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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

Top New CMS Plugins, November 2020

Since there are so many CMS plugins out there, it can be overwhelming to choose the best ones for your website. We’ve done the research for you; this list contains the top new CMS plugins for November 2020. You’ll find useful plugins for WordPress, Craft, Shopify, and Joomla.

Let’s get started…

WordPress

404 Page Editor

404 Page Editor is a simple WordPress plugin that helps you add custom text to the default 404 page on your website. The plugin comes with seasonal and industry-related 404 templates. One useful feature of the plugin is that it backups your current 404 page before changing it. So you can restore the backup page anytime you choose. The plugin duplicates your current 404.php page to wp-content/uploads/404-page-editor/ so you can easily find it. You can also change the text on the plugin to fit your local dialect. 

UnusedCSS Power-Up

Most WordPress themes and plugins load their CSS in the wrong areas of your website. This can slow down your site. A slow website will reduce user experience and lead to increased bounce rates.

UnusedCSS will help reduce the size of your website’s CSS files by up to 95%. The best part is that the plugin works automatically. It will remove any unused CSS when visitors view any page on your website. UnusedCSS will automatically reduce your website’s load times by reducing your CSS files and page size. The plugin also optimizes the performance of other WordPress plugins and extensions. UnusedCSS also works with WooCommerce themes and plugins.

Simple Redirects

Simple Redirects is a WordPress plugin that helps you to automatically redirect requests to another page on your site or any other place on the web. The plugin allows you to easily redirect users from your old web pages to new pages using 301 or 302 redirects. You don’t have to worry about losing backlinks or page rank. Any incoming links to the old web page will be automatically passed along to the new page. The page rank on the old page is also transferred to the new page. The plugin is useful when migrating a WordPress site when don’t want to retain the URL structure. 

HTML Validation

HTML Validation plugin helps you identify any HTML validation errors on your website. The plugin works automatically in the background of your website and will send you regular reports. There is a progress bar on the report screen to show you the progress of the scan. The plugin uses WordPress Cron to scan the content of your website. There is also an option for the plugin to automatically fix any HTML validation issues on your website. You can also choose to fix the issues manually. 

Just Highlight

Just Highlight is a simple WordPress plugin that helps you highlight text in your posts or pages. You can use this plugin to highlight any portion of the page you want to draw the reader’s attention to. You can highlight the background of the page and also add animation to the highlighted text. In the WordPress admin area, you can change the speed and color of the animation. The plugin is compatible with Gutenberg, and the WordPress classic editor. 

DeviantArt Embed

DeviantArt Embed is a simple plugin that helps you embed any work from Deviant Art into a post. The plugin provides a block for the WordPress block editor so you can easily embed the image. It uses a DeviantArt oEmbed API to pull the images and their descriptions, and creates an embedded image. 

Static Optimizer

Static Optimizer is a static file optimization plugin that serves and optimizes static files on your website. The plugin will help you increase your website speed by automatically compressing your static files. It is easy to set up, you just need an API key to get started. Other useful features that the plugin offers include automatic JS and CSS minification, automatic image optimization, and processing of responsive images. You don’t have to worry about losing your files if their server is down. The plugin automatically backs up your files and will load your original files when their servers are down (either because of an upgrade, maintenance, or outage).  By default, only images are compressed when you activate the plugin; you can also choose to optimize fonts, CSS, and JS files. 

RankBear

RankBear is a keyword rank tracker plugin that helps you analyze your SEO efforts. With RankBear, you can track the keywords for each of the posts and pages on your site. While the plugin has a paid plan, you can track up to five keywords for free. On the free plan, you will receive weekly reports on each keyword you are tracking. You can search for the rank and volume of a keyword in every location supported by the Google search engine. RankBear is a lightweight software-as-a-service plugin hosted by Amazon Cloud Services. The plugin also offers the option to download the keyword reports to CSV. 

Table of Contents Block

Table of Contents Block is a plugin that allows you to easily create a Table of Contents for your WordPress posts. The plugin is lightweight and will automatically add a Table of Content in your website’s posts and pages. You can select the heading tags you want to add to the Table of Content. It also has a dedicated support team to assist you. The plugin works fine with all standard WordPress themes. 

Markease For WooCommerce

Markeaze is an all-in-one communication plugin that allows you to add live chat to your online stores. The plugin will help you improve your customer service by decreasing your response times. With the plugin, you can collect your visitor’s contact information via a widget. This feature is useful in building a subscriber database. You can also use the plugin to track customer behavior on your site, inform customers about new products, help customers with active orders, and collect customer feedback. You can also use the auto-reply function to answer commonly asked questions. 

Craft CMS

Image Toolbox

Image Toolbox is a Craft CMS plugin that offers image-related tools for your templates. The plugin will automatically create a WebP variant of the images you upload. It also has a fallback for browsers that do not support WebP images. Other useful features the plugin offers include automatic creation of placeholder images and generation of responsive images with multiple variants. The plugin also supports Imager-X (or old Imager). 

