How do you pick a color scheme for your design projects? Do you browse various color palettes? Perhaps you employ tried-and-true color wheels. Both are good ways to develop color schemes, but if you want to discover fresh new schemes you might want to give the following five new and cool color scheme tools a try.
You might be familiar with Josef Alber’s “Interaction of Color,” a must-read for all graphic designers published by Yale University Press. Now, meet the iPad app, which features Alber’s teachings alongside interactive plates and videos. The app lets you learn more about color theory and helps you pick the perfect color scheme with its palette tool, which behaves “like paper.”
If you’re into flat design – the modern web and mobile design trend – then you’ll love this free flat UI color tool, which lets you easily copy numerical RGB and hex values for the most popular colors used in the Flat UI Pro palette. The only way this application could be better is if it included suggestions for complementary colors based on the colors you’ve added to your palette.
A new kind of color scheme development tool that lets you build palettes in 3-D, ColorRotate is available on the web or as an interactive iPad app. Click and drag your way to a new custom color scheme, then tweak adjustments on the sliding scale. Or, browse some of the other color scheme creations crafted by users who came before you.
The ultimate color tool for Chrome, even if it’s still in beta. Colorzilla lets you get the color of any pixel on any page, generate CSS and CSS gradients, analyze any URL to generate a color palette, and, of course, pick colors to add to a saved palette. If you use Google Chrome, add the Colorzilla extension to your browser (it’s free) and start picking colors today.
A light yet incredibly useful color scheme application for Windows, ColorBug is essentially a color picker tool that lets you drag and drop colors to multiple palettes, then make adjustments to those palettes right in the application. You can select different color code formats, create instant CSS gradients, and even generate color swatches for popular design applications such as Adobe Swatch Exchange (.ase).
Have you tried any of these color scheme tools? Which is your favorite, and how did it stack up to your usual method of color palette selection? Let us know in the comments!
[Ed.: This is an updated version of a post that was published earlier on Web Teacher.]
Guest Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint and Facebook.
Is your marketing campaign growing rather stale? A little “ho hum?” If your social media marketing mix is becoming a little too predictable, you may need to shake things up a bit. The perfect way to add a excitement and catch your audience off-guard may be to adopt a hip new social media tool.
This is a sign that your current campaign is not working.
Don’t worry if you are currently scratching your head asking yourself, “What hip, new marketing tool have I missed?” The answer is Instagram Direct. Yes, there’s a new tool in town and it is changing the way businesses market through social media.
What is it?
Instagram Direct introduces new features to the Instagram repertoire of tools by enabling you to select who you share your photos, messages, and videos with. And, after you have sent your message to this “select” group of followers, you can actually keep tabs on who has seen it. Furthermore, said followers will be able to respond in real time–triggering conversation.
How can you put it to work for you?
Here are 7 ways for your business to put this platform to work.
1. Attract the early adopters
Let’s face it. Early adopters and the cool, young crowd don’t want to hang out in the same place as their parents. That’s why Instagram Direct is a great way appeal to this desirable demographic. It’s new and it has not yet been populated by the supposed “past their prime” audience.
2. Showcase a new product
Creating a buzz about your company’s latest offering is the best way to ensure its success. Instagram Direct’s visual format is the perfect way to foster this. By sending your best customers and most avid followers an attractive image of your newest product, you will generate interest–especially if you encourage them to share it.
3. Run a contest
Everyone loves the chance to win and Instagram Direct is a great venue for running a contest. Ask participants to take funny snapshots of themselves with your product, ask them to come up with quirky advertisements, or create a new slogan. Not only will this generate a buzz and goodwill, but it will also provide your business with some great material to showcase on your website and other social media platforms.
4. Offer loyalty rewards
We all like to feel special. And we are more likely to frequent a business that makes us feel exactly that–special. Foster loyalty among your followers by sending them exclusive coupons, discount codes, or a special in-store deal.
5. Share special content
Offering your most avid followers access to special content is another great way to make them feel valued. You can share “behind the scenes” images, funny or touching customer testimonials, employee stories, product tips, and any other exclusive content that you think will best showcase your products and services.
6. Excel at customer service
Customers feel an affinity with businesses that provide them with personalized service. Instagram Direct will better enable you to do exactly that. If a client posts a photo or complaint about one of your products, you can respond to them on a one-on-one basis. Besides handling customer concerns and queries, you can also send thank you messages to your most active followers.
