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10 innovative web design trends for 2019

Source 99Designs - Reblogged

Hard to believe, but 2019 means we’re heading into the final chapter of the decade. The internet has grown and changed a lot in the past ten years: we’ve seen the reign of mobile, the introduction of AR, VR, AI, AMP and many other acronyms. As exciting as all of this new technology has been, where we really see and feel these changes is in web design trends.

In some years, design trends have pushed towards rampant creativity—abandoning grids and traditional stock photos for vibrant illustrations, bold color schemes and asymmetrical layouts. Other years, technological advancements have led to websites becoming smarter, with machine learning and subtle interactions, and those shifting paradigms have driven design trends (hamburger menus, anyone?). 2019 web design trends will see these two sides of the coin—aesthetics and technology—come together like never before.

Gathered here are the dominating web trend predictions for 2019, but this is by no means the last word on creative innovation. Because if there’s one thing we can say for certain about 2019, it is the last call for web designers to make their mark on the decade.

10 web design trends that will be huge in 2019

1. Serifs on screen
2. Black-and-white palettes
3. Natural, organic shapes
4. Glitch art
5. Micro-interactions
6. Chatbots evolve
7. Even more video content
8. Minimalism
9. Thumb-friendly navigation
10. Diversity

1. Serifs on screen

We’ve all heard the rule that serifs are for print and sans serifs are for screen. But what are design trends for if not to give convention a little shaking up?

While sans, with its clean readability, is still the go-to for longer bouts of website copy, more and more brands are turning towards bold serifs in other aspects of their designs such as headers and callouts. There’s a good reason for this: serifs were designed to be decorative, making them perfect for emphasis.

And even though serifs are often associated with the past, they have lots of character and are more adaptable than you might think. Take for example the rounded serifs that play into Mailchimp’s cheerful branding. Or the wedge serifs and bold strokes that create a modern look for Medium.

Mailchimp web design
via Mailchimp

Medium website design

via Medium

Reform Collective web design

via Reform Collective

Rose & Van Geluwe web design

via Rose & Van Geluwe

Elim Chan web design

via Elim Chan

Minimalistic web design
via Mike Barnes

2. Black-and-white palettes

Involve Digital web design
via Involve Digital

Color is one of the most important elements in a website. It cultivates a mood, unifies a brand and guides users through an interface by creating visual landmarks. For 2019, we’re seeing daring black-and-white web design making impressive statements.

Color is literally how we see the world by light particles being absorbed. When color is missing, we begin to see the world differently: textures and shapes become clearer, and the world seems noticeably slower.

White by itself is clean and reserved whereas black is strong and assertive. Combine these and you get an altogether striking look.

Ironically, the biggest effect black-and-white designs can have is in their combination with minimal amounts of color. Adding an accent color will not only break up the sea of monochrome but will make points of interest and calls-to-action leap out.

Werkstatt web design

via Werkstatt

Elite Paris web design

via Elite Paris

black and white photo website

via akorn.creative

simple black and white web design

via AbdooElhamdaoui

3. Natural, organic shapes

Though web pages are typically set up for systematic grids, designers are turning towards natural shapes and smooth lines. Geometric structures such as squares, rectangles and triangles with their sharp corners do create a sense of stability, but 2019 trends are more concerned with a feeling of accessibility and comfort.

Because organic shapes are naturally imperfect and asymmetrical, they can provide depth to a web design that makes page elements stand out. They are based in nature (think of the curving forms of trees and hills), but free-drawn elements can capture the spontaneity of man-made accidents such as paint splatter. The goal here is for web designs to feel human and alive through the illusion of movement.

curvy web design
via BrioRom

Affinity web design

via Affinity

IOTA web design

via IOTA

Baby Talk For Dads web design
via Baby Talk For Dads

4. Glitch art

No trends list would be complete without some form of retro design making its comeback. In the case of glitch art, it’s retro gone wrong—those moments when crinkled film or a slow dial-up connection led to a distorted, if unintentionally striking, image.

Glitches are significant in our modern times when computers are so pervasive. We fear the machines taking over, but we also don’t know what we’d do without them. Hence, the breakdown of technology makes for appealing subject matter both as an idea and in its design execution, where it can draw the viewer’s eye to those parts of the site that are warped, double exposed and glitchy. It’s a strange, futuristic time we live in, and no one is quite sure where it is all heading. Glitch art amplifies this feeling of disorientation by giving websites a distinctly psychedelic look.

Active Theory website design
via Active Theory

Makoto Hirao web design

via Makoto Hirao

DTSi web design

via DTSi

Standardabweichung website
via Standardabweichung

5. Micro-interactions

Micro-interactions are events with one purpose: to surprise the user and create an event that is inviting and human. Every time you take a small action on a website or app and there is a specific response to it, this is a micro-interaction. When you refresh a Twitter page and hear a beep, this is a micro-interaction. Or when you check Facebook, the red icon displaying your message count is—you guessed it— a micro-interaction.

These have been the most common uses of them, but in 2019, web pages will heavily feature their more interactive incarnations. Hover and scrolling animations, chimes, and much more. All in all, this is a way to involve your audience in your website, to subtly transmit information to the users about their actions and usage, and make web pages feel a little smarter.

femme and fierce web design
via Femme & Fierce

Fashion UI design

via wenwenzwy

Sleek form design

via Leo Zakour

6. Chatbots evolve

Chatbots have been up-and-coming for a while now but will finally move into the spotlight in 2019. This is mostly due to the advancements in AI and machine learning, making them more intelligent and efficient.

The new chatbots will be showing up more and more on web pages with higher levels of customization than we’ve seen in past iterations. Bright colors will make them not only more prominent on the page but more inviting. We can also predict an influx of friendly mascots to represent brands and give these bots a personable face.

insomnobot-3000 chat screenshot
via insomnobot-3000

Burberry chat bot

via chatbotguide.org

Hipmunk web design

via Hipmunk

web design for cherrypick
via Răzvan I.

7. Even more video content

You don’t need an explainer video to tell you that video content for the web is nothing new. Video not only diversifies the page but caters to an on-the-go audience who don’t have the time to scan through a lot of text.

What is new is the move Google has made toward mixed search page results, featuring video content above standard web pages. This has led websites to prioritize video production in order to make themselves easily searchable and offer content in the most efficient, shareable way.

WeEdit web design

via Andrew Tanchuk

VR Gorilla web design

by SOMA design dealers

Synesthesia web design

via pipipi.det

National Geographic web design

via National Geographic

alphabet video website
Get to know the alphabet in video format. Via A is for Albert.

8. Minimalism

Perhaps one of the most classic and timeless web design trends, minimalism is often the go-to aesthetic of choice. The fewer elements and content on a website, the less your audience will have to think. If a website is designed in the right way, it will show the user exactly what she is looking for.

Minimalism will continue to dominate the digital landscape in 2019. Animations and fade-in effects that make scrolling more engaging will give web pages freedom to space out their content and thus result in more whitespace, contrast and clear typography without too many distracting elements.

Libratone web design
via Libratone

Austin DeHaven web design

via Austin DeHaven

JY BH web design

via JY BH

on-point website
via ON-POINT

9. Thumb-friendly navigation

With mobile browsing having firmly overtaken desktop, design overall is becoming increasingly thumb-friendly. One of the most important studies in this area was that of Josh Clark with his book Designing for Touch, in which he investigates how users hold their mobile phones and how their movements, particularly those of the thumb, should be processed in the web design process. More and more now, users will encounter navigation tailored to the thumb, such as the hamburger menu moved to the bottom of mobile screens.

Wallet Screen

via Ionut Zamfir

Yono web design

via Gapsy Studio

Watering Tracker App

via tubik

QuickBee app

via QuickBee

10. Diversity

Too often, people forget that the web has always been accompanied by a pair of other important W’s: ’World Wide.’ The internet connects billions of people all around the world from various different cultures, abilities, ages, gender identities—people who want to see themselves reflected in their content rather than grinning stock photo models.

