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September 04 2012


All of Us are Students: Interview With Designer and Podcaster Tim Smith


For years Tim Smith has been vocal part of the design community. From the various projects and blogs that he has been a part of, to the even more literal interpretation of him being a part of the community as the voice behind the design and development related podcast, The East Wing. His enthusiasm and insights make him a valuable asset to the community, but beyond that, they make him an inspiration to all of those in this ever evolving field of web design.

We had the opportunity recently to turn the tables on Tim, and put him on the other side of the interview. He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to provide some of his insights for noupe’s readers. Below are the answers he shared.

Interview With Tim

Thanks again for agreeing and taking the time to answer these questions. So Tim, if you don’t mind, take a moment and introduce yourself.

Thank you! It’s a huge honor! My name is Tim Smith and I’m a Designer, Talker and Coffee Addict. I also run a small podcast called The East Wing, a podcast that talks about design with some very smart people.

Who are some of your biggest influences in web design?

This is always a tough question for me. I have a lot. I’d say anyone I’ve had or will have on The East Wing. Carl Smith, Jason Van Lue, Tim Van Damme, Janna Hagan, Aarron Walter and the list goes on. The way they think inspires me. They help me approach projects and design from a new angle, keep focus on the details and always remember that I design for people and that their experience with what I’m designing is of utmost importance.

You’ve been working in design and part of the online community for several years now, in your opinion, what have been the best developments and worst developments in the field since you first dove in?

I think for the most part, they’ve been great developments. I’m glad to see that design isn’t being seeing as decoration and that we as designers have been urged to recognize problems, assess personal and business goals and create designs that meet these goals. This has brought on new ways of thinking like responsive web design, designing for mobile and injecting emotion into designs. All of these developments come from knowing that our job extends far beyond making things beautiful. We want to make websites that are functional, accessible and alive. As we move forward, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around constructive criticism and critique. In fact, I talked with Aaron Irrizary and Adam Connor about this on The East Wing.

Given your proclivity for radio, The East Wing is something of a natural step for you. How did the show come about?

Well, a podcast is something I had been trying to start. I had two failed attempts to start one and now that I look back, I’m glad it worked out the way it did. It gave me time to think about a solid idea. The show was the result of me wanting to educate myself more. I realized that there are so many smart people doing some amazing things in our field and I wanted to talk to them. My point was never to establish myself as an expert, but more as a student. I love the opportunity to pick the brains of these people and it makes me very happy to see that there are people who enjoy the show and listen to it every week. I’m very grateful to the listeners.

How do you approach beginning a new podcast? Does the idea for each show stem from the guests you have on it, or do the guests you have on stem from the idea you wish to cover for each episode?

It depends. Sometimes, I want to cover a particular topic so I contact a person who I know is well versed in it. Other times, I like someone and have been following their work and would like to know more about them and how they do what they do. For the most part, I only get the guest talking. It’s all them for there. Everybody is passionate about something, the art is finding the string so as to pull it.

With so many steps to the design process, what would you consider the most important? Why?

That’s a tough one. My gut feeling is to say each one and that would be true. You can’t do a good job by skipping steps. I do believe that a part of the process that get’s neglected is user experience. Unfortunately, some designers have the mentality that it’s not their job, but that of the “UX Designer”. I say that’s false. Wireframing, user testing, information architecture and more are all things a designer should be involved and actively participating in. This stage of the process is crucial and drastically affects the success of the project. I wrote an article about the importance of wireframing( actually.

What do you think that the design field’s biggest strength is? What does the field really have going for it?

Community. Although as in every place, there are jerks, I have never met such a friendly and willing to help group of people. I would’ve learned so many things the hard way if it hadn’t been for the openness of a lot of designers and developers. Not to mention, when I first started The East Wing, the guests were really nice and didn’t hesitate in coming on. I hadn’t published my first episode and I already had 7 guests lined up.

In that same respect, what do you think that the field’s biggest drawback or weakness is?

I think it’s constructive criticism. We have to get better at this. It’s usually one of two things. 1) Everybody loves something. 2) Everybody hates it. This helps no one. “Good job”, “Awesome” and similar things don’t really help people get better. Neither do statements like “Wow, this is ugly”. I think we should be helping each other with solid critique without ridiculing anyone. We make our community stronger and it helps us all put out amazing work.

You work on a project that promises to teach Drupal to users, which is a slight change with WP monopolizing so much of the market. What would you say are some of the draws to Drupal that the average user/designer overlooks?

Well, it’s a different type of problem. At Lullabot, where I used to work, we were solving complex editorial problems for huge companies that had a staff of writers, editors, managers and Editor-in-Chief. Drupal does extremely well with handling a variety of types of content and contrary to popular belief, scales very well. Lullabot has been doing the Grammy website for four years now and not once has it been down on event night. The way I see it, WordPress and Drupal are just tools. It’s a matter of deciding what’s the appropriate solution for a project.

People talk all the time about how ‘we learn something everyday’. What have you learned recently that has impacted your workflow or usual methodologies?

Fireworks and “box-sizing: border-box;”. They’ve changed everything for me recently. I use Fireworks to create wireframes which is a helpful tip from my pal, Jared Ponchot. It’s really fast and doesn’t make your wireframes ugly like OmniGraffle. The other tip has been really useful. I hated having to calculate the padding into the final width/height of a box. I hate math in general. That’s been a huge time saver.

Speaking of learning, what is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you got into the design game?

First off, I’d like to say I wish there was the Student’s Guide to Web Design when I was a student. I would also say that my recommendation is to be honest about who you are and where you’re at in your career. There is no shame in saying you’re a student or that you’re just starting out. All of us are students. If we don’t constantly have a hunger to learn, the web is going to leave us behind. Talk to people. If you like this interview, talk to me. I’d be more than happy to help out with questions or problems.

After watching the web design field evolve over the years, what do you expect to see in the future of the web?

I’m excited to see more and more an acceptance of mobile. Not from our side but, from the client side. We’re all on board but I look forward to seeing more and more people out of our circle embracing it and investing in better solutions that span different screen widths and devices. It’s a huge learning process, we’re all learning on how to organize and display the many different types of content appropriately.

Speaking of the future, what can we expect to see from you in the future?

That’s a good question. I want to see myself grow more as a designer. Hopefully be of more help to others by means of my podcast and my writing and also do some speaking. If you haven’t noticed, I love to talk so I’d welcome that opportunity. Other than that, time will tell.

All For Now

That closes this interview with Tim Smith, but you can get more from him and the design community through his blogs Timothy B Smith, Time Likes to Write, and the podcast The East Wing. Share your thoughts on the collected insights shared throughout this interview in the comment section below.


April 18 2012


Introducing Breezi CMS Meant For Designers: Review

This is the link to the original article creator of this site, if this message appears to another site than 1stwebdesigner - Graphic and Web Design Blog - 1stwebdesigner is a design blog dedicated to bloggers, freelancers, web-developers and designers. Topics focus on web design and inspirational articles. it has been stolen, please visit original source then!

Are you looking for a good hosted CMS solution for designing your next website? If so, a good option for you to consider might be Breezi.

Breezi is a visual CSS Editor and Edit-in-Place CMS meant especially for designers. The Breezi CMS is supplemented by to-the-mark style control and multiple apps that lend great functionality to your website.

Major Features

Breezi: A CMS Meant for Designers

Breezi: A CMS Meant for Designers

  • Edit-in-Place: To begin with, Breezi CMS lets you edit your website simply by clicking on the item that you intend to change. Thus, you can change your layout, styles and content – all by simply clicking on respective regions.
  • Control Over Style: Breezi provides precise control for many design features such as drop shadows, line-heights, opacity, etc.

    Style Control features in Breezi

    Style Control features in Breezi

  • Working with Images: Breezi lets you edit and resize your images in a simple drag-and-drop interface. Of course, the standard functionality such as crop and/or zoom is there as well

    Edit Image Feature in Breezi

    Edit Image Feature in Breezi

  • Applications: Breezi’s apps are, to a great extent, the equivalent of WP’s widgets. You can add them to your website to provide enhanced features, such as Facebook boxes, live Tweets, forms and so on. Apps can be added via a drag-and-drop interface, and the number of apps is growing at a steady pace.

    Breezi has several in-house apps to extend its features

    Breezi has several in-house apps to extend its features

  • WYSIWYG: Breezi’s WYSIWYG Editor lets you edit text and other content quite easily. Apart from standard WYSIWYG features, the Editor also lets you adjust factors such as drop-shadow, line-height and letter-spacing. Plus, you also have many website backgrounds at your service!