7. Glean Information
By following your followers, you will be able to see, firsthand, what they are saying about your business and your products. This will offer valuable insight into what is working and what is not.
Silence those yawns. Abolish those “ho hums.” By introducing Instagram Direct to your social media marketing mix, you can step out of the doldrums and experience renewed customer enthusiasm. Now that’s something to applaud.
Does your business make use of Instagram Direct? How?
Guest Author Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer and avid blogger. She is a unrelenting social media junkie who has written a bevy of articles on social media marketing, online reputation management, and pretty much every social media platform known to man. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.
Photoshop is one of the most amazing pieces of design software ever created, and I, for one, absolutely applaud Adobe for adopting the software-as-a-service business model, which makes Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite more accessible to graphic designers everywhere. Another key component of Photoshop is the ability to extend it with third-party plugins. If you want to take Photoshop to the next level, download the following 10 awesome free Photoshop extensions today.
The ultimate interface toolkit for Photoshop, Interface Tools eliminates the need to endlessly search for Photoshop tools and provides a host of other functions that streamline the design process, all free of charge.
For all its advances, Photoshop is still old school when it comes to slicing graphics for the web. The Cut&Slice Me plugin makes it easy to quickly slice graphics for today’s web, including the capability to slice and capture all button states at once.
What’s your favorite free Photoshop plugin?
Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.
The increasing popularity of WordPress – now the most prolific content management system used for websites, stimulates interest among hackers, who’d love to exploit such a widely used platform. Millions of users, however, count on WordPress security to get their messages out, so a great deal of attention is paid keeping WordPress resources protected.
If you are not an IT professional, unsure of exactly where to start protecting your WordPress install, lean on basic, proven approaches to stay safe. Dialing your security efforts back to square-one lays the groundwork for continued success, reinforcing barriers against hacker intrusions. Use these tips to keep your WordPress install out of harm’s way.
Secure Logins and Passwords Furnish First Line of Defense
Login information is a primary barrier against attacks, so maintaining reasonable password and login values is essential for ongoing security. Pre-loaded words, like Admin, for your administrator account should be changed immediately, since they make obvious targets for hackers looking to infiltrate your website.
Secure passwords consist of multiple characters – at least eight, and should be made-up of a variety of different types of icons. Both lower and upper case letters should be integrated into your password for the highest levels of safety, as well as numbers and symbols which interrupt identifiable patterns recognized by hackers.
Each person requiring WordPress access should be set-up as an individual user, so there is never a need to share your login information with others.
Updates Keep you Protected
Essential to combating emerging threats, updates should be routine parts of your WordPress management strategy. WordPress versions should be updated themselves, as well as plugins and themes you use with your install.
In addition to CMS updates, designers add new features periodically and install fixes against the latest hacker attacks. If you are not up-to-date, it becomes easier to breach the security of your outdated version of WordPress. Updating is simple; just follow instructions given in WordPress, taking care to back-up your files before you proceed.
In case you are not sure whether or not you are current, WordPress clues you in with a yellow banner across the top of your installation, reminding you to update soon.
Use Secure Connections to Access WordPress
Wi-Fi connections leave you vulnerable to hacker attacks, which can glean login data and other sensitive information. To keep your WordPress safe, connect only from wired sources and trusted home connections with data encryption.
As a periodic safety check, look at the IP addresses of logged-in users to your WordPress site. Unfamiliar entries tip you off to unauthorized activity, requiring immediate password changes. As an additional measure, hide the version of WordPress installed on your site from users, giving hackers as little information as possible to use against you.
Security Plugins and Backups
Plugins furnish added security against attacks, targeting spam comments and other exploits. Askimet is one free example, preloaded to WordPress installations. To activate, visit this site to get a WordPress key, which launches basic coverage. Additional paid services are available upon request.
Regular backups provide assurances your vital website data will not be lost, even when problems do occur. For the best results, store backups remotely, so they are not caught-up when server difficulties arise.
Safeguarding WordPress starts with basic precautions like using secure passwords, and stays on track with frequent updates and security plugins.
Guest blogger Sarah Brooks is from Freepeoplesearch.org. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @ gmail.com.