Element Panel

Element Panel plugin allows you to add elements and an eager-loading panel to the debug toolbar. This feature will help you benchmark your templates in Craft CMS. For elements, the panel has a dashboard that shows how many elements are populated. It also shows how many elements are duplicates. The plugin also shows you how many eager-loading elements are detected. Duplicate elements are grouped by field name. 

Shopify 

VStore Shoppable Videos

VStore Shoppable Videos is a Shopify plugin that allows your customers to shop directly from your videos. The plugin allows you to embed your products into any video. Since videos have a high engagement rate, this plugin will significantly improve your store’s conversion rates. 

ProofMotion Video Testimonials

ProofMotion Video Testimonials plugin helps you to easily collect video testimonials. The plugin sends an automated email or SMS requests to customers asking for their satisfaction feedback after making a purchase. The responses are analyzed to determine whether the customer had a negative or positive experience. Customers that offer negative feedback are sent to customer care to help them with the problem they encountered. Happy customers are prompted to make video testimonials of their positive shopping experience. ProofMotion guides the customer through the interview so they can give the best testimonial. They also offer an on-site widget so you can easily share your testimonials. 

Real ID

Real ID is a Shopify plugin that allows you to verify customers’ real identity using a photo ID and facial biometrics. The plugin is perfect for orders that have an age restriction, verifying flagged fraud goods, and selling expensive goods. Real ID will help you identify whether a government-issued-ID is fake during fulfilment. All the customer needs to do is take a selfie on their phone. This way, even if a customer has access to a stolen physical ID, they won’t still be able to make any purchase. The plugin can verify documents such as passports, visas, national IDs, driver licenses, and more. Real ID will help you handle GDPR compliance. The plugin is available in hundreds of countries around the world. 

Joomla

Accessibility

Accessibility is a Joomla plugin that allows your website visitors to easily access your website content. The plugin will remove any barrier between the visitor and your Joomla site. There is no coding required and you can customize the plugin directly from the module manager. The plugin has a useful feature called Dyslexic Readability; this feature allows your visitors to set the entire document font to a dyslexic-friendly font. Visitors can also grayscale the page, resize the fonts, and resize the word space. From the backend module, you can add any custom CSS and JS. The plugin is also available in 12 different languages. 

Reading Time

Reading Time is a simple plugin that will help you easily show the reading time of your Joomla articles. The plugin is easy to set up and does not require any coding. You can customize every parameter, including the text, in minutes. You can also choose to exclude categories, articles, and menu items. Reading Time also allows you to easily add custom CSS code from the plugin parameters. 

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

9 Ways To Boost Your Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is a ranking metric that predicts how well a site will rank online. It goes by a scale of 1 to 100 — the closer you are to 100, the better your odds of ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs), thus giving you more clicks.

To see how your site currently ranks, visit Moz’s free Link Explorer to test your DA. Just type your website URL in the search bar and click “Analyze”. Just remember: don’t kick yourself if your DA is smaller than 30 to 50. If you follow these 9 tips today, you’ll most definitely see your DA score improve.

1. Domain Name Age

You know that old saying, right? Wisdom comes with age. Well, guess what? The same is true for your domain name. If your domain name doesn’t have an ‘old’ age, then it’ll rank lower, and users online might not see your site as legitimate.

But with an older domain name, not only will users see your site as more legitimate, but it’ll also have a much higher DA score than younger domain names. In other words, every time you change your domain, you might be doing more harm than good to it, since you’re actually knocking down the credibility you’ve built up over the years by starting from scratch.

Therefore, pick an easy-to-remember domain name that’s not only relevant to your niche, but it’s also something that you’re willing to keep for a very long time.

2. On-Page Optimization

Then, it’s time to optimize all the following on your pages:

  • Code;
  • Content;
  • Site structure;
  • Metatags;
  • Other on-page elements (H1, Title tags, Image alt tag, Site architecture, etc.).

Improving your DA with optimization can make your site be more search-engine-friendly.

3. Create Great Content

Want to attract high-quality links from multiple domains in your niche? Good news! More attraction to your site comes from creating high-quality content that appeals to your target audience. Otherwise, poor-quality content will only scare people away.

So, in providing the best content possible, that will definitely help you improve your DA score (and even give you many additional SEO benefits).

4. Internal Link Improvement

Why worry about earning external links when your internal links need the most attention? Yes, focusing too much on external links can make you lose sight of linking internally.

So, why internal links? These links help nudge visitors to what they’re trying to look for on your website. In that way, visitors are getting the best user experience, while you reap the rewards of having an increased DA score.

5. Link Profile Clean-Up

Having a clean link profile is essential, since it helps you obtain and maintain a great DA score. So, to clean up your link profile, you must remove the bad links from it.

In this process, you can use tools like:

These tools help you figure out any inappropriate or unwanted links.

