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12 Tips to Improve Your Web Design Skills in 2021

There are many reasons you might be wanting to improve your design skills this year. Perhaps you have extra time on your hands and want to put it to good use. Or maybe you’re new to web design and finding that there’s a lot you still don’t know how to do. It could also be that you recognize that the web is changing, and your skills could use some refreshing to keep up.

Whatever the reason, there are many ways to level up your web design skills in 2021. Here are 12 ideas to get you started:

Tip 1: Niche Down If You Haven’t Already

Jack-of-all-trades designers might be able to say “yes” to everyone. However, they’re going to be stretched very thin as they attempt to strengthen every skill needed to keep up with demand.

It’s much easier to become a trusted designer and to improve your skills if you have a smaller and more specific skill set to develop.

Just keep in mind that niching down doesn’t necessarily mean focusing on a particular industry. For instance, you might choose to be a UX designer instead of a web designer. Or you might specialize in designing ecommerce websites instead of monetized blogs. Just find something that you’re passionate about and will be good at doing, and zero-in on the skills needed for it.

Tip 2: Play Around in the Sandbox

Local development environments are useful for staging websites, doing redesigns, and testing updates safely away from live sites. But you can also use them for experimenting with new design techniques, trends, templates, plugins, and more.

Local by Flywheel is the one I prefer to use:

Here’s a good exercise to start with:

Take a website you like — something you’ve looked at in awe and couldn’t imagine ever building on your own. Then, put yourself to the test. See if you can recreate it in your sandbox.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t figure it out right away. Consult your resources and give yourself time to make sense of what’s going on and implement it with the available skills and tools.

Tip 3: Redesign One of Your First Projects

There’s always a clear evolution in a designer’s skill set, from the day they begin designing to the present day. And that’s a good thing. If your work doesn’t improve or change with time, then you’re going to have a lot of catching up to do when the stagnation begins to hurt your business.

Want to see how much progress you’ve made so far? Revisit one of your first projects and look at it with fresh eyes. I bet you’ll see a big change in how you design today from how you designed that site then.

Now, ask yourself what you would do differently. And then, go to your sandbox and do the redesign.

Tip 4: Work on a Passion Project

A friend of mine is taking a UX design course and needed some users to run through a prototype he created for the class. He could create anything he wanted, so he designed an app related to his other love: Music.

While he could’ve easily thrown together some carbon copy of Spotify or SoundCloud, he came up with a completely new concept. And it was really impressive, to the point where I urged him to put it into production and see if he could list it in the app stores.

I think it’s when we’re really passionate about something that we’re willing to push past our limits. So, carve out some time to tackle that passion project you’ve been toying around with and see where it takes you.

Tip 5: Share Your Designs on Dribbble and Ask for Feedback

One of the reasons UX designers do user testing is how valuable users’ raw input is. While it would be nice to think that design is a completely subjective matter, that isn’t really the case when usability becomes compromised due to design choices.

Understanding what users like and dislike is an important part of taking your design skills to the next level. And a good way to do that is to share your designs on Dribbble.

Here’s an example of UI8 asking for feedback:

Tip 6: Create a Design Toolbox

I’m a huge fan of automation and shortcuts powering things behind the scenes in business.

After all, one of the reasons you become a web designer is so you can design, right? When you’re bogged down with administrative and logistical tasks, that’s time spent away from doing what you enjoy.

One way in which you can streamline your backend processes is by putting together a design toolbox. Your preferred CMS. Flexible templates or apps you use from project to project. Website testing tools. And so on.

As you do this, it’ll force you to examine how you build websites. Are you really working as efficiently as possible? Are there newer apps or systems that’ll help you design better sites? And as you improve your design toolbox, you’ll improve your design skills.

Tip 7: Subscribe to Your Favorite Blogs

I have a hard time recommending this one, only because I’m reluctant to sign up for yet another newsletter. That said, I do see the value in subscribing to some blog newsletters as I don’t always remember to revisit their websites and check out the latest content.

What I’d suggest you do is pick one or two design blogs that have a good variety of content and publish regularly. And then pick one small business or freelance blog.

WebdesignerDepot, of course, is a good one to start with as it comes at a good frequency, recommends great reads from all around the web, and is fluff-free:

I’d also recommend signing up for one that’s focused on your niche as well as one for business.

As a freelancer, I’d vote for the Freelancers’ Union newsletter. There’s always something timely and useful in there.

Tip 8: Listen to a Podcast

I just adopted a second dog, so I’ve spent a lot more time on walks while house-training her. At first, I was stressed about it because it was time spent away from work. However, I started to fill that time with podcasts and found that it helped me work better for the rest of the day.

One reason is that I’ve been listening to work-related podcasts, which are always chock full of helpful tips. Another reason is that it gives my eyes a rest from looking at the screen so that when I come back 15 or so minutes later, I feel refreshed and ready to go.

Rebekah Carter has a good set of web design podcast recommendations to get you started.

