DesignM.ag » Business/Freelance http://designm.ag Articles and Resources for Web Designers Tue, 16 Dec 2014 16:58:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Monarch: The Leader of a New Generation of Social Pluginshttp://designm.ag/freelance/monarch-the-leader-of-a-new-generation-of-social-plugins/ http://designm.ag/freelance/monarch-the-leader-of-a-new-generation-of-social-plugins/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:00:18 +0000 http://designm.ag/?p=119161

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Each and every one of us comes across interesting pieces of information in our daily news feed, or as we are casually surfing the web. At times, we even feel the urge to share some of those articles, videos, images, etc with the people we know. We can either act on it or not, and if we do, the social media buttons present on that web page might really come in handy; with a special emphasis on ‘might’, because those buttons may not exist, or they may be appear to be irksome, or difficult to reach. In that case, it takes less than a second to decide whether we are better off without following or sharing anything further.monarch-design

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Each and every one of us comes across interesting pieces of information in our daily news feed, or as we are casually surfing the web. At times, we even feel the urge to share some of those articles, videos, images, etc with the people we know. We can either act on it or not, and if we do, the social media buttons present on that web page might really come in handy; with a special emphasis on ‘might’, because those buttons may not exist, or they may be appear to be irksome, or difficult to reach. In that case, it takes less than a second to decide whether we are better off without following or sharing anything further.

monarch-design

That fraction of a second can be very significant for the website itself. If readers pass on the information they found on various social networks, then the website’s follow and share counts rise. Implicitly, the traffic coming in on that website is only going to get bigger. In fact, after the search engine, social sharing plugins are known to carry the most potential for drawing in traffic.

 

How to spot a great social sharing plugin

Basically, it all comes down to the way that social sharing/following buttons impact your website visitors. Therefore, if you’re creating WordPress websites, you should be looking for a premium plugin that allows you to easily establish the location, design, and general functionality of social sharing buttons on your web pages. Those buttons ought to be responsive on all modern devices, and sport an eye-catching design. Besides, some of the most recent plugins also include automatic operations meant to enhance your visitors’ social sharing experience.

 

Example of prime social sharing plugins: Monarch

monarch-banner-purple

I propose that we choose an existing premium plugin for WordPress-based websites, and study its features to determine what it stands to offer professional creatives. Elegant Themes has only just launched a social sharing plugin, named Monarch. As far as I can tell, this plugin complies with all of the must-have characteristics that I mentioned above. So, let’s see what it’s all about.

 

The Monarch Dashboard

As soon as you log on to the WordPress Admin Panel, you will notice Monarch. Its interface strikes me as carefully designed, and free of clutter. Users have everything they need in order to configure, manage, and appraise all details of the social sharing experience associated with their websites. You can design the buttons’ appearance as you wish, notwithstanding predefined network colors and icons.

monarch-networks

There are countless social networks at large. However, you only need to include a select few on your website, so Monarch rounded up 40 social networks for you to choose from – with more on the way. Be sure to only choose the buttons that you believe will gather in more follows and shares. It’s super easy.

 

Once you’ve established what the media sharing buttons are going to be, you need to keep an eye on their counts. Knowing the exact level of your visitors’ engagement over time is mandatory, and so Monarch proposes two ways to keep track of your follow and share stats: the first would be to input social follow counts on your own; the second is more convenient, by far, as it dictates that you connect your website to your network’s API.

monarch-stats

Crafting your public’s social sharing experience

How would you go about displaying the social sharing buttons on your web page? This is important, because you need to do your best and encourage visitors to share your website content to other people. Monarch gives you quite a few display options to choose from, so you are free to customize your visitors’ experience to your heart’s content.