After the link audit is complete, contact the website owners to have them either delete the link or add the “nofollow tag” (devalues the link). If this doesn’t work, use the Google Disavow tool to remove said links from your profile.

6. Know Your Niche

When running a site, it’s important for you to be the expert in what you have to offer online – and your DA is no exception to this. Becoming an authoritative figure in your niche allows you to gain the confidence of readers, while providing expert advice to the community.

If you have amazing content (i.e. guest blogs on industry-related forums) and clever ways to engage your target audience, then people will see you as an authority to your niche. This not only enhances your brand, but also increases your DA score.

7. Be Mobile-Friendly

Nowadays, people are on their phones, tablets, etc. Whatever device that they can use on the go, they’ll use. In other words, mobile isn’t just the way of the future – it’s happening right now, outpacing laptops since 2014. So, if your website isn’t mobile-friendly yet, then now is the time to fix that!

If your website hasn’t been optimized for mobile use yet, not only will it hurt your search rankings (since Google favors mobile-friendly sites), but you’ll also lose out on users visiting your site to begin with.

So, go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, and then run a test for your domain. Afterwards, Google will give you a detailed report of how mobile-friendly your site is, and what you can do to improve it.

8. Improve Page Speed

Let’s face it: No one likes to wait for a webpage to load; they want quick results. So, if your site isn’t loading fast enough, then users will get frustrated and most likely go to another site. So, why not improve your page speed?

First, find the cause of your website running slower than it should. You can do this by running your website through Google’s PageSpeed Insights; it’ll analyze the speed of your site. And then, it will identify some effective ways for you to make your site faster and consequently improve your DA score.

9. Utilize Social Media

Finally, it’s important to increase your social signals, when it comes to gaining more authority with your domain. While search engines like Google won’t insist that sites make social signals a priority to increase their rankings, site runners must still take advantage of social media to do the following:

  • Promote their sites;
  • Promote their products and services;
  • Tell people about any events and contests.

As a result, sites are more likely to get likes, shares, and tweets through social media, versus going solo in search engines.

Conclusion

Domain authority is extremely important for your site. First, DA allows you to analyze how well your website does in the search space. Plus, it allows you to compare the performance of your website with that of your rival sites, thus showing you where you stand in search engine results.

So, why not get your site thriving today by improving and maintaining your DA score today? Your site will thank you for it!

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

Popular Design News of the Week: October 26, 2020 – November 1, 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.

Minimal CSS Frameworks

 

Responsive Grid Design: Ultimate Guide

 

The New Facebook Design Sucks

 

The No-Code Generation is Arriving

 

15+ Text Typing Effect CSS Animation Examples

 

AppSheet by Google Workspace – No-code App Building Platform

 

Ecommerce Development Trends: The 2021 Edition

 

How Videos Can Boost your Website Ranking Results

 

5 Small Business Website Essentials You Need for your Site

 

The Psychology of User Decisions

 

Overflow for Windows – User Flow Diagramming Tool for Designers

 

How to Create an AI that Chats like You on WhatsApp

 

‘50 Shades of Blue’

 

Here’s Why Developers are in Love with Functional Programming

 

Apple Building Search Engine to Take on Google, Report Claims

 

A Faster Way to View Search Results with Less Clicking

 

Dark Mode in UI Design for Mobile Apps: Beauty Born in the Darkness

 

EncryptLab – A Collection of Free and Comprehensive Encryption Tools

 

Part of your World: Why We’re Proud to Build a Truly Native Mac App

 

Why I will not Call Myself a Junior Designer - and Neither Should You

 

10 Usability Mistakes Most Designers Make on Checkboxes

 

People Problems

 

Practical Guide to Color Theory for UI Designers

 

Following the 2020 U.S. Election with Google

 

React Vs Svelte – A Comprehensive Comparison Between Javascript Libraries

 

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

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

You Won’t Win SEO With Hacks, Here Are 3 Winning SEO Strategies

The world of search engine optimization was born with all sorts of different hacks and shortcuts that many people use in an effort to grow their business.

Knowing effective SEO tricks would be incredibly profitable, but unfortunately it’s not that easy

This becomes evident as soon as you do a Google search about anything SEO-related, only to find pages and more pages replete with blog posts and videos disclosing all the tips and tricks you “need to know” in order to achieve the best SEO results, in the fastest way possible.

Knowing effective SEO tricks would be incredibly profitable, but unfortunately it’s not that easy.

In its essence, SEO isn’t about hacks, shortcuts, and hidden optimizations, but rather about resource allocation. Keep reading to learn why!

Be Careful About Over-Reliance on Hacks

Before we start talking about resources, it’s important to understand why the quick and easy SEO hacks we’ve all read about online aren’t as reliable as they might seem.

The reality is that yes, there are some traditional hacks and optimization tactics that many people swear by. However, SEO has become way too competitive for these hacks to still work.

