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Poll: Should Designers Stay Out of Politics?

The Beazley Design of the Year for 2020 has just been awarded to US architecture firm Rael San FratelloColectivo Chopeke for their Teeter-Totter Wall project, a series of luminous pink seesaws built into the US-Mexico border wall in July 2019.

The 74 shortlisted entrants for the prize range from a poster for vegan burgers to a parody of Pantone’s Color of the Year. Most were self-consciously political.

As design has grown in stature, so has its ability to amplify the opinions that employ it. Most of us will never work on an actual political campaign. Still, there is little doubt that the design teams for both the Obama campaign in 2008 and the Ocasio-Cortez campaign in 2018 were significant factors in the resulting electoral success. And it isn’t just visual design, user experience across a platform has implications; last week, Twitter finally suspended the account of the outgoing US president, a decision that left CEO Jack Dorsey lamenting the platform’s “failure…to promote healthy conversation.”

As designers, our understanding of user experience — particularly the psychology of user experience — has grown immensely in the last decade. We’re very good and persuading people to do things, and that ability is a commodity, saleable to the highest bidder. As such, it is capable of undermining basic democratic principles by skewing debate and exerting disproportionate influence.

We frequently talk about Black Hat and White Hat techniques in the tech industry, but the truth is, almost all designers spend their days looking for ways to manipulate an audience.

When that manipulation extends into political events, do designers have an ethical responsibility to maintain an independent balance, just as we expect reputable journalists to?

Designers are — for now, at least — human beings. We have all of the prejudices, biases, and philosophies of any other human being. Do we have an obligation to use our skills to promote our ideals, or an obligation to resist doing so?

 

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Dataweave Interview Question Using Map and Reduce

This article will help you practice your Dataweave skills in Mulesoft. Here we have to convert the input to a specific type of output. Let’s get started.

Input:

Source de l’article sur DZONE

50 Best Websites of 2020

2020 has been one of the most memorable years in our history. Few of us have been alive long enough to experience a more turbulent time. But throughout the year, we saw design respond to challenging events with positivity, color, and a desire to elevate those people and projects working to make the world better.

As we head into 2021, there’s no denying that 2020 has changed our outlook on life and marked a major turning point in web design trends.

Here’s a collection of the websites we loved the most this year. Enjoy!

Looks Like You Need Iceland

On Looks Like You Need Iceland, you are invited to record a scream, which will then be broadcast into the Icelandic wilderness. It’s meant as a form of therapy. The idea is that you will one day visit Iceland in person. That might still be some way off for most of us, but we could certainly use a good therapeutic scream.

Black Lives Matter

Across 2020 there were major protests around the world in support of Black Lives Matter. The movement’s website is a central hub for news, resources, and civil rights information in 38 countries.

2º Earth

2ºC Earth takes the user to 5 locations worldwide and shows what will happen there if global temperatures rise by 2ºc. Sound is used really well here to create an immersive experience, along with some beautiful photography.

Github

Along with some new features announced earlier this month, GitHub has a glossy new homepage. It has a clean feel, with some nice scrolling animation and sparing but effective use of illustration.

I Weigh Community

Political and social initiatives were big in 2020, and non-profit activism initiative I Weigh Community is the brainchild of actress Jameela Jamil. It’s devoted to radical inclusivity, communicated with bold, expressive graphics.

UNREAL

Back in January, we clicked around UNREAL’s site for hours, enjoying the sharp transitions. The Swiss agency produced a wonderfully chaotic love letter to web animation.

Delassus 

Delassus grows fruit, from citrus to avocados. The Moroccan company employs a cornucopia of 3D design to make its site bold, fun, and practical.

Lynn Fisher

We loved everything about Lynn Fisher’s site back in May. The homepage illustration was awesome. It was a humorous approach to RWD that we really appreciated. The site has since changed, with tons more to explore.

Minervo

The Minervo site feels distinctly Latin, with the hot pinks and sun-blasted desaturation feeling suitably South American. We love the cropping on the custom typeface.

Babord

Norwegians have an almost mystical connection with the sea, which is evident in the site for Babord, a Norwegian seafood supplier. We loved the brand font too.

