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3 Essential Design Trends, January 2021

Don’t drop the ball on these website design trends for the new year. All of the trends featured here this month are visual in nature – not as many user interface elements as previous months, but all just as stunning and usable.

Here’s what’s trending in design this month.

1. 3D Scenes on White (Light)

Three-dimensional scenes are not just a trend this month but are likely to be one of the biggest website design trends that you see all year.

They offer a great way to show off product imagery, design something with illustrations or animation for visual impact, and provide usability and understandability cues for users.

It’s a versatile technique that can work with real or created images and are also “COVID-friendly,” something designers have had to think a lot about in the past few months. (Appropriate imagery in design is a real concern, as is trying to design projects without the ability to produce traditional photoshoots.)

What’s neat about all of these projects – and plenty of others – is that they root the design in white or light backgrounds. The light effect creates an easier visual mood that’s clean and emphasizes the imagery.

This website design trend solves a lot of those problems and looks good doing it.

Google’s Cloud design uses 3D illustrated animation on a white background with plenty of depth elements. The primary color palette of illustrated objects pulls it all together and guides the eye through each of the callout labels.

The red words on the screen Crystal Pure fit perfectly with the white-on-white 3D imagery of this design. Red accents pull you into different places on the screen, and it all has a clean feel.

Hofmann & Hofmann uses the same concept with a slightly different approach. The background is still light with a realistic feel and 3D objects, but it is a lot less stark and white. The feel is a little warmer and more inviting than a flat white aesthetic.

 

 

2. So Many Stacked Capitals

If you don’t have great artwork or imagery, make your own with typography.

This trend seems like it might be yelling at you just a little, but it still works for the most part — well, as long as you don’t land on too many of these website designs in a row!

What’s interesting about this trend is that many of the designs feature all caps type and serifs. These styles have been making a bit of a comeback, but this use is interesting for many reasons.

The hardest part when using all caps is maintaining readability. That’s why you see some variances in regular, italics, and bold weights, as well as the use of multiple typefaces. The goal is to create a good reading flow with a stunning visual presence.

This trend works best when you have “easy” words on the screen to facilitate scanning. Too many long or complicated letter combinations can get challenging quickly.

Make sure to look for the Easter eggs in each of these projects:

Emotion Agency has tiny “waving” illustrations next to each word (which doubles as the navigation) when you hover over them.

Mill3 Studio has a few animations, from the text flying in and out on load and scroll to subtle movements in the emojis.

Bizarro has this fun little cat video with a tiny warning not to hover over it, but you definitely should.

 

 

3. Empty Places

The final trend in this roundup is a stark reminder of current times. Each of the website design features empty places or locations.

This style of imagery would have been avoided pre-pandemic because tourism locations would want visitors to feel like a part of a bustling environment. Not today. If you travel, chances are you may feel safer or want to be in a more secluded environment.

All of the images and videos from these locations show just that.

Designers are doing this with new stark imagery that stands alone for the design or inserting a few empty place frames into video clips or among images that show more populated times. Even scenes that contain people show very few people and focus on more solitary activities.

Paragon Oak does this by showing a beautifully lit location at night. Note that using a nighttime photo eliminates questions about where the people are or what they are doing. (This is a clever option when showing imagery of an empty place.)

Vienne to Paris shows boats on the water with a beautiful background. While you assume there are people on the water vessels; you don’t see them and get the feeling that everyone is separated in their own “pod,” a pandemic-friendly option for travel.

The Maryculter House shows various images without people – the resort’s location on beautiful grounds; empty, but immaculate rooms, and a few images of a person alone on the grounds. Again, the empty nature of the place feels more appropriately welcome for the time we live in.

 

 

 

Conclusion

One of the things that we’ve seen with design trends in the past year is pandemic-related. The composition of images to the way elements are arranged on the screen influences every aspect of our lives.

While the empty place image and video trend is big now, it may fade post-pandemic. Although, it could still be relevant for quite some time. It will be interesting to see what happens as the year progresses with this trend – will it hold on or fade away?

These trends might continue to hold well into 2021.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

How to Design a Contact Page That Drives Engagement

How can your customer reach you? If a client arrives on your website after searching on Google, what can they do to take the next step in a relationship with your brand, without buying anything?

