Tips

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2014 Web Design Trends Predictions

One of the main jobs of designers is keeping pace with the current design trends, this includes knowing what’s cool and what’s not. There are many reasons for this, most of which you should already understand, but in short it’s money. If you are able to know what’s hot and current more people will look to you for designs and it increases your ability to get hired (assuming you’re looking for a job) and get noticed by others in the design community.

1. Content First

A trend that has grown large recently, and will continue to grow, is the content first trend. Rather than building a website and throwing the content in later, more and more designers/developers are working around the content. Creating content first for a website and then designing around it should be what every designer/developer does. It makes for less headaches down the road and it looks a lot better and more consistent throughout the website. It’s not always that simple though because clients aren’t almost always late in terms of content for a website.

Websites that focus more on content rather than the visuals usually turn out better (not always though) because they have a more minimal layout and design (which is another big trend prediction for 2014). Below I’ve gathered some examples of websites that focus solely on content.

A List Apart is a great example of a website that is built around content.

A List Apart Website

Another great example is zerosixthree.se, built, created and written by Sebastian Ekström. This site uses minimalism and content to create a beautiful design that makes you want to read everything on the website.

Zero Six Three

2. Hexagon

I predicted this trend for 2013 but it didn’t quite take on as I had originally thought. Anyways, hexagon shapes will begin to replace the traditional square and circle shapes that you are used to seeing. Below are a few examples of what I mean by hexagon design.

Melborp’s website does a great job of illustrating this trend. The hexagons work beautifully with the website and give users something different and new to look at.

Melborp's website

Built by Buffalo is another great example of hexagons in web design, take a look below.

Built by Buffalo website

3. Lightweight

With mobile taking over the internet browsing world, it’s important to make sure your website loads fast. Why? Because cell phones don’t have the high speed internet that you have at home/work. One thing many designers/developers are doing to insure lightweight websites is cutting out all the unnecessary stuff like massive images, logos, “cool” animations, videos, etc.

Focus on things that your website NEEDS not things you think are cool. This lightweight trend goes hand in hand with content first and minimal design, cutting the fat allows you to speed up your website, focus on content, and give it that minimal look.

4. Faster Loading/Fewer HTTP Requests

Faster loading websites goes in hand with lightweight, but I wanted to elaborate a little on other ways websites can load faster. For those of you that are unfamiliar, an HTTP request happens when a user visits your website. The users computer requests styles, scripts, images, web fonts etc. from the server and that in turn loads the website in their browser window for them to view. The more HTTP requests required the longer the website will take to load, for example, if you have 4 different Google web fonts in your header, an HTTP request is sent for each of those fonts.

This will cause a website to load slower because of all the extra work from requests happening behind the scenes. Limiting these requests can help speed up your website. An easy way to cut back on HTTP requests is by creating sprites for images, this way you aren’t loading multiple images individually, instead you’re loading one large image file that includes multiple images on it. Other ways including combining CSS into one file, combining scripts into one file, and limiting the amount of fonts being used on the website.

5. User Experience

The days of flash and crazy animations on web pages are gone. Web designers and developers are focusing more and more on the user rather than trying to get an Awwwards ribbon on their web page (or they should be at least).

The goal of any website is to communicate information easily to the user in a way they can figure out and understand. Websites that are nothing but a ginormous image do nothing but get in the way of what a web page visitor is truly there for. Using an informative paragraph of text or video is a better alternative in my opinion.

CSS3 and HTML5 are helping us out a lot with this. We are now able to provide minimal animations for the user experience without bloating the site to the weight of 2MB+.  That’s why 2014 will be the year of the user, more and more developers and designers will create websites that are simple and easy to use; but also be an enjoyable user experience that doesn’t take minutes to load.

6. Mobile First

We’ve been over it many times, mobile is still going to be in this year and you can be sure its use will continue to grow throughout 2014. Websites will begin to be built with mobile in mind; icons that you are familiar with on mobile devices will start to be used in place of text (the menu icon for instance) on websites.

The user experience of websites will also begin to shift towards that of a mobile device where navigating through it will be similar to how you navigate through a website on your mobile phone.