Even small considerations of the past (like Apple’s varying skin tones for emojis) have gone a long way in making people of all walks of life feel a little more welcome in a brand’s digital space. 2019 should see web designers make even bigger leaps towards inclusiveness, from improved accessibility standards to socially conscious and diverse imagery. The world still has a long way to go in this arena, but these designers can use their craft to demonstrate that the web is supposed to be about real people making real connections.

UN Women web design

via UN Women

Nowness web design

via Nowness

GlobalXplorer web design

via GlobalXplorer

The Webby Awards web design

via The Webby Awards

via Nation of Second Chances

tolerance.org web design

via tolerance.org

Looking ahead to 2019 web design trends

There you have it—the final year of the decade in web design all laid out for you. Except for one thing: it hasn’t happened yet! There are still many surprises in store and plenty of time to contribute your own ingenuity to this list of trends. As much as we’d like to imagine that we know what 2019 will bring, it is ultimately up to you.


Altr Website Design Leamington

20 web design trends for 2019

source Webflow

Designers have an … anxious … relationship with the idea of trends. On one hand, following the crowd feels wrong — after all, isn’t creativity doing anything but what everyone else is doing? To this line of thinking, the only value in knowing what’s trendy is knowing what you’re pushing against. You can’t simply do the opposite of a trend, of course. But knowing what the latest web design trends are makes it easier to subtly comment on and/or critique them.

On the other hand, there’s the idea that “creativity is knowing how to hide your sources” — a quotation often attributed to Albert Einstein, though more likely coined by humorist C.E.M. Joad. (Appropriate, no?)

Either way, it’s not hard to know what’s trendy. Just lift your eyes off your smartphone and take a look around — or don’t!

What matters is understanding the hows and whys of trends’ emergence and adoption. Because at the end of the day, trends have a lot to tell us about our cultural moment: what we love, what we hate, what we want to move toward. The closer we get to understanding those things, the closer we get to getting inside others’ heads — to empathizing with them. And, really, to understanding ourselves.

After all, when the art historians, fashion critics, and web designers of the future look back on our current era, what they’ll see and comment on will be the foremost trends of our day. When they discuss the aesthetics of the 20teens, they’ll really be discussing what was trendy — and what bucked the trends.

Trends, then, are history in the making.

Prefer to watch your trendy content? 

We've got you, with a quick summary of this post from designer, podcaster, and vlogger Charli Prangely: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yE5Mk_QJgs

Thanks, Charli!

Now, let’s see what future historians will be saying about today. With a little help from a few modern tastemakers, starting with Zack Onisko, CEO of Dribbble, cool dad, and guitar noodler.

1. 3-dimensional illustration

Pitch homepage using the trend of 3D illustration to show 4 cartoon figures virtually rearranging interface elements.
Source

Just when you thought the future was flat, brands like Pitch and Stripe are throwing their brand weight behind a new-old-fashioned form of illustration: 3D.

Not content with the cut-out illustration style popularized by Slack, designers are looking to add depth and realism to graphics designed to blur the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds.

In a sense, this sharpens the contrast between digital products and human beings, even as it brings them together into imaginary spaces where people can grasp and manipulate digital elements (like the graphs and icons in Pitch’s hero section). You can’t help but think of the popular assertion that Facebook’s real disruption is the way it makes us, its users, into the product — and wonder if designers aren’t subconsciously pushing against this notion.

Of course, if that’s the case, this feels like a merely incremental evolution. These designs don’t so much grant people their humanity back as render them from flat illustrations into cartoons.

With that in mind, perhaps Stripe’s much more realistic credit card animation offers a glimpse of a future where the physical and digital can be rendered as such.

2. From playful wordmark to serious logo — aka, the Helveticization of brand identity

In 2018, we saw several highly visible brands turn from delightfully eccentric brand identities to more … ahem … expected … sans serifs.

Or, as I like to put it: All brands identities eventually result in a Helvetica version.

Former Marketo logo on the left featuring a more "quirky" font and a more staid update on the right.
Old Marketo logo on left, new on the right. Source.

Former MailChimp log in cursive, camel case on the left and new, lowercase sans-serif logo on the right.
Arguably the most appropriate rebrand: MailChimp classic on left, Mailchimp 2.0 on right. Note the change in casing too! Source.

Uber's old hyper-masculine, squarish typeface logo in allcaps on the left and new, custom, sans-serif typeface in titlecase on the right.
Uber the brand we loved to hate on left, Uber trying to shed its ugly past on right. Source.

Granted, none of the three brands we have in mind went straight to the old standby. And one — Mailchimp — evolved in a direction that honestly feels more fitting for a brand that’s made distinctive voice and playful brand assets a keystone of their marketing.

Still, for each of these companies, the rebrands can feel a bit like a too-familiar evolution toward what you could not-unfairly call staid, boring corporatism.

That said, you have to wonder if this shift from recognizably quirky to ubiquitously voiceless has to do with the notion of cognitive fluency: the idea that we are most comfortable with that which we’ve experienced before.

With the world’s biggest, most familiar brands all boasting serif-less logos, it’s little wonder that a step in that direction is seen as the hallmark of a company attaining maturity. In that sense, this is a kind of meta-trend we expect to see over and over again, and 2019 is unlikely to be an exception.

3. Outlined type

Like any design-driven brand, we’re big fans of typography here at Webflow, so we’re always on the lookout for new trends in text (look for more below!).

So when Zack called out the emerging trend in outlined type, we jumped to see what the new thing in letterforms held for us. Turns out — it was empty.

Columbia sportswear co. logo uses outlined type for "Columbia
Source

Silver Island font-face update jumps on the trend of outlined type.
Source

There’s something elusive about this kind of half-there, half-gone text that immediately draws in and holds the eye, demanding that you follow the letterforms to their natural conclusion. Which makes it a pretty handy technique for some memorable branding.

In a world where chunky sans serifs dominate branding, a visually lighter letterform certainly does capture a feel of traditional — but different. Which in the end is what any new brand needs: a sense that it’s both revolutionary and trustworthy.

4. The continued rise of brutalism

We said it last year, and we’re saying it again this year:

The future will be brutal.

(Too real? I know. Sorry.)

There seems to be something particularly attractive about brutalism’s in-your-face aesthetic these days. Whether it’s as a natural pendulum swing away from the “clean” and “minimal” style that recently dominated the web — a rejection of the cutesy friendliness of a million brand’s voice and illustrations, a middle finger in the face of the so-called “homogeneous web,” or an act of resistance to the increasingly surreal blend of fact and fiction the web exposes us to daily — there’s no denying that brutalism has moved out of design’s subculture and into the fully branded spotlight.

Need examples? We got you:

Poster concepts using the trend of brutalism with bold, uppercase, black-and-white, inverse lettering.
Poster concepts for a “Design Spike” at Asana.

And it goes way beyond internal meeting posters and iterative concepts. Squarespace’s recent rebrand embraces brutalism by way of New York City’s gritty visual aesthetic and brash personality:

White text on a black baground that repeats "slightly left of center" to create the illusion of stacked boxes.
Still from brand.squarespace.com.

Brutalism’s staying power suggests an interesting facet of design trends’ emergence and adoption that reminds me of the pop punk phenomenon of the late-90s (here’s to dating myself!): Whatever the trend, no matter how “rebellious” or “in your face” it might seem at first glance, it can and will be co-opted for the popular market. And that that growth from “subcultural” trend to mainstream mainstay can extend over multiple years.

As much as I’ve become a fan of the bold trailblazing brutalism tries to advance, I would ask designers one thing:

Remember, please, that there are people out there who find frenetic animations filled with dizzying, fragmented type and flashing colors extremely disorienting.

Design, like any other creative pursuit, doesn’t have to be for everyone all the time — but keep in mind that if you choose to include such things in your design work, you are deciding that your work isn’t for those who will find it dizzying, nauseating, and overwhelming.

But these things aren’t necessary to a brutalist design. If you’re looking to create an accessible take on brutalist aesthetics, check out David Copeland’s Guidelines for Brutalist Design, which reminds us:

By default, a website that uses HTML as intended and has no custom styling will be readable on all screens and devices. Only the act of design can make the content less readable, though it can certainly make it more.

