Monthly Archives: July 2017

Creating a Website with SEO and Conversions in Your Mind

If you’re running an online business, you’re not alone. Millions of other online entrepreneurs are out there trying to earn livings. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to get educated about search engine optimization(SEO) and social media. You also need to know how to design your site to be as conversion-friendly as possible. If terms like “SEO” and “conversion rate” throw you off, take heart: It’s easy to get on track. You could also enlist the help of a digital agency, one such example is GearyLSF.

Keep it Simple

Drawing visitors to your site is just the first step in the online sales process. After all, they can just as easily click themselves away from your website. That’s a lot less likely to happen when your site has a clean, stylish design. In keeping with the theme of simplicity, you shouldn’t ask too much of your visitors. If they have to jump through a bunch of hoops just to get to the shopping cart, you are doing it wrong. The simpler and less cluttered your site is, the more likely someone is to stay and explore; the easier you make that visit, the more likely they are to become customers.

Entice Visitors to Click

The language that you use in your site’s copy has a profound effect on how visitors react. Within seconds of landing on your page, visitors need to be enticed into clicking their mouse buttons. Those clicks represent legitimate interest that can be used to gauge the success or failure of your site’s design. You can encourage clicks by using terms like “sign up now,” “learn more here” and “send a comment.” Those words are action-oriented and will spur visitors to click the associated link; from there, it’s much easier to turn them into customers.

There are many other ways to improve conversions on your site. Play around with its color scheme to see how color affects its conversion rate – you’re sure to be surprised by what you discover. Heat mapscan also give you a feel for how various design changes affect the way in which people interact with your site.

Include Calls to Action

Calls to action are absolutely crucial when it comes to generating online sales. Visitors want to be told what to do – they don’t want to be left in the dark. If your site leaves them scratching their heads, they won’t understand the point. In that case, they will leave without buying anything. Once again, the terminology that you use will have a strong impact on prompting action. Phrases like “buy now” and “add to cart” provide clear instructions. You need to pique a visitor’s interest and get them to close the deal as quickly as possible.

The content on your site should always be rounded out by clear calls to action. After explaining a product or service, include something like “click here to place your order now” or “learn more about this service here.” Links within the calls to action will lead people to the next step in the process, which should be simple and streamlined.

Maintain Relevancy

Good SEO relies heavily on relevance. The search engines aren’t going to rank your site too well if it doesn’t use relevant keywords. If the backlinks that connect to your site aren’t relevant, your ranking will suffer, too. At all times, keep the importance of staying relevant in the back of your head. Just because another site is willing to link to yours doesn’t mean that you should take the bait. Every little decision matters, so use common sense. You want to attract people who are looking for what you sell, after all – there’s no use in tricking anyone. Reading websites like SEOMoz, SEOBook or SEOMoves will make it easier to see how your campaign is faring; for a reasonable annual fee, you can log in to its simple interface to keep track of your site’s statistics and other data.

Prioritize Keywords

Keywords are at the heart of any successful SEO campaign. Once you’ve selected a great batch of keywords and key phrases, make sure to use them properly. Don’t stuff your content too full of keywords, because that will get you in trouble with the major search engines. Instead, use your keywords as naturally and relevantly as you can throughout the content on your site. Don’t forget to use keywords and key phrases in your anchor text, which is the text that makes up a hyperlink. Sprinkle keywords into titles and headers, too, to keep your site well organized and easy to scan.

As you become more adept at SEO, you will be able to use it to improve your site’s conversion rate, too. For example, you can play around with a variety of different widgets to attract a more targeted audience. Title tags are also important; like so many aspects of SEO, however, that importance is changing. Instead of stuffing them full of keywords, for instance, more people are using them to bolster their branding to great effect.

Make it Easy to Connect

Social media has dramatically transformed the process of marketing online. If you’re not already plugged into popular sites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s time you got on board. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is to connect with prospective customers; such sites also make it easy to keep existing customers happy. It’s simple enough to add social media buttons to your website; similarly, you should link back to your site from all of your social media profiles. Like anything else, you can easily keep track of how successful or unsuccessful your various social media buttons are, which will help you optimize your site even more effectively.