Calexo

Calexo makes THC-infused beverages, and back in April, we loved the color and positivity of the site. The animated hamburger menu was a hit too.

Moooi

Moooi’s site layers illustration with a maximal effect that makes you feel like you’re chasing a white rabbit. There are tons of great UI details here, especially the bar that reveals the product videos.

Blind Barber Anniversary

The Blind Barber celebrates 10 years of success with this microsite. A deconstructed grid and an entirely black and white design, but with color photos, create energy and a sense of joy.

Zand Harirchi Architects

Zand Harirchi is an architecture firm based in Tehran, Iran. Its site features subtle references to architecture, like the delightful thumbnails reminiscent of small windows.

WFN

The WFN (Women’s Funding Network) is an international alliance supporting women’s foundations and gender justice funders. The sophisticated color palette and clean type are both confident and feminine.

Nathan Taylor

We loved exploring Nathan Taylor’s playful site all the way back in January. The different lighting modes were a firm favorite.

Käthe Kollwitz Memorial

A tribute to the life and work of Käthe Kollwitz, an Expressionist printmaker. There’s a catalog of her work, presented alongside large type and splashy color transitions.

Emotive Feels

Emotive Feels is a design manifesto from the Emotive Brand agency that illustrates an A–Z of potential brand emotions with simple animations that we likened to a Blue Note release.

A. N Other

A.N Other’s site for perfume highlights quality ingredients, materials, simplicity, craftsmanship, and the environment; in the process, it cleverly invokes a sense of luxury.

Playtype

Danish type foundry Playtype’s site fits its name perfectly. The playful site with bright blocks of color and the occasional animation shows off some pretty nice typefaces.

Feijoo Montenegro

All-text sites are always a thrill, and back in June, we were treated to this simple one-pager by Feijoo. Details like the numerals being replaced by words are delightful.

Wavering Stripes

Although this site’s subject matter is harrowing, it is presented in a very beautiful, thoughtful manner.

The Oyster & Fish House

Sophisticated typography, the wave textures, the nostalgic feel of the photography, and even the cookie notice’s on-brand styling all show attention to detail, which gives this site its appeal.

Who Cares

Find and ‘photograph’ the endangered species to learn about them in this delightfully illustrated game.

Curbed

When Curbed came under the umbrella of New York magazine earlier this year, it got a makeover. Neon highlights and a distorted grid give an edge to the classic magazine layout.

Yolélé

The carousel of fonio (it’s a West African grain) products on Yolélé’s landing page is a good example of horizontal scrolling that works well. There are some great page transitions too.

Pantheone Audio

Pantheone Audio’s site employs elegant scrolling to enable seamless navigation of an extremely luxurious site, underpinned by a complex grid.

Aelfie

Bright color, an irregular grid, illustrations, and a display type that feels almost hand-drawn perfectly captures the aesthetic of this NY-based home furnishing brand.

Highcourt

This site for private membership leisure club Highcourt uses subtle background color changes and simple line illustrations to create a sense of calm. Black and white are softened to dark blue and ivory, and gentle animation adds interest.

Kate Jackling

Kate Jackling’s site takes a step back and allows the content to bask in the glow of attention, placing her photography at center stage.

Treaty

While there is less hustle and bustle outside than we were used to pre-pandemic, we could certainly all use some calm. Treaty’s site for CBD oils reflects that calm with a combination of video, whitespace, and botanical drawings.

Ukrainian Railroad Ladies

Ukrainian Railroad Ladies is a book of photographs of women, and some men, who work on the Ukrainian railways. The site is basic, even brutalist, but it has charm, and the photographer’s fascination with his subject comes through.

Year & Day

Year & Day is an ecommerce site that sells tableware, from glassware to ceramics. The colorful collection is designed to complement different types of food, and the site’s color scheme reflects that perfectly.

Juan Mora

Juan Mora’s ‘under construction’ holding page has probably been crafted with more care than many full-blown sites. This showcase cleverly manages to demonstrate its subject’s skills without showing a single piece of work.

Lucciano’s

Lucciano’s homepage hero video alone will have your mouth watering for some of their gelato. Much of the appeal of food is visual, and the photography here does not disappoint. Circular text boxes in ice cream colors complement the product shots nicely.