    Different Backgrounds in Breezi

    Different Backgrounds in Breezi

  • Map Your Own Domain: Even though Breezi is a hosted CMS, and it provides you with a sub-domain for your site, chances are you’d prefer to use your own domain. You can easily point the domain to your website.
  • Fonts and Forms: Breezi offers many fonts from the Google Font Library. Plus, you can use the Breezi Forms app to create as many forms as you like.

    Breezi supports several fonts from Google Fonts Library

    Breezi supports several fonts from Google Fonts Library

  • Pages and SEO: Breezi allows you to have unlimited number of pages for your website. Of course, you also get to configure SEO settings such as meta keywords and description.
  • External Embeds: Don’t like the default functionality within Breezi? You can embed code from other services using the Embed app. For instance, you can embed code from services such as MailChimp for newsletters, and/or Google Analytics tracking code for site stats.
  • Multi-Site: If you’re into franchise web development and would like to have a multi-site version of Breezi, you can consider using Empowerkit.
  • Support: Support is offered via Live Chat, email, video tutorials and Knowledgebase articles.

Modus Operandi

At present, Breezi has just one pricing plan – $12 per month. Comparing it with other hosted CMSs, the pricing is reasonable, though not super-cheap. There is a 30-day free trial, so you can check things well before deciding to spend money.

Currently, Breezi is still in BETA, so there aren’t many themes. However, for a simple website, the available options will suffice. In the screenshot given below, I decided to go with the Minimal theme. As you can see, there are blocks in place for adding images and other widgets.

In-context editing in Breezi

In-context editing in Breezi

When it comes to adding Apps, your options include Text/Photo Block, Image Gallery, Video Gallery, FB Fan Page, RSS, Twitter, Scribd, Contact, Embedded HTML, Slideshow, and few others. All in all, you have the required ingredients for a decent website.

Major Apps in Breezi

Major Apps in Breezi

You can also edit the layout or add new pages from within the same toolbar.

Managing Pages in Breezi

Managing Pages in Breezi

The sitewide settings page is rather bland – your domain, administrator’s name and email, and Analytics code (if any) are the only options.

Website Settings in Breezi

Website Settings in Breezi


So, is Breezi worth it?

Well, at $12 per month, it is a decent deal when it comes to hosted CMSs – the pricing includes the CMS features and addons, as well as web hosting. If you are a designer who’d like to use a hosted CMS for managing and creating websites, Breezi should be definitely considered, though you should also bear in mind the fact that Breezi is still in BETA. Further more, considering the fact that Breezi is still in its infancy and there are many new features yet to be added, it surely looks to be an interesting CMS in near future. In my opinion, Breezi’s popularity can be further enhanced if they offer a free package for their CMS, perhaps with limited number of websites per account – much like CushyCMS does.

However, on the downside, a hosted CMS is not everyone’s cup of tea. Often times, you find them lacking in terms of functionality – there is no PHP to dig into, no grand CSS tricks to perform magic! While such drag-and-drop functionality can make life easy for you if all you need to do is build websites for the average user, and the applications can help you implement even a decent looking blog, at the end of the day, if you need highly advanced features and customization, you’d be better off without Breezi (or any hosted CMS for that matter).

Of course, you can try Breezi for free for 30 days to decide whether it is meant for you.


Sponsored post

April 05 2012


18 Hosted CMS to Solve Your Needs and Grant You Unlimited Jedi Power

When it comes to choosing a CMS, there are a lot of options to choose from. One can go with traditional ones, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla! Alternatively, one can opt for a hosted solution too.

Hosted CMSs tend to be quite popular with designers. While they may not be able to compete with self-hosted ones in terms of scalability, they have several advantages of their own. Apart from included hosting, they also come with A+ grade support from the CMS manufacturer, and thus you know that if something were to go wrong, you won’t be left feeling lost. Secondly, most of them feature intuitive interfaces to help you develop websites easily.

Apart from that, almost all hosted CMSs come with Reseller Tools – you can re-brand and re-sell the websites you create to your clients. Thus, using a hosted CMS allows designers to not just work in an easy manner but also gain a residual flow of income. You have ready-made hosting, support and CMS deployment at your service – all you need to do is create websites and receive payment! Also, almost all hosted CMSs nowadays offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy.

In this article, we take a look at some of the major hosted CMSs. However, before we take the plunge, it is worthwhile to point out that this article, for the sake of clarity, mentions CMSs that project themselves as Content Management Systems in the proper sense of the term. Thus, awesome services such as have been left out (although offers WordPress as a hosted solution, it projects itself as a blogging tool and not a regular CMS).

1. Agility CMS

Agility CMS lets you manage your content and create websites in a snap. The CMS comes with its own Content API. You can also use Agility CMS to manage websites built with ASP.NET

Agility CMS

Agility CMS

Pros: Great Rich Text Editing, support for JSON API and ASP.NET.

Cons: Bit overpriced, may seem too sophisticated for some clients.

Pricing: Basic Plan at $200 per month (includes two content editors).


2. LightCMS

LightCMS is a CMS specifically meant for designers. You can create a free website with 3 pages, but if you wish to resell and create unlimited websites, you’ll have to opt for the paid plans. The CMS does not have the typical Admin Dashboard – instead, it features in-context editing, that is, you can edit your website simply by clicking on the respective regions.

Light CMS

Light CMS

Pros: e-Commerce Tools, Reseller options, special plans for web designers.

Cons: Needs better documentation.

Pricing: Basic Plan with 1 GB storage at $19 per month.


3. Squarespace

Squarespace is another hosted CMS that lets you create a blog, website or portfolio. The CMS offers excellent templates, stats and specialized features for particular websites such as photo galleries.



Pros: Awesome apps for iOS and Android, Importers for WP, Blogger and others.

Cons: Virtually nil

Pricing: Standard Pack at $8 per month (billed annually) with 500 GB bandwidth and 2 GB storage


4. HiFi

HiFi lets you create websites with zero design constraints. It offers a slick API and intuitive interface.



Pros: Excellent SEO settings, easy to use interface.

Cons: Plans should be limited in terms of bandwidth instead of pages.

Pricing: Starter Plan for $19 per month (maximum 25 pages).


5. Adobe Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyst is an all-in-one platform for building websites, online stores and managing businesses. As the name suggests, it is useful only if you have enterprises and businesses as your clients. Apart from content management, BC can also help you with turn-key eCommerce, CRM, email marketing and other similar tasks.

Adobe Business Catalyst

Adobe Business Catalyst

Pros: Ideal for businesses and organizations.

Cons: May not suit the needs of non-businesses.

Pricing: The Basic+ Plan is available for roughly $12 per month. It includes 1 GB of storage and 1 TB of bandwidth, along with hosted emails.


6. Webvanta

Webvanta lets you build websites with ease. You can embed functionality such as blogs, photo galleries, slideshows, forms, etc. As a designer, you also have the option to become a partner and re-brand the CMS. For end users, there is a free plan with limited functionality.



Pros: Special plans for designers, priority support, monthly webinars.

Cons: Pricing on the higher side.

Pricing: Starter Plan at $149 per year (includes Premium Hosting).


7. Webpop

Webpop is another cloud-based hosted CMS for designers. Unlike others, Webpop does not offer unwanted abstraction and instead allows you full HTML and CSS control. In fact, Webpop’s pricing plans too are modeled around designers’ usage – Personal, Freelance and Agency!



Pros: Excellent stats and analytics, gorgeous layout.

Cons: Virtually nil, though it can use a limited features’ Free Plan.

Pricing: Personal Plan is at $19 per month, which allows you to have 1 GB storage, 5 projects and 1 client/collaborator.


8. Edicy

If Webpop is meant for designers, Edicy caters to end users. It offers out of the box SEO, responsive templates and layout, and support for building multilingual websites (native support, that is – you don’t have to do the translation).



Pros: Multilingual features, Competitive pricing.

Cons: Edicy’s own website seems to be slightly slow in loading (compared to others).

Pricing: Pro Plan at $9 per month, with 5 GB storage (Free Plan also available).


9. Shopify

Shopify is a hosted CMS meant for creating e-commerce websites and stores. It provides you with all the functionality you need to run your e-commerce website, such as product/inventory/customer management, payment gateways and even fraud detection.



Pros: Ideal for running an e-commerce website, good tools for designers.

Cons: Not useful for non-e-commerce sites.

Pricing: Basic plan at $30 per month with 1 GB storage and unlimited bandwidth.