Guidelines for Brutalist Web Design with pink arrow pointing to copy that reads, "Raw content true to its construction"
Big pink arrow mine.

5. More diverse, iconoclastic illustration styles

In her amazingly detailed and thoroughly fascinating case study of her work for Slack, illustrator Alice Lee reminds us:

Really awesome things happen when we look beyond our immediate peers, competitors, and industry for sources of illustration inspiration.

And while it’s easy to see Alice’s work kicking off an increasingly homogenous illustrative style among SaaS product companies and other startups, it doesn’t take a ton of looking around to find designers other than Alice mining the rich veins of work in other fields.

Such as the photocollage style being explored at Medium and Intercom.

Medium’s log-in page introduces you to their unique editorial illustration style.

Note the incorporation of brutalist repetition in the textual content.

But we’re also seeing folks inspired by the physicality of paper craft:

Illustration of a person on a ladder holding a bucket, framed by curvy layers of paper-cut-out-like blobs in blues and white.
Paper Space by Outcrowd

Three-dimensionalized takes on Alice’s mostly flat cut-out style:

Cut-out style illustration of a genderless figure kneeling beside a pond where a paper sailboat floats.
Paper Boat by Gal Shir

And in wildly colorful physical/digital landscapes, such as that seen in CrowdRise’s current homepage:

Crowdrise landing page featuring a colorful, cut-out style illustration of people and their dogs in a dogpark.

It’s not hard to see echoes of Alice Lee’s work for Slack in all of these — her voice has become part of the modern design zeitgeist. But each of them extend her voice in intriguing ways, showing the creative potential inherent in looking outside what everyone else is doing, and blazing, even if tentatively, your own trail.

We’re even seeing designers embracing more abstract and surreal approaches to illustrate less concrete ideas, like staying scrappy:

Animated illustration of people on a float in various poses waving flags.
Justin Tran’s “How to stay scrappy” illo.

Or “lifecycle marketing”:

Intercom blog post with a hero image that makes use of and abstract cut-out, collage-style illustration trend.

As an abstract art fan, I’m very much looking forward to seeing more expressive, allusive pieces like these pop up across the web.

6. More adventurous and vintage type

While logo design work may be continuing to trend toward homogeneity, we and Zack are seeing some more eccentric choices cropping up as well, such as Mailchimp’s adoption of the (in)famous Cooper Black typeface (of Tootsie Roll fame!) for its brand font:

Mailchimp landing page with a yellow background, black text in Cooper Black, and an animated illustration on the right.

Abstract rocking the delightfully thick Vesterbro Black (and Regular and Heavy) in combination with Grilli Type’s America Mono:

And the delightfully chubby Recoleta in Pablo Stanley’s recent illustration library (which is full of echoes of Alice Lee!), Humaaans.

We called out the renaissance in serif fonts in 2018, but it seems that 2019 might be putting its quirkier, more nostalgic foot forward — at least in the headlines. Each of the retro-ish faces above feature full weight ranges, making them perfect for the flexibility that editorial work demands.

Thanks for the trendspotting, Zack!

Our next contributor is Sacha Grief, a designer, developer, and entrepreneur living in Kyoto, Japan. You might know him from his fantastic (and minimal) curated site and newsletter, Sidebar, or Vulcan.js.

He was kind enough to do his own short write-ups, so here’s Sacha’s trend list, in his own words:

7. Inclusive design

Hero section of an essay titled, "5 ways inclusion fuels innovation"

Many lines have already been written about the importance of accessibility, but rebrand it as "Inclusive Design" and you've got a whole new unclaimed buzzword to write books and essays about!

All kidding aside, thinking about the needs of a diverse set of users is never a bad thing, and if it takes a trendy concept to help us do it, I'll take it.

Editor’s note: As you can see in the screenshot above, advocates for inclusive design often appeal to how inclusive/accessible design can help brands meet business goals. The logic is sound, but they shouldn’t have to.

It’s a simple act of humanity to make room for and accommodate others, and if you build inclusive thinking into your design process, the costs are no more than incremental, and can ultimately improve your user experience for everyone.

After all: we’re all disabled sometimes.

Illustrated chart with colums titles physical, temporary, and situational disabilities and rows titled touch, see, hear, and speak.

8. Design + code

While we were all agonizing over whether designers should learn to code, some of us quietly did just that — and used our newfound knowledge to develop better design tools. We're seeing a new crop of design tools like Figma or Framer X that enable tighter integration with coding through APIs and plug-in systems.

Editor’s note: Not to mention tools like Webflow, which skip straight over APIs and plugins to let you design code. Oh, and if you’re a Figma fan, you should check out designer Charli Marie’s video on translating Figma designs into functional Webflow sites:  

9. Bold typography

For some reason, any list of design trends always has to include "bold typography." Seeing as typography has been around since 1439, you can't really go wrong with that one. (Well, except for that brief period back in 2013 when Apple decide everything should now be set in Helvetica Neue Ultra Light).

Editor’s note: Guilty as charged, Sacha. More on this below.

Our next contributor is the inimitable Pablo Stanley. When Pablo’s not designing great things for InVision, or wowing the design world with his insightful, characterful illustrations, he seems to really enjoy digging into Webflow.

Especially since we launched …

10. CSS grid

Landing page for LAYOUT LAND by Jen Simmons.

Holy mole! I love Grid, man!!!

–Pablo Stanley

For many web designers and developers, flexbox has provided a kind of holy grail. It answers the age-old question of how to properly center things, both vertically and horizontally. It makes previously complex layouts relatively easy to implement. It even (quite literally) enables the fabled “holy grail” layout.

The thing is, it doesn’t give you control over the horizontal and vertical positions of elements simultaneously. That is, it’s a this or that tool.

Enter CSS grid: which lets you place an item exactly where you want it, both vertically and horizontally. Sounds simple, but the reality is that it unlocks a level of expressive freedom and control that previously only print could give us.

And yet: no one is using it.

Well, just about no one. Especially when you look at it relative to flexbox.

According to Chrome Platform Status, roughly 83% of page views include flexbox. CSS grid? Just 1.5%, roughly.

Why, you ask? Well, the answer, as it often is with web layout tools, is uneven support.

According to Can I Use, CSS grid is supported by the latest versions of all browsers but Opera Mini and Blackberry Browser.

Or, more specifically, the never-unexpected absence of support (of iffy support) offered by Internet Explorer (IE), which despite being deprecated by Microsoft, is still disproportionately relied upon by many businesses.

Still, IE usage probably isn’t significant enough to fully explain the lack of grid adoption. So, consider that the stats cited above focus on page views, not pages. That means that it’s the lack of adoption of grid by major websites that more likely explains grid’s seemingly poor performance to date.

Which makes sense. These major platforms probably only went all-in on flexbox fairly recently. And rejiggering the layouts of sites that attract billions of users is no small task.

Thankfully, you probably don’t face the same issues in most of your work. And with Webflow, you don’t even need to spend hours mastering grid’s syntax. You can just use it. Today. Visually. 

Get started with grid in Webflow.Why your design team should use WebflowDiscover how design teams are streamlining their workflows — and building better experiences — with Webflow.Collaborate easier

For our next guest design thinker, I turned to Los Montoya, lead designer at social app Mappen and creative director of Juxta Labs. Here’s Los in his own words:

I’m currently focused on leading design for both our Marketing and Product design efforts at Mappen and have gained a unique perspective on what’s to come in 2019.

11. Opposite approaches to color based on market position

In 2019, I expect to see more companies following the lead of other notable brands and pursuing softer and more approachable color palettes.

In contrast, we’ll continue to see indie designers’ and makers’ companies carving out attention with bolder, more saturated, and opinionated colors. We’ll still see a heavy use of illustrations in an effort to humanize technology and more importantly, humanize the brand.

12. Grid breaks grid

We’ll see the use of CSS grid as an underlying framework to break out of the “grid.” The proliferation and accessibility of CSS grid technologies will help designers and developers alike lean into broken layouts in an effort to bring “old-school,” print-inspired layouts to the web.