7. Serif Typeface

This may be a towards the end of 2014 web design trend. The use of Sans Serif typefaces are going to slowly fade away, as regards for regular paragraph type, and plain serif type will start to replace it. I am already beginning to see more blogs (that focus on content) switch to a Serif typefaces. I have an article in the works that will dive more in depth regarding this so stay tuned.

8. Minimal

Are you noticing the similarities between all these trends yet? I’ll give you a hint, they all have to do with minimalism. Defined, Minimalism is the art of stripping down an element to only the necessary essentials it needs in order to function. When done correctly in web design, it leaves the user with a sophisticated impression and ease of use.

Minimalism really took off last year among the big players and that means this will be the year that it will be fully adopted by others. The basic idea behind a minimalist design is to remove the clutter and use only what you need. Apple has been doing a great job of this for years in both product design and interface design. Below is a great example of a minimal website, for more check out our article 19 Minimalist Website Examples

The Kitchen Website

Conclusion

There you have it, the 2014 web design trends. 2014 will be the year of simplicity which will greatly benefit all designers, developers, and even end users.

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5 Easy Ways to Enhance the User Experience of Your Business Website

Periodically updating your site is essential to maintaining easy navigation for your viewers. Whether your site is running slow, infected with a virus, or just hasn’t had any modifications in its layout for a few a while there are always new ways to improve the user experience. Here is a handful of easy ways business owners can improve user navigation and improve the overall quality of their website:

1. Update for Speed

Every second spent loading the page is a second closer to a user losing interest. There are plenty of tools online that allow you to test the speed of your site like GTmetrix. Test your site now and then and make sure it’s not taking 5 minutes to get from one page to the next. If your site is lagging, consider updates either in server software or website software. If you use a type of software like WordPress, where it is free to use, distribute and it has a large community of developers and users who contribute back to the code, there tend be more frequent updates.

Keep in mind that the more traffic and users your site accumulates the more attempts you’ll see at spamming and virus infection. Make sure you have security measures that are constantly sweeping for any potential threats to the functionality of the website.

2. Bring in New, Quality Images

Let users know how you are progressing by using fresh, high-quality images of your latest products and services. One good way to revamp your site is to embed a PowerPoint on your homepage to show some of your latest happenings with the business. Improving the layout of certain images in a shopping section is definitely necessary from time to time to increase organization and exploring if your site allows users to shop online.

3. Contrast and Texture of Color

Never underestimate the power of color psychology in designing a website, especially with the background. Make sure the background color is one that is both easy on the eyes and evokes the right message to potential customers. For example, the website of a private doctor would do well to use various shades of the color blue because it evokes trust and is commonly associated with adaptability (water) and healing. The more serious the nature of your business the less variety of colors you should use but always use clearly contrasting shades as well as a distinguishable font.

4. Improve Source of Feedback

If you have the personnel and do a substantial amount of business online consider implementing a 24/7 help chat. One of the best ways for a smaller business to communicate with customers and respond to feedback is actually with a blog or forum for discussion. Obviously you won’t be able to respond to every compliment or complaint voiced in these sections but it will give a good source of constructive feedback from your users.

5. Social Media

If your business is not utilizing major social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn you need to start TODAY. Social media is arguably the most important aspect of online marketing today and allows you to tap into far too many networks of potential business to ignore. If you are already running pages with these outlets, make them accessible from you homepage or contact page. Use them to spread the latest entries of your blog and implore your users to follow you on them to keep up with all of your latest news.

Conclusion

For business owners it is important to constantly be looking for ways to improve yourself whether it be your products, services, or methods of marketing. Remember, the best ideas you can get are from the users themselves.  Always be open to feedback, always be open to change.

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Natural Light Designer Workspaces

One of the main contributors in deciding if a person has good or bad productivity is the environment in which they work. A persons work environment can include one of many things like the people they work with or the location of their work (cubicle, outdoors, windowless room, corner office etc.). While in most cases some of us have no control over either of these factors, there are a lucky few of us who do.

Most freelancers create their own work environment, whether that be renting an office somewhere, going to a local coffee shop to work, or in most cases just working from home. No matter where you choose to work, one major thing you should consider when picking a place to work is the natural lighting.

Why is natural light important? Well in short, we are humans, we weren’t meant to be confined inside the walls of a cubicle and shut off from the outside world. We need natural light to live and to keep our minds from exploding.