One of the primary aims of any website is to drive conversions. However, it usually takes between 5 and 8 touchpoints to generate a viable sales lead. People don’t want to convert straight away.

Since building a relationship with customers is crucial to success, it makes sense that the contact page would be an essential part of driving results. Unfortunately, a lot of website owners pay virtually no attention to that page. They ask their designer to create a page with their address and phone number on – and that’s it.

What many business owners don’t realize, is that the contact page is the door to deeper, more lucrative relationships with potential prospects. The design of this essential website element needs to be fantastic to drive results.

So, where do you start?

Defining a Well-Designed Contact Page

Let’s start with the basics, what makes a great contact page?

The complete answer to that question depends on the target audience. Some customers will want to see fun and friendly contact pages, complete with social media sharing buttons. Others will want to see a map that shows them exactly how to reach an office or business.

There are a few golden rules to keep in mind, of course. Contact pages should be:

  • Easy to find: Don’t hide the link to the contact page on the website footer. Make it easy for customers to find out how they can get in touch.
  • Simple: Don’t put too much content on this page or it will overwhelm your audience. Just let them know where they can go to get answers to various questions.
  • Professional: Even if you have a friendly brand personality, your contact form still needs to be grammatically correct and well-designed to show a professional edge.
  • Convenient: Make your phone number clickable so customers can use it on Skype. The same can apply for your email address. Provide easy access to social media profiles, and if you have a contact form – keep it short and sweet.
  • Informative: Include all of your contact information in the same place. This may include your address, a map to your location, social media pages, email addresses, and even forums.
  • Accurate: Ensure that the information on your contact page matches the information listed elsewhere. Check directories and Google my Business listings to be sure.
  • Attractive: Yes, a contact page needs to look good too. Plenty of white space will make essential information stand out. A good layout will guide the eye through the page.
  • Consistent: Make sure the contact form on your website matches the brand personality that appears on all of your other pages.

Take a look at the Tune Contact page:

It’s beautifully laid out, with clear information that’s easy to read. The company shows exactly why customers might want to get in touch and how they can reach out. As you scroll through the page, you’ll find additional office locations, email addresses for different teams (sales and support), and links to social media accounts too.

How to Drive Engagement on a Contact Us Page

A good contact page needs to look fantastic, showcase the company’s personality, and capture audience attention. However, there’s a big difference between a contact page that gets the job done, and one that convinces your audience they have to connect with you.

Here are some excellent ways to make your contact us page stand out.

Step 1: Using Color Correctly

Color and color psychology have a massive impact on user experience.

Studies constantly demonstrate the conversion powers of having the right shades on certain pages throughout your website. For instance, changing a CTA button from red to green can increase click-through rates by 27%.

However, every audience is different. The colors that drive engagement on a contact page for your company will depend on your target customer. A/B testing color palettes that match your brand personality is a good way to get started.

One interesting example of colors that make the right impact on a Contact Us page comes from Hubspot. Here, the brand maintains it’s brand color (orange), but it also introduces some new shades that convey trustworthiness and professionalism.

Blue is the most calming and credible color for any brand, The gradient that Hubspot uses here blends perfectly with its brand identity, allowing for a stunning contact page, with CTA buttons that still stand out.

Experiment with colors that can generate the right emotional response from your audience, but don’t ignore the golden rules of color in web design. You still need to showcase your brand identity, and you still need a way of making crucial information stand out.

Step 2: Humanizing the Customer Service Team

Some of the customers that arrive at a contact page are interested in your product or inspired by the potential of your service. Other customers will be looking for assistance because they’re frustrated with something or stressed out.

If you’ve ever had a problem with a product and wanted to reach out to the brand about it, you’ve probably noticed how annoying it is to find a blank contact page with nothing but an email address. The lack of effort and humanity in the contact page is enough to convince you that you probably won’t get a response.

But what if you add some happy smiling faces to the page?

Research indicates that brains are fine-tuned to recognize and appreciate human faces. Having a picture of your customer service team, or just any human being on your contact page makes you instantly more approachable. Your customers start to feel like they’re reaching out to a person – not an empty website.