Bored Solutions

Back in April, we were already a little weary of lockdown — if only we’d known how long it would last! The amazing color blobbing of bored.solutions was the ideal distraction.

Grand Matter

Grand Matter is an artist agency representing illustrators. There is a wealth of talent on show here and a broad enough range of styles to keep the web interesting for a good while.

Dunderville

This site for Dunderville motion design studio features a paper fold detail, which adds tactility to the virtual. Some superb type and vector animations showcase an impressive portfolio.

Album Colors of the Year

Album Colors has taken the covers from 150 albums released this year and arranged them by dominant color. The hex code for each color is provided if you want to copy it.

Mammut Expedition Baikal

Mammut uses stunning photography and a strong narrative to present its Eiger Extreme outdoor clothing. Longing for the great outdoors will either be alleviated or exacerbated by this one.

808303

808303.studio is a virtual Roland TR-808 drum machine and TB 303 bass synthesizer. You can program, record, and share your very own 80s techno masterpiece.

Bliss

Humor can be hard to get right, especially when you want to be taken seriously at the same time. Here, it works, and the result is a memorable site, oozing with confidence.

Jazz Keys

Type your message into Jazz Keys, and you’ll hear it in sound. You can send the message to anyone and let them hear your words — the web lives for side-projects like this.

Érika Moreira

The fabulous, simple site for Sao Paulo-based Érika Moreira has some awesome big type and creative case studies. It’s an excellent example of a non-visual portfolio.

G.F Smith

Earlier this year, the site for leading paper supplier G.F Smith got a redesign. It is a simpler design than the previous site and keeps the visual focus on the products and the colors.

Abbotsford Convent

Abbotsford Convent is a creative arts venue in Melbourne, Australia, based in a former convent. The UI for its site blends architectural forms to acknowledge the building’s heritage.

Waka Waka

Waka Waka designs and builds wooden furniture. The mid-century typography and the noise textures transport the site to the last century’s radical graphic design. There’s some clever disruption to the typical thumbnail approach.

Cone

Sites advertising apps always seem to want to box the design into a hastily de-branded mock-up. Cone takes a daringly refreshing approach by depicting a more expansive mobile experience.

Ride Out

Amsterdam’s Ride Out bike store teases the content with an intriguingly masked video. Plus, we love the wheel-inspired spinning links.

Puddle Sound

This site is a model of minimalism. Beautiful photographs and very little text, there is nothing to distract from the product on display.

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How Scrum Helps Developers Build Technical Skills and Flexible Architecture

Developers who tried to build at least one product for an end-user know how many things are essential in a product: thoughtful UX, friendly UI, good performance and stability, security and data consistency, logging and maintenance, etc.
Multiply this to the number of platforms that you have to support. Add marketings and licensing, client support and bug reports, new feature requests, and competitive product pressure.

It’s hard to track everything in one head, and it is even harder to be perfect at every job. That’s why we work in teams. That’s why we use project management processes.

Source de l’article sur DZONE

2 Smartest Ways to Structure Sass

Sass – the extended arm of CSS; the power factor that brings elegance to your code.

With Sass, it is all about variables, nesting, mixins, functions, partials, imports, inheritance, and control directives. Sass makes your code more maintainable and reusable.

And now, I will show you how to make your code more structured and organized.

The organization of files and folders is crucial when projects expand. Modularizing the directory is necessary as the file structure increases significantly. This means structuring is in order. Here is a way to do it.

  • Divide the stylesheets into separate files by using Partials
  • Import the partials into the master stylesheet – which is typically the main.sass file.
  • Create a layout folder for the layout specific files

Types of Sass Structures

There are a few different structures you can use. I prefer using two structures — a simple one and a more complex one. Let’s have a look.