Researchers at the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, reported that the impact of working in a windowless environment is a universal phenomenon.

The study took 49 day shift office workers, 27 in workplaces with no natural light or windows and 22 in workplaces with windows and natural light. They used the Short Form-36 (SF-36) to measure health related quality of life, and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI)to evaluate sleep quality.

The study revealed that people who worked in offices with natural light received 173 percent more natural light exposure than those without windows or natural light in their office. The study also concluded that people who work in offices with windows (ie: natural light) got 46 more minutes of sleep per night over people working in offices with no windows and had better scores on measures for sleep quality, sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness.

People working in offices without natural light also scored lower on measures like physical problems. The study’s lead author, Ivy Cheung, said that: “A sunny day is equivalent to about 10,000 lux or higher of light. Indoor office lighting typically provides only about 300 to 500 lux. Light levels needed to maintain healthy circadian rhythm are higher than those required to see well, which are levels typically used indoors.”

Working in environments with no natural light is bad for our health. I can vouch for this first hand, I worked in an office that had no natural light, just florescent’s. I felt trapped, constantly tired no matter how much sleep I got, and depressed. As soon as I would get off work I would go home and go straight to bed; I did not feel like doing anything. It not only had an impact on me while I was at work, but it affected me during my off time as well.

After about a month of this, the company I was working for moved offices to an open floor plan co-working space with a wall of windows. After this move I began to feel more energized, I woke up and was ready for work everyday, plus I could see the outdoors! I am an outdoors person, so picking a career as a web developer wasn’t the smartest choice (but hey, I like it), but to be able to see outside and work in natural light is something that helps me get through the day.

With all the research and facts behind us now, lets move on to the fun part, the showcase of designer workspaces that utilize natural light. Included with each workspace image is a little tid bit about the workspace owner. Hopefully these workspaces will inspire you to move your desk in front of a window and begin enjoying the benefits of working under natural light.

1. Maxime De Greve

Maxime is a 24 year old Belgian UI/UX designer currently working as lead UI/UX designer at citysocializer in London, UK.

Maxime De Greve Workspace

2. Irving Briscoe

Irving is a designer and interactive developer who runs a little studio called von91 based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are his favorite design apps and his text editor of choice is Textmate.

Irving Briscoe Workspace

3. Martin Wright

Martin is a web designer with over 10 years experience based out of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK. He currently works at mySociety as a designer on their own in-house products and projects for citizens and democratic groups around the world.

Martin Wright Workspace

4. David Hellmann

David is an art director , designer, and frontend developer living in Cologne, Germany where he’s been since 2007. David currently works as Art Director at Fork.

David Hellman Workspace

5. Yegor Trukhin

Yegor, currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is the owner and general manager of Cosmius.me. His focus is in web design, UI/UX, and art direction.

Yegor Trukhin Workspace

6. Johnny Copperstone

Johnny is a front-end and back-end developer coming from an object oriented programming background based out of Malta (Europe). Johnny focuses on functional design and standards based ethics when he codes.

Johnny Copperstone Workspace

7. Grégoire Vella

Gregoire is a French user interface designer currently based in Bristol, UK. Greg designs UI for web and mobile products and enjoys bringing designs to life via front end development. Gregoire also works on branding an enjoys drawing icons in his free time.

Grégoire Vella Workspace

8. I*AM Design

I*AM is a creative agency based out of Augsburg, Germany that deals with corporate design, brand development, web design, advertising and print media.

I*AM Design Workspace

9. Adam Roney

Adam is a designer and art director from the Midwest currently residing in Valparaiso, Indiana.  After five years of leading a team of designers producing work for major brands within the beer industry, Adam left to open his own studio and pursue new clients.

Adam Roney Workspace

10. Mike Clarke

Mike is a photographer, mobile and web UI designer from Toronto, Canada. Mike is founder of YYZ Design, a media house based out of Toronto and San Francisco.

Mike Clarke Workspace

11. Michela Tannoia

Michela is a freelance web and UX/UI designer based in London, UK. Her passions include the best designs, photos, movies with big bad robots, cooking super cool dishes and the Sausage dogs.