Look at how engaging and personalized this contact page from Amber McCue looks:

Although you can show any human face on your contact page and potentially get results, showing your actual agents will be more likely to drive positive results. It’s a great way to showcase the authenticity and humanity of your team.

Step 3: Making it Easy to Find

A surprisingly large amount of the time, companies shove their contact information into the footer of their website, forcing customers to spend forever looking for them. However, your audience might not want to spend an age searching for your details if they’re in a hurry to get answers.

Stowing a contact page in a footer is also a problem for those visiting your website via mobile, as they might not be able to see all your footer details and links as well.

A Contact Us page doesn’t have to be a massive part of your website navigation if you don’t want it to be. However, it should be one of the first things your audience can see. Putting the information on the header of your website, or even sticking it to the top of the page as your users scroll is very helpful.

Zendesk makes it easy for customers to get in touch in multiple ways. First, the Contact section of the website is clear at the top of the page. Secondly, if you start scrolling through the Zendesk website, a “Get Help” button pops up, so you don’t have to scroll back to find assistance:

Remember, aside from making sure that your contact page appears in the right part of your website, it’s also worth ensuring that it’s easy to understand. Don’t use unusual terms like “Chat”, or “Chill with us”. Stick to tried-and-true options like Help, Contact, or Support.

Step 4: Making the Experience Relevant

There’s a reason why it’s practically impossible to find a one-size-fits-all contact page.

It’s because different customers need different things from your brand.

Some customers will be looking for the answer to a question; others will want to discuss something with your sales team. That’s why many companies are using adaptive contact pages that can change to suit the situation.

For instance, you may start by asking customers what they need help with. Zapier takes this approach with its Contact page:

By asking the client what they need straight away, Zapier can make sure that the visitor finds the right information, and the right number or email address for the appropriate agent. You can even scroll down the help page and look for something in the available help centre, using the search bar. Or you can click on View our experts to hire a Zapier pro.

Creating a dynamic and customized experience like this does a few things. First, it ensures that the customer will reach the right person to help them first-time around. This reduces the number of inappropriate calls your employees have to deal with, and the number of transfers.

Secondly, you deliver a better experience overall for your client, because they don’t have to repeat their issue to multiple people or start a massive email thread. They get the support they need immediately.

Dynamic contact pages can even save you some money and time. If clients decide to solve an issue themselves, using your resources, that’s great for your busy agents.

Step 5: Direct People to the Right Place

The central focus of your contact us page needs to be the available contact options. Centralizing the contact options on a page is an excellent way to make sure that they get the right amount of attention. Centralizing also means that your customers can spend less time searching for the contact details that they need, which is great for usability.

The Melonfree.com website uses a contact us form that’s centralized to immediately pull attention to the customer’s options for getting help.

Centralization isn’t the only way of using design principles to guide visitors on a contact page. According to Ray Hyman and Edmund Hick, increasing the number of choices on a page often increases the time it takes for people to make a decision.

When it comes to connecting with a brand, the right option for each customer will depend on the person and the situation they’re trying to overcome. For instance, a customer that needs to reset their password will probably be able to get the solution they need from an FAQ page.

On the other hand, someone who needs help using a new feature might need the guidance of a professional. To help guide customers to the right solution, Basecamp gives customers a variety of steps to follow to get the right solution fast.

The main purpose of the contact page is to help customers get the right answer with an informative form. However, there are unobtrusive alternative options available too. If all you’re looking for is a way to help yourself fix a problem, you can click on the help guides link before you ever scroll down to the form.

Step 6: Support the Contact Team Too

The best contact us pages aren’t just a great way to improve customer experience. Well-designed solutions also help the customer service team to save time and stay productive.

One of the primary metrics that companies consider when evaluating the success of a service team, is the number of replies required before an issue is resolved. However, if the initial question from a customer doesn’t contain enough information, this number often increases.

Using the design of the contact form to access the right information helps with:

  • Automatically routing people to the right team member: Companies can set up segmentation rules that automatically send certain emails to different employees based on keywords. You might have questions that go to the sales team, and separate queries that you direct straight to the customer service team.
  • Show appropriate support options and FAQs: Remember to give the audience a chance to help themselves before they reach out for extra support. Links to an FAQ page or self-service options can really reduce the pressure on a team. Some companies even add automated chatbots to the mix to help with self-service.
  • Prompt for extra context: Although not every customer will take advantage of an opportunity to add extra information to a form, some will. Adding a box to your contact form for “anything we need to know?” is a great way to generate more information. Ban.do includes a simple “question” box where customers can add as much detail as they like. An option to add screen shots or documents might be a nice touch too.