10. Magento Go

Magento Go is another hosted solution for e-commerce websites. Basically, it is the hosted version of the famous e-commerce web application Magento.

Magento Go

Magento Go

Pros: Terrific features for e-commerce stores.

Cons: Awkward pricing (after 800 MB, the next storage option is 5 GB, with no other price point in between).

Pricing: ‘Get Going’ Plan at $15 per month with 200 MB storage and 4 GB bandwidth.


11. Highwire

Yet another e-commerce CMS, Highwire lets you manage orders, customers, products and marketing in an easy manner. As a designer, you have full HTML and CSS control, and as an end-user, you have unmatched e-commerce tools at your service! There is also a free ‘Facebook’ Plan for users.



Pros: Awesome stats and analytics, good tools for e-commerce.

Cons: Can use a better documentation.

Pricing: Bronze Plan at $19.95 per month (unlimited features, but your sales volume cannot exceed $1500 per month).


12. SolidShops

SolidShops is a solution for e-commerce stores. Bored of e-commerce already? Well, SolidShops is different from the rest in the sense that it focuses on designers, not end users or store owners. The feature set is mere essential, and the focus is on simplicity. Also, it offers full design control.



Pros: Meant for designers of e-commerce websites.

Cons: Simplicity in features may not suit everyone.

Pricing: Basic Plan at $29 per month with 100 MB storage.


13. Volusion

Volusion is a hosted CMS meant for (yes, you guessed it right) e-commerce websites. It offers several beautiful templates, management tools for orders, customers, products, as well as many unique features such as email newsletters, customer wishlists, daily deals, etc.



Pros: Many unique features for e-commerce websites.

Cons: Needs better documentation.

Pricing: Steel Plan at $19 per month with 1 GB data transfer.


14. Concrete5

Concrete5 is primarily a self-hosted CMS like Drupal and WordPress. However, they also offer hosting and thus, Concrete5 can be run as a hosted solution too. Speaking of the CMS, Concrete5 is easy to use, features many unique elements and can power many different genres of websites, from enterprise entities to blogs. I once did a two-part review of Concrete5 here and here.



Pros: Awesome CMS with in-built Sitemaps, Stats and SEO.

Cons: Slightly expensive (CMS itself is free, but the hosted version isn’t).

Pricing: $45 per month with 5 GB storage and 25 GB bandwidth.


15. Breezi

Breezi is a visual CSS Editor and edit-in-place CMS meant for designers. It offers great control over style, useful apps, powerful WYSIWYG, custom tracking codes, integration with Google Fonts Library, and several other features.



Pros: Interesting set of features, good support.

Cons: Still in BETA, so may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Pricing: $12 per month.


16. CushyCMS

CushyCMS is a simple CMS meant for designers. It is versatile and swift in operation and offers several features.



Pros: Extremely easy to use.

Cons: Features may seem limiting as compared to others.

Pricing: Pro Plan at $28 per month (Free Plan also available with limited functionality).


17. Vae Platform

Vae Platform is an integrated CMS and e-commerce solution along with redundant hosting. It includes support for shopping carts, newsletters, analytics, etc. Also, the CMS offers full support for PHP, CSS, MySQL, and Subversion. It also comes with a 90-day money-back guarantee.

Vae Platform

Vae Platform

Pros: Perhaps the best pick for e-commerce websites.

Cons: May seem expensive if you do not need the advanced features.

Pricing: Solo Plan at $299 per month which allows hosting 10 websites.


18. PageLime

PageLime is a CMS meant for designers. It offers reseller tools and support for mobile devices. We did a detailed review of PageLime here.



Pros: Reseller tools, iPhone app.

Cons: Feature set not as advanced as other CMSs in this league.

Pricing: Professional Plan at $19 per month which allows you to have 50 websites (Free Plan with limited functionality also available).


With that, we come to the end of this round-up. Do you use a hosted CMS? If so, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments.

March 30 2012


A Handy Guide to Better User Experience

In simplest terms, UX, also known as user experience or user usability is the way most basic users feel about using an application, a program, a website or anything. User Experience is based on the reactions and responses the user performs and provides. While it can seem related to gaining feedback, it is actually not the same. User Experience is meant to understand and make the user reach the “final goal” which is defined by the owner of the product. Whether this goal is getting the person to subscribe to your newsletter, or make him buy  your new t-shirt, the main goal of the owner is to make the user’s way as easy and hassle free as possible. There are many factors which can influence a user’s experience with your system/product. The following are some of the most important factors.

User’s Previous Experience and State

Image Source

User’s previous experience is probably the most important factor which can negatively affect your user’s experience with your product/system. There is simply no easy way you can teach an old man to play the latest Angry Birds game, if he sees it for the first time in his life. Same goes with user experience. While a lot of internet users are actually pretty familiar with many technologies (considering just the user side, not the internal/developer side), if you come up with something really fancy and awesome, something really unique, that there is no easy way you will get everyone in the audience using it as if they “were playing with it, since young age”. When deciding on any system, you must have the simplicity principle in mind as well. Overuse of elements may crush or lower your user-experience which will eventually lead to a loss of sales/customers etc.

System Properties

Image Source

You shouldn’t even bother about your user experience data if your system isn’t perfect… or at least near-perfection level. After the page has been reloaded, the rate of leavers is about 25% which is actually a quarter of the sales/subscribers/customers you could have achieved! Having a flawless product is really important. Many clicks in order to perform a single action, also force users to leave. No one is interested in browsing 3-4 pages in a row only for watching a video describing your service. The most important key point to keep in mind, regarding your system defections is: “Save their Time, and they will Save Yours”.

Small Details which make Big Differences

Image Source

There are several minor things which tend to create either big successes for you and your product or cause your unavoidable fail. Bounce Rate is a pretty important factor which must be taken into consideration. Bounce Rate refers to visitors who tend to leave the website before making any action, even browsing the homepage. Modern traffic analyzers, such as Google Analytics provide us such data, so we know exactly where is the problem with our system. Maybe you’ve built an extraordinary product, but you haven’t generated any sales which can create a lot of questions. It is very important that we analyze correctly the bounce rate data, so that we know exactly if there is a trouble with the system over-all or any page(s) in particular. Avinash Kaushik, a google analytics specialist says that a 35% bounce rate is concerning where a 50% bounce rate is actually worrying. User targeting is one of the most basic troubles related to bad UX. Incorrect targeting is a basic mistake which must not be performed by anyone who wishes a decent audience. You wouldn’t like to target teenagers to your site for selling car washing solutions or under-ages to websites about alcoholic drinks. This will not only make you lose your money (if you are advertising) but will also mess up all the bounce and traffic rates you may have.

Analyzing UX Elements and Details on Websites

Forms and Fields

Besides buttons, forms tend to be the most used UI elements in any website designs. You can basically see them on any website in any place: header, content area, sidebar, footer. They can be of any type and represent input fields for collecting info (such as subscribe forms), forms for messages, search forms, forms for comments etc. As you already know, our main goal is to make user experience as easy and understandable as possible. This is why, when working with forms, you should always keep in mind a few details which will make your forms more user-friendly and will help your users fill them without any problem.

Use Unified Text Fields

Unified text fields can actually be filled much faster than the regular, non-unified ones. The basic user tends to spend more time performing eye directions and imputing info from the side on regular fields, and in doing so, losing their precious time, which is definitely not our goal.

Plain Search Forms

A “button-less” search form allows users to perform easier searches. Many designers use plain forms for search, because they think that those will fit better into their designs, rather than forms with an addition of a button. It isn’t a good practice simply from the designers’ perspective; using plain/simple search forms actually makes your users perform easier site searches. Rather then imputing their search term by typing, then grabbing the mouse and performing one more click, you just let them skip 2 steps, which is again a time-saver!

Field Confirmations

One of the most UX-unfriendly situations is when you fill out a long form, after hitting refresh you actually realize you’ve imputed some wrong information. That’s where automatic field confirmations come really in handy. These types of confirmations usually flash an error message if the users have left any field blank, or any information is wrong: such as an email address without the ‘@’ symbol.


It is a good UX practice to always set your links located on the top of your page, and especially if your navigation bar links open up in the same browser window. It is a well-known fact that you should only set external links to open in a new tab, and never let your internal links open up in a new tab or browser window as it may totally ruin your visitor’s stay on the site. A lot of people prefer links to be opened in the same tab, however, you can make an exception on external links, but never on your internal ones.