Think about it: anyone can learn about these hacks and shortcuts in a matter of seconds, which means that anyone can use them, which means that they’re not going to help your website stand out. By way of example, when thinking about keyword usage, many websites simply decide to put them everywhere on their website, without actually planning and strategizing. Perhaps years ago, doing so would lead to excellent results, but that’s not the case anymore.

What I want to go over, and what I mean with this article, is that when developing your SEO plan, you should think less about hacks, and try to focus on strategy and resources instead.

As tempting as they might be, most SEO hacks won’t really go that far.

What does go far are those strategies and resource allocation decisions, which you can master as long as you know three things:

  • Who your competitors are;
  • What you have;
  • and What strengths you can double down on.

Base Your SEO Strategies on Your Business’s Resources

So, SEO is about resource allocation – we know that now…but what exactly does that mean?

Well, this logic is based on something you might have heard of before, and that is the three pillars of SEO.

As a refresher, everything in SEO revolves around three pillars:

  • Link building and referring domains;
  • Content development and content marketing;
  • Technical SEO.

Many businesses have a limited digital marketing budget and, as if that wasn’t enough, their SEO budget tends to be even more restricted.

This means that we can’t try every hack out there or do every campaign we can come up with, hoping it will lead to positive results. On the contrary, it means we need to be methodical and understand which strategies have the most potential and are actually worth exploring.

In summary, there’s one big challenge that every SEO team and company experiences, and that is the limitation of resources versus possible operations, and that leads us to a question: what mix of SEO pillars will give us a good shot at ranking high and surpassing our competitors?

Develop Your SEO Strategies Based on Your Inherent Strengths

The mistake that a lot of business owners make after reading SEO articles or hearing about amazing case studies is that they try and copy the strategies they learned about, from beginning to end.

However, contextually, each case study or article could refer to a strategy that was specifically optimized for a different type of business.

So, although copying what other successful businesses can work in certain situations when speaking about SEO, it’s best to borrow ideas and use the ones that fit your inherent strengths.

Based on the pillars of SEO that we discussed earlier, there are three strong points that a company can have:

If You Have a Strong Network…

Some businesses don’t have the resources to create an in-house content development team or outsource writing services.

However, they have another strong suit, which lies in their ability to go out into their community, speak, and be heard. They can do this because they have built a strong network over the years and, in cases like this, what we often do is use a backlinking approach.

When working with businesses that have a strong community presence, go out and double down on their network. Pitch their relevant contacts for guest speakership and guest posts, building thought leadership, while also driving links to their website.

If You’re Not That Popular But Are Good With Words…

Right now, some of you might be thinking: “Yeah, well, that’s easy when you’ve built the exposure, but not all of us are lucky enough to be well-known”.

Listen, I get it, we’ve all been in that position.

For clients and businesses that feel like they don’t have the brand equity or exposure to develop a strong backlinking strategy, opt for another route, and invest much more on content (and/or technical SEO, see below).

If the client has a team who’s ready to put its head down and get to work, then focus on producing a lot of content for their website.

Ultimately, the goal is to build a content library that is thorough and expansive, and that provides the client with more opportunities for keyword rankings, while also reinforcing the relevance of their website for those specific SEO keywords.

If Technical Knowledge is Your Forte…

You may not like (or have time) to write and you may not have a strong community presence, but if you have advanced technical skills and the ability to create a strong website quickly, then there’s another approach you can take.

This leads us into the third pillar of SEO: technical SEO.

This solution is indicated for technical teams that can create large websites, databases and user experiences in no time, and it is typically adopted by tech startups that are trying to create an app that provides user value.

First and foremost, winning at technical SEO requires strong technical skills that will allow you to build the web assets that you need, but that’s not all. It also requires you to understand how you can double down on these skills and manage large websites in the rather complex Google ecosystem.

So you need, for example, to know how you can get Google to notice and properly index the new pages you create on your website, even if you already have 100,000 pre-existing pages.

Or to ensure that each of your new pages is properly optimized for the best keywords.

Needless to say, using technical SEO does become a complex operation. However, when done right, it can lead your SEO to grow by sheer size, with the hopes that certain relevant keywords will start to rank for your business naturally.

Conclusion: Your Strategy Will Probably Be a Combination of the Three Pillars

When it comes to SEO, honing in on your strengths and accepting the fact that you can’t do everything is definitely the way to go.

When you’re running an SEO campaign, you should always focus on what you’re good at, know your resources, and augment what you already master – and that will put you in the right direction.

By focusing your resources on any of the pillars of SEO (or even a mix of them), you substantially increase your chances of achieving long-term success, which will not happen if you go for hacks and shortcuts instead.

A long-term, highly-organized, resource-allocated SEO strategy won’t only guarantee continuous success, but it can ultimately become self-sustaining, meaning that it will allow you to keep growing and growing, becoming an organic part of your marketing plan.

I’ve seen a lot of people try SEO hacks for two weeks, only to realize that they didn’t work and that their efforts had been in vain. 