Building Your Own Contact Us Page

Every customer has their own specific set of needs. The right contact page for another business might not be the right one for you. That’s why it’s so important to take some time getting to know your customers and speaking to your support team.

When you’re planning your contact page, it helps to ask yourself some basic questions about what you want to achieve. For instance:

  • What kind of channels will our customers want to use to connect with us? Look at things like social media messaging, email, or phone calls. If you’ve got a relatively tech-savvy audience, then they might want to use things like instant messaging with chat bots too.
  • How can we direct clients to the appropriate channels in as little time as possible? Having a system in place to automatically route your customers to the right agent will reduce the time to resolution for your customers. The faster you solve problems, the better your reputation becomes.
  • What can we do to set customer expectations and build confidence before they speak to us? Designing a professional-looking contact page will increase customer confidence, while an FAQ section shows that you’re ready to answer common questions.
  • How can we showcase a unique brand personality without making the page complicated? Everything from using distinct brand colors on a contact page, to adding images and illustrations reminds customers that they’re in the right place.
  • What can we do to reduce the friction points in a customer’s path to contact? Avoid adding too many input options to a contact form and ensure that it’s easy to reach out when your clients have a problem.

Understanding exactly what your audience needs from you, and what they’re looking for when they come to your team for help reduces the effort involved for your client when they reach out for help. Remember, today’s digitally-savvy customers expect their interactions with companies to be as streamlined and simple as possible.

Make the Most of Your Contact Page

Contact pages are frequently an afterthought in the website design process. However, they’re one of the most valuable tools your company has. With a good contact page, you ensure that your customers can always reach you when they have problems. What’s more, you boost your chances of people wanting to reach out to the sales team too!

Good luck creating a contact page that encourages engagement from your target audience. Don’t forget to track your results from each design, and A/B test for optimization.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

How to Get Dark Mode Design Right

Dark themes are everywhere these days. 

As human beings continue to spend more of their time interacting with technology, dark themes provide a more relaxing way to engage with the digital world. More often than not, these themes are easier on the eyes, more attractive, and perfect for the dedicated user

Throughout 2020, countless leading brands have debuted their own version of the dark theme. Google has a solution for your Drive, while Apple and Android have built dark theme performance right into their operating systems. 

If you haven’t learned how to make the most out of dark mode yet, then you could be missing out on an excellent opportunity to differentiate your design skills, and earn more clients going forward. 

Why Dark Mode?

Before we dive too deeply into the possibilities of creating your own dark theme, let’s examine what dark mode is, and why it’s so effective. 

Ultimately, dark themes are created to reduce the amount of luminance emitted by everything from your desktop and laptop, to your smartphone and smartwatch. Dark themes help to improve the visual ergonomics of design, by reducing eye strain, adjusting brightness to suit current lighting conditions, and more. Additionally, many dark mode offerings are also fantastic at conserving battery life. 

Here are some of the main benefits of adding dark themes to your design portfolio

  • Better user experience: A focus on user experience is one of the most important trends of the digital age. You need to be willing to deliver incredible experiences to everyone who visits your website if you want to stand out today. Dark mode reduces everything from eye strain, to battery power consumption. This helps to keep customers on a website for longer.
  • Innovation and cutting edge appeal: Most companies want to prove that they can stay on the cutting edge of their industry. The ability to offer an opt-in dark mode version of a website theme or appearance can help your clients to stand out from the crowd. As the environment becomes more mobile-focused, more companies will be looking for designers that can provide the best mobile experiences. 
  • Support for universal design: Dark mode isn’t just great for people who have light sensitivity at night. This solution could be more comfortable for visually-impaired users who would struggle with eye strain when visiting your websites otherwise. If you want your content to be more inclusive for a wider range of viewers, then learning how to design for dark mode is a good way to start.

