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4 Predictions for the Web in 2021

The start of the year is always a good time to reassess priorities and consider new approaches, but 2021 is more of a reset than we expected this time last year. 2020 is unlikely to go down in anyone’s autobiography as the best year of their life, but it has done something positive: it’s prepared the ground for rapid change in the next 12 months.

More than any other year in our lifetimes, 2021 is set to be revolutionary, with emerging trends that will last well into the new decade. Here’s what we think you can look forward to around the next corner.

1. The End of Minimalism

Minimalism has been the de facto approach to web design for the last decade because it works.

But design reflects the zeitgeist. Where minimalism once felt clean and fresh, it’s starting to feel dull and uninspired. There have been a few false-starts breaking out of the long-term trend, but thanks to the pandemic, 2021 will be the year minimalism finally folds — at least for a while.

Prior to coronavirus-mandated lockdowns worldwide, there were already signs of a more vibrant, more decorative, more joyful approach to design. Simple typefaces have been replaced with more decorative examples — faces that use ink-traps to fake 3D effects are surprisingly popular.

trends are cyclical, and the wheel always turns

One of the biggest aspects of this blossoming trend is the move away from Material Design-style flat color not just to gradients but to multi-color gradients and even animated gradients. Even Apple, the last bastion of the clean white-box approach, jumped on the gradient bandwagon with its Big Sur branding.

One of the few things COVID-19 hasn’t slowed is the adoption of new web technology, and CSS, in particular, has had some major developments in the last year. CSS Grid is now a practical technology, and our ability to code standards-compliant designs that aren’t dependent on hierarchical boxes is greatly enhanced.

After more than a year of pretty grim news for most people, much of the world will be vaccinated over the next twelve months, and life will rapidly return to normal. The last global crisis on this scale was the 1918 influenza pandemic, and it led directly to the decade known as the Roaring Twenties.

Minimalism was already dipping in popularity — trends are cyclical, and the wheel always turns — but lockdown, or perhaps more precisely the end of lockdown, is the catalyst for significant change.

2. The Decline of WordPress

In Autumn 2020, something entirely unexpected happened: The W3C announced the platform its new web presence would be built on, and WordPress — the previous choice of the web’s steering committee — didn’t even make the list of finalists.

Due to accessibility concerns, the W3C development team opted to migrate away from WordPress to Craft CMS. The decision was met with a mixture of glee and outrage. But whether you agree with the decision or not, it’s hard to see it as anything other than yet another symptom of WordPress’ decline.

WordPress faces a triple threat: there are web builders that do an adequate job for low-end web projects; there are newer rivals like Craft that outperform WordPress as a CMS; there’s a growing interest in alternate approaches, like Jamstack.

So will it all be over for WordPress in 2021? Not even close. There are myriad reasons WordPress will continue to be the choice of designers and developers for years to come. Tens of thousands of professionals worldwide have invested their whole careers in WordPress; there are millions of themes, plugins, templates, and build processes that are tightly woven into the WordPress ecosystem. What’s more, there are millions of sites with substantial content archives powered by WordPress [WebDesignerDepot is one such site].

WordPress reportedly powers approximately 37% of the web, and it will still be the dominant CMS in 2022. But it’s unlikely to grow beyond that 37%, and by 2030 its market share will be in rapid contraction.

2020 was the high-tide mark for WordPress

But for all its faults — and it’s undeniable that WordPress is full of faults — WordPress is the best of the web; it has given a voice to millions of people, launched countless careers, and empowered entrepreneurship worldwide.

2020 was the high-tide mark for WordPress, but it’s not an extinction-level event — even the much-maligned Flash, which was killed dead in a matter of months by the first generation iPhone, limped on until a few weeks ago.

WordPress will have to find a niche and accept a smaller market share; in doing so, it will address the single biggest complaint that anyone has about WordPress: that it’s trying to do too much.

WordPress is one of the great success stories of the web. In a decade, it may have to settle for powering just 10% of the web — a level of failure most of its rivals can only dream of.

3. The Digital Currency Explosion

2021 is undoubtedly the year that cryptocurrency goes mainstream. In 2020 Bitcoin grew by almost 400%; currently valued at around $35k, conservative predictions for a December 2021 valuation are $100k, with five-year predictions as high as $1m. And Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency; the value of developer-friendly Ether has jumped by more than 50% in the first few weeks of 2021.

In the US, the incoming Biden administration is preparing a multi-trillion dollar relief package, which many believe young Americans will invest in cryptocurrency. Perhaps more importantly, large investment banks are now pumping hundreds of millions in digital currencies. PayPal and Visa are both in the advanced stages of adopting blockchain technology.

