talk about a dream collab! Their designs are classic, colorful + happy. Their social media is engaging and innovative, and I'm totally loving Anna Kendrick as their holiday muse.
Right now I'm listening to...
Lorde, especially Flicker (Kanye West rework), Sam Hunt + Banks. I normally listen to hip-hop + rap, but lately, I've been loving slower, more alternative sounds. 
Best piece of advice to a newbie blogger?
If you want something, go for it. Don't be afraid to start, jump in head first and get to work. No one else will do it for you, trust in your abilities, and you will be amazed at what you can do.
If I wasn't blogging I'd be...
I actually work full-time as a graphic designer, between my job, and my freelance design clients. My blog is a design project for me to share work, inspiration, and connect with creatives. If I wasn't working in the graphic design/blogging world, I would L-O-V-E to be a Seattle Seahawks cheerleader (Seagal). If only I could dance....
Behind the scenes of my blog looks like...
Me, my laptop, my couch or coffee shop + sketchbook. Also, Spotify (or Netflix) on in the background, Google Calendar and Todoist. I like to try and keep my work nice + organized! 
This year I'm most excited about...
Creating the design studio associated with my blog. After working full-time as a graphic designer,  I decided to transition into freelance, working more with my amazing clients. 2015 will be a big change, but I couldn't be more excited to start my own business, From Rain to Shine Design.

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Behind The Blog Scene // Corina Nika of Cocorrina

cocorrina-01

When first looking at Corina's blog, Cocorrina, I'm not sure which strikes you first - the incredible design, her honest words or the lure of her island lifestyle. Perhaps it's a deadly combination of all three but whatever it is, it's magic. Take me there...

Reading her blog is enough to make me want to come back as a graphic designer in my next lifetime but it's her humble and down to earth nature that really captures you when you get a chance to chat with her.  You may recognise her work from Pinterest where her images are shared around the world but what struck me even more than her popular designs is the wisdom beyond her years and her sense of organisation - this girl could teach me a thing or two about having a clean desktop! 

If you are not yet familiar with her blog well trust me that's about to change. Enjoy our chat below and then take a few minutes to head over to her blog and Pinterest page - just don't say I didn't warn you.

Describe your blog in 3 words...
Creative, simple and happy :)
What is your blogging manifesto?
Be original, true to yourself, create, inspire and be inspired and travel.
Top 3 blogging essentials?
Having a clean layout and branding for your blog that is approachable and represents you. Formatting carefully your posts, so that they stand out but are easy to read. Take good photos with daylight. Try doing what you like seeing.
My biggest blogging moment/milestone was....
The moment this year, when bloggers and creatives that i’ve been admiring since before i started blogging, started noticing me and acknowledging my work. That feeling is a milestone by itself.
My dream collaboration would be?
Anything that would have to do with fashion! I’m sucker for those :)
Right now I'm listening to...
I Need You by M83
Best piece of advice to a newbie blogger?
Go with your gut, create, observe, be fresh.
If I wasn't blogging I'd be...
Lost and wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
Behind the scenes of my blog looks like...
I’m proud to say, pretty darn organised!
This year I'm most excited about...
For the so much love and support i’ve got by my readers. Completely mind-blowing!

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Images: Cocorrina