Tip 9: Take a Free Online Design Course

There’s an overabundance of information online. If you want to brush up on CSS, there are hundreds of YouTube courses that cover it. If you want to learn how to use a new WordPress plugin, you’ll find dozens of great tutorials across various online course platforms, YouTube channels, and even people’s blogs.

There’s no need to go back to school to become a better designer. Here are five places where you’re bound to find free courses for web designers.

Tip 10: Read a Book on Design Principles or Theory

It’s easy to lose sight of design principles when your clients are clamoring for a website that will make them a lot of money, get them a lot of readers, and so on. Sure, you can design a UI and UX that works, but do you remember why the design choices you made are effective?

Choose a book — just one to start — that’ll help you reconnect with the roots of good web design. Not only will you get a good refresher on web design principles or design theory, but you might learn something brand new.

Here are some of my favorite books for web designers:

Tip 11: Find Your People

Now more than ever, finding a community of like-minded web designers, developers, or freelancers is important. It’s not just about having a group of people to vent to when clients drive you nuts (though that’s great, too).

It’s about finding a group that brings something new to the table and enriches your understanding of web design and what it means to be a web designer.

If you’re on Facebook or LinkedIn, start there. There are tons of web design and freelance groups that have productive discussions every day. If you prefer to meet up with local designers and developers, check out Meetup.

You may be surprised by how many groups there are and the kinds of meetups they have planned.

Tip 12: Attend a Virtual Conference

Did any of you attend a design conference last year? I did. I virtually attended Adobe MAX — from the comfort of my home, in my pajamas, for three days.

I scheduled my assignments around the sessions I wanted to attend and didn’t have to pick one over the other (i.e., “Do I make money or do I learn something new?”).

Some of the sessions showed us how to do more with Adobe’s tools, while some of them featured design and business leaders who shared personal insights on how to work more effectively. It was a great way to shake up my normal routine and to get a ton of information about the future of web design in a short period of time.

Which of These Tips Will You Use to Improve Your Design Skills?

Like I said before, there’s a lot you can do to improve your design skills. Just be careful not to overdo it.

Pick one or two things on this list to start with. If you have more time in your schedule and you’re excited about what you’ve learned so far, add a couple more.

Just take it slowly. Your brain will only be able to absorb so much at once. Plus, the last thing you want is to burn yourself out on skills training and not have the energy to complete your work.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.

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Try the New Material Design Capabilities for WordPress

If you like to build websites with WordPress, then you’re in for a treat.

Now, for the first time, you don’t need to know how to code to use Google’s popular Material Design system on your WordPress website; the web giant has released a WordPress plugin and theme to import its colors, icons, UI elements, and typography straight into your CMS.

Google already provided a set of tools for generating Material Design themes, but until now you needed to know how to copy that code across to your site files. With this latest plugin and theme, all you need to do is click and go.

 

You need to install both the plugin and theme to take advantage of Material Design for WordPress. Using the add-ons, you can tweak your typography via Google Fonts, add-in MD color, and even choose your own icons. If even that’s too much, pick one of the pre-built themes. One of the best features is that the plugin warns you if your customizations break accessibility guidelines, saving you a do-over when you discover it later on.

Google calls it “an experimental plugin and theme,” which means it’s subject to change. And Google has been quick to emphasize that the plugin is very much a work in progress, asking for feedback to help them direct future development efforts.

It’s a really great option for anyone who’s starting on the web, building their first site, or who really wants a nice reliable design system that they can build on in the future.

It’s yet another automation tool that has driven WordPress to the top of the technology pile and made it the CMS of choice for 40% of the web. As tech hots up and AI continues to develop, it’s hard to dismiss the idea that one day soon, our only contribution to websites will be paying the hosting bill!

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20 Best New Websites, February 2021

It’s February, and the spring sun is finally starting to peep through the winter clouds. While many of us are still largely restricted to our homes, the web has kept on growing.

We see a shift in attitude towards natural health, wellbeing, and sustainability, and these are now being branded less often as outliers and increasingly mainstream. We’re also seeing more and more color all the time, ranging from an emotional signifier in the background to being a functional element in its own right.

GOOD Meat

Gorgeous color in the background image and the scrolling narrative pull the user in on this site for lab ‘grown’ meat.

Hanwag 100 Years

This page celebrating 100 years of outdoor footwear company Hanweg uses a mix of illustrations and photographs to create a timeline marking the company’s highlights alongside what else was happening at the time. Any excuse to get Yoda in.

Gaffer

Gaffer describes itself as bridging the gap between football, music, fashion, and culture. The site has a glossy feel, with strong art direction and an easily navigable architecture.

Remember MLK

This rather beautifully made tribute to Martin Luther King uses some great typographic effects, and the variations, in contrast, create a layering of the different content elements.

Bonjour Agency

The home page for design agency Bonjour Paris uses sideways scrolling to give an overview of the whole site. There is a lot of content, but it doesn’t feel like waffle, and exploring the site is a pleasant experience in itself.

Wild Souls

Wild Souls is a Greek company that principally makes nut butters, tahini, and halva. The site is very colorful but warm, and the display type — Canela — has a slight softness to it that is appealing.