The biggest threat to the new digital economy is the volatility of cryptocurrency. You cannot price services in XRP if XRP’s dollar price could crash at any time — as it did a few weeks ago.

And so there are two routes in which this trend will unfold for ecommerce. Either pricing will remain in dollars, and the equivalent price in various cryptocurrencies will be calculated in real-time. Or, transactions will make use of stablecoins like Tether that are tied to the value of the US dollar.

Cryptocurrency is the latest gold-rush, and whether you think it’s the chance of a lifetime or yet another Ponzi scheme, it will become increasingly high-profile in ecommerce throughout 2021.

4. No More Video Calls and also More Video Calls

2020 was the year of Zoom. Its growth from bit-player to overtaking Skype is a material lesson for entrepreneurs that every obstacle is an opportunity.

every obstacle is an opportunity

Over the last year, we’ve discovered two things: meetings are more creative in person, and office costs are significantly reduced when staff work remotely.

There’s going to be a shift in the business landscape this year. Remote working will continue to be normal for years to come as businesses enjoy rent savings. Video calls will still be common for quick update meetings. But expect to travel to physical meeting places periodically for in-depth strategic planning.

Expect to see major cities with deserted office buildings and a rapid expansion of co-working spaces, especially those with meeting spaces — if WeWork can hold on a little longer, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

As a web professional, you’re in a unique position to thrive in the new business world, even more so if you’re a freelancer. Remember, if you’re working onsite, be mindful of your physical health, and if you’re working remotely, be mindful of your mental health.

What Do You Think?

No one saw 2020 coming. Sometimes world events are outwith our control, and we have to hang on and hope it gets better. It’s been a tough 12 months, and the truth is we’re not through it yet.

But the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is the first pandemic in human history that we’ve had the technology to shorten.

2021 offers the opportunity for enormous change. Will designers look for new, more decorative approaches? Will we replace our technology stack? Will you be billing clients in Ether this year? Will you suffer the misery of a packed evening commute ever again?

 

 

Featured image via Unsplash

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Branding 101: How to Get Your Design Business Online

You’ve named your business. You’ve sorted out the visual branding piece. Now, it’s time to get your business online so you can start making money.

In this post, we’re going to look at where your web design business needs to set up shop online and how to get it up and running quickly.

Step 1: Set Up Your Website

As a web designer or developer, having a website is non-negotiable.

Not only does a website provide prospective clients with all the information they need about you, it can help you automate many of those annoying tasks that get in the way of your actual paid work.

So, let’s start here:

Buy Your Domain Name

If you haven’t done so already, use the business name generator exercise to come up with a domain name. You then have a couple of options for buying it.

To Do:

  • Buy it from a domain name provider like GoDaddy or Domain.com;
  • Or buy it from your web hosting company;
  • Check the next step to see which option makes the most sense for you.

Choose a CMS

Use the same CMS as the one you’ll use to build your clients’ sites. That way, clients don’t wonder why you’d use something like Squarespace for your site, but then recommend WordPress for theirs, for example.

To Do:

  • If you use a self-hosted CMS (like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla), hold on this until you purchase your web hosting;
  • If you use a hosted CMS (like Wix, Squarespace, or Shopify), you won’t need to do the next step. Instead, just sign up for your website builder and buy your domain name now.

Buy Your Web Hosting

If you’re wondering what the difference is between the various types of web hosting, read this post.

Basically, this is what you’re looking for:

  • A hosting company with a good reputation that provides expert and timely support;
  • An affordable starter plan — either shared or cloud hosting;
  • Server locations near you (at the very least, in the same country as you);
  • Top-notch security features at the server level as well as the physical hosting facility;
  • Caching and other speed optimizations built into the server and on-site equipment;
  • Compatibility with your CMS (look for one-click install, too).

Also, look for add-ons like SSL certificates, CDNs, and, of course, a free domain name.

To Do:

  • Sign up for the hosting plan you want along with your domain name and SSL certificate (this is a must for SEO);
  • Install your CMS from the control panel once you’re ready to go.

Build Your Website

Ultimately, you have two goals here:

  1. To build a website that convinces prospective clients that you’re the real deal;
  2. To build a website that prospects would want for themselves.

So, there’s no need to go crazy with outlandish features or futuristic animations and design. Keep it simple. Keep it neat. And give prospects an honest portrayal of who you are, and what you can do for them.

Design It

The first thing to do is take all that work you did to create your visual branding and use it to design your website.

If you’re building a WordPress website, consider starting with one of these multipurpose themes.