It’s unfortunate because by doing so, you’re turning your back on a marketing channel that is very valuable to a lot of people, and these hacks trick people into thinking it’ll be overnight.

So remember, resource allocation over hacks and shortcuts!

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Top 5 Reasons Presto Is the Foundation of the Data Analytics Stack

The need for data engineers and analysts to run interactive, ad hoc analytics on large amounts of data continues to grow explosively. Data platform teams are increasingly using the federated SQL query engine PrestoDB to run such analytics for a variety of use cases across a wide range of data lakes and databases in-place, without the need to move data. PrestoDB is hosted by the Linux Foundation’s Presto Foundation and is the same project running at massive scale at Facebook, Uber and Twitter.

Let’s look at some important characteristics of Presto that account for its growing adoption.  

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Why AI & Automation Are Actually Friends to Design

Artificial intelligence. Just hearing the phrase has been a trigger for many in the technology world since that creepy Haley Joel Osment film circa 2001. But more recently, artificial intelligence and machine learning strike fear into the hearts of skilled workers for an entirely different reason: job security, or lack thereof.

Smart-home devices, streaming services, self-checkouts, even Google searches are ways that artificial intelligence has seeped into everyday life, exemplifying the abilities of computers and machines to master both simple and complex tasks. In some instances, these technological advancements make our lives easier, but for some people, their proliferation has meant job loss and skill replacement. There’s no wonder that when artificial intelligence starts being mentioned along with web design and site creation, the spidey senses of designers all over the world start tingling.

designers think outside the box, something that AI just can’t do

But let’s get real about what AI and automation really mean for designers for a second. Talented designers with busy schedules should view these advancements as virtual assistants. For some small businesses on a limited budget, the websites that artificial intelligence can pump out might be fine…for a while. However, as businesses grow, change, require updating and customization to adapt to their customer base, the expertise of creative and talented designers will always be needed. Even the best AI that we see today is limited by evaluating, replicating, and revising what already exists. It may be able to mix 1,000 different color schemes into 10 million potential combinations, but great designers think outside the box, something that AI just can’t do.

In fact, rather than being scared of automation, designers ought to embrace automation and artificial intelligence as a way to unleash their creative thinking. Delegate repetitive, straightforward tasks to the right software, and suddenly you have time to bring your best ideas to the table and push the boundaries of your own innovation. 

Where AI has Failed in Design

The ultimate goal of artificial intelligence and automation in design work is a grand vision that has yet to be realised.

Consider the case of The Grid, which began as a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. The “revolutionary” product posed itself as an artificial intelligence solution for building thoughtfully, yet automatically, designed websites in five minutes. Research “Reviews of the Grid” in any search engine and you’ll be met with scathing criticism with only some small praise sprinkled in. Most of the initial users cite underwhelming results, the feeling of being duped by the Grid’s marketing tactics, nonsensical placement of text, and ultimately, the Grid being a complete waste of money for the resulting product. Even at the low cost of $100, compared to hiring a talented designer, most users felt their investment was wasted.

For the AI capabilities that exist now, most small business owners, or those looking to put together a simple website, are better off using drag and drop site builders (Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc) that have been around for ages. Even so, there are plenty of businesses still willing to hire designers to take this simple task off their plate due to a lack of technical expertise or lack of time. And let’s be honest, are there even enough talented (keyword here!) designers out there to keep up with the millions of websites created every year, without each one working themselves to death? 

Where Automation Shines for Designers

Fortunately for good designers, it appears for now that the days of artificial intelligence completely taking over their jobs is a fantasy. However, what AI and automation do offer designers is a solid starting point for success, eliminating much of the lower-level grunt work that most designers would rather skip anyway.

Even well-received AI website builders like Firedrop still require a basic eye for design and specialised knowledge to produce truly unique, high-converting, and user-friendly websites. Tools and practices that designers should adopt are the artificial intelligence and automation resources that will help them do their jobs better, faster, and leave them with more time to focus on project elements that AI cannot accomplish on its own.

Bridging the Gap Between Designers and Developers

Well-established brands are likely to already have design systems in place that guide the creation of new elements across their digital profiles whether on social media, various mobile apps, or different sections of a website. But even in large corporations — excepting those who have perfected the process — there’s often a breakdown between a designer’s vision and resulting product from the developers. It stems from the basic difference in how they each approach their work and the limitations of the systems they use.

While component libraries — or even full design systems for that matter — won’t reconcile every question, they provide both developers and designers a source of truth to work from that both parties can understand. Design collaboration tools like Invision and Visme, specifically, keep designers and developers on the same page with automated version saving and code-friendly workflows.  

Understanding the Consumer

I don’t suggest using artificial intelligence to produce content for your site

Digging into and understanding the behaviours and habits of site users is a relatively new component of site design, but offers invaluable insights. Tools like HotJar, Mouseflow, or Smartlook make it simple to see holes or leaks in your conversion funnels, detect which page elements users are interacting with, and which they’re not interested in to refine the look and feel of a page for maximum conversions. Even though these tools provide the data, it still takes a keen eye and understanding of design to implement the right changes to improve site performance.