Nicolas Loureiro

This is a strong portfolio site for interactive and graphic designer Nicolas Loureiro. The work is front and center, and the navigation is pleasing.

Studio Nanna Lagerman

Studio Nanna Lagermann is a small interior design studio that works on private homes, public spaces, and set design. The site creates a feeling of space and calm. Colors are soft and neutral, and the type, although massive in places, is clean and sophisticated.

Aurelia Durand

Illustrator Aurelia Durand created her own typeface that she uses in her work, and it is used as the main display font here too. This site has a sense of joy about it that is hard to resist.

Archivio Mario Russo

This site documents the life and work of 20th-century Italian artist Mario Russo. The layout is thoughtful, and the text, while informative, doesn’t detract from the work being shown.

Gigantic Candy

Gigantic Candy makes vegan chocolate candy bars. The site is big, bold and lo-fi, and has a sense of fun to it.

dBodhi

dBodhi sells handcrafted furniture from Java, made from reclaimed teak and locally grown plant materials. The clean layout combined with a slight sepia tone on all the photography creates a feeling of quietness and nature.

Menu Durable

Menu Durable is a guide to creating healthier, sustainable food menus in Canadian healthcare facilities. There is a lot of information here, and it is well written and attractively presented with clear color coding.

Virgile Guinard

This is a lovely, simple portfolio site for photographer Virgile Guinard. By using blocks of color pulled from each photograph’s predominant color and only revealing each photograph on rollover, each image is allowed to stand out.

The Bold Type

This site for The Bold Type Hotel in Patra, Greece, is a boutique hotel website archetype, but it is done well. The pinky sand background color is a good choice, and the photographs are excellent.

NOR NORM

Nor Norm provide an office furniture subscription service. The site is clean with a feeling of light and space. There is a good balance between an overview of the process and details of the individual items available.

Ask Us For Ideas

At first glance, Ask Us For Ideas looks like a creative agency, but it is actually a creative broker, matching clients with agencies.

Prinoth Clean Motion

Prinoth has been making snow groomers since the 1960s, and this microsite is to mark the launch of their new hydrogen and electric versions. It is as slick and glossy as any luxury car website. And now I know what a snow groomer is.

Pschhh

Design agency Pschhh has embraced the use of circles, reflecting the sound of bubbles their name suggests.

CōLab

CōLab is a design and marketing firm. There is a great use of color and movement here, and you don’t really notice initially that there is no actual work on show.

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Popular Design News of the Week: February 15, 2021 – February 21, 2021

Everyday design fans submit incredible industry stories to our sister-site, Webdesigner News. Our colleagues sift through it, selecting the very best stories from the design, UX, tech, and development worlds and posting them live on the site.

The best way to keep up with the most important stories for web professionals is to subscribe to Webdesigner News or check out the site regularly. However, in case you missed a day this week, here’s a handy compilation of the top curated stories from the last seven days. Enjoy!

The New Trello – Going Beyond the Board

Flameshot – Superb Screenshot Tool

GitHub Surf – Open repositories in a VSCode Environment

The Never-Ending Job of Selling Design Systems

The Secret Ingredients to Design

What Saul Bass Can Teach Us About Web Design

2021 Planner for Notion – A Smart Notion Workspace

Ideas for CSS Button Hover Animations

Ray.so – Create Beautiful Images of Your Code

Variable Font Reveals The Full Horror of The Climate Crisis

Design Systems For Figma: Year In The Life Of A Material Design Advocate

Interface Market – An Extensive Collection of App UI Kits

DogeHouse – Open-Source Audio Chat on the Web

Interaction Design is More Than Just User Flows and Clicks

Design Trends 2021

Straw.Page – Extremely Simple Website Builder

The Impact of Web Design and SEO Conversion Rates

Powerful Microinteractions to Improve Your Prototypes

What’s New in Ecommerce, February 2021

Colortopia – The Easiest Way to Find Colors

5 Simple Design Patterns to Improve Your Website

TextBuddy for macOS – A Swiss Army Knife for Plain Text

Upcoming Interesting JavaScript ES2021 (ES12) Features

WordPress 5.7: Big ol’ jQuery Update

JavaScript reducer – A Simple, Yet Powerful Array Method

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10 Best Free Stock Image Sites For 2021

When photographers take images to sell commercially, like every other business, they want to maximize their returns, so they adapt their ideas to meet commercial trends. As a result, stock always looks like stock, and that minor deception introduces a small amount of doubt in users.

But the rise of camera phones, and the increasing affordability of DSLRs, has led to a growth in people who aren’t monetizing every shot. What that means is if you know where to look, you can find images that are less posed, more natural, less clichéd, and far more diverse.

Here are ten places to look for engaging, and trust-building stock images, all free to use…

1. Pexels

Pexels has a huge collection of high-quality images that would not feel out of place on a ‘premium’ site. You’ll also find a ton of free videos. Pexels’ search feature is particularly well-tuned. Pexels also runs regular challenges, with cash prizes for photographers; reviewing the past competitions is a great shortcut to finding original images.