The Order of Placing Links in the Nav Bar

You have probably seen that all sites tend to put the “Home” link at the beginning of their navigation bar, and links which require action, such as “Contact Us” at the end of their link “row”. The placing of these links isn’t dummy or random — all of this has a specific logic and the user’s “ease of use” concept in mind. A lot of websites tend to put links in their navigation, either by their importance or by level of information offered. It is a common example to see the “Home” link followed by an “About Us” page because it is the starting point for offering information. The “About Us” page is usually followed by a “Portfolio” page or a “Know the Team” page, which is the 2nd informative page on most sites, after the “About Us”.


The key is to always think about how your users will perform. You should attempt to make their task as easy as possible, save their precious time, and try to achieve the most important goal you have: engage them!

September 15 2011


50 Influential Designers in America

Fast Company rounds up their 50 most influential designers from America with quite a few that have influenced my work as well. The info graphic design, well that’s another story.

September 06 2011


Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

Advertisement in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?
 in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?  in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?  in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

In part one of this series, we looked at the consequences of designing and developing software in isolated environments. Some people work in lonely silos where no process exists, while others work in functional silos where too much (or the wrong) process makes innovation and progress difficult.

So, how do we break down the artificial walls that keep us from creating great things together? How can organizations foster environments that encourage natural, unforced collaboration?

There are no quick fixes, but these are far from insurmountable problems. I propose the following five-level hierarchy as a solution:

Pyramid1 in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

There are no shortcuts to breaking down silos. You can’t fix the environment if the organization doesn’t understand the problem. You can’t improve the development process if the right environment doesn’t exist to enable healthy guidelines. You have to climb the pyramid brick by brick to the ultimate goal: better software through true collaboration.

Let’s look at each of these levels.

Level 1: Make Sure Everyone Understands The Problem

Software-front-page in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?
Photo credit: TransGriot

Most organizational leaders would probably admit that collaboration is not as good as it should be, but they might try to solve the problem incorrectly. As Louis Rosenfeld recently said in “The Metrics of In-Betweenness”:

Many senior leaders recognize the silo problem, but they solve it the wrong way: if one hierarchical approach to organizing their business doesn’t work, try another hierarchy. Don’t like the old silos? Create new ones. This dark tunnel leads to an even darker pit: the dreaded — and often horrifically ineffective — reorg.

The first level is admitting that there’s a problem and that the current problem-solving methods just aren’t working. This isn’t about moving branches of the organizational tree around. It’s about planting the tree in more fertile ground to establish the right foundation in order to start looking for solutions.

Level 2: Empower Teams To Do Great Work

Once the organization is united around a common understanding of the problem, then the starting point for breaking down silos is to take a healthy look at the culture and work environments. Above all, the needs of makers (such as designers and developers) should be taken seriously by managers (those who direct and enable the work). Mike Monteiro takes on this issue by attacking the calendar in “The Chokehold of Calendars”:

Meetings may be toxic, but calendars are the superfund sites that allow that toxicity to thrive. All calendars suck. And they all suck in the same way. Calendars are a record of interruptions. And quite often they’re a battlefield over who owns whose time.

Paul Graham takes a more holistic view in “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.” He explains that managers break their days up into hour-long stretches of time, while makers need large blocks of time in order to focus:

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces, each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

Makers need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get things done, and get them done well. Most siloed environments don’t support this because of an insatiable need for everyone to agree on everything (more on this later). So first, helping managers understand why this is such a big deal for makers is important, so that the managers can effect cultural change.

Michael Lopp talks about this in his article “Managing Nerds.” Substitute the word “nerds” in this article with “designers and developers” (no offense intended). Michael describes how nerds are forever chasing two highs.

The first high is unraveling the knot: that moment when they figure out how to solve a particular problem (“Finally, a simple way to get users through this flow.”). But the second high is more important. This is when “complete knot domination” takes place — when they step away from the 10 unraveled knots, understand what created the knots and set their minds to making sure the knots don’t happen again (“OK, let’s build a UI component that can be used whenever this situation occurs.”).

Chasing the Second High is where nerds earn their salary. If the First High is the joy of understanding, the Second High is the act of creation. If you want your nerd to rock your world by building something revolutionary, you want them chasing the Second High.

And the way to help designers and developers chase the second high is to “obsessively protect both their time and space”:

The almost-constant quest of the nerd is managing all the crap that is preventing us from entering the Zone as we search for the Highs.

So, how do you change a culture built around meetings and interruptions? How do you understand what designers and developers need in order to be effective, and how do you relentlessly protect them from distractions? Here are two ways to start:

  1. Ask the makers what’s missing from their environment that would help them be more effective.
    Find out what your designers and developers need, and then make it happen. A quiet corner to work in? Sure. A bigger screen? Absolutely. No interruptions while the headphones are on? Totally fine. Whatever it takes to help them be as creative as possible and to be free to chase that second high.
  2. Start working on a better meeting culture.
    This one is a constant struggle for organizations of all sizes, and there are many ways to address it. I try to adhere to two simple rules. First, a meeting has to produce something: a wireframe, a research plan, a technical design, a strategic decision to change the road map, etc. Secondly, no status meetings. That’s what Google Docs and wikis are for (agile standups are an exception to this, for reasons best left to a separate article).

Level 3: Create A Better Design And Development Lifecycle

Once a team is optimized for creativity, then it becomes possible to build appropriate guidelines around that culture to take an idea from vision to shipped product. This includes the development process as well as the prioritization of projects, so that you only work on things that are important.

The Design And Development Process

Formalizing the design and development process is so critical: from the identification of user, business and technical needs, to the UX design cycle, to technical design and, ultimately, to development, QA and launch. By formalizing this process based on a common understanding of the needs of the business, the team will have no excuse for skipping the UX phase of a project because “it would take too long.” By providing different scenarios for whatever timelines are available, the team ensures that design and UX always remain a part of the development lifecycle.

But one particular aspect of the development process has a direct impact on organizational silos: ensuring the right balance between design and engineering, and how designers and developers work together. This isn’t explored enough, yet it can have far-reaching implications on the quality of a product.

Thomas Petersen describes the ideal relationship between designers and developers in “Developers Are From Mars, Designers From Venus”:

They are the developers who can design enough to appreciate what good design can do for their product even if it sometimes means having to deviate from the framework and put a little extra effort into customizing certain functionality. If they are really good developers they will actually anticipate that they have to deal with it and either use a framework that allows them be more flexible or improve the framework they prefer to work in.

And they are the designers who learn how to think like a programmer when they design and develop an aesthetic that is better suited to deconstruction rather than composition. They know that composition in the Web world is not like composition in the print world and that what they are really doing is solving problems for customers, not manifestations of their creative ego.

Beyond the usual discussion of whether designers should be able to code, one of the main causes of bad blood between the groups is that developers are rarely asked what they need in order to write the best possible code. Designers should always ask their development teams two questions:

  1. “How would you like to contribute to the product development process?”
    It is amazing how few people actually ask this question, as is how the opinions of the people who understand the product at its most detailed level often don’t have a voice in ideation or prioritization. Any cycle that doesn’t include developers from the beginning will likely fail, because the conflict between design and utility cannot be resolved with detailed specifications. It can be resolved only around a table, with plenty of paper to draw on and time to argue about the best way to do things. Of course, designers need time on their own to create, but developers need to be given a chance to contribute to the product that they’re building in a way they’re comfortable with.
  2. “What information do you need to start coding?”
    The theoretical discussion about low-fidelity versus high-fidelity mock-ups or prototypes is largely misguided when it comes to real-world development. The goal is right-fidelity specifications, and that all depends on the maturity of the application you’re working on and the style of the developer. Some developers need perfect PSDs before they start coding; others are fine with back-of-the-napkin sketches along with a solid UI component library. Find out what they need, and provide just that — anything more than what they need will not get looked at, and that’s when tempers can really flare up.

Bringing such diverse worlds together is hard work. But, in “So Happy Together: Designers and Engineers,” Dave Gustafson warns what might happen if you don’t invest in this:

What’s the alternative to this kind of collaboration? Keeping design and engineering separate, where the pass-off from one to the other is aptly called “throwing it over the wall.” Designers may enjoy an unhindered blue-sky design process, but they’ll likely be disappointed with what actually gets made. Without engineers in the design process, there are bound to be some unrealistic features in the concept — and without an understanding of the designers’ intentions and priorities, engineers are likely to compromise the design with changes to meet cost goals. Some money may have been saved on the engineering and manufacturing — but not enough to offset a product that misses the mark.