Site content is another way that artificial intelligence has the potential to improve our understanding of customer behaviour and improve site performance for individual users. I don’t suggest using artificial intelligence to produce content for your site, no matter how much the results have improved. However, static landing pages or a single set of further reading recommendations are unlikely to appeal to the majority of site visitors. Artificial intelligence tools like CliClap and Personyze instantly collect and analyse consumer data to provide dynamic, personalised experiences that drive more leads and encourage conversions. Creative designers will also learn from this data to improve customer experience with other pages or elements throughout the site.

Removing Distracting, Time-Sucking Administrative Tasks

Because “artificial intelligence” has become a term with such negative connotations, we often overlook the simple way that AI actually makes our work lives better and easier. Machine learning in email filtering is a great example of this. Consider a simple interface like a Gmail inbox. We have the option to mark certain senders as spam or as important, and our inbox learns that type of communication is and isn’t useful to the user. Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and more all take cues from the user behaviour of liking a certain song, artists, or genre of music to build customised playlists. There are a myriad of ways that artificial intelligence and its branches of disciplines merge with our everyday lives. 

Some of the most useful automations for business, and especially for designers, are related to the administrative tasks that frequently take time away or distract from more pressing projects. A perfect example of automation that can relieve stress and cut down on mindless work is an email autoresponder. I’ve always found that having time blocked off in my calendar to tackle complex or important projects helps me to focus on the task at hand and be more efficient. In order to more effectively block out my time, closing my email and setting an autoresponder to reply to all incoming emails serves two purposes: 

  1. Lets those trying to get in touch with me know that I only check my email at certain times of the day and that my response may not be immediate — tempering their expectations of when they might hear from me.
  2. Relieves my personal stress of being tethered to my inbox, splitting my focus, and also saves the time of having to initially respond to each email individually. 

This is just one simple way to use automation in your email, although there are many others to explore.

While Zapier isn’t the only workflow automation service on the market, it’s probably the most well known. Workflow automation reduces time spent on mind-numbing, repetitive tasks and helps designers connect apps that might not natively work together. Do you keep a task list in Todoist? Set up a Zap, then create a task in Todoist anytime someone mentions you on Asana or assigns you a task in Trello.

This is especially helpful for freelance designers who work with multiple clients across various project management platforms. The potential for automation to relieve unnecessary mental overhead for designers is nearly limitless.

Don’t be Afraid of AI, Embrace It

The bottom line of this brief overview of artificial intelligence and automation in design is that this emerging technology isn’t something designers should be scared of. In fact, it’s something to welcome with open arms because ultimately it can make our jobs, and our lives, better. Leave the monotonous tasks of collecting and analysing huge amounts of data or administrative minutiae to the machines; they can handle it.

Save the interesting, creative, abstract work for the talented designers who can turn AI recommendations into unique and intuitive digital experiences. Making the relationship between artificial intelligence and design symbiotic will yield the best results for every entity involved: the business, the AI, and yes, even the designer.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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Exciting New Tools for Designers, September 2020

It’s fun to see new website design tools that reflect current times and the state of the world. That’s very true this month with new databases devoted to diversity and women in technology, as well and resources to make your design life easier.

Here’s what’s new for designers and developers this month:

Ztext.js

Ztext.js is an easy to implement, three-dimensional typography tool for the web that works with any font you want to use. With the popularity of 3D effects and animation, this tool has a lot of practical applications. Everything you need, including documentation, is available from developer Bennett Feely on his website and GitHub. (It’s free but you can show appreciation with a donation if you like it.)

Gradient Magic

Gradient Magic is a free gallery of fun and interesting CSS gradients. You can sort through a random selection or by category of color to find just the right gradient for your project. Some of them would make really neat backgrounds or image overlays.

Impossible Checkbox

Impossible Checkbox is a fun little divot that you’ll want to play with and emulate. Click or tap the slider to activate and a nifty little friend pops up. Now here’s the fun part: You can’t leave it checked, and take note of the changing expression of the checkbox character.

Diversify Tech

Diversify Tech isn’t your average job board; it is a collection of resources – and opportunities – for underrepresented people in technology. It includes a weekly roundup and everything from scholarships, to events, to jobs, to speaking opportunities.

Women in Tech

Women in Tech is a list of apps made by women. The apps are ranked and chosen based on upvotes and is a good resource if you want to help support women-owned projects. Search or submit an app for inclusion.

Devello Studio

Devello Studio is a tool that allows you to write code in the cloud. You don’t have to install anything and no matter where you are, just can open a project in-browser, and continue development where you had left off last time. Plus, it works with GitHub support built right in.

Hustl

Hustl is a premium Mac app that allows you to create time-lapse videos of your screen. Use it to show off work or projects or create a cool video for your portfolio. Plus you can use it to capture just one active app so you don’t have to do a lot of editing later.