2. Reshot

Reshot is one of the better stock sites on the web, with a wide selection of curated images. There’s a distinctly Instagram feel to the images on Reshot; they don’t feel staged, in many cases, they don’t look like stock at all. That gives them an authentic feel that many ‘premium’ stock sites fail to deliver.

3. Unsplash

Unsplash is one of the largest collections of free images on the web. It has a good collection of standard stock and a growing collection of more creative, experimental images. Its free-forever approach is backed by product placement instead of adverts or premium sections, which means you may find the more marketable images include easily identifiable brands.

4. Life of Pix

Life of Pix highlights one photographer per week to feature ten images; that adds a competitive angle to the site as photographers submit premium shots to get noticed. Unless you’re very fortunate, the ideal shot for you isn’t going to be found in the current set, but click the ‘Gallery’ link, and you’ll have access to all the shots that have previously been uploaded.

5. Nappy

Unlike ‘premium’ sites that are set up to turn a profit, free stock sites often set out to address a hole in the market. Nappy was set up to redress the underrepresentation of black and brown people on many stock sites. At least some of your users fall into this demographic, and it’s a great idea to show them they’re valued by using images like these.

6. Burst

Burst is a stock site provided by Shopify to help new entrepreneurs find stock to help them sell products. Anyone can use the shots, but there is a natural inclination towards commercial rather than editorial images. There’s a good mix that rivals many paid sites and some less obvious shots.

7. Picography

If quirky and offbeat isn’t right for your project — and it may very well not be — then check out Picography for a more middle-of-the-road collection of free stock images. There’s a wide selection, but they do tend to feel more stock-like than many other collections.

8. ISO Republic

ISO Republic has a broad range of images and videos to choose from. Again, the images tend to be more stock-like than some other options, and you do have to dig around to find the best. ISO Republic is a good place to search when you want to swap like-for-like with a ‘premium’ stock source.

9. Kaboompics

Kaboompics specializes in lifestyle images. If you’re hoping for a woman sipping a frappuccino while making commanding business decisions, you’re in the right place. Kaboompics is a one-woman show, so the perspective is a little narrower than the ideal, but the free images are consistently high-quality.

10. StockSnap

StockSnap has a good balance of images. Many professional photographers use sites like StockSnap to upload the images they choose not post to ‘premium’ sites for one reason or another, so you’ll often find premium-quality shots for absolutely nothing.

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What’s New in Ecommerce, February 2021

There are some interesting shake-ups on the horizon for ecommerce: Experiential shopping, Virt-ical worlds, Au naturale models.

We’re starting to see signs of them already — many of them spurred on thanks to the events of 2020. Below, we’re going to explore what’s going on with these new ecommerce trends and technologies and take a look at a bunch of sites that are setting really cool examples for each.

1. Experiential Shopping

With many stores, either closed to in-person shopping during the pandemic or their capacities severely limited, online shopping and BOPIS became much more attractive options for consumers.

That said, buying something like a pair of jeans or a new pair of glasses is much different than the pack of toilet paper someone’s bought for years. There are just some things you have to try to know if you’re going to like it and make sure it fits.

Augmented reality and other immersive shopping tools are bringing those “try-on” capabilities to people’s homes.

There are a number of technologies built specifically for this purpose:

Obsess is a particularly noteworthy one. It’s an ecommerce platform that enables retailers to build virtually immersive shopping experiences. Charlotte Tilbury is one such retailer that is taking advantage of it.

Obsess, the augmented reality and immersive shopping experience platform

At the end of 2020, Obsess announced that it had received $3.4 million in seed funding, so expect to see more Obsess-powered ecommerce sites and apps.

ByondXR is another platform that empowers brands to design immersive experiences for online shoppers:

ByondXR helps brands create experiential shopping

Retailers like Lancome, Procter & Gamble, and Calvin Klein have used ByondXR’s immersive commerce technology.

Another option is offered by Matterport:

Matterport's virtual shopping experiences and 3D store mapping tech

This technology is interesting as you’re not just creating a virtual store. You can also design a 3D model of a brick-and-mortar shop that in-store shoppers can use to get in and out quickly.

2. Virt-ical Worlds

There’s a new trend brewing, and we see it most commonly on websites for fresh and youthful brands. I wouldn’t say it’s nostalgic design, per se, though there are certainly some elements reminiscent of the bold, in-your-face style of the web in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.

No, I think what we see here is a creative reimagining of our world.

With so many people having spent time in their homes and with their faces glued to screens, there’s been a blurring between our VIRTual and physICAL worlds. This new web design trend is one I’m going to call the Virt-ical World. While parts of these sites look like the websites we’ve designed in years past, there are motion, color, and sizing elements that feel more like a trippy virtual simulation.

Let’s look at some examples.

Starface is a company that creates acne-fighting products.

Starface's in-your-face website design

This is one of the more experimental designs in this set of examples. Still, it’s one that shows us how far the boundaries can be pushed without totally compromising the online shopping experience.

Billie is another company having fun with this trend. I’d say this is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Billie has a fun, candy-colored website design

For the most part, this ecommerce site looks similar to other small retailer sites. However, the fun, candy-colored palette, the bobbing products, and the color shifts add a somewhat surreal element to the design.