Simple Structure

The simple structure is convenient for a small project like a single web page. For that purpose, you need to create a very minimal structure. Here is an example:

  • _base.sass — contains all the resets, variables, mixins, and utility classes
  • _layout.sass — all the Sass code handling the layout, which is the container and grid systems
  • _components.sass — everything that is reusable – buttons, navbars, cards, and so on
  • _main.sass — the main partial should contain only the imports of the already mentioned files

Another example of the same simple structure is the following:

  • _core.sass — contains variables, resets, mixins, and other similar styles
  • _layout.sass — there are the styles for the header, footer, the grid system, etc
  • _components.sass — styles for every component necessary for that project, including buttons, modals, etc.
  • _app.sass — imports

This is the one I usually use for smaller projects. And when it comes to making a decision of what kind of structure to be used, the size of the project is often the deciding factor.

Why Use This Structure?

There are several advantages why you should use this organisational structure. First of all, the CSS files cache and in doing so, the need to download a new file for every new page visit is decreased. In this way, the HTTP requests decrease as well.

Secondly, this structure is much easier to maintain since there is only one file.

Thirdly, the CSS files can be compressed and thus decrease their size. For a better outcome, it is recommended to use Sass/Less and then do concatenation and minification of the files.

In case files become disorganized, you would need to expand the structure. In such a case, you can add a folder for the components and break it further into individual files. If the project broadens and there is a need for restructuring the whole Sass structure, consider the next, more complex pattern.

The 7-1 Patterned Structure

The name of this structure comes from 7 folders, 1 file. This structure is used by many, as it is considered to be a good basis for projects of larger sizes. All you need to do is organize the partials in 7 different folders, and one single file (app.sass) should sit at the root level handling the imports. Here is an example:

sass/
|
|- abstracts/
| |- _mixins // Sass Mixins Folder
| |- _variables.scss // Sass Variables
|
|- core/
| |- _reset.scss // Reset
| |- _typography.scss // Typography Rules
|
|- components/
| |- _buttons.scss // Buttons
| |- _carousel.scss // Carousel
| |- _slider.scss // Slider
|
|- layout/
| |- _navigation.scss // Navigation
| |- _header.scss // Header
| |- _footer.scss // Footer
| |- _sidebar.scss // Sidebar
| |- _grid.scss // Grid
|
|- pages/
| |- _home.scss // Home styles
| |- _about.scss // About styles
|
|- sections/ (or blocks/)
| |- _hero.scss // Hero section
| |- _cta.scss // CTA section
|
|- vendors/ (if needed)
| |- _bootstrap.scss // Bootstrap
|
- app.scss // Main Sass file

In the Abstract partial, there is a file with all the variables, mixins, and similar components.

The Core partial contains files like typography, resets, and boilerplate code, used across the whole website. Once you write this code, there is no further overwriting.

The Components partial contains styles for all components that are to be created for one website, including buttons, carousels, tabs, modals, and the like.

The Layout partial has all styles necessary for the layout of the site, i.e., header, footer.

The Pages partial contains the styles for every individual page. Almost every page needs to have specific styles that are to be used only for that particular page.

For every section to be reusable and the sass code to be easily accessible, there is the Section/Blocks partial. Also, it is important to have this partial so that you don’t need to search whether particular code is in the home.sass or about.sass files in the Pages partial.

It is a good idea to put each section in a separate .sass file. Thus, if you have two different hero sections, put the code in the same file to know that there you can find the code for the two sections. And if you follow this pattern, you will have the majority of files in this folder.

The Vendors partial is intended for bootstrap frameworks so, if you use one in your project, create this partial.

I recommend you use app.sass as the main folder. Here is how it should look:

// Abstract files
@import "abscracts/all"; // Vendor Files
@import "vendor/bootstrap.scss"; // Core files
@import "core/all"; // Components
@import "components/all"; // Layout
@import "layout/all"; // Sections
@import "sections/all"; // Pages
@import "pages/all";

Instead of having a lot of imports in the file, create an all.sass file in every folder. Each all.sass file should contain all the imports for that folder — and to make it more visible and understandable, create a main file.

Organisation

The biggest benefit of this structure is organisation.You always know where to check if you need to change something specific. For example, if you want to change the spacing on a Section/Block you go directly to the Sections/Blocks folder. That way, you don’t need to search in the folder to find the class in a file.

Facilitation

When the code is structured, the processes are promptly facilitated. They are streamlined and every segment of the code has their own place.