FeedBaxley

FeedBaxley is a user feedback tool that helps you (and users) figure out what’s frustrating before it becomes a real issue. You can customize everything to match your brand and set it up with copy and paste tools. Feedback integrates with Slack, making it easy for you to analyze information with a team.

BestTime

BestTime launched a major update with a new tool that makes it possible to analyze visitor peaks of public business (cafe, gym, etc) for whole areas. Using the heatmap API you can find businesses at popular times, locations, or by business type.

Pixeltrue

Pixeltrue is a new collection of free SVG illustrations and Lottie animations in a trendy style. They are available for commercial and personal use and add a bit of whimsical delight to website projects. (The error illustrations are particularly fun.)

Previewed

Previewed has tons of cool and realistic mockups that you can use to create the perfect setting for digital projects. You can find mockups for a variety of devices and cool panoramas that work perfectly for elements such as app store previews.

Alt Text Overlay Bookmarklet

The Alt Text Overlay Bookmarklet solves a common problem: It shows what images use alt text and what that text is. The tool was created by Christian Heilmann and he’s put it on GitHub for you to play with and test.

MergeURL

MergeURL allows you to merge and shorten up to five links. Enter the links and mergeurl.com/o/xxxxx, for example, will open all the URLs associated with that link. The tool is free to use and you don’t have to register to use the service.

Infinity Search

Infinity Search is a new search engine that lets you look for things privately and efficiently. Search the web, images, or videos. Here’s a little about how it works: “While we retrieve results from other search engines like Bing and Wikipedia, we also have our own indexes of links that are displayed in our search results. We are actively working on improving these indexes and they will only get better.”

Blade UI Kit

Blade UI Kit is a set of renderless components to use in Laravel Blade Views. It’s built for the tall stack and is completely open source. It includes 26 components and you can contribute as well.

Trusted News

Trusted News is a Google Chrome extension that uses AI to assist in evaluating the quality of the online content. In its first release, it scores the objectivity for a selected article, testing whether it is written from a neutral perspective as opposed to a subjective one.

BaseDash

BaseDash allows you to edit production data without coding. You can make changes to the database with the ease of a spreadsheet. This tool makes it easy to find and edit information in a hurry. It works with all major databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Amazon Redshirt, Microsoft SQL Server, and more.

Email2Go

Email2Go is a service that helps you create email templates and test them on dozens of physical devices and applications. It’s free right now while it is in early release.

Iconscout Converter

The Iconscout Converter allows you to convert icons and images from one file format to another for free. Convert SVG, PNG, JPG, and PDF with a single click.

Shape 2

Shape 2 is a massive collection of 5,000+ unique icons and illustrations with a full-blown web editor. Customize colors, stroke width, size and full variations that can export to SVG, PDF, PNG, GIF, and React. This is a premium tool and includes a discounted release price for now.

Aestetico

Aestetico is a beautiful sans serif that includes a massive family with 54 styles. This premium typeface is highly readable and has modern lines and curves that make it a great option for a variety of uses.

Arcades

Arcades is a modern display font with a retro, 1980s-style vibe. It includes regular and italic styles.

Brimington

Brimington is a handwriting style typeface with rough strokes and smooth curves. It includes a set of 227 characters and 219 glyphs in a readable design.

California Signature

California Signature is a typeface duo with a slab serif and handwriting style that are perfectly paired. The thick and thin options provide a yin and yang effect.

Eastblue

Eastblue is a script typeface with long swashes and interesting curves. It includes a solid character set and is free for personal use only.

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12 Best Google Design & Development Tools

Google resembles an iceberg: there’s the part above the water we can see and use everyday; there’s also the part beneath the water, that we don’t see and know little about.

While many of us are concerned about the aspects of Google we don’t see — the parts that threaten our privacy, or monopolize the web — there’s no denying that Google offers some amazing products and tools, many of them free, all from the convenience of a single login.

Today we’re going to take a look at 12 tools from Google that really do bring something positive to the table.

1. Polymer

Polymer is an open-source JavaScript library from Google for building web applications using Web Components. The platform comes with a ton of libraries and tools to help designers and developers unlock the web’s potential by taking advantage of features like HTTP/2, Web Components, and Service Workers. 

The main feature of Polymer is Web Components. With Web Components, you can share custom elements to any site, work seamlessly with any browser’s built-in elements, and effectively use frameworks of all kinds. Products like LitElement (a simple base class for creating fast, lightweight web components) and PWA Starter Kit make Polymer easy to use. If you like, you can build your app entirely out of Web Components.

2. Lighthouse

Google Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. The software allows you to audit web pages for performance, SEO, accessibility, and more. You can run Lighthouse using ChromeDevTools, directly from the command line, or as a Node module. 

To use Lighthouse in Google Chrome, just go to the URL you want to audit (you can audit any URL on the web), open ChromeDevTools, and click the Audits tab. After you have run the audit, Lighthouse will give you an in-depth report on the web page. 

