30 Tools that no Designer can live Without
Designers are extremely busy people. Fact. Not only do they have to make time to find inspiration for their next project, manage feedback, attend meetings, and communicate with their clients, they also have to find the time to actually sit down and do the work.
Let’s not forget the time and effort they have to put into mocking up an idea, creating a visual for sharing or keeping abreast of modern design trends. The role of a designer is so much more than just ‘colouring in’.
To ease the workload of time-poor designers, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best software, apps, tools, skills, websites and resources that no designer can live without. Each of these tools has been carefully selected for its ability to help you streamline your work, find inspiration easily, show off your amazing design skills, and make collaboration easier.
We’ve broken the guide down into the 10 key areas so you can instantly find what you’re looking for — you are busy people after all. Check it out and feel free to let us know if we’ve missed any off the list.
If you’re serious about design, there are some essential pieces of kit you will need. We have listed the top 3 pieces of hardware for designers below. (more…)
5 Tips for Great Blog Web Hosting
One of the major considerations for running a successful website nowadays is not just finding the right price but a host that also provides good blog coverage in their package.
Blogging is an integral part of marketing if you want a boost of traffic to your site and add to your online reputation with good, relevant content. According to Business.com over half of consumers who purchase online havesaid that a good blog is a contributory factor in whether they decide to buy or not.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that many small and medium size businesses are investing more of their marketing budget. The trick from the very outset, though, is to find a good web hosting company that delivers what you need.
Here are just five things to ask before you sign on the dotted line with any hosting service:
1. Do You Need a Separate Blog Site?
The expert opinion on this will usually say that your blog should be part of your main website. The reason for this is that most businesses only have the resources for one blog site and keeping it as part of your online presence (in other words as http://mysite.com/blog) helps to improve overall SEO.
A separate blog site basically needs to develop its own SEO, although it can be beneficial in a small way by providing inbound links. Initially, if you are setting up one blog then keep it in-house, as it were. If you later have the resources for other blogs these can be developed as independent entities.
2. What Blogging Software is Available?
Most hosting sites now provide different blogging software that is available as part of their packages at the click of a button. That means you can download something like WordPress, B2Evolution or Nucleus all of which are reasonably rich in features and are easy to use. The most popular blogging platform is WordPress and this has a wide range of add-ons that you can use for free.
3. How’s Your Hosting Service with Uptime?
When you’re searching for a host one of the most important aspects is uptime – that is, how much time your site is going to be available to users. This is normally quoted as quite high on most hosting sites so it’s worth checking out independent reviews that have taken a closer look at this kind of performance. Also look for a host that guarantees service – the last thing you want is users getting frustrated because download speeds are too low or your run a social media campaign and your site is undergoing unscheduled maintenance when they arrive. (more…)
How to Optimize Your Magento Store
Magento is a good platform for those of you who want to sell products online. The content management system is built from the ground up to support online stores and ecommerce. Although Magento can perform very well under different situations, there are ways you can optimize your Magento store for maximum performance and speed. We are going to discuss some of the best optimization tips to apply in this article.
The Right Magento Hosting
It is easy to settle for an affordable shared hosting simply because Magento works well with any server that supports PHP and MySQL. That said, you can get a much better performance by opting for the right web hosting service for your Magento site.
For example, Magento will perform better with the help of Nginx or Varnish. In fact, a lot of avid Magento developers have proven that running Magento on a good server with Varnish or Nginx configured for caching can increase Magento’s performance by 200% or more. This is because Magento works really well with these caching setups.
You can either go for a Magento hosting service that has a good caching feature preconfigured, or simply opt for a VPS server and configure everything yourself. There are plenty of tutorials that can help you get the most performance with the right server setup. They are very easy to follow and doesn’t require advanced server knowledge in most cases.
If you do however want to use a regular cPanel host, there is a major advantage. Lots of the later releases of cPanel come with a quick and easy way to launch a magento store such methods are outlined here so if you’re not too experienced, perhaps this might be a better option. If you want to go down the manual setup route though then please do read on.
Prepare Your Magento Site for Deployment
There are also several simple steps you can take to prepare your Magento site for deployment. Among those steps are:
1. Compressing Images
Images can help sell products visually, but that doesn’t mean they have to be large and bulky. Tools such as Adobe Photoshop offers assistance in optimizing and compressing JPG and PNG files for web purposes. Be sure to use these tools to help you get the best image quality at the lowest file size.
2. Check for Errors
Be sure to debug the Magento site before deploying it on a live server. Errors, even the smallest HTML errors, can slow down a site greatly. Magento has a very intuitive logging capabilities, so checking for errors before deployment shouldn’t be difficult at all.
3. Disable Magento Logging
Now that you have reviewed the errors and deal with them, you can disable Magento logging for deployment. The basic logging feature is actually very efficient. However, modules, themes and other parts of your ecommerce site may ask Magento to write more logs than just the basic. This, obviously, can slow your site down. Unless you need the logs for debugging purposes, it is better to disable them entirely.
4. The FooMan Speedster
5. Magento Compiler
This is another module you can use to optimize your site. Magento Complier limits the number of directories searched during a PHP execution. The impact of Magento Complier may not seem significant at first, but it will actually help your site perform better – and reduce server load – under heavy traffic.