Catching THEO is another ecommerce brand playing around with this Virt-ical World.

Catching THEO mixes nostalgia and modern design

See what I mean by this style feeling somewhat nostalgic? Thankfully, this site commits to today’s good, clean, responsive design while only using some of the more fun and quirky elements from the past.

Au Naturale Models

When I talk about au naturale models, I’m really referring to the makeup-less faces, relaxed hairstyles, and casual apparel that we’re seeing ecommerce models don these days.

I think it’s safe to say we have the pandemic to thank for this. And it’s not just because many of us took a more casual approach to getting dressed during the week. It’s also because the pandemic wiped away the glitz and glamour from many of our lives.

I don’t know about you, but it was kind of nice seeing fewer Instagram influencers flaunting their luxurious lifestyles and more real people rocking their matching pajama sets. I think brands have sensed this change in mood over the last year, and they’re now putting forward their own simple and casual styles for us to connect to.

There are tons of ecommerce websites we’re seeing this on in 2021.

Here’s Dove’s homepage, where they specifically call attention to the lack of digital distortion in the photo:

Thinx also uses more natural and realistic-looking models to show off its undergarment products:

Madison Reed takes a unique approach with this trend:

Madison Reed shows off some of the real faces of its customers

While the hair color brand does a great job of using diverse models around the site, it also has this scrolling bar showing off its customers’ very natural and real faces.

Wrap-Up

It feels like ecommerce trends and technologies are changing at a rapid pace these days. To help you stay on top of what’s new in ecommerce, stay tuned to this blog for more interesting news and changes to the landscape.

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Popular Design News of the Week: February 8, 2021 – February 14, 2021

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.

Google’s Next Big Chrome Update Will Rewrite the Rules of the Web

10 Best Alternatives to Google Analytics in 2021

Gamification in UX Design: Designing Fun Experiences for Serious

UI Design Trends for Web and Mobile We Start 2021 With

Getting The Most Out Of Git

Appreciating the Unsung Heroes of WordPress

Simple CSS Line Hover Animations for Links

How to Kill a Unicorn

Animating a CSS Gradient Border

Color Spark – A Color Scheme Plugin for Figma

QuickLens – Inspect the UI Like a Pro

6 Important WordPress Gutenberg Updates to Be Aware Of

23 Exciting New Tools for Designers, February 2021

A UX Guide to Optimize Conversions

13 UX Tips That Will Improve Your Website’s SEO

Don’t Offer a Free Plan

The 25 Best Single Page Web Designs

Illustration Kit – Premium Open Source Illustrations Updated Daily

DesignOps: Just a New Buzzword?

Bilgge – a Privacy-paranoid Free Service for your Notes and Secrets

How to Deal With Designers in 10 Easy Steps

Website Optimization Checklist: Your Go-To Guide to SEO

JavaScript Minification Benchmarks

Framer is Dead · A Love Letter to my Prototyping Tool of Choice

The Differences in Web Hosting (Go with the Happy Path)

Pixelplace.io – One Giant Pixel Canvas That Anyone Can Draw On

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10 Best Alternatives to Google Analytics in 2021

When you think of installing analytics, you probably reach for Google Analytics. And you wouldn’t be alone. The platform’s tight integration with SEO and the implication that using Google products is beneficial to ranking means that Google Analytics is the most commonly installed analytics solution globally.

Google Analytics isn’t a bad choice: it’s free, it’s fairly comprehensive, and it does indeed tie most SEO efforts up with a nice bow.

But Google Analytics is also slow, extremely bad for privacy — both yours and your users’ — and for many people, it’s too unwieldy, having grown organically over the years into a relatively complex UI.

Some alternatives are fast, privacy-friendly, and geared towards different specialisms. Today we’re rounding up the best…

1. Heap

Heap is an event-based analytics platform. That means you can tell not just how many people visited your site but what actions they took when they were there. This isn’t a unique proposition, but Heap is one of the best implementations.

Heap offers an auto-track tool, which is ideal for new installations because you can get up and running immediately and fine-tune the details later. That makes it great for startups, although it’s also the choice of major corporations like Microsoft.

Heap’s free plan includes 60k sessions per year and 12 months of data history, but when you outgrow that, the business plans start at $12,000/year.

2 ChartMogul

ChartMogul is geared towards SaaS that offer subscription plans, staking a claim as the world’s first subscription data platform.

Services like Buffer and Webflow use ChartMogul to monitor their revenue and analyze the ROI of changes to their features, design, and user experience.

Ideally suited for startups, ChartMogul pricing is based on monthly recurring revenue; it has a free plan for up to $10,000 MMR; after that, pricing starts at $100/month.

3. Fathom

Fathom is an awesome, privacy-first analytics solution. It offers a simple dashboard and is ideal for anyone looking for simple analytics information to verify business decisions.