There’s no question about it: Running a successful online business takes a whole lot of work. By being familiar with basic concepts like conversion rates, calls to action and social media, though, you can increase your odds of achieving phenomenal success by a considerable degree. A small amount of extra effort can really pay off, and it is smart to pay attention to emerging trends. There is no finish line when it comes to running an online business; with top-notch SEO best practices, you can stay ahead of the competition.

Tips and ways of Photography For Designers

Throughout your career as a designer you will be required to use a camera at some stage so it is vital you know how to use one, and at the very least, know the basics principles & elements of photography. So I present to you photography tips for designers.

6 Elements of Photography:
Colour, Form, Texture, Pattern, Line, Repetition

6 Principles of Photography:
Light, Subject, Focus, Background, Exposure, Composition

Elements of Photography

There are six main elements that create a picture and you can use a variety of these to create stunning photography.

Colour

If you’re shooting for colour, make sure that the colours compliment each other. If they don’t, change up the wardrobe, the setting, etc… until they do. Painters don’t choose random colors for their paintings. Why should photographers allow outside forces to dictate color choices?

Form
Form is the structure of the shapes that comprise the photo. It gives it a 3rd dimension to the photo. Form is constructed by the use of light and shadow and makes a photo ‘pop’ off the page.

Texture

Photographs are two dimensional, which makes it challenging to get a good sense of texture. The best way to play it up is to use strong shapes, composition, and light angles that compliment the textures in the scene.

Pattern

Pattern is the use of repeating elements in a photography, thus creating a pattern.

Line

Line is the way that a person looks at a photograph. It is how a persons eye looks at a photograph, what lines does the persons eye follow?

Principles of Photography

Eric Hamilton Photography has outlined the 6 principles of photography below. These aspects differentiate art between photography. The first, third, fourth and fifth photos are by Eric Hamilton.

Light

Light is the single most important aspect of photography!

STOP right now, and read that back again and again until it sinks in. After all, the essence of the photographic art is the process of capturing light from the scene in order to create an artistic rendering. In a very real sense, photography is painting with light.

Long before photography and flashes were invented, classical painters posed their subjects next to large windows that acted like big soft boxes in order to create the right light to capture the mood they wanted to paint. Always pay attention to the light, and go to whatever lengths you need to (scheduling, rescheduling, adding light, etc…) in order to make sure you get the light right.

If you can’t get great light, don’t even bother clicking the shutter release — your photo is just going to look like every other amateur with a point and shoot camera, otherwise.

Subject

You absolutely must have light to make a photograph, which is why it got top billing. It is absolutely the foundation of photography, but equally important is the subject. A strong subject is more than a good looking model. The setting, clothing, props, accessories, pose, and emotional expression all work together to tell a story. It’s up to the photographer to make sure it’s a story worth telling.

Focus

Focus isn’t just about what to focus on, it’s also about how much depth of field to show in the portrait. How much do you want to blur out background/foreground elements? How much of the subject really needs a sharp focus? With the right set of lenses, you can really have a lot of control over that aspect, and it makes a significant difference in the resulting images!

Also, don’t discount the possibilities with regards to alternative points of focus. Generally, it’s good to concentrate on eyes, but I often focus on lips, and sometimes create dramatic tension by having the primary subject out of focus, and instead focus on things like hands, or some object being held by the model. In one of my favourite shots, I focussed on a chess board with a very shallow depth of field, and lit up the subject’s face so much that the highlights are all blown out.

Background

For backgrounds, the general rule is to keep it simple. It is possible to do nice environmental portraits, but it’s very easy for backgrounds to clash and distract from the focus of your image. One thing to watch out for when you’re just starting out is mergers — background and foreground images have a tendency to seem to merge together in a photograph, so, for example, watch out that it doesn’t look like trees are growing from the subject’s head, and so on.

Composition

One key difference between an amateur shot, and a professional shot is composition. A great portrait photographer considers shapes, lines, framing, angles, negative space, where to place the point of focus in the frame for maximum impact, and so on.