Final Words

Organizing code is essential for developers and together with all other skills, it is the most effective way to improve the functioning of the site. And even though there are multiple ways of organisation and different strategies, opting for simplicity helps you avoid the dangerous pitfalls. And finally, there is no right or wrong choice since everything depends on the developer’s work strategies.

 

Featured image via Reshot.

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How to Prioritize Speed with a Mobile-First Design

By the end of the year, the number of global smartphone users is expected to reach 3.5 billion. That’s a significant 9.3% increase over the last 12 months.

In a world where everyone is constantly connected to their mobile devices, it makes sense that web developers and designers would need to consider new rules for how they create engaging experiences. After all, most of us find browsing from our smartphones to be much more convenient than sitting down at a laptop each day.

With a little luck, you’re already taking steps to mobile optimize your website but standards are changing all the time. To make sure your website is up to scratch, here’s your guide to prioritizing your site for mobile, ready for the new year.

Understanding Mobile-First Design

The first step in updating your web design and development principles, is understanding the concept of mobile first design, and how it’s changed.

With a responsive website, you create something that adjusts to the screen size of any device; with a mobile-first site, you’re focusing first-and-foremost on the user experience that people get when they’re on mobile, taking that as your starting point, and building from there. Instead of building your website for the desktop and using mobile as an afterthought, you start with a consideration of mobile.

Even Google is highlighting the demand for this process lately, with the mobile-first indexing algorithm. If you can’t design for mobile-first, then you could risk your clients being unable to rise up the search engine ranks.

So, how do you get started?

1. Start With the Right Tools

Web developers and designers are nothing without a great toolkit.

The good news is that there are solutions out there that can help you to master the right skills for a mobile-focused user experience. For instance, Skeleton is excellent for small-scale projects that require fluid grids and minimal compiling.

Alternatively, Bootstrap can offer a one-size-fits-all solution for the front-end development for mobile devices. There’s a default grid system available, plenty of components, and JavaScript plugins to work with.

With the right tools, you can minimize and prioritize the content that’s most valuable for your website projects. This is crucial for maximizing website speed and creating clarity when it comes to content and imagery.

For instance, check out the ESPN website; it’s split into very easy-to-follow categories of content that are perfect for scrolling on a smartphone. The grid of videos makes it feel like you’re using a tool like YouTube.

2. Prioritize Mobile-First Elements

Once you have the right tools to assist you, it’s time to begin building your mobile-first website from the ground up. Rather than jumping straight into considerations of the latest design trends, it’s important to start with the foundations.

For instance, navigation within a mobile page is usually hidden under a hamburger button. However, you can take this concept to the next level too. For example, the Shojin mobile website only demonstrates the most important website options within the navigation bar to avoid overwhelming users.

The key here is to keep things as simple as possible, without restricting what your audience can do when they visit your website. Although you want to keep the number of interactive elements on your site small, you also need to ensure that those elements are easy to find and use.

All buttons and CTAs should be clear and tappable. Fonts need to be large enough to read from any screen, and your navigation system needs to be 100% simple, without slowing anything down.

On average, we recommend making all clickable elements at least 48 pixels in height.

3. Use Responsive Imagery and SVGs

Images are a crucial part of any website. They add context and appeal to your design. However, they can also seriously slow down your website if you’re not careful.

Remember, different devices have different demands when it comes to imagery. A desktop page may need a 1200px wide image, while a mobile-only needs the image to be 400px wide at most. The old way of making your images work was to load a large resolution image and use the same file on every platform. Unfortunately, this slows downloading time significantly.

Instead, it’s better to have at least two different versions of the same image for your mobile and desktop solutions. You can also consider SVG.

SVGs are incredibly scalable – more so than bitmaps. With SVG, you can ensure any icon or graphic continues to look sharp and clickable across all devices. Because these files are often smaller, your site loads quicker too! Hubspot is great at using SVGs.

Intricate illustrations are a massive component of HubSpot’s brand. If those images were saved as PNGs or other alternative files, then they would take forever to load. Because they’re all SVGs, you can enjoy the same consistent experience across desktop and mobile.