Michela Tannoia Workspace

12. Istraille

Istraille is a multi-cap artist who splits his time between freelance art director, illustrator, and painter. Istraille does everything from graphic design and painting to web design and illustration.

Istraille Estebe Workspace

13. Per Vestman

Per Vestman Workspace

14. Kenneth Jensen

Kenneth is a concept, UX, UI, graphic designer with a passion for music, food and interior design. Kenneth is currently working at ajukreizi located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Kenneth Jensen Workspace

15. Kevin John Gomez

Kevin is a designer and developer based out of Buffalo, New York who runs Fancy Labs, a creative design and development studio.

Kevin John Gomez Workspace

16. Ben Lew

Ben, currently residing in Colorado Springs, Colorado,  is co-founder and designer at Pi’ikea St. Ben does app design, web design, logos, and illustration.

Ben Lew Workspace

Ben Lew Workspace

17. Erika van der Bent

Erika is a freelance designer and co-founder of GeeftVorm from Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Erika specializes in interfaces for the web, iPhone and iPad, creative website design, interactive experiences and branding.

Erika van der Bent Workspace

18. Mpumelelo Macu

Mpumelelo is a web designer and photographer from Johannesburg, currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Mpumelelo has worked with well know clients such as Miller and RedBull.

Mpumelelo Macu Workspace

19. Shane Helm

Shane is based out of Nashville, Tennessee and is the Design Director for Engage, an ad agency out of Washington DC. Shane has worked with major companies such as ESPN and Pepperdine University.

Shane Helm Workspace

20. Andy Stone

Andy is an art director and freelance designer in Boulder, Colorado specializing in user interfaces on web and iPhone apps. Andy has worked with top clients such as Adobe and Jack Johnson and also likes to write articles on design for fun.

Andy Stone Workspace

21. Oykun Yilmaz

Oykun is a self taught designer from London who specializes in user interface design. Oykun has been designing for web, mobile, desktop applications for over 10 years.

Oykun Yilmaz Workspace

22. Rasmus Landgreen

Rasmus is a Copenhagen based web and UX designer who works with the manly bunch at Issuu.com

Rasmus Landgreen Workspace

23. Timothy Achumba

Timothy is a British user interface and user interaction designer who works at 6Wunderkinder in Berlin, Germany. Timothy is also a writer at HearHearNL.

Timothy Achumba Workspace

24. Agata Krych

Agata is a 30 year old graphic designer from Poland. Her passions include designing and singing.

Agata Krych Workspace

25. Owen Jones

Owen is owner of Owen Jones Design, a UK based independent studio offering a wide range of graphic design services with a specialty in logo and identity design.

Owen Jones Workspace

Owen Jones Workspace

Owen Jones Workspace

26. Martin LeBlanc Eigtved

Martin is a developer and designer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Martin is also the CEO of the Danish startup IconFinder which is essentially a search engine and marketplace for icons.

Nick Bruun of Icon Finder Workspace

27. Focus Lab

Focus Lab is a web development & graphic design agency with a focus on ExpressionEngine & branding founded by Erik Reagan and Bill Kenney.

Focus Lab Workspace

Focus Lab Workspace

Focus Lab Workspace

28. Nicolas Prieto

Nicolas is a freelance Designer living in Argentina who specializes in branding, graphic and web design.

Nicolas Prieto Workspace

Nicolas Prieto Workspace

29. Daniel Waldron

Daniel is a product designer and photographer based in San Fransico, California. Daniel works at Omada Health, a technology-driven and human-centered health and wellness solution company.

Daniel Waldron Workspace

30. Garrett Gee

Garrett is a designer from Provo, Utah and founder of Scan, a company him and two classmates started while a Freshman at BYU.

Garrett Gee Workspace

31. George Bokhua

George is an art director based out of Tbilisi, Georgia with a focus on branding, graphic design, and illustration.

George Bokhua Workspace

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How ro build your Twitter following and increase engagement

Twitter is one of the most popular social media networks in the world next to Facebook. Building a solid following and getting your following to engage is one of the toughest tasks when it comes to marketing yourself or your company on social media. Here I will focus on how to create an influential Twitter account and build a following that is truly beneficial to you and/or your company.