Build Out the Pages You Need

A theme will automatically create the pages you need (most of them, anyway). If you’re not sure which ones to start with, these are the ones your prospects are going to be looking for:

You may also want to add separate pages for Testimonials and Case Studies once you’ve accumulated enough of them to show off. For now, you can include samples of your work in the Portfolio page and testimonials on the Home page.

Fill in the Content

Even if writing isn’t your strong suit, that’s okay. So long as the content you write for your site is free of spelling and grammar errors, your prospective clients are going to focus on what you’re telling them, not on how proficient a writer you are.

That said, if you’re nervous about this piece of your website, here are some tips to help you out:

1. Be concise, it’s not just minimal design that goes over well with modern audiences. Minimal copy does, too.

2. Be transparent. Tell prospects what exactly they can expect when they work with you and why your web design services are going to be different from the competition.

3. Consumers don’t trust companies that use meaningless buzzwords and make empty claims. Instead, focus on writing about the real and very competitive skills you have. According to research from NIDO Student, these are the skills employers look for when hiring a designer:

4. Let your images tell some of the story for you. Just make sure you use (or create) images that will impress your audience.

5. After you’ve written your content, take a step back and tackle the structure and formatting from a designer’s POV.

6. Before you hit the “Publish” button, run your copy through Hemingway Editor to ensure your content is error-free.

Add the Right Features

When I talk about features, I’m referring to anything outside the main design and content on your website. These are usually sales and marketing tools like:

  • Chatbot/live chat
  • Contact forms
  • Pop-ups or notification banners
  • Discovery call scheduler
  • Cookies consent notice

Only add the features you absolutely need. In other words, the features that will automate the marketing and sales tasks you’d otherwise have to manage on your own.

Step 2: Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a very important part of the work you do to get your business online. Here’s why:

After you launch your business and website, the next thing you’re going to focus on is getting clients. This can take a lot of work as you pore over the following resources for referrals and leads:

  • Your existing contact list (i.e. family, friends, old employers, colleagues, etc.);
  • Freelance job boards;
  • Industry-specific job boards;
  • Social media posts, pages, and groups;
  • Google search results for “we’re hiring”;
  • And so on…

And when you’re not busy cold-emailing prospective clients or talking to them on the phone, you’re probably going to be working on your business’ processes. Running a business is very time-consuming.

So, what happens when you finally start working on website projects? It’s not like the client search ends there. It’s an ongoing thing. Which is why your website needs to be optimized for search.

Once your site gets indexed by Google and starts to generate authority, your pages will rank better and the increased visibility will start generating leads without you having to actively make the first move.

SEO is a huge topic, so I’m not going to cover it here. However, the links below will do a good job of guiding you towards your next steps.

To Do:

Step 3: Get Active on Social Media

Your website is going to play a lot of roles:

  • Digital business card;
  • Authority builder;
  • Marketing vehicle;
  • Sales platform;
  • Content marketer.

But there’s one very critical thing it can’t do and that’s directly converse with your audience and grow your network. This is why you need to spend time building out your social media once your website is good to go.

As for which social media platforms to use (as there are way too many), here are my thoughts:

Become an authority on Twitter.

Twitter is a good place to share daily thoughts and interesting content you’ve found on the web.

Get discovered on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is useful because it’s another place to get noticed by potential employers, so make sure your relevant work experience and portfolio are up-to-date.

Connect with other creatives on Facebook.

It’s really hard to get noticed on Facebook unless you pay to play. Instead, use it to find groups that you can turn to for support, referrals, and brainstorming.

Share your work on Dribbble.

While you could use Instagram or Pinterest to show off your work, you might get more traction on a design-specific platform like Dribbble. Serve as inspiration for others and potentially get discovered by prospects looking for designers there.

Down the line you might decide to expand your business into recurring revenue opportunities like online courses. In that case, a platform like YouTube would be great. For now, focus your efforts on the main ones above.

To Do:

  • Create your social media accounts;
  • Brand them to match your website — both the visual component as well as the bio;
  • Start sharing content on a regular basis. You can automate sharing with a social media management tool, but remember to log in at least a couple times a week so you can engage with others, too;
  • Be careful not to commit these social media faux pas.

Wrap-Up

I realize this is a ton of information to throw at you. However, if you want to get your new business online and for it to succeed, you need to maximize the opportunities that are available to you.

I hope this three-part guide to starting a new business has been helpful. If you have any questions on the tips provided along the way, let me know in the comments.

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Popular Design News of the Week: November 9, 2020 – November 15, 2020

Every week users submit a lot of interesting stuff on our sister site Webdesigner News, highlighting great content from around the web that can be of interest to web designers.

