New Designer and Developer Resources – August 2014
At Go Media, I’m a front-end developer, a podcaster, a content creator, a designer, and a maker. Just like you, I like to wear a lot of hats and I like to keep up on the current trends, tools, and resources that hit my inbox and Feedly every day. Almost once a week, I sign up to be a beta tester for a new app, or install a new extension to see if it betters my productivity on certain tasks. When I find something awesome, I share it with various members of our team, depending on what issues it’s solving.
And, I figured it might be time to share that with you as well.
This Month’s Resources
Here’s what I found this month (and earlier, since this is the first edition) that has helped me in my daily work, both in and out of the office.
Twibble is a new service that allows you to hook up any RSS feed and tweet new posts from it. While I haven’t quite worked this into my work at Go Media, I’ve been using it for another podcast I run. Any time we release a new YouTube video, a new podcast, or post on our Facebook page, we can promote it on a schedule to our Twitter account. Now we can keep active, and keep our followers on Twitter aware of all the content we’re producing, without the “manual labor”.
My Current Favorite IFTTT Recipe
I LOVE IFTTT! I use it to transfer “saved for later” articles in my Feedly to my Gmail. I use it to push content I’m creating to a Buffer’s distribution schedule. I’m using it to send me an email reminder every Thursday to move $50 into a “for a rainy day” checking account. And, I also use it to push content to WordPress and our Tumblr blog.
But, a huge bottleneck in my routine is trying to also keep a growing Facebook Group I help run active. Since I do most of my reading on my phone, and the Facebook app has it’s limitations, I couldn’t easily do that. In comes IFTTT and this recipe. I can share a story (either from our own feed or from other sites we’re reading) from Feedly to Pocket. That story is then collected by IFTTT and pushed to the Facebook Group. Now, I can start a conversation with the community without skipping a beat.
Being More Productive With Ambient Noise
We talked about the topic of ambient noise with Donald Wooten at WMC Fest 5, which you can hear on Go Media Podcast Episode 26. Ambient noise has added to music over the last 10-15 years to make it feel more authentic. A lot of us add noise to our daily lives so that we get distracted less while working.
But for me, I layer ambient noise behind music I stream over Spotify. It gives me a constant sound and keeps me moving because I’m not waiting for a song to end. Most of the time, I get so focused that I lose track of the transitions. 2 hours later, it’s hard to tell how many different songs, different styles, or different artists I’ve listened to. Or, if my playlist ended while I was so far in the zone that I missed it.
The main source I use is Coffitivity. It started off just as a long, streaming mp3 of background noise from a coffee shop. You’d hear the low murmur of people talking, cups hitting the table, and spoons dropping into the bottom of mugs. They’ve also added more options, from low murmurs to bustling chatter of a lunchtime rush, to the sounds of students on campus.
Another Ambient Noise maker has entered the scene and it’s a Chrome plugin that works offline.
Elmnts is an elegant ambient sound generator for improving focus and calm. Whether you’re studying, working, or just relaxing, the sounds of the elements make everything better. Works offline, so you don’t have to load a website to hear these high quality sounds, they’re yours to listen to anytime.
Five of the six audio choices are nature-based. You can listen to the rain hit your window or sit next to a fire. You could enjoy the chirping of birds and other woodland creatures or stick your toes in the nearby creek. You could even listen to the waves crash onto the beach as you hustle towards vacation. Or make your own combination by layering the sounds together.
How To Insert Featured Images Easier in WordPress
Whether it’s a new blog post or a new page, we’re always uploading featured images to WordPress. And, if you do it a lot, it can become a hassle (albeit minor) to do it efficiently. But, we have a few new options now, which give us the freedom to multitask without slowing down.
Instant Featured Image
What if you wanted to upload a featured image but also wanted to insert it into your post? To do that, you’d have to set the featured image first, then get back into the media menu to insert it. Why the extra step? With the Instant Featured Image plugin, you can save those clicks and just insert and set the featured image with one click.
Automatic Featured Images From YouTube Videos
Another personal project I have involves creating YouTube videos and sharing them to WordPress. While it’s easy to upload the thumbnail to YouTube AND then to WordPress after the video publishes, that takes too much work. With this plugin, you can insert the video URL into your post like normal. Then, put your description and hit save or publish. Once saved, WordPress pulls in the featured image for you.
Easy and Efficient PDF Compression with SmallPDF
We all work with clients that have these HUGE PDFs filled with large images. A normal PDF we receive to put onto a site is between 5mb and 40mb. Definitely not good for the ever-growing mobile market that these sites are reaching. So, we could go back to the client and ask them to compress them, or we can try and run it through Adobe’s built-in methods. But, SmallPDF can compress a PDF in the cloud for free and it does a heck of a great job at retaining quality.
This week, I used it to compress a 6mb, 2-page PDF, into a version under 1mb. HUGE improvement.
Can Email Be Responsive?
Over the last year, we’ve seen an increase of requests to develop an HTML email template for our clients. AND, it’s becoming more clear that the client expects those emails to be responsive. Unfortunately, most of our clients are a mix of B2B and B2C, therefor Outlook is a must. And, if Microsfot used anything above Word to render their emails, we might be able to feel better about the prospect.
While HTML emails are awful to build, there are options out there to help you get through it while still making something cool. Jason Rodriguez from A List Apart put together a good run down of what you can do to make emails responsive, or at least fluid. There’s also some good tutorials from MailChimp, our preferred email marketing service.
And, Zurb, the creator of Foundation, which is our responsive, front-end framework of choice, released a responsive email framework called Ink. We’ve used it on a few projects and have had a lot of success with them.
Write clearer with The Hemingway Editor
If you can figure out how to get me talking, you know I can ramble on, and on, and on. It’s a similar experience when I write. Sometimes I get to the point. Sometimes, my point just isn’t clear. With the Hemingway Editor, I can paste my stream of consciousness and know exactly what I need to fix before I hit the publish button.
Plus, as Earnest Hemingway taught us, “the first draft of anything is shit.” We’re both lucky to have a resource like this between my first draft and you.
And then I was like…
Need a quick GIF of your reaction to something? All you need is a webcam and this site. Maybe not work-related, but still easy to use and perfect for just about every scenario.
Thanks to @skullface for sending this my way.
On My Radar
Here’s a few more resources that I’ve bookmarked, but haven’t quite found a use for just yet.
Make eBooks from Google Drive
If you’re an Arsenal user, you may have noticed that we’ve started to release some new graphic design ebooks over the last few months. We’ve been designing and building those with Illustrator and InDesign, however, since a lot of our content is already on Google Drive, maybe this could come in handy. I’ll be playing with that idea this month.
High Quality Tees with No Upfront Costs
While not a new service, I got introduced to TeeSpring.com at WMC Fest 5. We spoke with Jimmy who was manning their vendor table on the latest podcast. After doing a bit of research, I really liked the idea and started putting ideas together for the podcast.
And that’s it.
That’s this month’s resources and tools that I’ve found useful during my day to day goings on. Hopefully you find them useful as well.
If you’ve got something you want me to check out, leave a comment here on the Zine. You can also tweet me @bryangarvin and drop me an email.