Exposure

Exposure isn’t just about getting a proper exposure to record the scene. In especially high contrast scenes, for example, you have choices. You can get a proper exposure for shadows, or propper exposure for bright areas, but often, not both, and that can be a good thing. You can choose to take a high-key or low-key approach, and expose to emphasize certain areas of an image over others.

Keep in mind that you can use color, texture, and exposure to emphasize shapes in your compositions.

Conclusion

When you can use a camera, coordinate all of these things, and get them working in harmony, that’s when magic starts to happen. Like music, visual arts rely on harmony (shape, colour, exposure), rhythm (texture), and plot elements to tell a story (setting, model).

How & Where You Pay Freelance Jobs, While You Are Still a Student Designer

As some of you may know I am a third year graphic design student and an active freelancer so I am going to share my tips on how and where to get freelance design jobs while you are still a graphic design student.

For most 1st, 2nd or 3rd year students, finding a part time or even casual job in the design industry is quite frustrating and nearly impossible and most resort to working at their local store, however, there is hope – I am living proof that a design student can get a job in design while still studying, here are my tips…

The Problems

The problems most design students will face is they do not yet have the skills needed to be a professional designer (1) as they are still trying to figure out the ins and outs of the software (2) and to top off this they still are yet to have a reputable portfolio (3) or (4) any knowledge about dealing with clients, budgeting or time management. Let’s have a look at these problems and their solutions.

1. No Basic Design Skills

This of course, is the reason you are at University or College: to learn these skills. However, do not be a static learner at University, you must propel yourself forward to learn more and be the leader of the pack. You should be active in graphic design forums, read design and freelancing blogs like you are now, borrow/buy books, ask questions and get out there.

Go to your local design studio and ask for work experience – I did this and I worked on all their pro bono jobs, it was a great experience and I learned more about clients and time management while I was doing it. These few things will help your basic design skills get up to scratch.

Forums

  • Graphic Design Forum
  • Estetica Design Forum
  • Digital Point Forums
  • How Design Forums

Articles

  • 50 Totally Free Online Lessons In Graphic Design

Books

  • Graphic Design School by David Dabner
  • Non Designer’s Type Book by Robin Williams
  • Recommended Graphic Design Books –   More books I recommend.

Graphic Design Blogs

  • Recommended graphic design blogs & sites: Graphic design resources

2. No Computer Skills

You need computer skills to be a successful graphic designer and a great way to acquire these skills is by reading tutorials, books and of course, practice. I repeat again: tutorials, books and practice. By reading tutorials and books you gain more knowledge of the software and get better as a graphic designer.

Try to get first hand experience off another professional designer – a great way to do this is ask for work experience at your local design studio, they are usually more than happy to help. Another thing I did was get free stock items and deconstruct them to see how they were made, this opened a whole new world for me.

3. Do not have a reputable portfolio

Every designer had to start somewhere and every designer started with nothing so you are not alone. Building your portfolio is probably the most important thing you do at University as this is how you will get a full time job once you leave.

Portfolios are another topic in itself, however you can build it up by making up your own fictional graphic design briefs. Studios do not mind if your portfolio items are fictional as long as they are quality.

Portfolio Tips

  • 10 Tips On Creating a Design Portfolio

Forums: To build your portfolio up you can get some small paying jobs (between $15 to $200) on Digital Point Forums.

Job Board Sites: Check out job boards such as the 28 ones listed here.

More Sites To Find Graphic Design Jobs:

  • Coroflot
  • Behance Job Board
  • Authentic Jobs
  • AIGA Design Jobs
  • Krop
  • Fresh Web Jobs
  • Design:Related
  • Smashing Magazine
  • Simply Hired
  • Web Design Jobs

4. No Knowledge About Clients Or Time-Management

Nearly all graphic design graduates lack client and time management skills: This is where experience is the key and there is no way to get better experience than to gain work experience at your local design/print store –   just drop in and ask – you will be surprised how happy they are to hear from you.   Just mention you’re a graphic design student and you’re wishing to learn some new things. By working there you will learn all about dealing with clients, time management and the design industry… the big picture.

This was an actual reply I received from a reader – it does work!