4. Get the Typography Right

It’s not just the big graphics and images that make a huge difference to your website when it comes to mobile-first design. You also need to think about the legibility and clarity of your website across all devices and platforms. If people can’t read the value proposition of the company that you’re designing for, you’re going to have a major problem.

Focus on making your content as easy to read as possible. Look into the typefaces that seem most appealing on a range of devices.

Remember to balance the body and heading font sizes for the device size too. You’ll need to ensure that the experience feels consistent and smooth as your users scroll through each page. Just take a look at the mobile version of the IMPACT website, for instance.

The headings aren’t as huge as they are on the desktop version of the website, and they’re displayed below, rather than above the featured image. However, this helps to give a more immediately eye-catching and structured experience to mobile users.

There’s even a handy “Search Engine Optimization” tag included, that users can click on if they want to find more related articles.

When it comes to typography, remember that it’s not just size and clarity that matter, but how things are structured throughout your website too. Your type should naturally guide your visitors along the page.

5. Master Available Device Features

Finally, on smartphones, you can accomplish a range of amazing things that you might not be able to do when using a desktop device. Your users can make calls, open apps, send messages, and more, all from within their mobile browser. They can also move their smartphone around a room, taking advantage of concepts like AR and VR.

Taking advantage of the unique capabilities that smartphone design can offer gives you a chance to get unique with your user experience.

Making the most of the mobile experience can be much simpler than you’d think. For instance, on a desktop site, you could list your phone number on a contact page. On a mobile site, the number can begin a call when clicked. You can also take the same approach with email addresses, and social media icons too.

Depending on how experimental you feel, there’s also plenty of opportunities to go above and beyond with your mobile features. You may decide to create a mobile app version of a website that your customers can download onto their phones.

Alternatively, you can look into things like AR technology. This could allow your users to practice placing items of furniture that they may be thinking of buying from an online retailer into their house, so they can see how well they work with their other interior design choices.

Making the Most of Mobile-First Design

Ultimately, having a responsive website that works on both mobile and desktop devices is mandatory in the modern world. However, going above and beyond with mobile-first design is a great way to get ahead of the game.

If you can focus on building a website that puts the experiences of mobile users first, then you can create something that’s much more likely to grab audience attention and deliver amazing experiences.

If nothing else, showing your clients that you have what it takes to design for mobile is an excellent way to ensure that you can gain as many new project opportunities as possible.

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The Latest Research for Web Designers, December 2020

2020 has been an interesting year, to say the least. And although I’m sure many of you can’t wait until the calendar flips ahead to 2021, it doesn’t look as though we’re going to be able to say goodbye to 2020 so easily. Many of the changes we’ve had to make this year are now expected to stay with us — a least for the following year.

The latest research gives us some hints about what’s to come.

If you want to start preparing for 2021 now, then these reports and surveys from organizations like 99designs, Upwork, Content Marketing Institute, and McKinsey & Company are a must-read:

1. 99designs Reports on the Common Challenges Freelancers Faced in 2020

I don’t want to make 99designs’s Design Without Borders 2020 report sound like it’s all doom-and-gloom. Because it’s not.

That said, 2020 has been a rough year and it would be irresponsible for me not to acknowledge the challenges that all of us freelancers have encountered this year. This report is one of the few I’ve found that includes data on the major challenges freelancers have dealt with this year, including:

  • 36% have struggled to maintain a steady flow of work or a stable client base;
  • 27% had clients who cut their business budgets and, consequently, their freelancers’ workloads;
  • 26% had at least one project cancelled or indefinitely paused;
  • 22% have been ghosted by at least one client.

Beyond working more hours and hustling to find new clients all the time, what else can freelancers do to weather a business disruptor like COVID-19? There are a number of things.

For starters, it would be really helpful to have a crisis management plan for your finances. It would also be beneficial to refocus your efforts on finding clients who pay for the value you provide and not for the hours you spend building websites. Clients who see the value in what you do will be less likely to ghost or drop you at the first sign of trouble.

2. Upwork’s Survey Reveals Educational Opportunities for Freelancers

Upwork commissioned Edelman Intelligence to put together its very first Freelance Forward survey. The goal of the ensuing report was to shed light on the state of freelancing, how the pandemic has changed it, and what we can expect in the future as a result.