The social web has made sharing more important than ever, especially for graphic designers who are continually seeking new (and potentially lucrative) clients. Now, sharing your design work is more than simply publishing a portfolio; it’s engaging in a community and making real business-networking connections that can pay huge long-term dividends. Portfolio-driven and personal/professional websites aside, here are 10 places you should share your design work.
Facebook is perhaps the best platform for sharing your design work. What makes Facebook (and other social sites) perfect is the fact that potential clients are likely not surfing portfolio websites – but they are paying attention to designs being shared here.
Rapidly growing in popularity, Pinterest is a great platform for setting up your own board to showcase your design work.
Post your latest designs to the business community; with a few good connections, you’ll have the work and the references needed to land great contracts.
Share and collaborate with other creative professionals, some of whom might just hire you for their own projects.
Whenever you create an outstanding design, take 90 seconds and make a video that discusses your decision-making process. Share your video on other social sites and quickly establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Unlike many other sites, Creattica reviews each work before publishing it. That third-party validation is critical and results in potentially thousands of shares across a wide network.
Whenever you complete a big project for a client, offer to submit a press release announcing it. This is especially true for newsworthy releases such as a new website launch or redesign. The press release should include the fact that you were the designer; when it gets picked up by media sources, everyone will know your name.
Business and marketing blogs
Most graphic designers focus on getting posts published on design blogs, but designers aren’t your clients. Instead, post design-relevant information on business and marketing blogs to establish your expertise and talent.
Where else can you share your design work?
Author’s Bio: Brian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.
The average website user expects your website to load in 4 seconds or less. If your website is slow, not only are you losing so much business, but your SEO rankings also suffer. Speed optimization is important if you want to reduce the bounce rate of your website – the visitors will be happy, Google too will be happy with your site, and that can only translate to more business for your website.
So what steps can you take to improve the speed of your website? First, there’s the question of hosting. Knowing the right host and the appropriate hosting plan for your website will help a lot in improving its loading speed. Do you go for Shared, VPS or Dedicated Server hosting? Most people find the costs of the latter hosting packages too prohibitive, so they have to settle for a shared hosting plan. But whatever plan you purchase, you’ll need the following 5 tips to provide the optimum speed experience for your users. And it’s amazing the world of difference they can make.
1. Remove unnecessary plugins and themes
If you are using a CMS like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, having many plugins running negatively impacts loading times as the number of HTTP requests gets higher. You can curb this problem by deactivating and deleting any plugins that you have installed but aren’t using. You might also be using some plugins that aren’t absolutely necessary; remove them too if they don’t add much value to your users’ experience.
You should also delete any themes you might have installed, since you can only use one theme at a time.
As an additional note, you may want to conduct a comment cleanup exercise, especially if your blog receives many spam comments. Switch off commenting on older posts too and you’ll have made some significant steps in trimming the database, hence faster load times.
2. Scale down your images
You will need to scale down your images both in terms of file size and dimensions. Compressing your images before uploading them can improve their loading speeds many times over, and one handy tool you can use to achieve this quickly is Google’s Page speed plugin for your browser.
Next, you’ll need to size the images to the right dimensions before uploading them. If you use WordPress, you might have noticed that it resizes images on the fly (for various display screens) after you upload them. This is an additional task the browser could do without. Why not use an image editing program like Photoshop to create the correct sizes before uploading the images?
3. Use a CDN (content delivery network)
A content delivery network, simply known as CDN, is a vast network of servers spread out across the world. It replicates the files you store on the server to the rest of the servers, allowing your web visitors to get served with content from the server that’s closest to them. This obviously improves the speed of file/content delivery in the browser and raises your SEO score. And if you offer file downloads on your website, a CDN will ensure your visitors are kept happy at all times due to the faster download speeds.
You can get started with the popular free CDNs like Cloudfare and Incapsula. You may also using consider MaxCDN or Amazon Cloudfront to store and serve your files. The differences may not become obvious for a regular blog, but for a photography or other media-rich website, a CDN can be too useful to ignore.
4. Utilize browser caching
As we noted earlier, using too many plugins in your CMS will increase the load on the server as more files and scripts will need to be pulled. The more complex the nature of your scripts or files, the longer it will take to load your pages.
For WordPress users, you can take advantage of the built in browser caching functionality using a plug-and-play plugin such as WP Super Cache. The plugin basically functions by generating static HTML page versions to be served in the place of dynamic pages. This will work perfectly fine for most websites.