Hi Jacob. You’re a legend. I followed your advice about just asking a local studio and was shocked when they said I could go in one day a week! I always thought they’d be miserable or ‘have no time for silly young students’, but true, THEY had to start somewhere as well! It maybe be ‘pro bono work’ but its vital experience that will set me apart from other students when applying for a full time job.

5. Getting The Clients Or Jobs

Tieing into point three is that of getting clients. After you feel confident enough to go out freelancing or working at a design studio during University, you should start looking for clients. I wrote an article on how to get your first job which will also help you out. Also get your profile out there, on such places asHubStaff Talent, Upwork, Guru or Freelancer.

10 Signs You are a Bad Graphic Designer

Yes, this is a controversial topic, however I hope to raise awareness of some mistakes you may be making in your graphic design pieces that are making you look like an amateur, but please keep in mind that none of these are hard and fast rules, this is only a general guide of things you should be aware of.

Please forgive me for the graphic and bad grammar / spelling in the picture above as I’m sure you can see it is a joke (rainbow gradients, comic sans, bevel emboss, 13 not 15, bad grammar, off centered type – yuk)

Anyway, I have compiled 15 tell tale signs that you may still be considered a (don’t quote me) bad graphic designer. Some of these have been taken from Robin Williams great book “The Non-Designers Type Book” that I recommended in the top 5 typography resources of all time.

1. Helvetica

Do you use Helvetica in everything?

Ok, yes I know, it is the most popular font of all time – but that is the downfall of Helvetica. Just because it is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. Try something else next time and try break out of your habit. Just for some suggestions, maybe Trade Gothic, Formata, Futura, Antique Olive, Eurostile? And yes I know this website uses Helvetica Also check out the post 30 fonts to last you a lifetime.Spacer

2. Straight Quotes & Wrong Quotes

Do you use straight quotes still?

Straight quotes were for typewriters, times have changed! Look at the difference between the quotes above.

  1. The quotations are not hanging over the edge.
  2. Straight quotes have been used instead of true quotation marks.
  3. Quotation marks have been used instead of prime marks after the 7 and 3.
  4. An apostrophe has been left out in between it’s.

Learn the keystrokes to ‘real’ quotes in every application you use. Learn the MAC & PC keyboard shortcuts here.

Don’t type curly quotes when you need inch and foot marks (prime marks).Spacer

3. Quotations Not Hung

Do you NOT hang your quotation marks?

See in the picture in number 2, how the quote marks are hanging off the side of the quote, compared to the other one. Hang your quotation marks. Read your software manual (check their help files) to read how to do this or you can do it manually.Spacer

4. Double Returns.

Do you hit the ‘return’ or the ‘enter’ key twice between paragraphs or after headlines?

Using two spaces makes it possible to end up with a blank line at the top of a column plus it leaves way too much space between each paragraph – it looks disconnected.Spacer

5. Two Spaces After Punctuation

Do you add two spaces after each sentence?

This is a very bad practice and is not correct – Using only one space is the correct way.Spacer

6. Using Boxes Behind Text

Do you use plain boxes of colour behind your text?

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to. Try something else, use a dramatic headline, use your white space, use a different font, reverse your type, use pull quotes, etc. Can you see in the above picture how the surrounding white space makes the text stand out on its own? You can use these in the correct places however be careful not to over use it.Spacer

7. Centred Layouts

Do you use a centred layout in your graphic design pieces?

Using centred layouts is usually bad practice as it creates a deadly dull look. See how much more effective the two green verses are, they are more dynamic (one is centred & one is left aligned). Using flush left or right gives strength to your entire page and usually is a better option unless of course there are reasons to use centred text. eg. creating a formal wedding invitation.Spacer

8. Borders

Do you use borders around everything?

This often indicates a beginner who feels unsafe with type that is uncontained. Use your white space. You can let it be there. Seriously.Spacer

9. Indents

Do you use half inch indents?

This is bad practice and is the old way (back in typewriter days). The standard is one em space which is a space as wide as the point size of the type. (what?) This is approximately two spaces, not five.Spacer

10. Hyphens For Bullets

Do you use bullets for hyphens?

This is a typewriter habit and is unprofessional. Try using dots or dingbats.