6. Disable Unused Modules
Last but certainly not least, disable Magento modules that are not in use. These modules can slow down your site even when they are not in use. You still have the option to activate modules that you need in the future, but it’s best to disable them completely for now.
Lazyload for Images
It is always best to have the main contents of your site load as quickly as possible to keep visitors from leaving. One of the easiest ways to do this is by incorporating Lazyload to handle image loading. This being Magento, you can find modules that allow you to automatically structure how images are loaded accordingly.
With Lazyload, images are loaded in the background once as the page is being loaded. Visitors can see contents appearing on their screen, even with images still loading in the background. Catalogues will load faster and the overall performance of your Magento store can be improved.
Use PHP Accelerator
This is more for advanced users, but it is not a secret that Magento works well with PHP accelerators. Opcode caching allows PHP files to be complied into bytecode, which makes the whole system runs faster. The server doesn’t need to compile PHP files on every request and can instead run at the bytecode directly.
APC and ZendOptimizer+ are great for those of you running Magento stores. Both PHP accelerators work really well with Magento and can help speed up your store by a further 50%. With visitors’ attention span being as limited as today, no performance boost is too small to pursue.
6 Tactics to help you get the edge in online marketing
Online marketing isn’t so difficult. All you have to do is get the right people’s attention, direct them to your website and begin building their trust. The following are some great ways to do just that.
Listen to Your Customers
Listening to your customers is the first thing you need to do. While this isn’t just a tactic, listening can take on several forms that many marketers don’t employ. For example, sending occasional one to three-question questionnaires can get a lot of information on who your customers are and how they think. You can also ask customers if they’d be willing to give you an opinion about your website’s look or operation in exchange for a small discount. While this is an investment, it can be a very good one when you substantially increase your conversion rate.
Blogging on a regular basis is a good thing. You don’t have to blog every day, but doing so one to three times per week is considered the gold standard. This way the search engines will always have something new to index and a visitor to your site will have plenty of interesting things to read.
Public speaking takes you offline, but that’s a very good thing. One of your best sources of referrals is existing customers because they already trust you. And out of all the ways to grow trust in your competence, public speaking is the very best. You can tell stories, share challenges you’ve overcome and relate lessons that will show how your experience will help your listeners. You can even record videos of these presentations and upload them online, further growing people’s respect for you. (more…)
How The Role of the Web Hosting Company has Changed
There used to be a time choosing a hosting plan was way down on the list of priorities when it came to creating and launching a new website.
Back in the day, websites were largely static affairs. More often than not, they existed as a bunch of independent pages designed using an offline editor like Dreamweaver, or even the humble, bare-bones Notepad, then strung together using a series of links. Only once everything looked good and seemed to work fine would website owners hit the ‘net in search of some web hosting.
Early days of hosting
Providing a hosting plan was affordable and reliable enough, there wasn’t too much else to consider. If you found a deal that suited, it was simply a case of signing up, configuring an FTP client, and uploading the site.
Nor did web hosting play a particularly big role in the lifespan of a given site. As long as it didn’t experience any major downtime or other serious flaws, users could quite happily manage a site on their local hard drive, FTP any changes, and never even think about logging into their hosting account again until it was time to renew.
But of course, that was then, and this is now. As the Internet began to change, so too did the role of top hosting companies.
Evolution of the Internet
Over a relatively short period of time, always-on broadband and far-reaching WIFi access began to infiltrate many of our lives, bringing with it a move towards working online. Whereas once upon time users had little choice but to install programs on their computers to carry out most tasks, they soon began to find that it was much easier -and often more affordable- to do much of that work online. (more…)
How to Locate the Best Web Design Company
Know What the Website Is For
Determine your reason for building the website. Will you be building it to add credibility to your company? Or will you be having it built to be a marketing tool that sends leads to your virtual doorway? Maybe you are building it to gather data. Maybe it is all of these things. Regardless, it’s a good idea from a customer’s perspective to know what the website is for. Not all Web Design companies are the same. Understanding what you’d like can help you pick the right company for your requirements.
Ask the Developer If They Will Provide You With a CMS (Content Management System)
Having a CMS (Content Management System) for making changes to your website is essential. While meeting with Web developers, you should definitely ask what CMS they will supply you with at the conclusion of the development process. It is crucial that you have an easy-to-use CMS when you need it to make changes to content. If you are unsure which CMS to ask for, consider asking for WordPress. It’s the top CMS on the planet.
Don’t think of your new website as merely an on-line sales brochure. Think of it as an untapped marketing tool. A website is a great way to uncover new business opportunities. Those in the field of SEO (search engine optimization) are in business to help their clients generate more leads (and more sales) through the creation and implementation of a sound internet marketing strategy. If you construct your website with SEO in mind from the start, you stand a better chance to see your website deliver leads (and sales) to your virtual doorway.
Ask To See a Portfolio
Most Web Designers present an online portfolio to highlight their work. Make sure you ask to view this portfolio, and then take the time to review their work. Does their design style suit your needs? Tastes can be subjective, but you should be sure you like their work prior to hiring them. If they do not have a portfolio, proceed with caution.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Most Web Developers are happy to supply them. Should they refuse, you should probably continue your search. After you receive the references, don’t forget to follow up on them. Ask previous customers if they were pleased with the website, if the project was completed on-time, and if they developer was easy to do business with.