Best Practices When Designing for Dark Mode

Designing for dark mode is easier than you’d think. Most of the time, it involves simply thinking about how you can replace some of the brighter, more overwhelming aspects of your site, with something deeper and darker. 

Here are some useful tips that will get you moving in the right direction. 

1. Experiment with Colors

A big issue for a lot of web designers when it comes to developing a dark mode solution is that they get too caught up with things like pure white text against pure black backgrounds. However, this high-contrast option can be a little much after a while. 

It’s often much easier to use a dark grey as your primary surface color, instead of a true black. Additionally, rather than using bright white, think about slightly off-white alternatives that will be warmer to the eye.

Experiment with surfaces and color combinations that are unlikely to cause too much eye strain. Dark grey foundations often offer a wider range of depth, too, because you can demonstrate shadows on grey. 

Additionally, when you are experimenting with colors, remember that saturated colors often vibrate painfully against very dark surfaces, making them harder to read. Desaturating your colors will help to reduce the contrast and make your websites more welcoming. 

Lighter tones in the 200-50 range will have better readability on dark themes. However, you can always experiment with your choices. Google Material Design recommends using a contrast level of around 15:8:1 between your background and text. 

2. Consider the Emotional Impact

Much of the effort involved with dark mode design is figuring out how certain colors work together. It’s easy to get carried away with stark contrasts, particularly when you’re used to working with a white background. However, you need to remember that you’re designing for a user that’s primarily looking for an easier and more subdued browsing experience.

While you’re working, remember to consider the emotional aspect of the design too. The emotion in colors can make or break a buyer’s journey in any environment. However, an often overlooked-aspect of color psychology, is that people perceive shades differently when they’re on a black background

For instance, think of the color green. On a light background, it conveys nature and even financial wealth. However, on a dark background, the same green could come across as something venomous, toxic, or even sickly. It’s important to think about the kind of impressions end users are going to get when they arrive on your site.

3. Give Users the Freedom to Choose

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you begin designing for dark mode, is thinking that you should focus entirely on your dark themes, and nothing else. This lines you up for a problem if you interact with users who want the best of both worlds. If you’re designing for apps in particular, you’re going to need web pages that can switch naturally between light and dark themes. 

Learning how to implement both a dark mode and a light mode option into the desks you create will help you to reach a wider selection of customers. Remember, you’ll need to test the performance and impact of your designs in both themes, to check that they deliver the same kind of experience, no matter how your user chooses to browse. 

Although dark mode should offer a different experience to end-users, it still needs to feel as though they’re browsing on the same website. That means that you’re going to need to experiment with the most natural combination of light and dark mode options.

4. Remember the Basics

Remember, although the three tips above will help you to get on the right path for dark mode design, you’ll also need to consider the opportunities and limitations of the platforms that you’re designing for. The kind of dark mode experience you can deliver for Google Chrome websites is going to be very different to what you can create for something running on iOS.

Examining the documentation provided by the system that you’re designing for will help you to develop something with a close insight into what’s actually possible. 

Other top tips for dark mode design include:

  • Focus on your content: Make sure that your content stands out on the page, without being too overwhelming. 
  • Test your design: In both light and dark appearances, you need to make sure everything is working as it should be.
  • Adopt vibrancy for your interfaces: Vibrancy helps to improve the contrast between your background and foreground. 
  • Use semantic colors: Semantic colors adapt to the current appearance of a website automatically. Hard-coded color values that don’t adapt can seem more aggressive. 
  • Desktop tinting: Try experiment with things like transparency and filters to give your websites and apps a slightly warmer tint – ideal for late-night browsing
  • Icons: Use individual glyphs and icons for dark and light modes if necessary. 

Ready to Design for Dark Mode?

Preparing your web development and design portfolio for an era addicted to dark mode can be a complex experience. You need to think carefully about how people are going to browse through your websites and apps when they’re searching for something more subtle, and less visually overwhelming than the websites that we’re used to making. 

The most important thing to remember is that everything on your website or application should look just as beautifully tailor-made in dark mode as it does in light mode. Simply adding a dynamic black background when people want to switch settings in an app isn’t enough. You need to go in-depth with your designs and examine how different fonts, colors, and images work together.

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Source de l’article sur Webdesignerdepot

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!

 

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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. 

 

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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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