The best way to keep track of all the great stories and news being posted is simply to check out the Webdesigner News site, however, in case you missed some here’s a quick and useful compilation of the most popular designer news that we curated from the past week.

Quarkly – Design Tool for Creating Websites and Web Apps

 

Create your Personal Branding Strategy in 4 Simple Steps

 

How to Design a Landing Page

 

No Code MBA – Learn to Build Real Apps and Websites Without Code

 

Your Computer Isn’t Yours

 

Swatches – Generate Colors for Every Purpose

 

Markabaly – Cross-platform Markdown Editor

 

12+ Bootstrap Hero Image Examples

 

The UX of Among Us: The Importance of Colorblind-friendly Design

 

No, your Clean Code won’t Save the Planet

 

My Side Project Rocks – Share and Discover Side Projects

 

How to Test Content like a Pro: A Step-by-step Guide

 

MacOS Big Sur is Here

 

Free Fonts for Prototyping and Wireframing

 

Gamification: The Broken Way of Carrot and Stick

 

Everything You were Wondering About Apple’s New M1 Chip

 

Please Unsubscribe – Fwd Emails to Unsubscribe from Marketing

 

The Fonts in Popular Things Identified Vol. 2

 

How to Become a Self-taught Graphic Designer

 

Using PowerPoint’s Animated GIF Function

 

Scribbble.io – A Blogging Platform for Developers

 

How to Work with WordPress Block Patterns

 

The Power of Happiness: Being Safe, Free, and Supported

 

How to Handle Scope Creep in Web Design

 

Building Products

 

Want more? No problem! Keep track of top design news from around the web with Webdesigner News.

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5 Biggest Challenges Web Design Agencies Face

With billions of internet users worldwide spending several hours online each day, the online presence of brands is now a necessary avenue for building, boosting, and maintaining positive value and attracting and interacting with customers. 

This has created increasing pressure for web design agencies when creating and managing websites. This pressure is multiplied by all the projects that web design agencies have to handle at one time. This is because different clients demand different things for their websites, whether it’s a signature feature or specialized functionality. 

Hence, it’s vital that the tools the agencies use to work are simple enough and suited to the tasks they have to accomplish in order to build and maintain these projects. Having the right tools can increase efficiency and effectiveness in managing websites.

Challenges in Modern Web Design

Building a website with all the essentials in mind is always easier said than done. Websites have to be both functional and easy on the eyes to invite traffic, disseminate information, or appeal a product or service to a target audience, and all while having an attractive and convenient interface.

The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to design a quality website and without spending a fortune to do so. Below are some of the challenges that web design agencies face when trying to deliver and reconcile efficient user experience and effective user interface in web design.

1. Appealing User Experience

Designing a good website means ensuring that the user experience is appealing to a general audience, but this is one of the most difficult parts of web design. Agencies must be careful not to turn off users with a confusing user experience. For instance, making important information difficult to find on web pages, using technical jargon that ordinary users wouldn’t understand, and focusing too much on the design rather than the overall experience are a few big mistakes that no designer should ever commit.

Instead, web design agencies should focus not only on making the design look good but also on making the experience smooth and fast for the regular site visitor. This includes improving design elements to make navigation easier as well as optimizing webpage load speeds.

2. Working With a Budget

It’s common for the client and the web design agency’s budgets to not line up at all times. Either the client will find the project quote too high, or the designer will find the client’s budget too low. The cost of a web design project can vary greatly, depending on what needs to be done. 

Although having to build a good website on a budget may be difficult, it’s important for both parties to come up with a set amount before the project even starts. The client should always specify what they want to achieve and how much they’re willing to pay to get it, and the agency should let the client know beforehand if this is possible.

3. Integrating Third-Party Functionality

Sometimes, clients may make requests for third-party functions that may not be easily integrated into the site. To prevent this, web design agencies should always consider integration when building a site. Most businesses and companies now have at least one social media account, so it doesn’t make sense for their site to remain disconnected.

When a website visitor shares an excerpt on a social media site like Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, other people who can see their posts may become interested in visiting the original post on the website. Properly integrating third-party applications and functions into a website can get it more online presence and popularity.

4. Suitability to Different Devices

There are many devices that people can use to access the web. From smartphones to desktop computers, from cars to game consoles, and even wristwatches and digital cameras, all of these can be web-enabled as long as there’s an available internet connection. 

Websites nowadays should always be compatible with any of the devices people might use to go to the website. They should look pleasing and load fast regardless of what device a visitor is using.