Fathom is ideally suited to freelancers, or entrepreneurs with multiple projects, as it allows you to run multiple domains from a single account. Fathom is entirely cookieless, meaning you can ditch that annoying cookie notice. It’s GDPR, ePrivacy, PECR, CCPA, and COPPA compliant.

There’s a seven-day free trial; after that, Fathom starts at $14/month.

4. FullStory

FullStory is designed to help you develop engaging online products with an emphasis on user experience.

FullStory is a set of tools, making it ideal for large in-house teams or in-house teams working with outside agencies or freelancers. It pitches itself as a single source of truth from which everyone from the marketing department to the database engineers can draw their insights, helping digital teams rapidly iterate by keeping everyone in the same loop.

FullStory uses AI to track and interpret unexpected events, from rage clicks to traffic spikes, and breaks those events down to a dollar-cost, so you can instantly see where your interventions will have the most impact.

There’s a free plan for up to 1k sessions per month; once you outgrow that, you need to talk to the sales team for a quote.

5. Amplitude

Amplitude has one of the most user-friendly dashboards on this list, with tons of power behind it. For project managers trying to make science-based decisions about future development, it’s a godsend.

The downside with Amplitude is that to make the most of its powerful data connections, you need to pump a lot of data in. For that reason, Amplitude is best suited to sites that already have a substantial volume of traffic — among those customers are Cisco and PayPal.

Amplitude provides a free plan, with its core analytics and up to 10m tracked actions per month. For premium plans, you have to contact their sales team for a quote.

6. Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a little bit more than an analytics program, aiming to be a whole suite of web tools it has ventured into split testing and notifications.

Mixpanel is laser-focused on maximizing your sales funnel. One look at the dashboard, and you can see that Mixpanel, while very well designed, has too many features to present them simply; Mixpanel is ideally suited to agencies and in-house development teams with time to invest — you probably want to keep the CEO away from this one.

Mixpanel has a generous free plan for up to 100k monthly users, with its business plans starting at $25/month.

7. Mode

Mode is a serious enterprise-level solution for product intelligence and decision making.

Ideally suited to in-house teams, Mode allows you to monitor financial flow and output the results in investor-friendly reports. You can monitor your entire tech stack and, of course, understand how users are interacting with your product. Wondering who handles the analytics for Shopify? That would be Mode.

Mode has a free plan aimed at individuals, but this tool’s scope is really beyond freelancers, and the free plan’s only likely to appeal to high-price consultants and tech trouble-shooters. For the full business plan, you need to contact Mode’s sales team for a quote.

8. Microanalytics

Microanalytics is a relatively new analytics program with a lightweight, privacy-focused approach.

Microanalytics provides a simple dashboard with acquisitions, user location, technology, and the all-important event tracking to monitor user behavior. Microanalytics is compliant with the web’s most stringent privacy laws, including GDPR, PECR, and CCPA. The tracking code is just 1kb in size, meaning that you’ll hardly notice its footprint in your stats.

Microanalytics is free for up to 10k pageviews/month; after that, the monthly plan starts at $9.

9. GoSquared

GoSquared is another suite of tools, this time aimed at SaaS. Its primary product is its analytics, but it also includes live chat, marketing tools, and a team inbox.

If you’re tired of comparing multiple tools to help make the most of your startup, GoSquared kills several birds with one stone. Perhaps most importantly, if you’re beginning to build a team and don’t have any engineers onboard yet, GoSquared has an award-winning support team and an idiot-proof setup process.

GoSquared has a free plan that’s fine for evaluating the suite and integrating data from day one. As you begin to grow, paid plans start at $40/month.

10. Segment

Segment is a little different from the other analytics tools on this list; Segment is a layer that sits between your site and your analytics. It integrates with many of the tools on this list.

There are several benefits to this approach. The main one is that different teams within your enterprise can access analytics data in a form that suits them — designers can access complex data, and management can stick to revenue flow. It also means that you can switch analytics programs with a single setting in Segment and even migrate historical data into new apps. If you’re an enterprise that wants to future-proof its customer intelligence gathering, Segment is worth considering.

Segment is trusted by some of the web’s best-known names, from IBM to Levis, and…ahem…Google.

Segment is free for up to 1k visitors per month, and after that, the team plan starts at $120/month.

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5 Web Design Trends and Ideas for 2021

One of the few bright spots in 2020 has been the creativity companies and individuals alike have exhibited in dealing with what, at times, seemed to be overwhelming problems.

The world of web design was no different. Designers and agencies had to adapt and implement new color schemes or design new shopping experiences, which made some of the previous design trends not fit for the current design problems.

We’ll take a look at these newest design trends and the rationale behind them. As we do so, we’ll also take a look at some of BeTheme’s 600+ pre-built sites that have already put them to good use.

1. Comforting Color Palettes Lighten the Load

In years past, bolder color schemes were one of the hallmarks of web design trends. Their purpose was to quickly engage a visitor and prompt him or her to respond emotionally.

Given all the drama and turmoil we were subjected to through most of 2020, we’ve come to welcome the use of toned-down colors in marketing instead of the bolder, brasher, and more “in-your-face” color schemes. 