This plugin enables no less than 8 locations to assign to your social media buttons, together with their corresponding stats. In addition, you might like to opt for a social floating sidebar, which is really useful if you think like the average site visitors, who would rather not be looking for the social network buttons; those buttons should come to them, or in this case, stay on screen all the time.

monarch-popups

 

Majestic features

 

You can use Monarch to display social sharing buttons in automatic pop-ups and fly-ins, which never fail to draw attention, and control how they trigger. For pop-us, you will find it simple to choose a title and message. As for fly-ins, they are available through the bottom-left or bottom-right corner of the screen. Both of these features can be subjected to a timed delay, and kick in even as readers prepare to click on the ‘back’ button of their browsers.

Another pleasing aspect about Monarch is that it provides useful automatic services. For instance, this social sharing plugin is capable of auto-detecting the beginning and the ending of your website content, and offers to place buttons there of its own accord. Even further, it can auto-detect content images, and make it easy for your visitors to share them, by generating custom shortcodes.

monarch-sidebar

No one likes to wait for a website to load. You decide how frequently your share and follow counts are updated, and Monarch caches them. In other words, the plugin loads very fast. Needless to say, Monarch is also engineered to be responsive, so nothing technical stands in the way of your visitors spreading news of your website like wildfire.

The following video points out what makes Monarch a good plugin:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8rdbI3nqZQ

Conclusion

All WordPress-based websites need a proper link with popular social networks, regardless of their scope. And you could be a freelance web designer, or work within a company, but there’s no denying that the websites you create will benefit from integration with a great social sharing plugin. With a fine plugin at your side, website traffic can only accelerate. As far as the present market is concerned, I believe that Monarch proved to be a promising solution. What do you think?

monarch-logo-overlay


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Tips for Designing a Beautiful Single-Page Portfolio Websitehttp://designm.ag/freelance/design-a-beautiful-single-page-portfolio/ http://designm.ag/freelance/design-a-beautiful-single-page-portfolio/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:14:01 +0000 http://designm.ag/?p=118069

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Many trends in general web design can also be applied to single page layouts. But there are some unique features to the lone webpage which can add more flavor into a design. Like most of the web design field, common sense and user experience always trumps inessential creative ideas.

But that doesn't mean anybody can just understand the best techniques for creating a single page design. In this post I'd like to share a few ideas on how to create usable, tactile portfolios with content featured on a single page. Mobile users are growing rapidly so you have to be thinking about clickable and swipeable interfaces at all times.


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Many trends in general web design can also be applied to single page layouts. But there are some unique features to the lone webpage which can add more flavor into a design. Like most of the web design field, common sense and user experience always trumps inessential creative ideas.

But that doesn’t mean anybody can just understand the best techniques for creating a single page design. In this post I’d like to share a few ideas on how to create usable, tactile portfolios with content featured on a single page. Mobile users are growing rapidly so you have to be thinking about clickable and swipeable interfaces at all times.

Fixed Block Scrolling

When all the website content is fitted onto a single page you can break down each section into horizontal blocks. As the user scrolls vertically they pass by each section denoted through background colors, images, or even horizontal rule breaks. This idea can be expanded with forced scrolling sections.

zack batsaikhan digital product designer website portfolio

The personal portfolio of Zack Batsaikhan demonstrates this effect brilliantly. Scrolling even 1 notch down will automatically animate to the next section. His website also supports navigating with the arrow keys so you can jump between sections and even go through his portfolio entries without a mouse or trackpad.

jeya karthika parallax website layout scrolling effect

Another designer Jeya Karthika has this same effect using split background colors. It’s especially nice for mobile users who need to swipe down between sections. To create this type of portfolio you would typically use a jQuery plugin for parallax scrolling. But it’s also possible to create your own with just a bit of JavaScript.