5. Security of Personal Information

Most websites require personal or financial information, whether for account verification, for website subscription, or something else. Websites should be designed with personal security in mind, which is even more important since hacking has been on the rise since the coronavirus hit.

One of the biggest threats that websites face today is phishing, or when an attacker will pretend to be a trusted contact and attempt to compel you to click a malicious link. Another is ransomware, or where cybercriminals hold customer data for ransom and attempt to extort online business owners. Yet one more is SQL injections, or where hackers will attempt to execute malicious SQL commands in your website’s database. 

The best practices in regards to web design to mitigate these risks include third-party plugins and themes, keeping all of your software up to date, setting your web applications so they run the fewest privileges possible, and utilizing SSL certificates and HTTPS protocols. 

Adopting Site-Building Platforms

Gone are the days where you had to be technologically gifted to design a website from scratch, usually through manual HTML codes. Back then, you had to know your way around the web if you wanted to set-up and manage a site of your own.

Now, there are a lot of good website builders that allow you to create websites in a faster period of time. Even web design agencies now make use of such builders in order to make the job easier and more convenient. Not to mention, it allows agencies to focus on the design alone.

Although these platforms offer predesigned templates based on the most common purposes of websites, they normally allow the user to white label the website into the branding specific to the business or agenda of the website owner. The text styles, colors, and sizes coordinated to the website’s theme, and colors can be designed specifically to match the business or organization’s image and identity. 

Simply put, creating websites through a web builder platform can provide web design agencies with easy-to-understand tools that their teams and members can all uniformly use to more effectively and more efficiently handle all their projects.

With services that allow mobile optimization, site management, and even drag-and-drop editing, web design agencies can now better manage their projects and finish with their tasks more quickly.

Not only that, by using white labelling, services can conserve their time and energy into focusing on creating the best website for their client. With all the website builders currently available on the market today, just picking the right one can give web design agencies the best tools to use when creating, designing, and maintaining websites. 

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Branding 101: Choosing the Right Business Name

When starting a new business (or even venturing into the world of freelancing for the first time), there are some really big, important steps you have to take.

Step #1 is choosing the right business name for your brand identity.

Your business name isn’t something you can casually choose either — especially if you have lofty long-term goals for your company. It’s not as though you can’t change the name down the road, but that comes with a ton of work and will require you to rebuild pretty much everything all over again: your visual brand identity, your reputation, and your SEO…

So, it’s a good idea to spend time choosing a business name that’s going to work for you now and long into the future.

Today, we’re going to go through the process of how to name your brand. These questions will have you thinking beyond just “What name do I like the sound of?” and have you more focused on important questions like “What is my unique value proposition?”.

Let’s get started:

How to Name Your New Business

For those of you considering taking the easy way out and using a business name generator tool, let me show you why that’s a bad idea:

This is a list of business names suggested to me when I told the generator that my business is related to “design”:

  • Design
  • Normal Design
  • Regional Design
  • Design Partner
  • Design Stock

Even the more unique names on the list are unusable; they have no connection to me personally or to the kind of business I plan to start.

This is why it’s so important to sort out your brand identity and make sure you pick a business name that resonates with you, and your target audience. To do this yourself, answer the following seven questions:

1. What Services Will You Provide Or Products Will You Sell?

The one thing that name generators get right is including a descriptive word related to your business. That way, it doesn’t take an actual visit to your website or a look through your portfolio to figure out what you do.

Even if you have a very niche specialty, sum up your offering in one or two words. For instance:

  • Web design
  • Digital design
  • Design & development
  • UX design
  • Graphic design

Unless you run your business through your own name (which I’ll talk about shortly), your business name should include a simplified version of your offering in it.

2. Who Is Your Target User Persona?

A user persona is a fictional character created using the demographics and psychology of your ideal customer or client. You can use Hubspot’s Make My Persona generator to create a card that documents these details:

Once you sort out who you serve, what makes them tick, and how it fits into the bigger picture of their business, you can better pitch your solution to them.

For instance, Joanna above is a real estate agent and owner whose primary goal is to capture leads and generate sales. You know how effective a real estate website can be for improving an agent’s visibility online and streamlining how they earn money.

So, including words in your business name that speak to that persona as well as their goals might be really useful.

Just keep in mind that web designers don’t always commit to one niche or stick with the same niche over the long run. So, you might not want to make your business name too specific to an industry (e.g. “Real Estate Design Solutions”) and more related to higher level themes and goals.

3. What Are The Names Of Your Top Competitors?

Do you know who your main competitors will be upon entering this space? If not, now’s the time to look them up.