The Prioritization Process

When there is no clear development process, “prioritization” can end up being a complex algorithm consisting of the last email request sent, the job title of the requestor, and proximity to the development team. This is no way to build a product. One way to address the difficulties of prioritization is through the concept of a “product council.”

At a start-up, the entire company could make up this group — even if it’s a group of one. In large companies, the group should include the CEO and the VPs of each department, including marketing, product, engineering, support, etc. The name is not important — the purpose is. The product council would have weekly or by-weekly meetings with two goals:

  1. Review the current product road map to assess whether the right priorities are being addressed.
  2. Introduce new ideas (if any) that have come up during the week and discuss business cases and priorities.

This meeting would have several very positive outcomes:

  • It would give the management team complete insight into what the product or design team is working on, and would allow for anyone to make a case for a change in priorities. This eliminates the vast majority of the politics you see at many organizations, and it frees up the teams to do what they do best: execute.
  • No one in the company would be able to go straight to a designer or developer to sneak things onto the road map. The user, technical or business impact of every big idea must be demonstrated.
  • It would prevent scope creep. Nothing would be put on the road map without something else moving out or down. This is absolutely critical to the development cycle.

From there, projects would move to small dedicated teams, which would have complete ownership of the design and implementation. The product council sets the priorities, not the details of implementation — those are up to the teams themselves. I’m always reminded of what Jocelyn K. Glei says in her excellent article “What Motivates Us to Do Great Work?”:

For creative thinkers, [there are] three key motivators: autonomy (self-directed work), mastery (getting better at stuff), and purpose (serving a greater vision). All three are intrinsic motivators.… In short, give your team members what they need to thrive, and then get out of the way.

In pursuit of collaboration, we run the risk of overshooting our target and gaining the false sense of security that “consensus” brings. Consensus too often results in mediocre products, because no one really gets what they want, so the result is a giant compromise. Marty Cagan says this very well in his article “Consensus vs. Collaboration”:

In consensus cultures people are rarely excited or supportive. Mostly because they are very frustrated at how slow things move, how risk-averse the company is, how hard it is to make a decision, and especially how unimpressive the products are.

So, even though everyone agreeing on something is great, having someone be responsible for the decisions in that particular project is infinitely more important. This person does not do all the work, but rather is the one who owns the product’s fate — its successes and failures.

Pc in Building Better Software Through Collaboration: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

In many organizations, this person is the product manager, but it doesn’t have to be. Whoever it is, the role should be clearly defined and well communicated to the rest of the organization. The role is not that of a dictator, but of a diplomat, working with UX, business functions and engineering to build products that are driven by user, business and technology needs.

Level 4: Communicate Better

Once the appropriate guidelines are in place and the teams are working effectively, it’s time to root out any other causes of mistrust that might still exist. And one of the best ways to build trust in an organization is to eradicate secrets.

I am huge believer in full transparency, and I see little need in keeping any relevant information about a project from anyone. (The prerequisite? Hire trustworthy employees!)

If plans, progress and problems are published for all to see, there is no need to hide anything and no need to play politics to get things done. Here are just some of the things that should be published on a public wiki for anyone to view and comment on (written from the perspective of a UX team):

  • Roles and responsibilities of the product and UX teams.
  • How road-map planning and the prioritization process work.
  • How the product development process works, including (critically) where UX fits into even the smallest projects.
  • The goals and success metrics for every product line.

Publish everywhere, invite anyone. The tools at our disposal make this so easy, from Dropbox and Google Docs to ConceptShare and Campfire. There is no excuse for keeping things to ourselves.

Level 5: Prove That It Works

When the groundwork is laid for silos to start crumbling down, one last piece of dynamite will blow it all up: it’s time to start proving that it works. People will believe you for only so long if you say, “Trust me, this is the right thing to do!” At some point you have to show them the money.

A common theme throughout this series has been that better collaboration results in better software. The only way to cement these changes into the organizational culture is to show that you’re actually shipping a better product because of it.

Here’s what I do to demonstrate the business value of a collaborative development process that includes a tightly integrated UX cycle:

  1. Share case studies from other companies or projects that clearly show the business benefits of working this way. Showing that it’s been successful elsewhere should buy enough time and resources for the team to put in place its plans to follow a proper collaborative design and development process in one or more of its projects.
  2. Start on a project where changes can be measured by an improvement in one of the three A’s of revenue generation:
    • Acquisition
      Getting new users to sign up for your product.
    • Activation
      Getting those new users to make their first purchase.
    • Activity
      Getting those first-time purchasers to come back for more.
  3. Benchmark well before the start of the project, and set clear goals to measure the success of the project.
  4. Follow through on the commitment to collaboration, and measure your results. See “How to Measure the Effectiveness of Web Designs” for ideas on which measurement tools to use.
  5. Publish your metrics widely so that everyone in the organization can see the results. And don’t hide the failures. There will be failures — the trick is to own those mistakes, learn from them and get better.

Summary (aka “Whose Job Is It, Anyway?”)

So, whose job is it to break down organizational silos and build a collaborative development process?

Guess what? It’s your job. Whether you’re a designer, developer or manager, this isn’t something that someone else will get around to — if it was, then it would have happened already. Building collaboration is best done through a groundswell in the organization, led by the makers, the people who build the actual product. It might be difficult, but I hope there are enough case studies and examples in this series to help you get started on this journey of organizational change.

Collaboration only works if everyone in the organization is open about their processes and workflows, without fear of being judged unfairly. Arguments over what’s right and how to do things differently will happen. And they should — it’s the only way to get better at what we do.

Building collaborative environments is not easy, because change management is not easy. But the positive outcomes of doing this far outweigh the pain of making it happen. You’ll end up with happy, creative teams that feel a sense of ownership over what they’re building and a sense of pride in its quality.

I often remind my team that we are judged on the products we ship, not on the number of times we ask for help along the way. So, what possible reason could there be not to collaborate and create a better product — because it will make us all look better in the end anyway? (Hint: there isn’t one.)

Go. Make it happen.


© Rian van der Merwe for Smashing Magazine, 2011.

August 26 2011


How to be More Productive and Start Earning More as a Freelance Designer

Being a freelance designer can be a great way to make money with your skills but the time will come when it seems you just can’t earn more. A major fear of every freelancer is the fear of not being able to earn more money due to a limit in productivity or effectiveness of the freelancer.

I have also been a victim of a situation like this and as professionals we need constant training and tools to stay ahead of the competition, and what this only means is that we need more money to keep ourselves afloat. This kind of situation is very unique and it isn’t a result of lack of skills or lack of clients, but it is simply because we can’t get more done.

If you’ve been experiencing problems with making more money as a designer due to lack of time then you simply need to learn how to get things done in less than half the time it takes without having to sacrifice quality for speed.

Having the right productivity tips and making effective use of them can make a whole lot of difference in how fast you succeed as a freelancer and it can mean the difference in you making four figures in a month or you making five figures in a month. Below are some of the tips that have helped double my productivity and thus increased my income over the months.

Work in Batches

do your work in batches

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I’ve been in situations where I have high hopes about what to do in a particular day but as a result of one big project I keep on postponing the smaller projects and at the end of the day I discover I’m unable to work on both the small and big project for that day.

One trick I recently discovered that has been working for me lately is to get all my work done in batches. I classify the kind of work I do with various clients and I identify the ones that are pretty easy to work on and the ones that take the most of my time – I group all my tasks based on how long it takes to complete a task and I dedicate a day to a group of tasks. The result is that I find it easier to get things done because whenever I start working on the simpler tasks I become pretty confident about what I’m doing and I also won’t be distracted by the bigger tasks and whenever I embark on the bigger tasks I find it pretty easy to focus on completing them because I believe I have enough time dedicated to it.

Working in batches ensures you don’t just work on any random project but that you’re able to work on a task based on its simplicity and that when you’re working on a bigger task you do it with great commitment – this will help you prevent the unexpected, make it more difficult for you to procrastinate and thus make it easy for you to get more done.

Complete First, Revise Later

complete your work first and revise later

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Perfectionism can be a great problem if you’re involved in any kind of creative work, especially if you’re a freelancer.

We all know that the better the quality of our work for a particular client the more likely they will rehire us and the higher the chances of them referring someone else to us, and as a result we try our best to make all the work we do the best, even if it means sacrificing our productivity.

Trying to be a perfectionist poses great danger to your work so instead of obsessing over each font you use whenever you design the first letter of a particular logo why not focus on completing the task first before revising it? The reality is that nothing will ever be perfect so don’t focus on producing the perfect design. Instead focus on giving your best to your client.