Bellroy’s website puts toned-down colors to good use. This company’s product line of wallets, bags, and the like, are designed to keep people’s belongings organized, safe, and secure. A wild color scheme simply wouldn’t be fitting.

How, then, are brightly-colored products dealt with? Thanks to judicious uses of white space and background photos, this website still emphasizes a toned-down color palette.

The BeSpa pre-built website is another example of a color scheme that almost immediately puts the mind at ease.

Calm and soothing? Yes.

Boring? Definitely not.

Comfort and security are the emotional drivers in this example.

2. Seamlessly Intermingle and Balance Physical and Digital Imagery

People confined to their homes because of Covid-based restrictions spent many more hours looking at their screens in 2020. Online programming began to take on the appearance of a reality show that blurred the boundaries between the real and the digital.

Whereas web designers tended in the past to rely on either photos or illustrations in their designs, these same designers have started to integrate these blurring effects into their designs, with results that range from amusing and quirky to highly informative.

Check out this example from fashion designer Constance Burke

It’s not every day you see real models wearing hand-drawn fashion sketches. But it’s just one example of how the physical can be blended with the digital.

The BeSki pre-built site does the same blending of the two, but in a totally different way:

The sections’ designs switch from predominantly physical to largely digital and back again, an excellent approach that provides a maximum amount of useful information.

It’s also worth noting how snowbanks are effectively used to seamlessly transition from one section to the next.

3. Create Well-Organized and Helpful Shopping Experiences

More people spending more time at home has created a surge in online shopping. As a result, many online store owners are now feeling the effects of increased competition.

Consumers look for brands they believe they can trust. At the same time, they want their online shopping experiences to be as quick and painless as possible. They look for (and expect) quick and effective product search capabilities, helpful and effective product displays, one-page product descriptions, and the like.

Walgreen’s product page design is especially well-suited for 2021 ecommerce shoppers: 

Everything shoppers usually need to know is presented above-the-fold. They can easily proceed to the next step or scroll down for reviews or additional product specifications. 

BePestControl’s pre-built website uses a similar product design approach: 

In this example, the main selling points are up-front and are kept short and sweet. The shopper can either hit the ‘Add to Cart’ button or look below the button for additional information.

In both examples, a visitor doesn’t have to mull over what step to take next since one of the design objectives is to make the shopping experience as easy and as satisfying as possible.

4. Take Advantage of the Benefits of User-Controlled Video Content

Once upon a time, video content was “the thing” to incorporate in a website. Hero background videos proved to be particularly engaging, and “how-to” videos presented much more useful information than illustrations or blocks of text could.

On the other hand, Auto-play videos, those that started on their own, all too often had a tendency to irritate rather than inform, especially when their content didn’t address a visitor’s immediate concern.

Thanks to Zoom and similar video platforms that came into widespread use in 2020 and to website designs that include video “Play” buttons, users have become much more comfortable with the medium. As an example, Shoppers have been given total control over if or when they want to view a given video. 

This is the design approach Payoneer has taken: 

The white “Pay” button is impossible to miss, and while it is designed to encourage a visitor to watch a testimonial, doing so is completely optional.

The BeOptics pre-built website cleverly slips in a video play option as well: 

In this example, when visitors hover over the “See More” button, it lets them know that they have the option to watch the video if they want to learn more.

5. Trust Builders Should be Non-Negotiable Web Design Elements

There are various ways in which products are organized or showcased in brick and mortar businesses to instill trust. Helpful and friendly staff also contribute to instilling trust.

Some of these trust-builders are easily incorporated into eCommerce designs. Others, though more difficult to fit in, can usually be satisfactorily addressed.

Digital trust builders can include.

  • Logos (familiar, whimsical, innovative, engaging)
  • Portfolios and/or product pages
  • Customer reviews, product ratings, and client testimonials
  • Case studies and product or price comparisons
  • Safety and security seals, e.g., Better Business Bureau, PayPal checkout
  • Charts, graphs, counters, and other data visualization techniques
  • Proof of social, charitable, or community-related actions and contributions

Put, trust-building content will beat hard-sell techniques every time, especially if you would like your customer base to include referred and repeat customers.

Omaze, for example, gives people entries for prizes based on their donations while at the same time highlighting the good things it and its donors have brought about.

To help build trust, the site devotes space to highlighting publications that have featured Omaze and the work it has done and is doing.

Plus, it puts data visualization and non-profit testimonials into play to give visitors an added insight into what is going on behind the scenes: 

As you can see, it doesn’t have to be difficult to incorporate genuine trust-building content into your website designs.

BePortfolio is a great example of how you might go about doing this for a portfolio site, whether it’s your own or a site for a client:

The home page alone has plenty of space for including trust-building content:

  • A satisfied customer counter
  • Product usage case studies and testimonial
  • Portfolio highlights
  • Client and partnership logos

And it can only get better as a visitor moves through the site, but only if you’ve chosen to make that happen.

Have You Started to Take These New Web Design Trends to Heart?

We’re not suggesting that you throw the baby out with the bathwater, but some trends will need to be discarded to enable you to adjust to a new normal. Other 2020 design trends, like minimalism and headline topography, are likely to remain popular for years to come.