Responsive Design

Coupled with the importance of mobile support includes naturally responsive layouts. RWD isn’t a new concept, but the implementation is still in a growth & research phase. Designers are constantly playing around with new ideas for responsive web design. Portfolios are even more important because they represent your work quality and even some tidbits about yourself.

andrew shen portfolio responsive website design

Andrew Shen has a great responsive portfolio which adjusts the content and navigation menu. The hamburger toggle icon has become a staple among UX designers to convey a clickable button for showing & hiding a menu. His website is simple and would render perfectly on any sized mobile screen.

dennis field simple portfolio website layout

Comparing with another website by Dennis Field you’ll notice many similarities. Content is broken down into horizontal sections which then retract based on the browser width. But interestingly enough, Dennis’ portfolio hides the navigation beyond a certain point. Instead users move between page sections with arrows scrolling dynamically with jQuery. Each approach has its own benefits so think about your end result when building responsive traits.

There will always be a few responsive techniques you want to include on any site. Responsive images and collapsable thumbnail galleries will be necessary. Also think about breakpoint dimensions and when you should be resizing fonts to fit neatly on the screen.

Animations & Effects

A bit of charm in your single page portfolio will capture more attention if done correctly. There is a limit where visitors will not put up with your outrageous animations – but a neat balance will give the effect of dynamic and creative design talents.

keele web design ux agency website layout

The design studio for Keele has a bunch of neat page animations. Whether you find this beyond your acceptable limit is really subjective. But even if you don’t like all of these effects there is a lot to learn from their website. Notably the navigation hover effects coupled with the expanding logo really catch your attention right off the bat.

karol krakowiak designer developer animated portfolio website

Instead of interface animations you might try animating images or page content instead. The portfolio of Karol Krakowiak does this as you scroll throughout her work samples. If you can build the animations with jQuery everything should run smooth even on a mobile device. There is no scientific formula for making catchy page animations – just try some stuff and see what you like the most.

Hidden Sliding Navigation

The topic of navigation seems a bit confusing on a single page website. Since a one page portfolio has no inner pages(or very few), the nav links create auto-scrolling behavior. So basically users will click a link and it scrolls down to that section of the page.

clint forrester dynamic portfolio website sliding navigation

So why would you want to use hidden navigation? Well the example on Clint Forrester’s portfolio provides a good starting point. It will save you room on the screen which is very important on a 320px portrait iPhone view. Plus visitors will be able to scroll down through the site without a nav menu so it’s much less important compared to a multi-page website.

clean personal portfolio james mcgill

If you don’t want to use a larger menu take a look at how James McGill designed his portfolio. The menu link is always accessible yet only uses small icons and some brief text descriptions. Almost all of the content is accessible right from the page so the menu isn’t all that important. But it’s very useful if you want to include some off-site links such as your social profiles or personal blog.

Clean Minimalism

The simplest technique for creating a usable single page portfolio is clarity and minimalism. That doesn’t mean you should only stick to white colors and contrasting text. Instead just try to strip down the layout into absolute necessities. Once you’ve got a wireframe or mockup design then go back to add extra fancy icons or text effects.

alicia harris clean minimalist fullscreen portfolio

I think the portfolio of Alicia Harris uses the technique of minimalism brilliantly. Her website still uses a lot of color and the top-right navigation also has some neat icons. But it also uses plenty of whitespace and clearly readable text. It’s got the bare necessities and just the simple bare necessities(cue Jungle Book soundtrack).

gabe abadilla dark minimal portfolio website

Gabe Abadilla has a portfolio which seems a bit more detailed. He uses a fixed header along with some big images. But his portfolio is really focused on simplicity, demonstrating his work and his talents. This is the most important part of any portfolio. People want to hire you because you do amazing work – everything else about you is still important but shouldn’t take a primary seat at the throne above work samples.

I’m sure there are many other tips you could apply to build a magnificent single-page website. Just keep in mind that you’re selling yourself and more importantly, your talents. One webpage should be enough to do so if you organize content conservatively. Along with the examples in this post feel free to share other single-page portfolios and your thoughts on what makes them so great.