13. Mobile-first animation

Web design at the end of 2018 showed us an array of scroll-based animations and an inclusion of “timed animations” to help lead the eye down a marketing page. While this works well on the desktop breakpoint, we will see a more mobile-first approach to interactions in 2019. I’m looking forward to seeing how designers and developers bring facets of “desktop web design” into mobile-web design.

14. The year of great writing

I believe all of these to be natural evolutions from what we’ve seen in 2018. In a sense, visual design for both web and product has stabilized. We have a solid platform of tested and proven UX flows and interactions for both web and product design beneath us. The result is digital products and websites that tend to look like close cousins — if not siblings.

This is why, if you want to create a brand people love and your job is [Insert Desired Title] Designer, you’ll need to strengthen your storytelling skills and efficacy as a writer. It’s too easy to develop great taste from a visual design perspective. You have so many examples of beautiful designs to learn from. You have proven marketing funnel flows and digital product UX flows which are easily accessible to you, so you can design an experience that is easily understood by the majority of customers.

With that covered, 2019 will be the year of great writing. The year of great storytelling and narratives. Strip away the colors, animations, grids, and illustrations from a website and what you are left with is mostly words. Words matter in a website and words matter in product design. How and when you communicate to your customers as they journey through your app is crucial to giving you another chance at them coming back and hiring your app again.

Words are how you communicate with your team to get work done effectively.

Words are how you help a customer fall in love with your brand.

Words are how you tell people why they should care about what you’re doing.

2019 is the year to build something worth loving.

Our next contributor is Mariah Driver, Webflow’s very own content producer, punster, and accessibility advocate:

15. Too much motion

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Rosalind asks: “Can one desire too much of a good thing?”

Now, you’re probably wondering how we can possibly relate a pastoral comedy written in 1599 to 2019’s web design trends. Two words: motion design.

The trend towards animated and interactive elements is anything but new — and more importantly, it’s not going anywhere. Motion design can be a “good” thing in web design — when it helps users navigate sites.

The consequences of adding animations and interactions for the sake of visual flair, and not usability, can be far greater than simply distracting the user. In some cases, they can make it impossible, and even dangerous, for users to navigate your site.

For example, any display that flickers, flashes, or blinks can trigger people with photosensitive epilepsy. While this design element certainly makes a site memorable, it can quickly become harmful if it’s not used correctly.

We’ve included the site below to demonstrate the type of flashing display that may be harmful to certain users. Please do not click through to the site if you are sensitive to flashes or blinks:

Bio blurb for Zipeng Zhu in bold, uppercase, black typeface that fills the hero section
Warning: if you're photosensitive, give this one a miss.

To better understand how you can use flashes, flickers, and blinks safely and without sacrificing your site’s accessibility, check out the Web Accessibility Guidelines on seizures and flashes.

The takeaway from this trend?

Avoid the temptation to add motion to your site just because modern web design tools, like Webflow, make it possible to do so. Before adding an interaction or animation, ask if it serves a purpose on the page. And more importantly, if it could prevent someone from navigating your site.

Next up: little ole me.

16. Massive, screen-dominating text

Rolling Flowers landing page text that fills the hero section and reads, "drink the purest water / boire de l'eau la plus pure"

Copywriters and other content specialists have long argued that content should always come first in the design process. After all, publishing for the web … is still publishing. And whether we’ve finally managed to convince the world of the value of content, or designers have just started to get really interested in letterforms, we’re starting to see websites that truly give textual content center stage.

Witness the above shot from makers of smokable products, Rolling Flowers. Pitched as an alternative to rolling tobacco, Rolling Flowers lets text do (most of) the talking on their (loudly) minimal ecommerce site.

Minimal, large, black text on a white background: a buy button next to the product photo and the product name below.

And tosses in some incredibly large buy buttons to boot.

Or take this shot from a (for now) super-secret internal project:

Large, black text fills the hero section on a white background. One word per line reads, "march into infinitude"

Which sets the copy so large you’re forced to process the sentence in fragments, not whole phrases. (Hence, theoretically focusing your attention.)

"The damn user journey" fills the hero section of Tayler Freund's landing page.
Tayler Freund shares some of her thoughts on user journeys with big, bold type.

Even Huffpost is getting in on the dramatically massive text shenanigans:

Landing page for a Huffpost piecse with the article's title filling the left 2/3 of the screen in oversized text and the essay body on the right.

For reference, this is all I see on my MacBook Pro:

 The same Huffpost article as in the abov image with2/3 of the image cut off.

We’re also seeing this massive text trend emerge in creative menu designs, as you can see in the site of architectural firm Dot to Dot:

White, outlined text on a black background over a grid of yellow dots connected by lines to form a constellation-like image

Intriguingly, the menu has moved out of the relative ghetto of a bar across the top of the screen to take center stage, so that its wayfinding system becomes, at least on the homepage, the “meat” of the site.

17. Playful cursor design and animation

To stick with Dot to Dot for a moment, it’s also worth calling out an emerging trend around making the most of the foremost tool of human-computer interaction: the humble cursor.

Because it plays such a vital role in the dynamics of human interaction with digital spaces, many of us are reluctant to mess with the cursor. But not all of us.

On Dot to Dot, for example, the cursor does a lot of work:

Here the hover state reveals a project image.

Here it becomes a cue to how to interact with the menu, if you hesitate for a few moments.

And here it reveals a bit of a mission statement. (Unfortunately rendering text as image.)

On the KIKK Festival site, your cursor almost seems to burn through the layer of rich blue to reveal another dimension to the design, adding delight to your time on the site.

Webflow-using designer Niccolò Miranda has also put the cursor to more creative work than pointing and clicking on his portfolio site. On his homepage, the cursor cues you to click and hold, triggering a witty animation of him hard at work throughout the day.

My one hope for Niccolò is that he doesn’t actually work from 5 a.m. to midnight.

18. All hail the new homogenous hero

Until very recently, we all shared a vision of the ubiquitous website. It looked a little something like this:

Wirframe of a landing page with nav in the top right, logo top left, a hero image followed with a blurb and three colums
Source

We even wrote a tutorial on building just this, in case your clients are clamoring for it.

But in 2018, that design began to metamorphose. Designers grew tired of the centered headline and button atop beautiful photo.

What’d they do instead? Move the headline and CTA to the left. Then shrink the image, set it to the right, and, maybe make it a custom illustration?

Et voilà! Behold the new homogeneous hero.

Airtable.com

Dropbox.com

Mailchimp.com

Stripe.com

To be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, personally. The headlines are getting clearer. The subheads add much-needed context. You always know where to find your call to action. Our urge for cognitive fluency — the sense of mastery we get when working with familiar things — is fulfilled. Jakob’s law is taken into account.

A landing page for Jakob's Law, its standard layout reflecting the law's premise. The blurb text reads, "Users spend most of their time on other sites. this means that users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know."

And centered text was never meant to be seen anywhere outside of wedding invites.

But it sure is trendy.

19. Overlap all the things

Site layout mockups with sections separated by grey boxes and header text that spans across more than one section.

The era of card-based design got us all very into discrete objects with very clear, explicit groupings. It’s a sensible choice given gestalt psychology’s law of common regions.

But common regions aren’t the only way to visually link discrete elements. There’s also the law of uniform connectedness, which explains why it’s clear, in the design above, that “It’s a Light” refers to the lamp pictured on the left.

So in 2019, we expect to see a lot more exploration of ways to establish connectedness, like this newsletter module on NBC’s site:

Newsletter module with overlapping elements on NBC.com

And this customizable collage of photo and copy:

Overlapping, moveable photos for Molley Heltz site concept.
Zhenya Rynzhuk's animated about page

And in the site of Japanese creative agency, SONICJAM:

Overlapping elemens on sonicjam.co.jp
Menu opened to add to the effect. (Note the funky cursor, too!)