New trends that incorporate calming color palettes, image blending, more efficient eCommerce UX designs, user-controlled video, and trust-building elements should give your customers the feeling of comfort and security they will be seeking in 2021.

If you want to implement some or all of these new trends in your 2021 website designs, BeTheme’s 600+ pre-built sites make doing so an easy task.

 

[– This is a sponsored post on behalf of BeTheme –]

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23 Exciting New Tools for Designers, February 2021

We’re going to try something a little different this month; with this roundup of tools and resources for designers, we’re going to pick a few of our favorites and group everything else in a manner that makes it even easier to find elements that will work for you, and your projects, right now.

Here’s what’s new for designers this month…

February’s Top Picks

Pika

Pika is a new Mac app that is an open-source color picker. It helps you find color swatches on-screen, saving time and design headaches. Plus, it’s packed with bonuses such as the ability to confirm accessibility compliance for colors, compact size and style, easy to access from your desktop, and format-friendly with plenty of color code options.

Iconduck

Iconduck is a searchable database of more than 100,000 icons in one place. (No more searching various marketplaces!) The goal of the project is to make open-source icons and illustrations more accessible. So, everything you find here is free! The site does all the heavy lifting for you by collecting icon sets, tagging them, and making them searchable.

Descript

Descript is a premium tool that eliminates some of the intimidation factors with audio and video editing. With a design that functions as a word document and allows you to transcribe, record the screen, publish, and edit, all with some cool AI features.

Persona

Persona is an all-in-one identity infrastructure that allows you to collect, verify, manage, and decide customer identities from a single dashboard. Everything is fully automated, and most users can be up and running in about 10 minutes. The premium tool does have a free version for small-scale verifications.

6 Productivity Boosters

Peekalink

Peekalink turns standard links into rich content that users will be delighted to share and engage in. And it’s easy to use. Just send a request to the API with a link and get a response back to use, including a rich link for your project.

LinkAce

LinkAce is an open-source and self-hosted archive to store and organize links that you want to save. You can search thanks to tags and lists, and all of the content is available thanks to automated backups and monitoring. There’s a demo you can try before installing it yourself.

Formality

Formality is a WordPress plugin that helps you make forms a little bit easier. It’s made to work with the Gutenberg-based form builder with a single block format to control the form. The plugin has a theme-agnostic design that works with any layout style and includes customizations to make it feel a little more personal.

Wondercall

Wondercall is an embeddable video call system for any website or app. You can make calls and schedule them with a widget you can embed right into your design.

Editor X

The Editor X website builder is out of beta and ready for mainstream use. The platform is designed for designers and agencies to create websites collaboratively and quicker. Features include live commenting, roles and permissions, and shared design libraries. Plus, the platform offers code-free interactions.

Shareful/h2>

Shareful is a Mac app that makes the system share menu more powerful. You can copy, save as, and open indirectly from the system share menu.

2 Icon Sets

Supercons

Supercons is a giant set of icons in React. They are all open-source, and there are plenty of choices to help you propel projects forward.

Plumpy Icons

Plumpy Icons are packed with style. The set of icons has a fun design, comes in duotone colors, and scales to any size. Plus, there are more than 4,000 icons in the collection. There are free and paid options depending on the file type and use.

3 Tutorials and Demos

Noise Planets

Noise Planets is a fun look at plotting random points in a circle to create amazing art pieces. You can generate fun shapes and textures and even animate your results with the tutorial and code snippets’ help.

CSS Polygon Shapes

CSS Polygon Shapes are generated using CSS-doodle and clip-path. You can go in and make adjustments to customize shapes further and use them in your website projects.

Mutsuacen

Mutsuacen is a little app that lets you create animated and interactive drawings. There’s a lot of potential with this tool if you have some true drawing chops, but it not; it’s just fun to play with. Create a doodle or sketch and export.

5 Fresh Fonts and Text Tools

Text Warping – Animated

Text Warping – Animated is a fun effect pen from Lokesh Dhakar. It feels funky while leaving text pretty readable. Play with it for sure.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a fun and flexible premium font family with 14 styles from thin to heavy italic. It’s a highly readable serif with a wider stance and great curves.

Stay Home

Stay Home is a simple, line-style all caps font. It has a limited character set but could have some fun applications.

Dogmeal Figure

Dogmeal Figure is an almost silly novelty typeface with dog faces and paw prints in the character set. It might make a fun option for a kids’ project.

Haster

Haster is a futuristic-style slab with a limited character set. It does have shapes and lines with a lot of impact for display use.

Covid Pandemic Lockdown

Covid Pandemic Lockdown is an interesting novelty font with thick lines and a brush-dot style. While it probably won’t read well small, it could be fun as a display option.

Valeria

Valeria is a simple typeface that’s a little wide but has a nice shape and structure. It includes upper- and lowercase letters.

Cornellia

Cornellia is a beautiful script that has amazing letter combinations for use with long swashes and tails. It can add extra elegance to almost any design project instantly.

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