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How to Really Accomplish What You Need to Get Done by Becoming More Accountablehttp://designm.ag/freelance/how-to-really-accomplish-what-you-need-to-get-done-by-becoming-more-accountable/ http://designm.ag/freelance/how-to-really-accomplish-what-you-need-to-get-done-by-becoming-more-accountable/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 12:29:28 +0000 http://designm.ag/?p=83307

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accountability1We're well into 2014 by now. How are you coming with your annual freelance web design business goals?That's what I thought. But don't worry. It's not just you. Most of us are behind on our goals.One of the biggest perks of freelancing is also one of the biggest problems. To be precise, the problem is the fact that you don't answer to a boss.Most freelancers that I know love the fact that no one is looking over their shoulder to make sure that they get their work done. And I agree. Not having a boss can be great.
  • Want a day off? Just take it.
  • Having trouble getting started in the morning? No problem. Get up later.
  • Don't feel like working today? Then don't.
  • Do you dread working with that problem client today? Put it off until tomorrow.
You get the picture. There's a lot of freedom when you're a freelancer.Unfortunately, sometimes that freedom means that you don't get your work done. You may miss deadlines. You may not keep up with your accounting tasks. You might put off marketing until you have no clients coming in.It's easy to see how freelancing freedom can be detrimental to your web design business.Fortunately, you can do something about it. You can choose to be accountable. In this post, I'll explain how accountability can improve your productivity and help you to get more done. I'll also describe what to look for in an accountability partner and list some possible accountability partners.

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accountability1

We’re well into 2014 by now. How are you coming with your annual freelance web design business goals?

That’s what I thought. But don’t worry. It’s not just you. Most of us are behind on our goals.

One of the biggest perks of freelancing is also one of the biggest problems. To be precise, the problem is the fact that you don’t answer to a boss.

Most freelancers that I know love the fact that no one is looking over their shoulder to make sure that they get their work done. And I agree. Not having a boss can be great.

  • Want a day off? Just take it.
  • Having trouble getting started in the morning? No problem. Get up later.
  • Don’t feel like working today? Then don’t.
  • Do you dread working with that problem client today? Put it off until tomorrow.

You get the picture. There’s a lot of freedom when you’re a freelancer.

Unfortunately, sometimes that freedom means that you don’t get your work done. You may miss deadlines. You may not keep up with your accounting tasks. You might put off marketing until you have no clients coming in.

It’s easy to see how freelancing freedom can be detrimental to your web design business.

Fortunately, you can do something about it. You can choose to be accountable. In this post, I’ll explain how accountability can improve your productivity and help you to get more done. I’ll also describe what to look for in an accountability partner and list some possible accountability partners.

Why Accountability Works

When you think about accountability, do you kind of cringe?

Many of us do. After all, one reason to become a freelancer is to do it all on your own. However, accountability is an effective motivator for success.

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that many effective weight loss groups incorporate accountability into their program. There’s a reason for that. They know that reporting to someone means that members are more likely to stick their diet. Without accountability, it’s just too easy to sneak a treat–after all, no one will find out.

Business accountability works the same way. It’s easy to slack off or procrastinate if you know that no one will find out about it. Slacking off is harder to do if you know that you will have to report your progress to someone.

And ultimately, a lack of accountability is just an illusion anyway. Eventually we all must answer to someone for what we do (or in many cases don’t do).

For example, if you miss a deadline you’ll have to answer to your client. If you forget to pay your quarterly taxes, you’ll wind up owing more at the end of the year (and possibly some penalties too). And so on.

Generally, it’s better to choose who you’ll be accountable to than to let your own carelessness catch up with you.

What to Look for In an Accountability Partner

accountability2

Of course, it wouldn’t do to be accountable to just anyone. You need to choose your accountability partner carefully. Here are five traits of a good accountability partner.

  1. Trustworthy. You’ll be sharing information about how well your business is doing such as your successes and failures. Naturally, you’ll want to pick someone you can trust with such information.
  2. Understands your business. It would be difficult to share your progress with someone who doesn’t understand web design or doesn’t know about freelancing.
  3. Someone you respect. If you don’t really care what your accountability partner thinks of you, the partnership won’t be as effective.
  4. Not overly critical. Your accountability partner is there to support and encourage you, not tear you down. Overly critical people need not apply.
  5. Available. It takes time to be someone’s accountability partner. You’ll need to check in regularly and they’ll need to review your progress.