With these reports, you will see which parts of your web page you need to optimize. Each report has a reference doc that explains why that audit is important and also shows you the steps you can take to fix it. 

You can also use Lighthouse CL to prevent regression on your sites. Using Lighthouse Viewer, you can view and share reports online. You can also share reports as JSON or GitHub Gists. 

Lighthouse also comes with a feature called Stack Packs that allows Lighthouse to detect what platform a site is built on. It also displays specific stack-based recommendations.

3. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the gold standard of analytics services. Google analytics can be installed on your site for free with a small amount of JavaScript and allows you to see all kinds of details about your site visitors, like what browser they’re using, and where they’re from.

By using Google Analytics you can make decisions about your site based on science, and therefore be somewhat confident that the decisions you make will result in the outcome you are expecting.

4. Flutter

Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit for building natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. The toolkit is open source and free to use. The best part of Flutter is that it works with existing code. 

The toolkit has a layered architecture that allows for full customization, which results in fast rendering and flexible designs. It also comes with fully-customizable widgets that allow you to build native interfaces in minutes. With these widgets, you will be able to add platform features such as scrolling, navigation, icons, and fonts to provide a full native performance on both iOS and Android.

Flutter also has a feature called hot reload that allows you to easily build UIs, add new features, and fix bugs faster. You can also compile Flutter code to native ARM machine code using Dart native compilers. 

5. Google API Explorer

Google has a huge library of APIs that are available to developers but finding these APIs can be difficult. Google API Explorer makes it easy for developers to locate any API. On the Google API Explorer web page, you will see a complete list of the entire API library. You can easily scroll through the list or use the search box to filter through the API list. 

The best part of Google API Explorer is that each link to a reference page comes with more details on how to use the API. API Explorer is an excellent way to try out methods in the Monitoring API without having to write any code.

6. Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a project from the Google Chrome team. The platform enables web developers to control a Chrome (or any other Chrome DevTools Protocol based browser) and execute common actions, much like in a real browser. Puppeteer is also a Node library and it provides a high-level API for working with headless Chrome. It is also a useful tool for scraping, testing, and automating web pages. 

Here are some things you can do with Puppeteer: generate screenshots and PDFs of pages, UI testing, test Chrome Extensions, automate form submission, generate pre-rendered content, and crawl Single-Page Applications. 

7. Codelabs

Google Developer Codelabs is a handy tool for beginner developers and even advanced developers who want to improve their knowledge. Codelabs provide a guided, tutorial, hands-on coding experience. Codelabs’ site is broken down into several tutorial sessions on different topics. 

With the tutorials on Codelabs, you can learn how to build applications from scratch. Some of the tutorial categories include Augmented reality, TensorFlow, Analytics, Virtual Analytics, G Suite, Search, Google Compute Engine, and Google APIs on iOS. 

8. Color Tool

Color Tool makes it easy for web designers to create, share, and apply colors to their UI. It also measures the accessibility level for any color combination before exporting to the palette. The tool comes with 6 user interfaces and offers over 250 colors to choose from. 

The tool is also very easy to use. All you need to do is pick a color and apply it to the primary color scheme; switch to the secondary color scheme, and pick another color. You can also switch to Custom to pick your own colors. After you have selected all your colors, use the Accessibility feature to check if all is good before exporting it to your palette. 

9. Workbox

Workbox is a set of JavaScript libraries and Node modules. The JavaScript libraries make it easy to add offline support to web apps. The Node modules make it easy to cache assets and offer other features to help users build Progressive Web Apps. Some of these features include pre-caching, runtime caching, request routing, background sync, debugging, and greater flexibility than sw-precache and sw-toolbox. 

With Workbox, you can add a quick rule that enables you to cache Google fonts, images, JavaScript, and CSS files. Caching these files will make your web page to run faster and also consume less storage. You can also pre-cache your files in your web app using their CLI, Node module, or webpack plugin. 

10. PageSpeed Insights

PageSpeed Insights is a handy tool from Google Developers that analyzes the content of a web page, then generates suggestions on how to make the page faster. It gives reports on the performance of a web page on both desktop and mobile devices. At the top of the report, PageSpeed Insights provides a score that summarizes the page’s performance. 

11. AMP on Google

AMP pages load faster and also look better than standard HTML pages on mobile devices. AMP on Google allows you to enhance your AMP pages across Google. It is a web component framework that allows you to create user-first websites, ads, emails, and stories. One benefit of AMP is that it allows your web pages to load almost instantly across all devices and platforms hence improving the user’s experience. 

12. Window Resizer

When creating websites, it is important that developers test them for responsive design – this is where Window Resizer comes in. Window Resizer is a Chrome extension that resizes the browser window so that you can test your responsive design on different screen resolutions. The common screen sizes offered are desktop, laptop, and mobile, but you can also add custom screen sizes. 

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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