One of the data sets I think web designers should pay close attention to is this:

According to this survey, freelancers only spend about 52% of their time on billable work.

Now, one of the reasons why entrepreneurs and enterprise companies make so much money is because tasks are relegated to different team members. For instance, if a design agency owner is good at building relationships with prospects, they’re going to spend time on sales calls and managing social media. The day-to-day admin tasks would then get offloaded to virtual assistants and billable project work would go to designers, developers, writers, and so on.

But as a freelancer, you don’t have the ability to delegate and scale when you’re working solo.

Rather than burn yourself out trying to handle all these things yourself, the report suggests there’s something else you can do:

Although freelancers recognize how important soft skills and business skills are, the first data set suggests that not enough attention might be paid to them.

What I suggest is that you take a look at the division of your work hours. If you’re spending less than half of your time on billable work, it might be a good idea to strengthen your non-design skills. That way, things like marketing, contract preparation, and client management won’t consume so much of your time in the future and you can bill more.

3. CMI’s Annual Report Reveals Profitable Opportunities for Web Designers

Content Marketing Institute’s annual B2B Content Marketing Report is, once again, chock full of useful tidbits about the state of content marketing.

While a lot of the data is focused around marketing organizations and how they’ve pivoted during the pandemic, I thought this bit of info would be really helpful for web designers:

For those of you who design B2B websites, take note of where these companies plan to invest in 2021. If 2020 has been particularly hard on you, or you simply want to expand your horizons, there are some other opportunities worth jumping into:

B2B Marketing Investment => Web Designer Opportunity
Content creation => Blog graphic design, infographic design, and schema markup creation
Website enhancements => Website redesign, website audits
Content distribution => Social media ad design, Google ad design, schema markup creation
Getting to know audiences better => UX research, UX design
Customer experience => Chatbot/live chat development, support portal creation

4. McKinsey B2B Analysis Suggests That Digital Is Here to Stay

For those of you who’ve worked for a B2B sales organization before, you know how important in-person interactions are to them. It’s not as though they can just sell their products or services online the way B2C ecommerce companies can. The key to B2B success is through customer (and partner) relationship building.

Prior to 2020, this meant lots of in-person meetings, phone calls, and emails. But something has changed this year, on both sides of the fence.

This chart from McKinsey suggests that digital relationship building and customer service aren’t just a temporary solution for COVID-19. B2B decision-makers are coming around to the idea that this is going to be their “next normal” (as McKinsey refers to it).

These new “go-to-market models” include the following:

  1. Talk to prospects, customers, and partners via video calls;
  2. Digital self-service options for customers who prefer the DIY method.

As a web designer, you can help your B2B clients level up their efforts to achieve this next normal.

For starters, you can integrate scheduling into their websites. This’ll empower prospects to schedule video meetings (for demos, discovery calls, etc.) with your clients’ sales teams.

Another thing you can do is build out self-service elements like live chat or chatbots, FAQs pages, knowledgebases, and support portals. As consumers become more confident with doing business online, these self-service options will make a world of difference in their experience with brands.

Wrap-Up

I know, I know. 2020 sucked. But at least we have a good amount of research and experience that gives us a much clearer idea of what we’re getting ourselves into with the coming year. (At least, I hope so.)

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Branding 101: How to Get Your Design Business Online

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

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

Step 1: Set Up Your Website

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

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

So, let’s start here:

Buy Your Domain Name

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

To Do:

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

Choose a CMS

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

To Do:

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

Buy Your Web Hosting

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

Basically, this is what you’re looking for:

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

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

To Do:

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

Build Your Website

Ultimately, you have two goals here:

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

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

Design It

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

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

Build Out the Pages You Need

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

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

Fill in the Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add the Right Features

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

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

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

Step 2: Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Do:

Step 3: Get Active on Social Media

Your website is going to play a lot of roles:

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

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

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

Become an authority on Twitter.

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

Get discovered on LinkedIn.

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

Connect with other creatives on Facebook.

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

Share your work on Dribbble.

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

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

To Do:

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

Wrap-Up

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

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

 

Featured image via Pexels.

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