Okay, now you know what to look for in an accountability partner. But finding one who meets all the criteria can be difficult.

8 Professionals You May Want to Hold You Accountable

accountability3

So, where should you find an accountability partner? Here are eight ideas of where to look:

  1. Your mentor. If you have a business mentor, adding accountability is a natural extension of the mentor/mentee relationship. Make sure your mentor has the time to regularly check your progress.
  2. A trusted peer. Do you look up to someone in your field? A web design peer can make a good accountability partner because they already understand your business.
  3. An accountability group. Many professional groups provide an opportunity for accountability. For example, you may join a design group and regularly post your goals and progress.
  4. A former teacher. Generally speaking, teachers like helping people succeed. That’s why they became teachers in the first place. That’s also why they make good accountability partners.
  5. Your business partner. If your business is a partnership and you get along well with your business partner, there’s an accountability opportunity. Your partner is already vested in your success.
  6. A former employer. If you have a good relationship with a previous employer, they could make an excellent accountability partner. After all, they are already familiar with your work.
  7. A business coach. Okay, you’ll pay money for the service, but a business coach can be a good investment. They can help you with accountability and explore other avenues of professional growth.
  8. A personal friend. Maybe the person you trust the most doesn’t fit any of the above categories, but they still have all the traits of a good accountability partner.

Learn More about Accountability

Would you like to learn more about how accountability could help your web design business? Here are three additional resources on how to incorporate accountability into your business:

  1. Laura Vanderkam has written an excellent piece at Fast Company on how to create an accountability group. Read What You Need To Know To Create An Accountability Group That Works.
  2. Stephanie Vozza explains the value of an accountability partner at Entrepreneur. Read Why an Accountability Buddy Is Your Secret Weapon for Faster Growth.
  3. Marla Tabaka explains the importance of accountability at Inc. in the Home Based Business Productivity Playbook. Read about her ideas on accountability and success.

Your Turn

Do you have a business accountability partner or group? What tips would you add?


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What You Absolutely Must Know Before You Form a Web Design Partnershiphttp://designm.ag/freelance/web-design-partnership/ http://designm.ag/freelance/web-design-partnership/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 15:49:07 +0000 http://designm.ag/?p=83929

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partnership1Should you work with a freelance design partner?The answer is "maybe."Not every freelancer is cut out to be in a partnership. And not every pair of freelance designers who decide to work together succeed.For many, working with a freelancing partner is the best thing that ever happened to them. But for others, forming a partnership results in nothing but chaos and misery.What's the difference?That's an excellent question, and one that we'll explore in this post. We'll look at why some partnerships work and others don't. I'll also provide five tips to help you form a working web design partnership.If you liked this post, you may also like 10 Essential Guidelines for Freelance Collaboration.

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partnership1

Should you work with a freelance design partner?

The answer is “maybe.”

Not every freelancer is cut out to be in a partnership. And not every pair of freelance designers who decide to work together succeed.

For many, working with a freelancing partner is the best thing that ever happened to them. But for others, forming a partnership results in nothing but chaos and misery.

What’s the difference?

That’s an excellent question, and one that we’ll explore in this post. We’ll look at why some partnerships work and others don’t. I’ll also provide five tips to help you form a working web design partnership.

If you liked this post, you may also like 10 Essential Guidelines for Freelance Collaboration.

Born to Be Together

partnership2

The dream partners–you’ve probably met them at one point or another. You probably also envy them.

They seem to work together seamlessly. They get along so well, it seems that one could finish the other’s sentences. You may even wonder if they can read each other’s minds.

Of course, a smart web design company will avoid making any internal disagreements public knowledge. So, things might not be going as smoothly with the dream partners as you imagine.