When it comes to business names, you want to see if you can identify common threads among them. Perhaps they use puns or include location-specific descriptors. Or they just stick with the names they were born with.

While you don’t want to come off as a copycat, you can imbue your business name with a similar theme or tone if it’s proven to be successful with your shared audience. 

4. What Makes You Different?

Every business has a unique value proposition (UVP) — something that sets them apart from everyone else in the space. What’s yours?

Do you operate within a large metropolitan area where your prospective clients’ industry is booming?

Did you previously work in the industry for which you now build websites?

Are you an SEO expert who builds enterprise websites that rank?

In business, it’s good to be different — so long as it benefits your clients.

If you have a particular UVP that’s going to make you stand out, you’re going to use it everywhere to market yourself — your website, social media, sales pitches, etc. So, you might want to consider using a unique keyword from it within your business name.

5. Where Do You Envision Yourself In Five Years?

No one’s future is set in stone. However, if you’re seriously thinking about starting a new web design business, you have some ideas about where you want to go with it:

  • Do you like the idea of being a lifelong freelancer or digital nomad?
  • Would you like to operate your own design agency?
  • Do you have aspirations to build and sell website products, like plugins, themes, or UI kits instead?

If you expect to pivot your business at some point, be careful about choosing a business name that paints you into a corner. Keep it broader so that prospects don’t have to wonder what it is you really do.

And if you plan on scaling your business beyond yourself, using your own name might not be the best idea. You’ll want clients to associate the brand name with your agency, not with you specifically.

6. Will Your Business Name Be Easy To Remember?

At this point, you have some business names brewing. So, now we need to look at the more technical aspects of naming your brand.

Here’s what you need to do.

a. Write down no more than three to five business names you like.

For example:

  • Honeymooners Web Design
  • Charles Murphy Design & Development
  • FoREver Websites
  • SOLD Web Design Agency

b. Mash each name into one long lowercase string. Don’t include any punctuation.

For example:

  • honeymoonerswebdesign
  • charlesmurphydesignanddevelopment
  • foreverwebsites
  • soldwebdesignagency

c. Are any of the names difficult to read? Too long? Do any of them cause confusion and look like they mean something else?

If so, get rid of them as a matching domain name won’t work. Or, if you absolutely love them, fix the name so it’s clear, readable, and short. For instance:

charlesmurphydesignanddevelopment becomes charlesmurphydesign or just charlesmurphy.

7. Does The Name You Want Already Exist?

It’s a good idea to have a backup name in case you discover that the name you want already exists. Due to trademarking issues as well as possible confusion for your clients, you’ll want to avoid using a name that overlaps with or is the same as any other company (in or outside of web design).

Do a Google search for the business name you want to use. Check out the top 10 search results to see if there are any other matches.

You’ll also want to test out the domain name. Go to Domain.com and run your business name string through it:

You have a few options if this happens:

  1. Choose a different top-level domain (e.g. .tech, .io, .design).
  2. Use an abbreviated version of your business name  (e.g. solddesignagency.com).
  3. Move your backup business name to the front of the line and see if it’s available.

It all depends on how attached you are to the business name you’ve chosen. Just make sure that any changes you make to it (like shortening the domain name or using an alternate TLD) doesn’t cause confusion for prospects who look you up online. You don’t want them confusing someone else’s domain name for yours if business name and domain name don’t line up.

Choosing a Business Name Is Just the First Step…

Once you’ve settled on your business name, share it with a few people you trust. They’ll let you know if you’ve totally missed the mark or if it’s something you should be excited to run with.

As soon as you’re 100% sure it’s the right name, buy the domain name and register your company. Then, it’ll be official!

Of course, this isn’t the end to branding your new business. In our next Branding 101 post, we’re going to look at the next step: How to create the visual identity for your business.

Stay tuned!

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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5 Best Free Courses and Resources to Level Up As a Web Designer

I often see freelancers on social media asking what the secret is to working fewer hours, making more money, and helping new clients to find them. While those things tend to happen the longer you’ve been freelancing, it doesn’t happen without some effort.

If you’re wondering how you can change things so that your business becomes more profitable and easier to manage, education is the key.

But it’s not just mastering new design techniques that will take you to the next level. It’s important to invest your time in a well-rounded education so that you can grow not just as a web designer, but also as a freelancer and business owner.

The good news is that you don’t have to spend a ton of cash on courses or resources. In the following round-up, I’m going to share some of the best free courses to help you level up.

5 Best Free Courses and Resources for Web Designers

Rather than sign up for Udemy, Skillshare and other premium course membership sites, I recommend taking a bootstrapping approach to self-education. I mean, the whole point in learning new skills and strengthening existing ones is so you can run a better business and make more money, right?