Tweet Regularly

Tweet often and tweet at various times of the day. Tweeting throughout the day increases the chances of your tweet being seen by your followers. With Enfuzed’s Twitter account, I try to tweet every two hours; this ensures that my followers (who live in all parts of the world) will see at least one of my tweets over the course of the day.

Tweeting often ensures your audience that you are here to stay. Having a consistent tweeting schedule reassures your audience that they can count on seeing something from you on a regular basis. It also lets them know that you are not just tweeting when you feel like it or when you want something from them.

Engage your followers

Try as much as possible to engage with everyone who mentions you on twitter, whether that be favorite-ing their tweet,retweeting, or replying back to them. This lets them know that you have read their mention and acknowledge it. Sometimes it’s a great idea to even follow that person as they will more than likely follow you back and you can build a Twitter relationship from there.

Another thing to consider is asking your followers some questions and replying back to their answers to let them know you’re listening. Engaging with them gives you a human presence and lets them know your not a robot or just some scheduled tweet account that never actually logs into Twitter or reads what people say to you.

Mention other related accounts

Find other Twitter accounts that are related to yours and see what they’re doing and what they’re talking about. If you like what you see, mention them in a tweet. This lets them know your interested in what they have to say. This could even lead them to giving you a mention back and reading your tweets.

I follow many other web and graphic design blogs on Twitter and I am always reading what they have to say and what kind of articles they are posting. If I like an article, I will tweet it out to my followers and mention their Twitter handle in the tweet. This lets my Twitter get noticed by them and it can lead them into checking out my website and seeing what I have to offer. Then, if they like my site, they could end up giving me a mention for an article I’ve written. After awhile a relationship could build and we could end up trading tweets and mentions with each other. This is a great way to build relationships on Twitter and gain followers.

Follow related accounts

Whatever your niche may be, find other Twitter accounts that are related to that niche. Twitter does an awesome job of categorizing Twitter accounts. The more people you follow of a certain interest, the more accounts it will suggest to you that are the same. Following similar niches can increase your chance of getting followed by those accounts.

Contact other related businesses

When I started out I was trying to get my site noticed and build a strong following, so I would email related websites and ask them if they were interested in some kind of Twitter partnership. This would work, in a way, the same as the above tip. I tweet something from them that they wanted tweeted, mentioning their Twitter handle in the tweet, and they do the same for me.

Some Twitter users never check their @connect tab on Twitter, so they may not see you mentioning them in tweets. Going about it this way, by contacting them via email, will ensure they get your message and it can help you better established a tweet trading schedule for your Twitter partnership.

Use Hashtags

On Twitter, hashtags are used as a way to categorize posts. If you look at trends on Twitter, all of the trends are categorized via hashtags that are being used, an example could be #webdesign. If you are posting a tweet that deals with web design, simply insert the hashtag #webdesign into your tweet somewhere and it will be categorized with all the other tweets that mention #webdesign in them.

Once your tweet is posted with your selected hashtag it becomes a clickable link. When you click on it you will be directed to a page that has every tweet with that same hashtag. This is a great way to help build a niche following as users can search their interest, and if your hashtag matches it, you have a chance of appearing in their search and in turn possibly gaining a new follower.

An important thing to keep in mind is the amount of hashtags you use per tweet. Don’t overload your tweet to where it’s virtually illegible, use a max of two hashtags per tweet.

Style your profile

If you leave the Twitter egg as your profile picture, no one will take you seriously and it makes you look like a bot spammer. Use your company brand or logo (if it’s a good one), or if it’s just your personal account use a professional photo (not some photo of you partying).

Change the link color up to match your brands and use a nice cover photo and relevant background image to go with your account. Doing these things make it look like you care and that you’ve taken the time to properly set up your Twitter account. Remember, looking professional and legit is key in getting people to take you seriously, so do it and do it right.

Add Twitter to your website

There are a few more things you can do to help build your audience or get them interested. Adding a Twitter widget that displays your latest tweets to your website can help, that way when users visit your website they can see that you have a Twitter account and are regularly active on it.

Adding social share buttons to your website and blog posts can help as well. Giving your website a tweet button can help promote your account on Twitter by having people mention your handle in the preset tweet.