Another popular plugin is W3 Total Cache, which works in a similar fashion but is slightly more advanced as you can integrate it with a CDN. The plugin claims to boost your page loading speeds by up to 10X. You could also try the Quick Cache plugin, much simpler to use but still works fine.
5. Minify your site files and scripts
Enter Minify, an application hosted on Google that diligently compresses the file sizes of your scripts by removing unnecessary white space and rewriting faulty URLs to point to valid resources on your server. If you are a developer, you can download Minify from Google’s code repository for free to use with your scripts. An alternative great script to minify your files is Minifier.
Tracking your page speed
Finally, as you make all these changes to improve site speed it would be nice to be able to accurately measure your results. And you need not look any further than Google’s Page Speeds Insights extension which you can install on Firefox if you also have Firebug installed. Yahoo also offers an alternative tool in YSlow.
With either of these tools, you should be able to keep track of the improvements in speed for each step you implement. It’s the only way, after all, to be sure that you’re making progress.
Guest Author Ness writes guest posts on behalf of make-a-web-site.com. Check out their guide on how you can have your own website.
The world of design is ever-evolving, which is why staying abreast of design trends and changes in the marketplace is so critical to your success as a designer. Whether you work for a design firm or for yourself as a freelance designer, you should be prepared for upcoming challenges. To help you prepare, here are the top 10 issues web designers and graphic designers will face in 2014. Are you ready for them?
1. Employed or self-employed?
Being employed by a graphic design firm means a steady paycheck and benefits such as health insurance and paid vacation. When the work day is over, it’s over, but the tradeoff is an income ceiling. Working as a freelancer offers more freedom and the potential for greater income, but has greater risks. With the impending changes in health insurance, the freelance lifestyle could become more expensive than ever before, causing many freelancers to seek full-time employment for the benefits.
2. Niche markets
Most graphic designers I know are jacks of all trades; they design anything they can get paid for. In 2014, the more you specialize your offering, the easier it will be to stand out from your competitors and land better, higher-paying clients. Pick your pony and ride it to success.
3. Continuing education
Remember those “The More You Know” commercials that used to interrupt your Saturday morning cartoons? Well, they were on to something. As the world of design continues to evolve to accommodate new marketing tactics and advanced technologies, so too must your knowledge of design and how it relates to marketing and development evolve. In 2014, you should continue to seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge of design in your chosen discipline.
4. Marketplace value
Competition from designers who charge far less than you – especially foreign designers – can threaten your ability to win new clients. In 2014, you should become an expert at selling not only the quality of your design work, but the value in your understanding of your clients’ markets.
If you’re a freelancer, there is a limit to how much you can charge (at least, that clients are willing to pay), and there are only so many hours in the day. If you want to maximize your income, it’s time to consider outsourcing work to other talented designers. Perhaps you should adopt the agency approach?
6. Add-on services
Another great way to increase your income is to partner with companies that can provide complementary services. This will become more important than ever in 2014, as busy small businesses want to pass off their design projects and not have to contract with several companies to get them done. For this reason, it behooves you to establish partnerships with developers and printers and add your fee on top of any work they perform. White label partners allow you to put all work under your name.
7. Passive income
The cost of living continues to increase, yet you continue to face stiff competition in pricing. Specializing can help you charge more, but you can also take advantage of passive income opportunities such as selling your designs on posters, shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Devote some time each week to a new design you can sell via online product marketplaces such as Zazzle.
8. Pay raises
Whether you work for a design firm or are a freelancer, you need to work in annual pay raises, at minimum. Ask your employer for a raise; or, if you’re a freelancer, increase your fees by a set percentage every year to make up for inflation and increased cost-of-living expenses.
9. Trends vs. innovation
As noted, understanding and being able to apply contemporary design trends will land you more work and keep clients happy. At the same time, you need to differentiate yourself as a designer. How will you balance design trends vs. design innovation?
10. Value perception
It’s unfortunate, but graphic designers have been devalued by the same digital world that has created so many opportunities. Supply and demand dictates that marketplace, and designers are a dime a dozen online. That’s why it’s so important for you to work to change the perception of designers – or, at least, your own design work. It’s critical to demonstrate the value of what you do to your clients’ overall goals in order to lay a foundation for long-term success.
Guest AuthorBrian Morris writes for the PsPrint Design & Printing Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company. Follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint.