Articles by: guest
Digital marketing – and the internet in general – has made marketing much more accessible. The same digital marketing instruments used by big corporations are now available to small businesses and professionals, including you as a designer. It is easy to reach thousands of potential customers, even when you’re on a relatively limited budget.
Aside from social media and content marketing, you can also turn to email marketing to expand the reach of your digital marketing campaign. Before you get started with building your own email marketing list, however, here are the best tips and tricks to get you started.
People don’t just sign up for a newsletter without a good reason. In fact, today’s audience are more selective when choosing newsletters and mailing lists to sign up for. To get them interested, you need to offer something valuable in return.
Freebies are great incentives that will get people excited about signing up for your newsletter. Here on Go Media we offer free PSDs and other bonuses to new subscribers while releasing additional freebies to keep old subscribers interested.
The goal of offering freebies is adding value to the newsletter. The freebies you offer don’t have to be something expensive or difficult to make. Instead, focus on offering something that the subscribers can actually benefit from.
Don’t Forget Maintenance
Maintaining the health of your email list is just as important as attracting new subscribers and expanding your reach. Email marketing, just like SEO and social media marketing, is not something you can do once and forget. Sufficient maintenance is required for the mailing list to remain effective.
Fortunately, you have more maintenance tools at your disposal these days. Most email marketing systems can automatically detect bounce emails and invalid email addresses. You no longer have to remove bad addresses manually from the list.
You also have tools like theemailfinder.co helping you verify email addresses and validating your recipients. Email validation is something that needs to be a part of your email marketing campaign, especially if you’re targeting business customers and key decision makers.
The biggest challenge of them all, however, is maintaining consistency. This is a crucial part of running a successful email marketing campaign. Instead of sending a lot of content at once, it is much better to send one email every two weeks.
Consistency leads to better user engagement, which will then lead to higher conversion. You need to create an environment where recipients know when to expect a new email from you, and the way to do that is by maintaining a consistent delivery schedule.
If one email every two weeks is too difficult of a standard to meet, stick with one email every month. Don’t worry too much about the frequency of your newsletter and invest more energy into boosting the value of every email you send out to subscribers.
Remember these three tips when you’re starting a new mailing list, and you can build a successful list from the beginning. It won’t be long before you experience the true value of having an effective mailing list and engaged recipients.
Graphic Design Shadowing Day
by guest blogger Lauren
My high school requires a Junior Shadow experience therefore I sent my requests to shadow a company to many companies in the Cleveland area and in Ohio. I was initially contemplating a career in Game Design and contacted a variety of companies. Go Media had been recommended to me by a faculty member from an art school in the area. I looked them up to see what they were about and I could then see why they came so highly recommended.
My first impression was to immediately click what their products were, and I was just awestruck by the amazing work that they did. My favorite product I found was the vectors, images that when made bigger or smaller and won’t pixelate or blur. I later learned from Go Media that vectors can be used in designs on T-shirts, logos, signs, and many other uses. All you had to do was buy the desired pack, and use the vectors to your liking. I was more than excited about this company, and hoped they would email me back soon.
The following day, I was thrilled to learn that Go Media agreed to have me shadow. Heather Sakai had kindly responded to my request. In the weeks leading up to my Junior Shadowing I was restless and was frequently in contact with Ms. Sakai. I wanted to my Junior Shadowing to start right then and there. Although I was never able to choose with whom I shadowed, I knew from what I saw on Go Media’s site that whomever I would shadow would be amazing. When it finally came time for my shadowing I was excited, but still my nerves were going crazy.
Upon arriving at Go Media my father and I were greeted by the beautiful Heather who showed us up the three flights of stairs covered in beautiful artwork and into the industrial-styled studio. I soon met the amazing Jordan Wong, an amazingly talented artist, whose artwork I had seen online. Throughout the day Jordan was able to show me a wide variety of the work he did. In the beginning I was even able to help Jordan match colors of a certain preset with PMS colors designed for screen printing. Later I helped hang up some sketches and drafts for vectors that Jordan had created, all of which I was so honored to hold, let alone help hang up over their large and drool-worthy drawing table.
They graciously had me join them for lunch at Johnny Mangoes and afterwards I was again able to help Jordan in some of the tasks he had on his to do list. First of all I helped Jordan with creating some artistic weapons that would become digital 3D renderings for their upcoming festival Weapons of Mass Creation. These weapons were creative, not only in the sense that they were well done, but in the sense that they themselves were things to create art. The main ‘weapon’ I was able to assist Jordan with was his ‘Illustrator’s Gauntlet’ which was a Golden Gauntlet that had visible inkwells and the tips of each finger was a micron pen tip, which is an artist pen. After helping with the color scheme and finding the perfect way to set up the diagram, I was then able to see another view of what Jordan does. I even suggested a cool idea for another ‘weapon’ or more of an accessory; an ink cape made of ink, that literally drips ink.
Next, I was able to help Jordan rephrase and grammar check three Freelancer Survival Guide booklets which the company sells online. We were able to edit and fix not only the paragraphs, but the layout of the pages as well, which was strangely fun to do, despite being a significant amount of work when you think about it. At the end of the day I was sad to leave, but I certainly didn’t leave empty handed or empty brained.
I walked down the three flights of stairs with my dad carrying a bag of t-shirts, a hat, and a hoodie promoting Weapons of Mass Creation which I proudly wore as soon as I arrived home. I also left Go Media with a new found desire to be a graphic design artist, a slight step away from originally wanting to be a female game designer in a male dominated, and heavily sexualized, field of work.
I learned so much from the Go Media staff and I am very grateful to them for allowing me to shadow. The staff was generous with providing me with helpful information that I need to think about as I take the next steps towards attending college. Minimally, to become a graphic design artist it would require a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, but would be significantly beneficial to also pursue a minor in business as well. In this career I believe that there are endless positive aspects to this career choice, many of which are connected to the freedom that comes when working in such an amazing company like Go Media.
The only major negative side to becoming a Graphic Designer is a very competitive job market. One thing I found surprising in this career was the significant amount of creativity that was able to be put into the jobs that needed to be done, while still accomplishing what the client wanted. This is definitely a career I would like to further pursue as I feel that there is significantly more creative freedom, and that everything I did wouldn’t be just a game that is played and gotten bored with after just a year, but a branding, a design, that stays for many years on posters, t-shirts, websites, and signs. To say the least, my Junior Shadowing Day at Go Media was the best day I could have asked for, and I definitely learned a lot while having a blast at the same time.
Because minimalism is so spare and simple, it’s a common misconception that it would be easy to do it well. But if you really take a look at why good minimalist designs make such an impact, you come to realize that a sophisticated use of the style takes even more experience and understanding that the most maximal of designs.
The layout and aesthetic choices should all be made so that the content shines and the user experience is clear and simple. At its core, minimalism puts a premium on communicating ideas and creating experiences in the simplest way possible. Take the minimal music quiz as an example; not only is the layout minimal in design, so is the imagery that accompanies it. Every part of the site demonstrates how interesting and versatile simplicity can be. It looks effortless, but in order to pull it off, you need to make sure that you’ve learned these essential lessons:
1. Simple doesn’t mean easy or plain.
To the novice, one of the most confusing characteristics of minimalism is the idea that the end result is the product of just as much (or often more) thought than any other type of aesthetic. But the truth is that refining a concept down to a visually pleasing and multifunctional minimum takes a lot of work. This process is what enhances the effectiveness of the visual and interactive experience, and what makes minimalism such an important style to learn more about.
For example, it’s the smallest details used in Teacake’s site that make it such a pleasure to interact with. There are several uses of a flat, round elements, which a user will subconsciously but quickly learn are indicators of interactive possibilities. There’s the scroll to top indicator that pops up with just enough emphasis on the right-hand corner to take note of it without it disturbing your experience. There are the buttons for revealing and hiding further information about each project, and the arrows for scanning other images. They are all immediately understandable, and their sleek design brings the site to life, as well as directing focus where it needs to go.
Similarly, simplicity should be used to highlight the innate purpose or elements of the design. For example, take a look at this uniform quiz. Design’s like these don’t need to be complex to communicate their message.
2. Designs should be cohesive and tell a story.
Despite the recent popularity and many advantages of minimalism, no one should just jump on the bandwagon because they want their designs to be on trend. Minimalism isn’t the best idea for every type of site or target audience; the choice needs to be made based on practicalities as well as trends. This is why there are so many design portfolios, specialized eCommerce sites, and blogs that are done in the minimalist style. Because their topics are usually restricted and visually engaging, and their audiences are often more attuned to aesthetics than the average user, it makes sense to choose minimalism for these types of sites.
Apart from being simply the right choice for your site’s direction, minimalism also works best when it’s used to tell a story. This interest in giving an overarching experience is probably why so many minimalist sites use same-page scrolling effects, rather than breaking up their content into multiple pages. By creating a consistent experience throughout the site, businesses like the Josh Cohen School of Music make their products or services (along with their company) feel more specialized, personal, and appealing.
3. Focus on the user experience and the design will follow.
You’ve already seen a few examples of minimalist sites that have a very unified color scheme, which shows up in the use of a consistent color on all objects of interest, like logos, links, and rollovers. Code ComputerLove is no exception; a bright persimmon color is used to highlight every important piece of information throughout the site. The large fields of the color that pop up to identify a grid of rollovers make for a particularly eye-catching and satisfying user experience. The reason why this example and many other minimalist sites often put such an emphasis on just one color is because this provides a wonderful user experience; there are no other bright hues to distract users from the goals the site wants them to achieve. But it’s a welcome side effect that the site also benefits aesthetically from these restricted color choices.
4. Achieve a balance of alignment and contrast.
Although the previous lesson shows what makes the solid backbone of a good minimalist design, sometimes a little more spark is needed to really ignite the design. Often it’s as simple as adding great imagery or type (or both) into your layout. But the best minimalist designs would look great even if these dramatic effects were stripped away.
Take a website like Peter Hook and the History of Joy Division; it is completely monochromatic, and has utterly simple typography and iconography. But the layout achieves a wonderful balance of historical and modern elements, in the textured background and serif typeface and the flat icons and line treatments. And the contrast between black and white and large and small elements is quietly enticing. Despite having absolutely no flashy elements, the site draws you in and makes you want to explore.
With all the advantages that well-executed minimalism can confer on the right kind of website or portfolio, it’s no surprise that the style has exploded in popularity of late. The design community should look forward to seeing work that really pushes the envelope and continues to make the web a more robust and mature medium.
Once upon a time, there was a method of design that involved plenty of time for brainstorming and upfront big picture planning. Designers could meet with all interested parties, puzzle over design challenges, and play with problems until they’d found a (theoretical) solution.
But that approach to design workflow has been largely relegated to the history books—some would say, for the betterment of all. As the development world has embraced the Agile process with systems like scrums and big data analytics, designers find themselves under increasing pressure to iterate quickly, rather than spending lots of time planning for project demands that are highly likely to change just a week or even a day after the plan is finally set. This sounds to many experienced designers like it’s anathema to the creative process, and it can be, if we try to adapt Agile development practices wholesale, without tweaking them to fit the design workflow or mentality.
Conversely, the many designers who do make Agile their own find it can actually be a boon for creativity, forcing them out of productivity-deadening perfectionism and keeping them on their toes as they try to meet changing constraints. How are these designers embracing the more dynamic Agile approach to workflow while still holding strong to the more static elements of the design process that keep them surefooted and on solid ground? Let’s take a look at a few key approaches from beginning to end.
1. Start and End With the Client
We’re all familiar with those nightmare clients who call five times a day. We all also know the frustration of the client who says, “I don’t know” and “Sure,” to everything, only to decide upon seeing the finished product that it’s, “Not quite right.” While there’s no catch all solution for these kinds of difficulties, there’s a lot that can be done when you adopt the agile mentality of taking the client on almost as a team member. That means giving them a constant stream of deliverables, even if it’s something small, and communicating feedback to the rest of the team during your daily or weekly stand up meetings so you can adjust accordingly. Clients can also be helpful in maintaining that on-brand feel, as well as in testing any prototypes or clarifying just what the demands of the job entail as they see it all come together.
To do this, you may want to assign a liaison between you and the client to handle the bulk of customer feedback, so you can focus on design work. It’s also important to shift away both from static, labor intensive PSD mockups of pages that you may have to radically change or decide not to make at all, as well as from mood boards, which are often too vague to be of any help. Instead, try using a tool like Style Tiles, which will enable you to produce the smaller deliverables like fonts, colors and page elements, that will form the basis of your site design, rather than focusing on that static bigger picture. Style tiles can be used throughout the process, from visual brainstorms to the many adjustments that need to be made throughout every iteration. What’s more, you can use style tiles to combine elements across each tile, so you can constantly adjust and merge looks.
2. Do the Heavy Lifting Before a Project “Begins”
If you hadn’t guessed it already, there’s just no time in the Agile design process to spend a good 15 hours producing a PSD mockup, especially if it doesn’t lead to a workable product in the end (and it often doesn’t). In contrast, designing extensive style guides during the brainstorming process can provide the best kind of jumping off point. In saying this, I’m not referring to those basic, brand style guides, but instead to coded style guides that are devoted to page elements, like buttons, typography, headers and so forth. Once coded, these page elements not only give the client a much better sense of the product, but they’re also a lot easier to implement when the designer does begin work on the “true” product, i.e. landing pages. A coded style guide will allow you to easily change your design as you go, without having those heart stopping, “This isn’t what I asked for” moments at the end of a project. In essence, this means shifting from top down to bottom up design.
3. Iterate Frequently, But Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Ready. Set. Iterate! Two of the most commonly implemented and famous elements of Agile are iterations and sprint planning. During each iteration, design teams limit themselves to achieving a set of achievable goals, which they’ll then pursue with singular intensity. This folds in nicely with the concept of constantly delivering products to the client, as each iteration should produce something to present, no matter how unpolished.
A common (and well-justified) complaint amongst designers about the iterative process is that it becomes hyper-localized, so that the big picture becomes murky. This is one area where designers can really benefit from breaking a little bit away from the classic Agile development process with design spikes. When a design spike is called, all work on anything that would be dependent on the spike ceases, and one designer is elevated to “owner” to stand alongside the product owner. New team members can be brought on if their perspective would be useful, but the most important part of the idea is that it ceases all action until this bigger issue or viewpoint is fixed or achieved.
Another effective strategy is to adopt at least the philosophy behind the development process continuous integration, in which developers constantly integrate their work, rather than waiting until the product is done to fix a huge backlog of unforeseen bugs. Similarly, designers can keep that bigger picture in mind by constantly integrating their work across the design team, and testing elements as they go.
4. Evaluate Your Efforts
The Agile design process can be highly effective, but only if you’ve got your strategies done. Implemented the wrong way, Agile can be more distracting and anxiety-inducing than anything else, leading to far lower productivity rates than the classic Waterfall method. At the end of a project, or perhaps even at the end of every iteration, take the time to evaluate how your implementation of Agile is going, and whether or not any tweaks need to be made. Of course, you’ll also need to evaluate your design efforts, so that you can properly adjust your backlog and add the most appropriate new tasks into the next iteration.
There’s no getting around it: Agile is taking the development world by storm. Whether that makes your little designer heart jump for joy or it makes your blood boil, it’s a reality we all have to face if we’re going to continue working hand in hand with developers. The best thing we can do is embrace these changes and make them work for what designers actually do. And who knows? You might just find yourself creatively unlocked as you go.
Anyone will agree that color has power. It affects how comfortable you feel in your environment, influences your opinion of the way clothes look, and is a key characteristic in describing objects. What some people don’t know, however, is that color can sway the way people perceive a brand, and even influence their buying decisions. The study of the way that color affects viewers’ states of mind is known as
color theory, and knowledge of this subject can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your work as website designers. Tapping into the power of color opens the opportunity to develop a solid brand with a website that thoroughly communicates its identity to users.
Using Color Theory
Those who have studied color theory have categorized color into a logical structure, known as the color wheel; it is from this that color combinations are formed. The key to using color to your advantage in web design is to understand the different effects colors have on viewers, and to create a harmony among your color choices. Here is a breakdown of the different impressions colors have on most viewers.
When designing a website, take stock of the foundation that the brand is built on: its mission, values, goals and principles. Make your color choices based on the subconscious effect they have on viewers and the visual stability they create together. Some color harmony formulas include analogous, complementary and triad. When you achieve color harmony in your designs, you create a pleasing arrangement to the eye. Harmony engages the viewer, and allows the mind to create an inner sense of balance and order. When users enjoy the colors in your design, they are more likely to continue interacting with your site – leading to more conversions and improved user experience.
Sites That Use Color Well
Melonfree features a scheme with color that has been toned down in vibrancy to reflect a natural and comfortable atmosphere. Harmony is created in the complementary balance between the orange and green. Orange is used to guide the eye around the page by calling attention to different aspects, while green provides a softer, cooler hue that colors the more subtle elements. The colors are held together with a cream background that further softens the pop of the accents without detracting from their effectiveness.
This digital security guide uses a bold, full color background to immediately attract the attention of the viewer. It dulls an otherwise bright color – yellow – to be easier on the eyes, since it’s used in such a large amount. This design is successful because the content creates a stark contrast with the background, making it readable. Plus – because the yellow is effective on its own – no other decorative colors are needed. The page is bold, but not chaotic.
Works Medical has gone the opposite direction by choosing a scheme with several different colors. Representing a large portion of the color wheel, the design portrays a fun, creative feel. The risk of looking messy is overcome by prominent color blocking. The layout also makes the colors pleasing to the eye by showing a gradual change, instead of drastic contrasts.
Many contemporary web designs are using color very sparsely, which emphasizes how much power it has in even small quantities. Like
Kitchen Sink Studios, a beige or gray and white background forces the user to focus on the page’s content. The intentional accents of color are extremely successful in placing importance on certain elements, as well as guiding the eye’s path so that it sees everything.
Tools to Help You Implement Color
You’re not on your own when it comes to choosing your color scheme. There are plenty of tools to help you gain color inspiration, brainstorm and implement them into your design.
Unlike other stock imagery sites, this one has an interactive interface that allows users to discover images based on color, which differs from typical search queries based on keyword phrases. This tool is particularly helpful in the brainstorming phase of design, and it can take you to new areas of ideation with real-time feedback.
If you already have an image in mind for your design, this is a great tool for building a color scheme by extracting colors from the image. It finds the main colors and fills in the hues between them to develop a solid, cohesive palette. It provides you with the Pantone numbers of each color, so you can be sure to apply them accurately to your design.
This hands-on tool enables you to search images and graphics with corresponding palettes for inspiration. You can also browse gradients, patterns and images to extract a palette from yourself, which you can then manipulate to your liking. Colrd is perfect for ideation and experimentation, because it allows you to have control by editing and saving your work as you go.
Color theory facilitates a whole new realm of intentional design. Now that you know the basics of the psychological effects that color has on viewers and how to build a solid scheme, you can be confident that your choices accurately reflect your brand to achieve your goals.
Other posts you may enjoy: The Colour Wheel: Using Colour Theory in Design
It’s Friday. I’m hungry. One of my friends recommended a new trendy restaurant and, hey, it’s right around the corner. However, knowing that “trendy” can mean “a sole sprig of lettuce and a sprinkling of truffle oil” and I wasn’t joking about this whole hunger thing, I head to the restaurant’s site to check out the menu before making any firm plans. But, when the graphic and video-heavy site finally loads, the menu is impossible to find, as are directions to the entrance, which I’ve been told is hidden down some strange back alley. In fact, I can’t even figure out how to enter the site, mired as I am in this gorgeous yet impossible to navigate landing page, with earthy music blaring through my speakers. Frustrated, I choose another old standby just around the corner (probably ten feet from this new restaurant, but who can tell?), just to spite the first one.
I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. And yet, I appreciate beautiful design just as much as the next person, and dislike those hyper-corporate sites that are all business and no personality. That’s why I think it’s so important to test the success of your web designs — not just to see whether or not users actually find the site compelling, easy to navigate, and even easier to buy from, but also to see how far a designer can push the envelope before that bottom line begins to suffer.
To accurately measure the success of a website, Google Analytics is a must. There’s a lot to it, so I highly recommend this analytics guide for both an initial grounding in the subject and for more advanced, deeper investigations. As a start, here are just a few key things to look out for when testing the success of your web designs.