Twitter beyond the web

You can get followers and build an audience easily without having to do anything on the computer. Add you Twitter handle to things like your business cards, letterheads, or other stationary. This is something big businesses have been doing for awhile now, one good example is Lays. Lays includes their Twitter handle and Facebook url on all their bags of chips.

If you watch the news you will also notice that when some anchors come on TV, below their name now includes their Twitter handle. This occurs a lot on shows like Sports Center, Fox Sports and The Golf Channel. This is just a testament to how huge and popular Twitter jas become. So spread your Twitter handle beyond the web by promoting it on products, business cards, and other things.

Don’t ask for retweets

As with everything, there is always a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things, Twitter is no different. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ask for retweet in their tweet. Nothing comes off worse than someone who looks desperate. Lets face it, who wants to retweet someone who is basically begging for retweets?

No one wants to be the one who retweeted someone who, in their tweet, asked for a retweet. Twitter is not a charity case, if you want to have tons of followers and get retweets then you have to work for it like everyone else.

Don’t send automatic private messages

I think everyone can agree with me that this is the most annoying thing ever. You follow someone and then seconds later you get a PM and they are thanking you for the follow and then telling you to check out some link. Don’t do this, mainly because it’s a good way to get unfollowed.

This goes along the lines of advertising in a way (if you include the link spiel in the PM) and the last thing you want to do is come off as a salesman soliciting your stuff to a brand new follower. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to thank someone for following you, but it is unnecessary to do via a preset automated private message.

Conclusion

Just some ending tips, follow similar niche accounts and engage with your following. Avoid spamming tweets and messages and limit the self promotion to a minimum. Keep up with trends and post relevant information that people will want to see. Obviously there are a lot of other ways to kill it on Twitter, but I wanted to go over a few ways that you don’t see very often.

Do you have some tips to add? We’d love to hear them, comment them below.

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9 Ways to Stay Creative

Being in the creative industry is a fun job, we get to create all sorts of different art and designs, whether it be graphic or web related. Staying creative however can be a tough task at times, especially when we are trying to create something that has never been created before.

Lucky for us there are many websites and various tips and techniques to help keep your creative juices flowing. Here I will go over some common and some not so common ways to help you stay creative in those un-creative times.

1. Get some rest

Perhaps something that has been hammered into your brain since you were a little kid, get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can leave you drowsy and unable to concentrate. Getting plenty of rest can help improve your brain performance and memory. It would obviously be pretty hard to be creative when you’re tired and unable to concentrate.

2. Make mistakes

People think making mistakes is a bad thing, but it’s not. Making mistakes is what helps us learn and evolve as individuals, this is especially true for people in the creative industry. Mistakes can turn into great things, take a look at the slinky for example. Naval Engineer Richard Jones was trying to create a meter to monitor power on naval battleships, while working with tension springs one fell to the ground. The spring kept bouncing after it hit the ground, and from there the slinky was born.

Other great things that came from mistakes include chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, fireworks, microwave ovens, and post-it notes. So you see, great things can come from mistakes, so embrace them!

3. Get feedback from others

Getting helpful feedback from others is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing and gain new ideas. Talk with other people about projects or anything for that matter, and see what their input is and what kind of ideas they have. The minute I run dry of ideas I start discussing  projects with co-workers and within seconds ideas start piling in and creativity takes over.

4. Take a break

Step away for a few minutes. Whether it be from the computer or wherever you may be, take a break and do something different for a little bit to help clear your mind. Doing this can give your brain a break and help you relax while you gather yourself so you can be refreshed when you continue working.

5. Get away from the computer

This goes along with number 4, step away from the computer! Funny thing, in the past when I first started working full time as a developer I would take breaks at work and just go browse Twitter, read the news online, and check my email. I didn’t even leave the computer. This is the same for many people, they eat their lunch or take their breaks in front of a computer screen which defeats the whole purpose of a break.

Go for a walk or bike ride, go grocery shopping or do laundry. Believe it or not there are countless things you can do that don’t involve a computer (crazy right?!?). Sometimes all it takes to spark some creative ideas is for you to clear your mind and go out and do something away from your computer,which brings me to my next point…

6. Have a notepad within reach

This is something I’ve personally been doing for years. For whatever reason I get my best ideas and greatest creative thoughts at the worst times, more so while I’m laying in bed trying to fall asleep. That’s why I keep a notepad next to my bed, so when creativity hits me I can jot it down real quick so I don’t forget it before morning.