20. The year “users” fight back

Banksy piece of a man and a woman embracing while looking at their mobile phones.
“Mobile Lovers,” by Banksy

Ever since the launch of smartphones and the rise of social networks, we’ve been reveling in an all-new level of connectedness. The world’s knowledge is at our fingertips. We can “befriend” (that’s right, kids: there was already a verb for that) almost anyone, anywhere. We “enjoy” constantly refreshing “feeds” of “content” “tailored” “just for us.”

And we’re growing tired of it all. We’re fed up with the invasiveness. The misdirection and dishonesty. The high-flown rhetoric about connecting the world in the face of news about leaks, media manipulation, and (maybe?) rigged elections.

We’re realizing there’s a monkey on our backs. And it lives in our pockets. And has always and forever only meant the best for us.

But that realization has many of us “users” wondering: is the price of admission worth the return on investment? Has the transformation from mobile “phone” to pocket-sized supercomputer cost us more than it’s brought us?

And if that’s the case: how can we correct the imbalance? Can we have our cake and eat it too?

But you, reading this, can’t just answer these questions as a “user.” You’re also, probably, a maker too. So in 2019, it’s time (it’s past time) to ask yourself:

What can I do to put people back in control of their engagement, their usage, their lives?

source Webflow


The 2017 SEO Checklist you won't want to miss

THE 2017 SEO CHECKLIST

Check off items as you go along.
Note: Not all of these may apply to you!

 

mind-blown SEO Checklist

  1.  Have you set up Gmail filters for your new site, or setup a new email address? This isn’t necessary, but always makes things easier for me, click the SEO checklist off now.
  2.  Have you installed Google Analytics? This is not optional!
  3.  Have you installed Google Search Console? Again, not optional.
  4.  Have you installed Bing Webmaster Tools? Do this too.
  5.  Using WordPress? Have you installed Google Analytics by Yoast and Yoast SEO? These plugins will make your life 10x easier.
  6.  Have you checked Google’s Search Console for 404 / 500 errors, duplicate content, missing titles and other technical errors that Google has found? Make sure to keep up with any messages Google is sending you.
  7.  Have you used Browseo to find even more technical errors?  The most common detrimental errors people tend to make are 302 redirects that should be 301 redirects.
  8.  Have you used Screaming Frog to find broken links, errors, and crawl problems?
  9.  Have you used Google’s Keyword Planner? Be sure to consider searcher intent and difficulty, pick 1 keyword per page, and you’ll generally want to start with lower-volume keywords first.
  10.  Have you looked at competitor link profiles? This is the easiest way to get started with link building. This way, you can see what kind of anchor text they’re using, as well as how and where they’ve been getting their links. Something like the SEO ToolboxahrefsLink DiagnosisOpen Site Explorer, or Majestic.
  11.  Have you incorporated your primary keyword (or something close) into your page URL?
  12.  Are all of your title tags ~65 characters or less? Title tags over this will be truncated in results.
  13.  Are all of your meta description tags ~155 characters or less? Meta description tags over this will be truncated in results.
  14.  Have you used an H1 tag? Is your keyword in the tag? Is it before any (H2, H3, H4…) tags? Are you only using 1 H1?
  15.  Do you have a healthy amount of search engine-accessible text on your site? My recommendation is at least 100 words because you want to give search engines an opportunity to understand what the topic of your page is. You can still rank with less, and you don’t ever want to put unnecessary text on your site, but I recommend not creating a new page unless you have roughly ~100 words worth of content.
  16.  Did you use synonyms in your copy? Remember: synonyms are great, and using natural language that’s influenced by keyword research (rather than just pure keywords) is highly encouraged!
  17.  Do your images have descriptive ALT tags and filenames? Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, among other factors. Try to be descriptive when you name your images. Don’t overdo it, though!
  18.  Are you linking to your internal pages in an SEO-friendly way? Are you describing the page you’re linking to in the anchor text, so that both users and search engines understand what it’s about? I recommend not using anchor text in your global navigation because it can look like over-optimization. Stick to in-content links instead.
  19.  Have you started off-page optimization and began building links? This is the hardest, most important aspect of SEO! Check out the ClickMinded Link Building Strategy Guide to get started.
  20.  Have you made sure your site isn’t creating any duplicate content? Utilize 301 redirects, canonical tags or use Google Webmaster Tools to fix any duplicate content that might be indexing and penalizing your site.
  21.  Are you using absolute URLs in your code? Some CMS platforms give you the option. Use absolute URLs instead of relative ones.
  22.  Have you checked your site speed with Google PageSpeed Tools?
  23.  Have you created an XML sitemap and submitted it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools? Use XML-Sitemaps.com or the Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin.
  24.  Have you created a Robots.txt file and submitted it in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools?
  25.  Have you claimed your business / website username on other major networks for reputation management reasons? Not only do you want to make sure no one else gets your account name, but you can often “own” all the results on the first page of a search for your brand if you’re a new website or company. Here is the URL structure of some of the major networks (I’ve avoided linking directly to sign up pages because they keep changing):
  • http://www.twitter.com/brand-name
  • http://www.facebook.com/brand-name
  • http://www.yelp.com/biz/brand-name
  • http://www.youtube.com/user/brand-name
  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.wordpress.com/
  • http://brand-name.tumblr.com/
  • http://pinterest.com/brand-name/
  • http://www.hulu.com/profiles/brand-name
  • http://technorati.com/people/brand-name
  • http://about.me/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.posterous.com/
  • http://profile.typepad.com/brand-name
  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/brand-name
  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/brand-name
  • http://www.etsy.com/people/brand-name
  • http://en.gravatar.com/brand-name
  • http://www.scribd.com/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.livejournal.com/
  • http://brand-name.hubpages.com/
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/brand-name/
  • http://photobucket.com/user/brand-name/profile/
  1.  Is your site mobile friendly? Have you checked it on multiple browsers with BrowserStack?
  2.  Have you set up social media accounts onFacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Google+?
  3.  Have you added Authorship Markup to your site? Authorship markup search snippet images are gone, but you may still want to add it to your site. Use theAuthorship Markup Walkthrough.
  4.  Have you used an SEO Audit Tool to double-check everything once you’re live?
  5.  Have you reviewed all of the free SEO tools at your disposal before completing this audit? If you don’t understand some of the high-level concepts, review the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

checkout the full list here


8 Reasons to Hire a Graphic Designer in 2017 | UK

Overview

Unfortunately, many business owners fail to understand the positive impact that hiring a graphic designer can have. Looking to cut costs they may well think that they can use stock images, graphs and charts from Microsoft Excel, and a free logo online creator and everything will work out the same. However, this is certainly not the case and this commonly held view is mostly down to a lack of knowledge about what a graphic designer does.

WHAT IS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?

A graphic designer is a professional who creates and assembles images, typography, or motion graphics with a view to improving the aesthetic appeal of your business. They can make your brand stand out in a crowded market, make it appear more professional, and open your product or services up to entirely new audiences.

 

Graphic designers are often mistakenly thought of as artists and many business owners wonder what an artist could possibly add to their operations. But the purpose of a graphic designer is completely different to that of an artist. Where a fine artist creates work that is left up to the viewer to interpret, a graphic designer’s work should require no explanation.

Graphic designers are the best communicators in the world, and if people are interpreting their message in a way that is not intended, the graphic designer is not doing their job properly.

WHAT CAN A GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

To better explain the benefits of hiring a graphic designer, we’ve gathered eight of the most significant ways in which a graphic designer can improve your business.

1. Prepare your business for the future

A picture says a thousand words, well, maybe not. According to Japanese studies into information processing it’s closer to 80 words, but a picture certainly has the power to communicate a complex message faster than a paragraph ever can. This is going to be a crucial tactic for businesses to capture audiences in the near future.

With decreasing attention spans in young audiences, marketing messages need to be delivered as quickly as possible and images are still the best way to do this. With small screen mobile technology becoming more prevalent than the larger screens of desktops and laptops, modern audiences aren’t as willing to invest time in reading your message. Images are what the future of communication is about. A perfect example of this being the symbol-based language of’emoji’  becoming the fastest growing language in the UK earlier this year.