Whenever you take on a new project try to outline how you will go about it, design the whole project and then come back to make your changes by doing a revision after the project is complete – trying to examine every letter and font to make sure it is perfect as you’re working on a design won’t help you at all, it makes you less productive and results in a decrease in income for you.

Time Yourself

learn to time yourself

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If only we could notice how much time we waste on small insignificant things every day we would see the main reason we’re not being productive. A lot of us try to work on a particular project while at the same time surfing the web, and as a result we keep on checking our email and social media accounts every once in a while – if only we could notice how much time this is costing us!

You can increase your productivity as a freelance designer by timing each project you do – if you give yourself 40 minutes to complete a particular project make sure you don’t do anything else before that project is completed.

Another thing about timing ourselves is that it helps us become more focused. Once we are conscious of the fact that we need to complete a project in the next 40 minutes it becomes very easy for us to focus on it till it is out of the way.

Don’t Take All Jobs

don't just take any job

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One thing about being a freelancer is that you will start getting a lot of offers, especially if you know your stuff. Some offers will be highly lucrative but out of your scope and some offers will be what you find fun to do but the prices irritating. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to make sure you don’t just take any offer but the ones that will be best for you.

If you discover that you’re not that good at working on a particular type of design and that it will end up taking the most of your time the best thing to do is to avoid the job, no matter how lucrative it is. You should also do your best to ensure you avoid low paying jobs – they will only leave a stain on your career and make it difficult for you to get other jobs.

The less jobs you take the easier it becomes for you to identify and focus on what really works for you and the more likely you are to get paid for it.

Break Down that Big Project

break down big tasksImage Credit

There are situations where I get projects that I believe are too big to start working on and at the end I keep on postponing starting to work on them. As a result I discover that even after a month’s time I’m yet to touch that project.

That project that seems like a mountain really isn’t that big, and you might not realize that until you get started with it. Instead of procrastinating over a particular project because you think it is too big why not focus on breaking it down into smaller tasks?

If a project will take you three days of hard work to complete why not try to break it down into hours of work a day and days of work a week? That might take you longer than three days to complete but on the long run you will see that it is better than postponing the project for a few more weeks before you get started with it.

Procrastination is the worst thing that can happen to a freelancer and we have more time than we often think we have. Make it easy to complete big projects by breaking them into smaller projects.

Always Do Your Best to Avoid Deadlines

always avoid deadlinesImage Credit

Some of us are used to not starting a project until we have less than a few hours to get it done. This can be really dangerous to our career so it’s important to work hard on eliminating it as soon as we get the chance.

I’m someone used to the idea of working on a particular project only when the deadline is near but in a particular month I decided to start working on a project in the beginning of the month. I only worked on my projects for the first few weeks and I got sick towards the middle of the month. I was unable to work for two whole weeks but at the end of that particular month I noticed I made more in that month than in some other months I was fully active.

The best solution sometimes is to start working on a project as soon as you get it. Don’t wait for a few more days, don’t wait for a few more weeks but start immediately! You will be amazed at how much spending a few minutes or hours on that project consistently can help you achieve.

Another reason why you should avoid deadlines is that as a designer you need ideas to thrive and deadlines only create nervousness which makes it easy for you to get ideas but when you focus on working on projects earlier on when you’re at peace you will find it extremely easy to get ideas and thus progress at whatever you do.

Have the Right Tools

have the right set of toolsImage Credit

Why spend ten hours trying to achieve a particular goal using a cheap tool when a better tool can help you achieve the same goal in ten minutes?

The reality is that time is money, and you need to realize that to move forward. It might cost you money to get better tools but it will save you time in the long run, and that time can be better spent improving your skills or making some more money.

If you have the right set of tools you can easily reduce a two hour job to ten minutes and you can easily reduce a two day job to a few hours. That will only leave you with more time to work and will thus create an opportunity for more potential income for you.

July 08 2011


45 Online Generators For Designers And Developers To Do The Job Faster!

With so many things to know and techniques to learn it often becomes hard for designers and developers to keep up with their projects and manage their work. While you could start every project by doing the same things again and again, the smart designers and developers know the importance of a well-developed workflow. One of the things that can accelerate and enhance your workflow are online generators.

Online generators can be extremely handy for creating small details or saving time writing code. Whether it’s a striped background, a pattern or an advanced CSS3 text effect, online generators can surely make your workflow go smoother. This post presents 45 of the best and latest online generators for designers and developers. The emphasis has been put on CSS3 generators since CSS3 is quickly becoming the new progressive web standard.

Backgrounds & Patterns

1. BGMaker


BGMaker allows you to create solid line patterns which are then exported as transparent PNGs. Don’t be fooled, however. If you checked out the gallery, you’d see the true power of this lite generator.

2. BGPatterns


BgPatterns is a tiny web app for making background patterns in a few clicks. It was created mostly for fun and experimentation by Sergii Iavorskyi.
Feedback is welcome.

3. PatternCooler


With PatternCooler you can add your own colors to 100s of cool free pattern designs, or browse from 10 000s of colored patterns using a seamless pattern background editor.

4. TartanMaker


Tartan Maker is a new trendsetting application for cool designers created by Alex ‘Pit’ La Rosa & Fabio Fidanza. You can easily create tartans with up to 10 bands and then export them as PNGs.

5. StripeGenerator


With Stripe Generator you can unleash your personal style, experiment and download the tile. You can use it directly in your CSS file or as pattern in Photoshop.

6. StripeMania


Stripemania is a simple and free web tool to create seamless diagonal stripes for your designs. You are able to choose the size of the stripes and the spacing between those. You can even add color gradient effect for all of your stripes.

7. StripedBackgrounds


StripedBackgrounds generates a 5 column striped background with your chosen colors and resolution.

8. Dotter


Dotter allows you to easily create stylish dotted background with either one or two colors.

9. secretGeek’s GradientMaker


This gradient maker by secretGeek allows you to create horizontal or vertical gradient backgrounds with two colors.

10. ColourLovers Seamless Studio


Seamless Studio makes it easy to design a seamless pattern. With simple editing tools you can resize, rotate and add shapes, lines and text to the canvas and it tiles automatically. Save your pattern template and see how the world colors it in.

11. Background Generator


Background Generator provides the ability to edit the background of any website in real-time. It allows you to create fancy web 3.0 backgrounds without getting dirty with Photoshop and other image editing software. The project includes a collection of textures which are combined with custom linear-gradients and colors to create a wide assortment of themes.

12. Patternify


Patternify is an app that lets you create simple pixel patterns and export them either as PNG or as base64 code. The awesome part is that you can embed the base64 code straight in your CSS code! You don’t even need to use an image file anymore.

Color Palettes

1. Kuler


Kuler by Adobe is a web-hosted application for generating color themes that can inspire any project. No matter what you’re creating, with Kuler you can experiment quickly with color variations and browse thousands of themes from the Kuler.

2. Color Palette Generator


With Color Palette Generator you can generate a color palette based on an image. You can upload your own image or choose from other user submitted ones.

3. Color Scheme Designer


Color Scheme Designer allows you to create various color schemes and export them as HTML/CSS, ACO for Photoshop and many more.

4. Copaso


COPASO from ColourLovers is an advanced color palette tool that helps you create the perfect color palette.

5. Pictaculous


Pictaculous helps you to decide which colors suit best with a particular image. Just upload an image and it will generate a color palette from it. You can also download Adobe Swatch File (ACO).

6. Colormunki


Colormunki allows you to generate color palettes from advanced color libraries, images and browse other user palettes.


1. RoundedCornr


With RoundedCornr you can generate HTML/CSS code and images for rounded corners. There are four options to choose from.

2. Tabs Generator


Tabs generator allows you to create tab styled buttons online without using any image editing software. Tweak size, colors, corners and more, generate your design, then download and use in your CSS style sheet.

3. Brilliant Button Maker


Brilliant Button Maker is a web interface to create 80×15 buttons. You can also use two images (one on the left and the other on the right side) to decorate the button.

4. Web 2.0 Badges


Web 2.0 Badges is a generator that creates cool web badges. Badges can be used to display a big ‘Beta’ message on your website or emphasize a price or a promotion. No web 2.0 site is complete without one.

5. FreshGenerator


FreshGenerator is a web design tool which can create interesting graphic elements used in many web 2.0 sites. You may use it to create boxes of different styles and colors. In order to make changes to your image later, store the link listed below the image.