Once you have extra funds to throw at premium courses, definitely explore those options. For now, let’s focus on the free courses and resources that’ll help get you to that next level:

1. edX

edX was created by Harvard and MIT in order to provide university-level training and education to anyone, anywhere. While you can’t get certified without paying a few hundred dollars, you can go through entire courses for free.

Courses are offered over a wide range of categories. As a freelance web designer, you’d do well to focus on the following areas:

Design
Learn more than just how to design beautiful interfaces. Learn about the technical side of it, too — things like AI, IoT, and cybersecurity.

Computer Science
Learn web development and coding.

Business & Management
Learn essential business skills like:

  • Project management
  • Finance management
  • Leadership
  • Marketing and analysis

Communication
Learn things like branding, negotiation, reputation management, and critical thinking.

2. Envato Tuts+

Envato Tuts+ might be best known for its succinct step-by-step design and development tutorials. However, it has a new section of free video courses to take advantage of.

Although you won’t learn any soft skills here, this is a great resource if you want to master the tools of your trade.

Free courses give you a deeper look at tools like:

  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Adobe’s suite of software
  • Sketch
  • WordPress
  • Video conferencing tools

3. YouTube

YouTube is more than just a place to watch entertaining videos. There are some amazing YouTube channels for web designers at all skill levels.

When choosing a design channel and course to follow, look for ones that are well organized. If they’re just posting videos at random without any rhyme or reason, it’ll be difficult to focus on and master one skill set before moving onto the next.

Here are the channels I recommend you follow:

Flux

Learn skills related to:

  • Web design
  • Getting started as a freelancer
  • Strengthening your processes
  • Building your portfolio
  • Design theory and strategy

CharliMarieTV

Learn skills related to:

  • Web design
  • Building sites with Figma or Webflow
  • Career paths for designers
  • Productivity hacks

NNgroup

Learn skills related to UX:

  • Web design
  • User psychology
  • Usability testing
  • Design thinking
  • Research and data analysis
  • Journey mapping
  • Get access to UX Conference seminars, too

4. Moz Whiteboard Fridays

Even if you don’t offer SEO as a standalone service, it’s important for web designers to understand the role they play in SEO and to stay abreast of the latest and greatest strategies.

If you haven’t tuned in for one of Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays yet, I’d recommend you start now.

Some of the topics might not be relevant to you (like creating a content strategy). However, there are others you’ll get some great tips from, like the one above that talks about creating great visuals, preparing web pages with tags and schema markup, and optimizing for featured snippets.

5. Nir Eyal – Indistractible

Nir Eyal has made a name for himself over the years as an author and presenter on the subject of human psychology and behavior. His first book (Hooked) examined consumer behavior and how to design around it. His second (Indistractible) turned the focus on us — the doers and creators who build experiences and products for consumers.

The first of his free resources to explore is this 30-minute presentation on why we’re so easily distracted and how to keep those distractions (and ourselves) from getting in the way.

The second free resource to snag up is the 80-page workbook available on the homepage. Here’s a preview of what it looks like:

You’ll learn about common distractions, identify those that are specific to you, and then work through exercises to defeat them.

If this is something you’re struggling with, these resources will empower you to make a much-needed change.

BONUS: WebDesigner Depot

Although WebDesigner Depot doesn’t offer video courses, I consider each of the articles contained within this site to be mini-courses of their own. And you’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about becoming a web designer and growing your freelance business.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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Finding Your Way With Domain Mapping

It’s no secret that having a custom domain name is an essential piece of any company’s branding strategy. While there are a myriad of hosting plans available that offer domains like your company.webhost.com, making the shift from one of those to simply yourcompany.com is an important step.

However, your domain branding strategy need not end there. Domain mapping offers an opportunity for web developers and online business owners the ability to improve their marketing campaigns, protect their brands from competitors, cut down on costs, and develop a more efficient workflow.

What is Domain Mapping?

Domain mapping refers to how visitors to your website are directed to different domains and subdomains and what URLs will be displayed in the visitors’ browsers.

When you first set up your online business, one of the very first things that you do is register a domain name for your company website. But depending on the business, it could be wiser to actually register multiple domain names at once. This is because you will want to lease the primary domain name you plan on using in addition to all related TLDs. This way, cybersquatters will not be able to hold your domain name hostage, especially once you have grown into a more established brand.