As wearable technology (iWatches, virtual reality headsets, etc.) begin to jump out of technology blogs into the real world, screens are only getting smaller and smaller. Having a graphic designer on hand who can not only create visuals that will be effective at these miniature sizes, but also has the knowledge to adapt your digital marketing to different screen sizes will be crucial to success as technology changes.

Google’s recent efforts in improving image searches are bound to continue to separate the wheat from the chaff for users searching for high quality, relevant images online. A graphic designer can help ensure that your images, infographics, and videos are among the wheat.

2. Give your brand a boost

Not every business needs to stand out to succeed. A locksmith in a small community, for example, will gain enough trade from being the sole proponent of a vital service. For businesses with more competition, however, high quality branding is vital.

A brand is how your customers perceive you. It is made up from every customer facing element of your business – the way you answer the phones, your customer service policy, your company name, the tone of your copywriting, and – most importantly – how your brand looks.

Your company logo, the layout of your website and marketing materials, your chosen font, and the colours you use will give most customers their initial impression of what your company is like. It is what gives your company character. A professional graphic designer is able to expertly manipulate these elements to ensure that every customer perceives you in the right way.

A strong brand is memorable. It builds trust and encourages positive referrals from customers. A weak brand is instantly forgettable.

3. Save you time

If you’re busy running a business you simply don’t have the time to make a good job of your own graphic design. Good design is not something you stumble upon. It’s a combination of skills that require a specialist education and a lot of practice. It will take you years of dedication to master the software needed to complete all your graphic design work to a professional level.

The Adobe suite, flash animations, video editing – most modern graphic designers will come with all these skills intact, ready to use them to your advantage. This will free you up to focus on other pressing tasks for which you do have the skills.

4. Ensure that your message is consistent

 

channel 4 logo graphic designer

From the Channel 4 style guide

An inconsistent message makes you appear slapdash and unprofessional. If you have several different logos appearing in different sizes across your internal and external communications, all of which use different fonts and layouts, your company’s message is going to come across as confused as your design is. A inconsistent design makes the customer think that you provide an inconsistent service and that is not a good way to inspire trust among your audience.

A graphic designer can create a design style guide which can help you deliver a consistent message right across your brand. A style guide is of crucial importance if you’re planning on expanding your brand to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Different designers will be variously meticulous about the attention to detail they expect, but all will be guaranteed to have the ability to ensure that your visual branding is consistent. They’ll also be more than happy to let you know when it’s not.

5. Provide expertise

 

Which file types work in the best situations? Where’s the best place in the area to get business cards printed and how much do you need to spend to get decent quality? How do you make yourself look good in your photo ID picture?

There are many graphic design-related questions relevant to modern business which you can only really learn the answer to through experience. From their education, or if they’ve worked in the area as a graphic designer prior to the appointment, a professional will have the experience to answer all these questions and more.

Most modern graphic designers are also adept at editing photos, and usually pretty good at taking photographs too. They will be able to make your staff profile images on the company site look like a collection of bright-eyed professionals in an upmarket office, rather than sleep-deprived lunatics working in a cave. A graphic designer will also be able to use their photographic skills to capture the company’s key moments in time – a useful method to give your company the human touch on your website and on social media.

6.  Improve returns on digital marketing

Images not only improve but have been shown to be a vital part of a company’s marketing mix. For marketing campaigns, quality graphics have proven time and time again to be one of the (if not the) most important factors to their success. This is particularly true of content marketing as illustrated by the statistics below:

  • Blog articles posted with images get 94% more views than articles without images
  • 63% of online shoppers consider the quality of the product image to be more important than the product information and 53% consider them more important than ratings and reviews
  • 70% of marketers plan to increase their use of unique visual marketing in 2015

With these statistics backing them up, it’s apparent that a graphic designer is an important player in every successful digital marketing set-up.

7. Solve problems creatively

Modern businesses can never have too many creative thinkers, which is good because graphic designers have creative problem solving skills in abundance. Throughout a graphic design education students are bombarded with problem after problem and are encouraged to experiment to find their own unique visual solutions.

As a result, a graphic designer can help with your business decisions unrelated to their immediate area of expertise by showing you how to look at it from a different angle. If you’re at the beginning stages of a new project, think about involving your creative team members and see how differently they can approach a solution and how helpful this can be to the development of the project.

8. Inspire pride in your employees

If all of your internal communications, operations folders, website, and business cards are amateur and shabby they won’t inspire much pride in your employees. If they are created and polished by a professional graphic designer, however, your employees will acquire a whole different perspective of the company they are working for.

Good design inspires people. While it’s a bit more obvious that well designed external communications can attract new customers, internal communications are often overlooked. By creating a new website and polishing up internal communication materials your employees will consider themselves to be working for a cutting edge company. They might even become more likely to put in extra effort in helping the business succeed.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

With so much to offer your business it would be foolish not to find a graphic designer and get them involved in the mix at the next opportunity. As communication becomes increasingly visual and graphic design becomes increasingly critical to success online, you’ll need to act fast if you don’t want to be left behind.


3bb8030485224a5b9c064e572219a971_17_1600

Useful Resources for freelancers in the UK

USEFUL RESOURCES FOR FREELANCERS IN UK

The following is a list of online resources for freelancers that will be helpful in setting up your freelance business; from how to find freelance work to keeping yourself productive:

FINDING WORK

Upwork – A great service linking clients to freelancers.

Hiive – Network with fellow creative professionals and potential employers and keep up-to-date with any new opportunities.

Onsite – For the more technically minded designer, Onsite is a great place to meet quality clients.

Elevate – Run by recruitment specialists, Elevate is doing a great job in promoting the skills of freelancers to the appropriate markets.

PeoplePerHour – PeoplePerHour is a place for prospective clients to search for the perfect person to solve their problems.

Freelancers.net – A great job board for a variety of freelance opportunities from around the UK.

YunoJuno – Sign up to YunoJuno and get access to a number of well-paid jobs from a variety of high-profile clients.

Aquent – Based in the US but with a lot of remote positions on offer, Aquent is a place to search for digital creative jobs.

TaskRabbit – TaskRabbit is a decent job site to keep you ticking over, but don’t expect to earn in excess of £20 an hour.

Fiverr – Again, as the name may suggest, don’t expect Fiverr to make you rich, but it is a good place to find a variety of interesting short-term projects.

Guru – Guru tends to be a place for big projects, so if you’re up for a long-term project, you should take a look.

GETTING ADVICE AND PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS

Freelance Advisor – Freelance Advisor is a useful service for getting a good insight into freelancing in the UK and discovering more about how to become a freelancer.

IPSE – Join the EU-based Association of Independent Professionals And the Self-Employed if you want help protecting your business.

FCSA – The FCSA works to protect a flexible work force in the UK and ensures all members are adhering to the legal requirements of running a business.

Chartered Society of Designers – The authority on professional design practice, the CSD is a great organisation to join if you’re a designer of any kind.

D&AD – A highly respected international body representing the interests of anyone working in the creative industries.

ACID – Copyright is often a complex issue for modern creatives and Anti Copying in Design (ACID) can help if you run into trouble.

The Association of Photographers – With over 40 years’ experience, the AOP defend the interests of their members and maintains the reputation of the photography industry.

British Institute of Professional Photography – The BIPP is an internationally recognised photography organisation that aims to train, qualify, and support professional photographers.

The British Institute of Interior Design – The BIID is a highly respected organisation representing the interests of interior designers internationally.

The Society of British Interior Designers – SBID represents the interests of interior designers, manufacturers, and educators in the interior design industry across the UK.

The Association of Illustrators – The AOI is a membership body that represents illustrators in the UK and campaigns for their rights.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY

MindMeister – Mind mapping application that’ll help you think through your projects with the option to turn your mind maps into presentations at the touch of a button.

FreedCamp –  Create shared to-do lists to keep on top of tasks. It’s a great free for all version of Basecamp.

Evernote – Evernote is a fantastic resource for staying organised across all your devices. As your freelance business grows, you can upgrade to the plus and premium versions.