6. Favicon


Favicon is a tool that allows you to create favicons either by painting pixels manually or importing an image.

CSS3 Buttons

1. CSS3 Button Generator


With CSS3 Button Generator you can create modern and stylish web buttons that fits today’s web standards.

2. CSS3 Button Maker


CSS3 Button Maker allows you to easily create CSS3 buttons with gradients and shadows. Just adjust the settings until you have a nice looking button, then press the button and it will give you the CSS.

3. CSS3 Button Generator


Generate fancy CSS3 buttons with just few clicks. This generator also provides you with the code for IE styles.

4. CSS Button Generator


CSS Button Generator will create beautiful CSS buttons for you to use on your web pages without the need for any images. When you have styled your button to your liking, simply click on the generated button to get your CSS style code.

5. CSS3 Button Generator


This CSS3 Button Generator is a HTML/CSS/JavaScript/Flash application that generates all of the style properties and speeds up the code writing for CSS3 buttons.

6. CSS Button Generator


With the CSS Button Generator you can instantly make buttons for your website or blog that use your colors, web fonts, and sizes. The CSS button generator uses no images and can say anything you want in any colors or size.

7. CSS3 Button Generator


Easy tool to generate CSS3 buttons with gradients and shadows.

CSS3 Generators

1. CSS3 Generator


CSS3 Generator allows you to play with multiple CSS3 properties to create backgrounds.

2. CSS3 Generator


Simple generator for creating simple single CSS3 properties.

3. CSS3 Please


CSS3, Please! is a Cross-Browser CSS3 rule generator. You can edit the underlined values in this CSS file and when done, copy the whole CSS code.

4. CSS3Warp


CSS3Warp is a proof of concept: create Illustrator like “warped” text (text following an irregular path) with pure CSS and HTML.

5. CSS3 Text Shadow Generator


CSS3 text shadow generator helps you insert beautiful shadow effects to your texts. You can change between different web fonts and explore different shadow effects such as Fire, 3D , acid and more stunning examples.

6. Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator


Ultimate CSS gradient generator is a powerful Photoshop like CSS gradient editor from ColorZilla.

7. CSS3 Gradient Generator


CSS3 Gradient Generator allows you to generate nifty CSS3 gradients with just a few clicks.

8. CSS3 Rounded Corner Generator


CSS3 Rounded Corners Generator generates the necessary CSS3 code to put rounded corners around your content. You can set different radius for the four corners, it is image free.

9. CSS3 Rounded Corner Generator


This generator will help you create the code necessary to use rounded corners (border-radius) on your webpages.

10. Border Radius


Easy tool for creating rounded corners.

11. Border Image Generator


This generator helps you to generate code for border radius properties.

12. CSS3 Multi-columns


Generator for creating multi-column CSS3 layouts.

13. CSS3 Pie


PIE makes Internet Explorer 6-8 capable of rendering several of the most useful CSS3 decoration features.

14. CSS3 Sandbox


With CSS3 Sandbox you can explore CSS3 features and properties.

June 13 2011


How Do You Stay Fit and Healthy as a Designer?

Being a designer isn’t the most active job in these modern days of the Internet. We tend to spend hours on end sat staring at a computer screen, our most strenuous movement often being a trip to the coffee machine. So how do designers look after their bodies and aim to maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle? I asked a bunch of designers and developers to share some insight into their own fitness regimes, goals and habits.

Ashley Baxter

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

I have a terrible back, though it’s hard to say its a direct correlation of sitting at a computer all day, but I’d assume so seeing as I’m only 24. Also, my job has quite a high level of responsibility with an entire business riding on my shoulders, therefore I have been known to feel stressed from time to time!

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Last year I hired an ex-army personal trainer after 23 years of general inactivity (I would have said I was quite a lazy person). He taught me the whole ‘mind over matter’ mentality of working out; pushing yourself beyond your limit, ignoring your body’s weaknesses and pushing through the pain. After my contract was up with my personal trainer, I moved from the countryside to the city and joined a gym.

I’m knackered after my workout in the evening and I get a great night’s sleep because of it. Also, I feel happy within myself knowing I’m taking care of my body so I can work longer, work harder and achieve the things I want to with my business. I really love the balance I have with my lifestyle right now; work during the day, gym in the evening, and socialising at weekends. I’d urge anyone who isn’t exercising to incorporate it into their lifestyle, it quickly gets addictive.

David Airey

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

I’m awaiting referral to a physiotherapist because I get regular tension headaches, and think it might be related to strain in my neck and shoulders, perhaps due to time at a computer.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I try to get my five-a-day (fruit/veg). I might not always, but I reckon more often than not I do.

One of the bedrooms in my house is used as a mini-gym with foam mats, a 13-position bench, good kettle bells, and weights. I’m trying to go out running more often rather than cardio in the house. Easier said than done.

When working at a computer I usually take breaks every hour for at least for five or ten minutes to give my eyes a break. There comes a point when I can tell my eyes are strained from staring into a monitor.

Paul Boag

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

I have spoken quite openly on a number of occasions about negative affect my career has had on my health. Although not directly related to being a designer, I have had health problems related to the stress of running my own business.

Some time ago I was diagnosed with stress-related depression that was having an impact on me physically and emotionally. I suffered from stomach problems, sleep issues and a number of other physical complaints.

As web designers we like to live our lives at a manic pace, constantly running to keep up with the continual advances in technology and this emerging medium. It is hardly surprising that this has an impact on our health.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

In the last year I have completely changed the way I work in order to take better care of my body and mental well-being. Thanks to applications like FitFu I started exercising for the first time in my life and now attend the gym three times a week.

I’ve also reduced my consumption of caffeine and generally have a much healthier diet.

I have also reduced the number of hours I work and take a lot more regular breaks. I also now avoid using technology immediately before bedtime and that has helped my sleeping pattern is considerably.

I have come to take my health very seriously as I know that if I do not ultimately damage my business, my family and myself.

Marc Perel

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Working long hours behind a desk is a downward spiral.

Obviously sitting the entire day doesn’t exactly turn you into a super model, and the more you do so, the weaker you get, the worse your back/poster gets and the fatter your gut grows. Add to that, the unhealthier you are, the less you wanna do exercise.

Extra note: When we were dev’ing Obox Themes and even a few months afterwards, we worked 12-18hrs a day for 3 months. We didn’t leave the office before dark for the entire period. At the end I’d gained a some weight, lost all fitness, and looked like a ghost and felt unhealthy. Wasn’t ideal.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Luckily I live near an artificially lit promenade, so I even when I get home late I can go for a 30 minute run twice/three times a week.

I also try to ride my bike before work twice a week (which is tough in winter, it’s still dark at 6am), and exercise both days over the weekend. I also do some push ups before bed which helps a lot with my poster when working.

John O’Nolan

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Becoming a full time designer definitely impacted my health negatively, but the full extent of this didn’t really become evident until I went freelance. Early negative changes included astigmatism, periodic RSI and occasional back problems – but while I was working for an agency I still got a decent amount of exercise traveling to and from work every day, as well as meeting colleagues for social engagements.

When I went freelance, I gained about 40lbs (~20kg) in the space of 12 months to the point where I was seriously overweight. The freelance lifestyle, all too easily, involved a mere ten steps from bedroom to office and back again each day. I could often go several days at a time without leaving the house at all – after all, I had no real reason to. I was working hard.

The most dangerous aspect of all this was that it was very easy to slip into, it didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong. Thankfully – those days are behind me.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

In December 2010 I purchased a copy of “The 4 Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss, following his weight loss diet I lost 40lbs in the space of 8 weeks. For reference, that’s going from a Large tshirt size to a Small, and dropping two jeans sizes – right back to where I was before going freelance, returning to a healthy and normal BMI.

Since then I’ve only had to make small changes to my lifestyle to keep the weight off – most of them involve leaving my home office as often as I can. Either to socialise, or work from a remote location.

Sitting behind a computer for 18 hours a day is too easy, we all need to get off Twitter and go for a walk more often.

Veerle Pieters

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

The only part of change in my health that could be related to being designer is my eyesight. I feel that one of my eyes has a problem with being nearsighted, so things in a distance are blurry. I have been told that that is the toll from staring on a screen so long without much looking into the distance. I’ve been close to a burnout but luckily I prevented that with biking.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

No matter how busy I am with client work I always try to maintain my schedule of two 2,5h and one 40min bike rides in a week. I need that to clear my head and release some stress that way. I have a quality ergonomic office chair because I spend so much time behind my desk. I’m not on a diet but I pay attention to what I eat. I just cook 5x a week with fresh vegetables but I’m not denying myself anything.