Still, it is a fact that some personality types just naturally click. It’s almost as though they were born to be together.

Business partners who work well together generally have the following characteristics:

  • Mutual respect and trust. Partnerships work best when each partner respects and trusts the other. Without this foundation, most partnerships can’t survive.
  • Balance of abilities. In the best partnerships, the partners are equally matched. While their talents and skills may differ, one is not superior to the other.
  • Clear lines of communication. As with any business, good communication keeps a partnership healthy. Bad communication dooms a partnership.
  • A team mentality. Big egos need not apply. In a business partnership, working well with others means the difference between success and failure.
  • More work = more pay. Last, but not least, web design partnerships often earn more than solo web designers. And who couldn’t use more income?

Parnerships whose members have all or most of the traits listed above generally enjoy business success. But not every partnership is so lucky.

Freelancing Hell

partnership3

A poor partnership match can be a true disaster. Freelancing is stressful enough without having to deal with in-house fights and power struggles all the time.

You’ve probably also run across those freelance web design partners whose relationship with each other is so bad you wonder why they ever went into business together. They may be wondering the same thing.

A web design partnership mismatch can seem like freelancing hell. And betrayal by a once-trusted partner can feel worse than a client rejection.

Here are some of the disasters that can happen when you aren’t careful about which web designer you partner with:

  • Blame game. Whose does what? In a bad partnership, a lot of finger-pointing occurs. Mistakes are always the fault of the other partner.
  • Double jeopardy. When partners are mismatched, both may attempt to contact the same client directly–causing confusion and distrust.
  • Differing visions. Freelance web designers who don’t work well together are often unable to agree upon a unified project direction.
  • Unhappy clients. It’s hard to hide the chaos caused by a bad partnership. Odds are you’ll miss deadlines and otherwise upset your clients.

5 Crucial Partnership Tips

Partnership success begins before you ever form your web design partnership. Here are some tips to help you make sure your partnership starts out right:

  1. Be picky. When selecting someone to team up with, choose carefully. Just because someone is an excellent web designer doesn’t mean that they will work well with you. Consider their work habits, values, and experience. You should also consider their online reputation since they will be associated with your freelancing business.
  2. Get it in writing. Communication is vital, so it’s important to keep a written record of any work-related discussions you and your partner have. This includes contracts, who is responsible for doing what, and even specifics like when each partner gets paid and how much. Don’t rely on your memory for important details.
  3. Look for a complement. Often when a web designer looks for a partner they look for someone who is very similar to themselves. However, your partnership will benefit more if you choose someone whose skills complement yours. Try to find someone who is strong in your weak areas and vice versa. You’ll end up balancing each other out.
  4. Do a trial project together. While working as partners may seem like a good idea in theory, the reality is quite different. Before you make a long-term partnership commitment, work on a trial project together. If the initial project seems like a struggle, don’t assume that things will automatically improve once you have a more formal partnership arrangement.
  5. Don’t forget the legal questions. A partnership is often the first step to an agency or an even larger organization. Have an attorney draft a partnership agreement, or set up your web design business as an LLC. Laws vary depending on where you live. An attorney can help you decide what business structure works best for your situation.

As you can see, how you form your partnership is very important if it is to succeed.

Learn More

Are you thinking about forming a web design partnership? Here are three more resources to help you get started:

  • From SBA.Gov, Partnership. This resource does a good job of explaining the types of business partnership you can form. It also reviews the advantages and disadvantages of forming a partnership.
  • From Danny Iny on tuts+, The Ultimate Partnership Guide for Freelancers. I particularly liked the approach of this article, which provides an overview about partnerships as well as advice on how to fix a bad partnership.
  • From Thursday Bram on Fuel Your Creativity, How the Right Partnerships Can Make Freelance Clients Love You. Here’s some very actionable advice on finding the right freelancing partner.

Your Turn

Have you ever been in either a good or bad partnership? Share your experiences in the comments.


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