For example, if you register the name yourcompany.com, you might also want to register yourcompany.net and yourcompany.org. Then you might set up a URL redirect so that visitors to the latter two sites will be redirected to yourcompany.com. However, with a domain redirect, visitors to yourcompany.net and yourcompany.org will be redirected to yourcompany.com, meaning the URL in their browser will appear as yourcompany.com no matter what they typed.

With domain mapping, this isn’t the case. A visitor to yourcompany.net will still see that URL in their browser even if the content is actually being hosted on yourcompany.com.

Benefits of Domain Mapping

Although domain mapping may seem a bit esoteric and complex at first, it serves several purposes and offers many benefits:

1. Make Web Addresses Easier to Remember

Imagine that your restaurant chain, Larry’s Lunches, just opened a new chain on 116th Street in New York City. Your first instinct may be to direct customers to larryslunches.com/116thstnyc, but that domain is a bit long and hard to remember. Instead, you might want to register the domain larrys116th.com for customers for that specific store.

With domain mapping, you can serve up the content from your main domain, larryslunches.com, while still having your visitors see larrys116th.com. This makes it easier to brand your sites without having to manage several different sites.

2. Boost Your Web Development Career

If you are a web developer yourself but are not admittedly well-acquainted with domain mapping already, you would do well to change that.

One of the easiest ways would be to look at online web development programs that one can take to read through documentation to get caught up to speed on how domain mapping can help their efforts and how to implement it. These kinds of programs can be more comprehensive than university courses and offer an impressive 88% job success rate for those who successfully complete the programs.

3. Shield Your Brand from Competitors

Remember, it’s a good idea to purchase several different related domains in anticipation of competitors snatching them up from you. Choosing the right domain names is essential to protecting your brand.

For example, Larry’s Lunches might want to snag larrysnyclunches.com and larrysfamouslunches.com as well. However, simply leaving those domains parked can be a bit of a waste, and managing multiple domains can be a pain in and of itself.

But with domain mapping, you can manage those domains just as easily as if they were your primary site, so you no longer need to leave them empty.

4. Save Time and Lower Development Expenses

Development isn’t cheap, and time is money. While the maintenance costs for a website are already high enough, adding in separate domains can sometimes break the bank due to the increased complexity of managing so many different moving pieces.

Domain mapping can lower expenses and save time by keeping everything tidy and in one place. By managing everything from a single WordPress installation, for example, you can push updates to all your subdomains at once, saving you from the tedium of going through each domain and making the same updates.

5. Manage Client Sites from One Place

If you’re a freelance developer or run an agency, using domain mapping for some of your clients’ sites can save you time as well. For example, if several clients want blogs, and you use the same infrastructure for them, you can easily push updates and changes to all of them at the same time. In short, domain mapping can make maintaining sites much easier and quicker.

How to Implement Domain Mapping

If you’re sold on the benefits of domain mapping, here’s a quick primer on the steps you’ll need to take to get started:

  1. Choose a domain registrar: The ideal registrar you choose should come with a number of important features including adequate hosting for keeping your website visitor friendly, SSL certification to ensure security, 24/7 customer support, comprehensive packages that make it easy to operate your online business.
  2. Register the domains you’re interested in: These can either be domain misspells (otherwise known as typosquatting), like youcompany.com, yourcmpany.com, etc, or related domains like yournewproduct.com, yournewlocation.com, etc. Whatever you decide to go with, you’ll need to have it registered before you can get started.
  3. Install WordPress Multisite: WordPress is one of the easiest ways to develop websites, and that holds true for domain mapped sites as well. Plus, considering WordPress sites account for over a third of the entire internet, you can’t go wrong with the famed CMS. All you need to do is install WordPress and, once that’s installed, open wp-config.php and add define(‘WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE’, true) above the /*.
  4. Configure your DNS settings: Next, you’ll need to point all your name servers to your hosting account. These changes can take up to 72 hours to go into effect.
  5. Add domains to your hosting plan: From your hosting platform, you’ll need to link your custom domains. You can usually do this from your cPanel.
  6. Map subsites to your custom domains: Once you have your domains set up, you’ll need to link them through WordPress. To do so, simply login and navigate to Sites -> Add New. After you assign them a subdomain or subdirectory name, you can click Edit and add your custom domain. Then just hit Save Changes, and you’re good to go.

Take note that domain mapping is not necessary for transferring a domain name. When you map a domain, you’re simply telling your domain where it can find your website on the internet through having your name servers updated. When you change your name, it only affects where the domain has been resolved.

The Bottom Line

While domain mapping isn’t necessary for all websites, it can still be a major timesaver. By utilizing it properly, you can greatly improve the standing of your online business by saving time and money, making website management easier, and improving the branding of your sites.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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