Now, I’m not hipster enough to carry a cool notepad in my back pocket, but I do frequently use the notepad app on my phone. Whenever I may be out and about and a great idea hits, I’ll type it out in the notepad app. Either way you choose, whether it be a good ‘ol fashioned notebook and pen, or an app on your phone, it’s a good idea to always have a place to jot stuff down because you never know when creativity may strike.

7. Be open to different things

The most popular artists and designers in the world are popular because they are open minded when it comes to creativity. Frank Zappa said it best “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” Being open to new things can give you a new point of view on things, a view which you may not have seen before, which can be greatly beneficial in the aspect of being creative.

8. Listen to music

Experts have proven that listening to music changes the way the brain works by opening up new patterns in the way the brain thinks and it also improves cognitive functions. Listening to music triggers the release of dopamine, which results in a feeling of pleasure. These things can help open your creative thinking  pathways and be greatly beneficial in being creative.

9. Visit some creative websites

I know this is counter intuitive to number 5 on the list, but there are plenty of websites to go to to help get the creative juices flowing. Sites like ours, Pinterest, Dribbble, Behance, and many others host some of the best designs on the web and they’re all great places to gain inspiration.

Conclusion

There you have it, go ahead and give these tips a try next time your brain runs dry. These tips are helpful in providing great inspiration while designing and giving you the creative boost you need. If you have any more tips or suggestions that work for you please let us know!

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What if Search Engines Didn't Exist?

Google Logo Bing Logo Yahoo Logo

What if search engines didn’t exist? This is a question that came creeping into my mind last night while I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. It’s a silly question, I know, but what if? How would some websites fair against others?

As I thought more about I wondered how websites would be ranked or even found. An idea came to me, what if content was ranked based on how it is perceived by the users? Real people, actual humans being in control of whether a website and its content are ranked high or low.

This may seem stupid or far fetched, or would it? As I scour the web on a daily basis, I tend to come across articles on the first page of Google and sometimes they’re absolute crap. I wonder to myself, how the heck did this get to page one? I know search engines (Google in particular) have really been trying to solve issues like this recently, pushing out updates and basing rankings on actual page content; but until this is complete, some crap content may still appear in top search results.

What I’m saying is…

Back to my main point, what if there were no search engines? The only way for users to find your content is through social media and word of mouth. Do you think your website would still be ranking where it is now if that were the case? Would it rank higher? Lower? It’s a fun question to think about.

Instead of your website ranking based on keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, etc; your website will be ranked based on how users see your site, this includes content, visual design, and usability aspects.

Let’s say your website design and usability are terrible. They’re out of date in terms of design trends, not responsive, terrible font and color choices etc. In reality search engines can’t actually see and perceive some of these design aspects of your website the way a human can. Maybe you have decent content on your site and it ranks high in search results, but this will no longer matter. Users will see your website as a visual and usability headache and won’t even give it a chance. Before you know it, your rank starts dropping and traffic begins to plummet, users don’t like your website’s look and you get a bad rank.

This can go many ways though. Maybe you have an awesome website but your content sucks. Will users share articles or information from your website if your content is terrible (even though your website design is stellar)? Maybe and maybe not, they may share your website for it’s design, but once they’ve seen your design what’s to keep them returning? Nothing, your content sucks so there is no point for them to return.

A scary thought huh?

Design is only part of the ranking decider users will use. Content matters tremendously for readers, especially ones wanting to learn something and get information from your website. This is why you should create the content on your site for the readers. Make it easy for them to read and understand so that they will enjoy it and keep coming back.

There are some positives and negatives to this whole scenario. The positive: users are in full control and they will judge whether or not your website becomes high ranking or drops to the floor and slides under the couch. This is a positive if you create great, well received content. The negative: users are in full control, this means if you create bad content, you’re done for.

If you toss an article together in a matter of minutes just to get a post out for the day, users are going to notice. So what if you don’t have anything to post about for the day? It’s better to not post anything than to throw some crap together in a matter of minutes just to show you posted something that day.