When it comes to determining the effectiveness of a website’s user interface, there are few measures as telling as conversion rate. Whether it’s an actual purchase or simply downloading a pamphlet, conversion rate is an effective way to gauge just how engaged in the site users are, and where in the sale funnel they might be encountering roadblocks.
Of course, basic measures like keeping a headcount of newsletter sign-ups are useful, but to really dig into the nitty gritty, consider using Google Analytic’s Advanced Segmentation tool. As you can see in this case study of a company called WBC, advanced segmentation can really help you dig down into subtle measures that are powerful yet easy to miss. For example, this particular company found that, lurking within a generally low conversion rate were loyal users with high conversion rates. This lead to a redesign that displayed a greater range of products most desired by loyal customers, and established industry authority.
This tool is most powerful when paired with content experiments, which, despite the title, can be applied not just to content but to various elements of design as well. As a designer, you already know that on a landing page the most crucial information and any forms or other means of conversion should appear above the fold. But how much information should appear? Should the content be wordy and informational or highly visual? How clean is too clean, how packed too packed? With content experiments, you’ll randomly send visitors two or more versions of your site while tracking conversion rates, enabling you to test everything from major layout differences to the color of a headline. Whether that creative, totally new layout works or not will entirely come down to the data.
Let’s say a design is working and a customer has added the desired product into the cart or started to fill out a form field. But then they get frustrated with just how long the form is, or they type something incorrectly, or the cart responds with an error message. Make no mistake: web users are fickle and these kinds of frustrations are likely to turn them away.
Google Analytics’ event tracking can both identify and help mitigate the problem. With the ga.js tracking code, you’ll be able to see and record just how users are interacting with website elements, and you can classify those interactions with web page objects. So, whether your forms are too long or your checkout process is too cumbersome, event tracking can help you identify user experience and sales funnel roadblocks and move them out of the way.
By most accounts, the average user expects a web page to load in no more than 2 seconds. Yep, all of those jaw-dropping photos and helpful videos and interactive features you’ve added to a site in order to up conversions and engage users (and just generally keep things fun and cool) have all of a couple of seconds to load and become totally functionally. Not only that, but they also have to work on a variety of devices; fair or not, users will blame the site for not loading on their ancient iMac, and all of that design genius of yours will be thrown out of the window.
First order of business a site speed test for every site you produce. The Site Speed menu under Content in your Google Analytics dashboard will also provide a look at specific page load times, as well as that of the overall site. If the results are disappointing and you’ve got a high percentage of visitors coming to you from around the world, consider hosting your site on a Content Distributed Network like MetaCDN. As the name implies, CDNs distribute storage of a site across a worldwide network, so that users will always be downloading page elements from the nearest server to them, rather than waiting for it to download from some server halfway across the world. CDNs also automatically account for the demands of different devices, making for an overall much speedier experience (and a higher likelihood that visitors will stick around).
Bounce rate analytics are easy to find in your GA dashboard both for landing pages and specific pages on your site. However, just what bounce rate means is a little more confusing. Strictly defined, bounce rate measures the percentage of users who leave the site rather than clicking links that bring them deeper in.
But if you’ve designed for, say, an expertise blog, this could just mean that users are finding exactly what they want and leaving. You’ll know this for sure if they’re staying awhile on the site — something you can see for certain when you take a look at site times in the Engagement tool. This all may mean that the content and layout in themselves might be great, but there may not be, for example, a nice display of related articles in the sidebar, or enough featuring of services to show the reader that there is more on offer. Other causes of high bounce rate might include loading and error issues, boring content and design and poor usability.
Google Experiments can again prove crucial not just in upping conversions but also in getting users to stay there in the first place. Use the bounce rate to identify and pin down the problem, and Experiments to determine just what to do about it.
Creativity, artfulness, and fun are all crucial elements of good web design. But users won’t appreciate any of that if they can’t find what they’re looking for — and fast. Rather than fearing the numbers, web designers should use them as the source of their creativity. In fact, many times the most creative and inspiring solutions are those that come from within real world constraints. In that way, analytics and web design are perfectly paired.