Oh, Don’t Forget – Schedule messages to be sent to your phone to make sure you don’t forget important deadlines.

Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk is a simple but powerful task management app which integrates with Gmail and Siri.

TeuxDeux – The minimalist design makes TeuxDeux a popular to-do app. They’ve really stripped it back to the basics.

Strict Workflow – Strict Workflow is a plugin for Chrome that enforces the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ – blocking distracting websites for 25 minutes then giving you a 5 minute break.

Toggl – Toggl is a simple to use tool that tracks your time. Check out this updated review and blog post from The Freelance Effect

RescueTime – Rescue Time is another time tracking tool that gives you a great insight into your daily habits.

1Password –  Relieve the password headaches by using 1Password to keep them all in one place.

Dashlane – Dashlane is another popular tool for keeping all your passwords in one place and across all devices.

ZenWriter – As a creative freelancer, you don’t want to spend all day bashing away at the keyboard, so get it all done as fast as you can with a distraction free writing tool.

FollowUp – Staying on top of your emails is a crucial way to impress clients. Schedule emails in advance to make sure you never forget to follow up on a project.

The Email Game – The email game turns replying to emails into a game. Reply before the timer runs out and clear your inbox quickly or you lose precious points.

Sane Box – Sane Box uses a clever algorithm to determine the importance of each email and moves those deemed ‘unimportant’ into a separate folder.


COLLABORATION

Trello – Trello is a great tool for collaboration that allows you to organise all your projects into boards. At a glance, you can see what’s being done and what needs to be done.

Basecamp – Basecamp is the tool of choice for professionals who need to keep in touch on a project. It ensures everyone working on the project is up-to-date on what’s been done and what there is left to do.

Bidsketch – Bidsketch speeds up the time you take making proposals for projects and submits them to clients with a well-designed collection of templates.

DropBox – Sync all your devices to DropBox and store all current project files there to ensure you always have access to everything you need. DropBox also makes it really easy to share large files with clients.

Docstoc – If paperwork is not your thing, head to Docstoc where you’ll find templates for every business document you’ll ever need. There’s also a fantastic collection of resources to help you improve your business skills.

Clarify – It’s always surprising how many times you’ll need to take screenshots when working remotely. Clarify makes this simple allowing you to take screen recordings as well.

SnapEngage – SnapEngage is a live chat app that’s perfect if you get tired of the cumbersome emails. Keep up with your clients or collaborators in real time.

Hively – Hively makes it easy for customers to give you feedback. This is not only great for attracting new customers with testimonials but also a great way to ensure you give your best on every job.

Join Me – Join Me allows you to share your screen with clients easily, even if they’re not signed up.


FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

FreeAgent – Free agent is a fantastic service for keeping track of everything and anything to do with your finances. With their support team of accountants on hand and the ability to submit your VAT, RTI, and Self Assessment directly to HMRC, you’ll be able to focus more on getting on with your creative work.

Freshbooks – Freshbooks helps you to keep track of billing. Calculating rates and hours can turn into a heated email battle with some clients. Cut out the confusion by letting Freshbooks work it all out for you.

Shoeboxed – Shoeboxed makes scanning and organising receipts, business cards, expense reports, and any other paperwork you need to keep track of a lot easier.

Mint – Mint is a simple free tool for keeping track of cash flow, budgets and bills. Not as in-depth as many but great if you want to keep it simple.

Braintree – Braintree from PayPal aims to integrate payment systems on the internet to make paying for things a lot easier.


I'm a small business - why do I need a brand?

If you are a small firm or a sole trader, you could be forgiven for thinking that branding is not for you. "Big names spend money on branding, small companies just get on with the job" is a typical response when small businesses are asked about their brand activities. But this perception is wrong, as Rachel Miller writes

Even if you do "believe in branding", it may come low on your to-do list after vital day-to-day tasks that keep your customers happy and keep revenue coming in. That's understandable.

Why do small firms need a brand?

So how can I convince you that branding matters - whether you are a window cleaner, a solicitor or run a restaurant?

Perhaps the first thing to do is to tackle the wording. If you were to replace the word "branding" with "reputation" I might get your attention. You care about your reputation, right?

Well branding is all about the impression you make. If you want to succeed, that impression should do two jobs - it should convey what is special about your business and it should show you in a positive light.

Of course, many small businesses make a good impression most of the time without ever giving a thought to their brand. But think how much more successful you would be if you gave a good impression all of the time.

What I am advocating is that you think about the impression you want to make - your brand - and actively take steps to manage it.

There are two parts to this process. Firstly, you have to decide what you stand for - what your USPs are, who you are aiming at and how you want to position yourself. Then you need to make sure that all aspects of your business are in line with this.

It's about applying your values to everything you do, clearly and consistently.

There are many small firms that have seen real financial benefits as a result of improving their brand. Fiona Humberstone, managing director of Flourish Studios, has worked with many one-man-bands and small businesses. "For instance, we worked with a plumber on his logo," reveals Fiona. "He used it on some new business cards which he distributed in his area and immediately got three new jobs. We've also helped a management consultant with her branding. We redesigned her proposal document as well as providing a new logo and website. As a result, every proposal that she has made that year was accepted - a 100% success rate."

Mark McCulloch, founder of Spectacular Marketing says, "You have a brand whether you like it or not. It's best to embrace that and find the best way to connect your brand with your target audience."

Mark worked with a company called Exhilaration some years ago that sold experience days out and was run by a husband and wife team that loved sky-diving. The business came to a crossroads when it had to develop its online presence.

"It was a tiny company with a tiny marketing spend," says Mark. "The name was good - Exhilaration summed up what they did - but their communications were very dry and didn't convey the excitement of what they were selling at all."

Mark transformed the company's literature and their website and injected the excitement that was missing. "Personality was everything, so we gave all the communications a new tone of voice," he says. Not only did customers respond but suppliers and investors also sat up and took notice. The result? "Their turnover rose from £1 million to £3.5 million and they became second in the market," Mark reveals. Exhilaration went on to be bought by Lastminute.com.

Creating the right impression

But if you don't think branding is for you, you are not alone.

"Many small business owners I meet think that brands are something that only large companies need or can afford," says Bryony Thomas of Watertight Marketing. "But your company name, the way you answer the phone, what your customers say when they're asked about you - these things all build to create an impression of your company and what it's like to do business with you - and that is your brand. So, you can either just let whatever impression you give happen haphazardly, or you can take control and manage it to your advantage."

One small firm that has benefited by developing its brand is Gradwell, the Bath-based small business ISP. "I tended to pick marketing up on the rainy days, and then drop it again. I'd never really given it much focus," reveals managing director, Peter Gradwell. "We had grown organically among tech enthusiasts, but knew that for major growth we'd need to appeal much more widely."

Bryony undertook market research and discovered that Gradwell's existing image was off-putting to less tech-savvy small business owners. A new brand identity addressed this.

"It was a really tough decision to spend money on something that wouldn't directly generate leads.  It was about building the foundations," says Peter. "But, I'm absolutely sure that it was the right thing to do. It has had huge benefits across everything we do. To give a tangible example, we were approached by Hewlett-Packard to appear as a pretty high profile case study, and I'm sure they wouldn't have shared a stage with us if we hadn't looked as polished as we now do."

It goes to show that your brand may be just as important to your relationships with partners and suppliers as it is to your customers. Take Best Years, a supplier of knitted toys to independent and high street retailers. " Brand is extremely important to us," says commercial director, Gaynor Humphrey. "We have worked hard to put a distance between ourselves and our price-driven competitors. A strong brand boosts traffic to our website. And if our brand values chime with the values of retailers they are more inclined to buy from us. Our foot is halfway through the door before they have even met us!"

Dee Blick, author of Powerful Marketing on a Shoestring Budget for Small Businesses, has worked with many small businesses on their branding. "Branding doesn't take shed-loads of money. It takes passion and time and thought," she says. But you neglect your brand at your peril, she warns. "Businesses don't own their own brand, they are custodians of it. Perceptions can alter quickly. Brands are constantly evolving and they need a lot of tending."