Hypothetically, with search engines no longer existing, you need to make your readers happy by creating content for them, good content. With the ranking of your site fully dependent on how awesome your content is, you need to avoid things like the “5 minute post”.

Examples

What I mean by the “5 minute post” is the creation of a post (article or page), that you put no effort towards and is usually worthless, just for the sake of making a post. I will give you some examples to go off of, both for sites doing it the right way and sites doing it the wrong way.

Not to put them down but Yahoo! is one of the bigger websites that, sometimes, is at fault to the “5 minute posts”. This is something I’m sure we have all done, I know I have; but for reason of example (and Yahoo! being a well known site) we will use Yahoo!.

Every once in awhile you’ll see a compelling headline on Yahoo (or other major news sites), you’ll click the link, and it’s a 3 paragraph worthless post. They got you, they duped you with a misleading headline and wasted valuable seconds of your life. It’s frustrating and from reading the comments on some of those types of posts, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Designmodo and Smashing Magazine are both good website examples (I’m mentioning them because I frequent them regularly, I’m sure there are others) of websites with well created content. They are always on top of the latest trends and they make posts with meaning. They don’t quickly throw together posts just to have something new everyday, they take time with their articles and make sure they’re worth a reader’s time, even if it means not publishing something for a day. Most users love these kinds of websites and it shows by how many social media interactions they receive per article.

I’ll admit fault on this, there have been times where I was scared I wasn’t going to have a new article posted for a day so I threw something together real quick. It showed too, the article barely generated any interest because it was meaningless and I didn’t take any time on it. Things like this will decrease your rankings among web users.

The point I’m trying to make is…

If you haven’t caught on to the point I am trying to make with this post, I’ll lay it out for you right here in three words: make valuable content. Make your website and it’s content for the user, not just for the search engines. Don’t go filling articles or pages with loads of keywords to the point that a human trying to read it just gives up and moves on.

I’ll be honest, I fell into the trap of creating content for just search engines instead of users too, I’m sure most of us have. Some of my past articles are terrible, but I’m working on changing the way I do things now and I’m doing my best to create useful content for my readers.

Google is changing in a way that is going to benefit people who create great and meaningful content. Search engines are starting to focus more on content rather than how well you can manipulate them with keywords and such.

This is a good thing, at least for those of you creating awesome and useful content. It’s not a good thing if you fall into the manipulative category of terrible content but awesome keywords. I’m excited to see how search engines (Google in particular) will continue to evolve. I’d love to hear your thoughts, good and bad, on this whole idea here.

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How to be the Most Organized Person in the World Infographic by Greatist

Being organized in today’s hectic world is something most of us can have a hard time doing. It sometimes seems that there are just not enough hours in the day, and being unorganized can make the days seem even shorter.

As much as I try, I’ll admit that I am lacking in the organization area. My desk is covered in sticky notes among other random sheets of paper, half of which I don’t know what they are. If it wasn’t for the search on my PC I’d lose so many files just for the fact that sometimes I don’t organize them into folders on my computer properly.

With the problem of organization being quite large, there have been many companies trying to help by creating apps, reminder programs, and alerts for your cell phones and computers. Although they can be very helpful, sometimes they’re just not enough.

The team at Greatist, a source for all things fitness, health, and happiness, created this very long and very helpful infographic on how to be the most organized person in the world. Although I’m sure you won’t become the most organized person overnight, it will definitely help you to improve upon your current organization situation.

Tips for becoming more organized start at your computer and organizing files on it. You can do this with programs like Dropit that automatically organize and sort the files you give it.

Another great place to start with organization is the email. A person’s email can get out of control overnight, keeping your personal email and work email separate can help you stay more organized. It’s also a good idea to create folders on your email and sort emails that way.

This is an area where I am actually a more organized than usual. I have 2 personal email accounts and a business email. I use my business email for, well, business and I use one personal email for stuff like Facebook, Twitter etc. and the second personal email I use in a more professional nature for business and job contacts.

Anyways, there are a ton of great organization tips listed in this infographic, so read them over and get started on organizing your life.

Created by Greatist

How to be the Most Organized Person in the World Infographic by Greatist

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Many people dream of becoming an internet millionaire. Don't be a dreamer download this eBook, join my newsletter and start taking action today.

  • How to Find a Profitable Niche
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