The message is clear. If you've got a business, then you've got a brand. What you do with it is up to you.


9 tips for starting out in design

 

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We ask a panel of top designers: if you could give one tip to a designer just starting out, what would it be?

When you're just starting out in you design career, everything can seem like a struggle. You can ease the pain by having the right drawing tools and learning from inspiring design portfolios, but even so there's bound to come a time when you find yourself asking whether it's all worth it.

Everyone's been there, though; even the mightiest creative director has found themselves considering jacking it all in and running away to become an accountant at some point.

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And so we asked nine leading designers to come up with their top tips for anyone starting out in design. Read them and see your career in a whole new way.

For further career-enhancing tips from more top designers, take a look at Computer Arts issue 250.

01. Know your niche

Creative director Mads Jakob Poulsen says: "Think about what you can contribute to the world of design. What's your niche? What's your special secret weapon? Don't be like everyone else – do what you think is fun."

02. Have a singular vision

"If you make things the way you think they ought to be, they're more likely to be what you'll be asked to make going forward," says Spin's Tony Brook. "It took me a long time to fully understand this."

03. Be versatile

Anagrama's Sebastian Padilla comments: "A designer needs to be versatile, like a Swiss Army knife. You need to be comfortable with working in broad fields such as typography, composition and copywriting."

04. Refine your skills  

"Hone your skill set," says Matt Howarth of ilovedust. "Whether digitally orby hand, work hard on your craft every day and in time you will find a style that you are comfortable with and, most importantly, enjoy doing."

05. Follow your heart

Dawn Hancock of Firebelly says: "None of us really know what the hell we're doing, but if you think with your heart and go with your gut, it will all work out in the end."

06. Lose the attitude

"My tip for a new, young designer starting their career is to lose any sense of entitlement you may have," says Steve Simmonds of weareseventeen. "Just because you've studied for three or five years doesn't mean you can come into the industry and expect it to be easy. This sounds harsh, but I get young designers all the time telling me what they are and aren't willing to do from day to day.

"You must remember that it's not just graduates fighting for their place in this industry; seasoned pros and entire companies are fighting too and good attitudes make all the difference. Be keen and enthusiastic: it goes a long way. Bread and butter work is a staple in any studio, so expect to be heavily involved in a lot of this at first. Don't expect to be working on all the bigger studio projects. This will happen in time; just approach the bread and butter stuff with bags of enthusiasm and make those projects shine unexpectedly. Do this and your rise through the ranks will be swift."

07. Stay the course

Becky Bolton of Good Wives and Warriors says: "Our general tip for people is to just try and stick with it! A creative career is going to be peppered with rejection and potentially confusing times. Without sounding too trite, it's important to try and believe in the value of your work and keep pushing through the times when you feel like quitting!"

08. Take risks

Ady Bibby of True North says: "Stand for something. Take risks. Don't be happy to merge into the mediocrity of creativity out there."

09. Only work with people you like

Designer and teacher Fred Deakin comments: "Biggest lesson: only work with people you like on projects you care about. If you take your time to make great work then eventually the money will come."


How to write a successful blog that also promotes your business

Using a blog for your business website can be a great way to connect with customers and strengthen your brand
 Read more content on winning new business

Write for your customers

Your blog, like your website, is not for you. It's for your customers, so write for them. Ideally, your blog should aim to either solve a problem for your customers or provide fresh insights into your industry.

Plan your content

Lack of time and ideas are the most frequently cited reasons many small businesses cite for not having a blog. However, with a bit of planning, you can have enough ideas to keep your it running for weeks or even, months ahead.

Your posts can be answers to the questions most frequently asked by your customers. For example, if you are a jeweller, you could write a blog post on what to look for when buying a diamond.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool is another great way of finding keyword phrases that people are using to search for your services. The keyword phrase, once you've identified it, could be your blog title. It's a simple and effective way of driving traffic to your blog and letting the world know about your services. So, for the jeweller mentioned, his blog title, based on keyword volume research via Google's keyword tool, would be 'how to buy a diamond'.

Create valuable content

The key to a successful business blog is giving your readers valuable content. That is how you establish your website's authority in your industry. In addition, if you give your readers valuable content, they will reward you by becoming return visitors and also parting with their money.

If lack of time or lack of writing skills is an issue, you could outsource your blog to a blog writing service. These do exactly what it says on the tin – write your blog to meet your customers' needs and also drive sales for you.

Frequency

Opinion is divided on how frequently you should update your blog. Aim for a frequency that you can maintain. Fortnightly or weekly is fine. The key is consistency. Don't start a blog and then abandon it halfway.

Search engines like fresh content and the more frequently you update your blog (and by extension, your website), the more likely your website will climb up search engine rankings and also gain visibility for your target customers.

Develop your blogging style

Blogs are meant to be informal, so let your blog reflect the human face of your company. Give it some personality and try to keep the sales pitch down. You'll find that people are more likely to respond to you and also buy your services.

Word count

As a guide, a blog post should be about 400 words. If your post is longer than this, think about serialising it. People tend to scan web content, so make every word count.

Interaction

Just because your blog is not getting any comments does not mean that it is not being read. Think about the number of articles you read or blogs that you visit. Do you always leave comments? Many people don't. However, you will find that you get more comments as you slowly build up your readership.

Make your blog shareable

Links are the lifeblood of the internet, so make it easy for your readers to share your blog. The easiest way to do this is by using share icons. These are social networking icons (see example to the right of this article) that make it easy for people to share your post and consequently, drive traffic and potential sales to your website.

Measure your blog's performance

If you haven't already done so, make sure you have a web stats tool to measure your website's performance. The most popular one is Google Analytics. It's free and literally takes minutes to install. Over time, as you add more posts to your blog, it will give you a clearer picture of how people are finding your blog and, most importantly, which of your posts are popular so you know the kind of content your readers like.

There are many benefits to having a business blog and with these tips, you should well on your way to creating a successful blog that also promotes your business.

Abidemi Sanusi is the founder of Ready Writer Copywriting. The company can be found on Twitter @readywriteruk


Reasons Why You Need a Website in 2016

 

1 : Increase Sales and Revenue

Any professionally run business will make up the cost of a website easily over the course of the first year. And after that, the low annual running costs mean increased profits in the future.

2 : Cheaper Advertising

A website is the most cost–effective form of advertising you could buy. Compare a small advert in the Yellow Pages or Thompson Local with a small website, or compare a large advert with a large website: the website will generally be cheaper.

And a website’s running costs are much lower — just an annual fee for the domain name and hosting. With a paper advert, you pay the same large amountevery year.

A paper advertisement can only give customers a brief overview of your services. Your website will contain all the detailed information your customers need, at a fraction of the long–term cost of a paper advertisement.

3 : Give a Professional Appearance

Most people now expect a business to have a website. Even if a customer doesn’t visit your website, seeing a web address on a business card or in an advertisement gives the impression that you are a solid organisation.

Perhaps you work from home. Perhaps you have just started a small business. With a good–looking, professional website, you can show that you are just asserious as a larger, established competitor.

4 : Your Competitors Will Have Websites

Very few products or services are bought on impulse (apart from chocolate biscuits, perhaps). Customers like to do a bit of research first. Today, a large proportion of sales begin with an internet search, and that proportion is only going to increase. A business without a website is out of the game.

Actually, there is one exception to this rule. For a business, having anamateurish website is often worse than having no website at all. Find out about the dangers of using a cowboy web designer.

5 : Save Time Dealing with Enquiries

How often do you find yourself saying the same thing to prospective customers — describing your services, your products, your prices? If the information that people need is on your website, they can check it out easily, any time it suits them.

How much time do you waste fielding enquiries from people who are nevergoing to buy your products? Give them an easier way of getting the informationthey want, and you won’t have to cope with enquiries that don’t lead anywhere.

Put the information on your website, weed out the tyre–kickers, and concentrate on the serious enquiries!

6 : More Customers, All the Time, Everywhere

The internet doesn’t open at 9 o’clock and close at 5:30. Your website will be attracting customers 24 hours a day, from all over the world.