Garry Aylott

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Since having a desk job I have definitely noticed that weight gain was the main health issue. Especially as a designer we tend to work some long hours sometimes and I often find if I have a busy day at work and then come home and carry on working if I have a personal project on, I feel like I haven’t done anything other than be glued to my chair. This is obviously isn’t good from for a number of reasons, weight gain being the main one.

I’ve also noticed a problem that’s developed with my eye sight. Since I’ve been a designer and have been working at a screen all day, it’s taking a slight toll on my eyes and now there’s a good chance I’ll need to wear glasses full time at my next eye exam.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

The best thing I’ve found to combat the weight gain and potential RSI problems is to get out of the chair a few times through out the day and walk around. Even if it’s just a walk round the block or the local park, anything that gets you outside and active. I also find drinking plenty of water or juice through out the day can help too. If it gets you away from the desk, even to pee, that’s a good thing! It also helps your concentration levels too.

I have a pretty basic workstation setup with no fancy ergonomic stuff. It does work for some people but as long as my chair is at the correct height and the back rest is at the correct angle for me, that does the trick. If you can invest in a decent chair as soon as possible, it will be your best friend!

The main thing though – get away from your desk and be active for twice a day minimum.

Chris Coyier

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?
I’ve been a computer nerd for so long that I can’t pinpoint any particular “change” in health, but I’m sure that my sitting in a chair for hours upon hours every single day of my life has a lot to do with my being overweight.

I also had a bit of a battle with RSI a few years ago. Loads of pain. Tried lots of stuff. Made some changes (like an ergonomic keyboard and trackball) and it essentially cleared up entirely. Knock on wood. I feel like I just got lucky there.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

At one point in my life a number of years back I was at the healthiest I have ever been, and it was because I was on schedule of getting to the gym every single day around lunchtime. It was great breaking up the workday like that. Lots of circumstances changed, I was unable to do that anymore, and things went downhill. Fortunately more circumstances are changing again in the upcoming months and I’ll be back on my gym-at-lunch schedule and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Marc Lloyd

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

I seem to get a few back problems from sitting down all day as well as RSI in my right hand/arm

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
I train twice a week at the local climbing wall, do free weights and finger board training at home as well as climbing outside at the weekends. This seems to help with the tight back although I’m still prone to back injuries which I think is related to my job.

I eat fairly healthily as well and generally get my 5 a day :)

I have a vertical mouse which seems to have sorted the RSI but I think the fingerboard training may have a positive affect on this as well.

Kari Lane

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Stress is definitely a big one. I’ve been a little bit lethargic and also tightness in shoulders and back from hunching over the keyboard.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I try get outdoors as much as possible and avoid watching TV and surfing the web when im not working. That way I stay away from staring at screens all day & all night. I make sure I exercise three/four times a week which would normally involve either 30-40min jog, 1.30min cycle, kayaking, surfing or horse riding. Diet is important too, can get into bad habits when sitting at the desk for long sessions, plenty of water and fruit when I can!

Phil Rannard

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Over the years of being a designer I did start to notice weight gain, general tiredness and my eyesight has definitely become worse. I used to also suffer from a really sore wrist on my mouse-using hand to the point it was painful to work, which I think was the beginning of RSI.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Now, I try to eat relatively healthy (most of the time), I also purposely walk a few miles a day as part of my daily commute to work and try to go swimming a few times a week. I’ve found this has helped with the weight gain and also helps me have more energy for the day.

As for the sore wrist I made sure I got a better mouse, a mouse mat with a wrist support, a better chair and desk. Thankfully this seems to have stopped me suffering from a painful wrist.

As for my eyesight, I try to have regular breaks throughout the day (which doesn’t always happen) in which I go outside to give my eyes a rest. Unfortunately I think my eyes have deteriorated a bit too much now so will probably have to wear glasses soon.

Peter Marano

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

I notice when i have a lot of work to do or deadlines to meet for my college work i tend to eat a lot, do less exercise even just walking. In fact if i do walk its downstairs to get more food to deal with the stress. As it was my Final Major Project at college it got really stressful near to the end of it which made me quite grumpy and very snappy at people. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that these grades i get determine if i get into my course i have applied for at uni and i have done 3 years of college to get into uni so its stressful to know that it could be a waste of 3 years if it don’t go right for me.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I try to work out at home when i can, go for a walk in spare time with my girlfriend. Some days i will try and cut back on the junk food i eat and restrict myself to one chocolate or unhealthy food a day. I found also having a good air ventilation in your work space or even a window open helps to keep your mind more carm therefore lowering the chances of eating more, helps keep your head clear and it does make you feel a bit more happier.

Tom O’Malley

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

When I became a designer nearly five years ago, It was about 6 months or so down the line that I noticed i’d started to pack on a few extra pounds. Being that I sit in my chair for long periods of time and having a daily step count of about 100, I was bound to put on weight. My Eyes have also deteriorated during this time – I didn’t actually wear glasses whilst at uni, however, I now have a pair by my side most of the time. I can live with the glasses, I couldn’t live with getting a belly!

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I’ve tried many ways to try and get in shape whilst working as a designer. At one of my jobs, I actually replaced my office chair with one of those swiss balls (apparently these are good for engaging the core and help maintain good posture). I’m a bit if a sloucher so that didn’t last.

I’ve now found a great balance between design and Health and Fitness. I go to the gym, 4 times a week before work at 6.30am. I find this is a great way to start off the day and it really helps to clear my head. I always need a coffee about 4pm though!

My love of fitness has since caught on around the office. Designers and developers now go to circuits together after work every tuesday and one of the dev’s has since become my gym buddy. So, a nice healthy creative office over here!

Jinny Ursell

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Yes, RSI in right hand that uses mouse.
The need for prescription glasses
Injuries through sport taking longer to heal as sedentary for a lot of the day.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I try to exercise 3 times a day. For mental wellbeing working on a computer all day can be quite solitary so I like to pick sports that involve interacting with others. Football, badminton, tennis, fitness classes etc.

Exercise can even include a walk to the shops but as long as I get out and stretch my legs, I feel I can work much better.

The only problem with being a designer with an active lifestyle is that you’re going from two extremes. This can result in injury which I’ve discovered myself recently.

It’s best to keep a balance and when I am fit and active again I will make sure that I keep stretching and mobile during the times I’m sitting so I don’t get injured when trying to keep fit.

Fitness in this kind of job is just as important mentally as it is physically and I would struggle to work without it.

Hugo Loning

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

After working for 9 years as a designer and no exercise I was 20 kg overweight.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I was fed up with it, and started cycling first and running later. Lost 15kg and feeling so much better. Much more energy and feeling good overall.

Zoe Ingram

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Yes absolutely! My lower back has become incredibly sore from sitting all day long.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

The human body isn’t supposed to be seated for such long periods of time. I have been doing Pilates and physio to strengthen and mobilize joint and muscles that get locked from sitting and it has helped so much. One thing I’d recommend for anyone who sits all day long is to do hip flexor stretches because they get all scrunched up and shortened from sitting and butt firming exercises such as squats/lunges (because they get stretched all day from sitting).

Getting up from your desk every now and then throughout the day helps too and I even saw someone create a desk on top of a treadmill which would be great. Can you imagine every design agency/company full of treadmills instead of desks & chairs?

Matt Burton

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Yes, due to a very high stress, long hour job I put on nearly five stone – already overweight the lack of exercise due to long hours. I also smoked like a trooper most of which I put down to the stress.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I’ve recently changed jobs and taken a pay cut to work less hours, under less stress and committed to a massive change of lifestyle in regards to healthy eating, smoking and exercise. I have lost 6 stone been smoke free for eighteen months and become more obsessed with exercise than stupid pixels

Tim Wills

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

When I’m really busy (with engaging work) its hard to drag myself away from the screen and then my exercise regime suffers, so generally I blame my work for my putting on weight!

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I work from home so I’m “lucky” that I can fit in exercise whenever there’s a suitable break. I bought a cross-trainer machine that now sits in my home office, so I can quickly hop on it after work, or at lunchtime. Being in the room there’s the added benefit of watching a movie online, while I exercise. Eventually I guess I could get a touch screen and do some work while I sweat!

Jorden Tually

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Yes! I find that although I may be skinny that my insides are still getting super unhealthy. Im guessing it is from being addicted to computer screen and photoshop!

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

The best thing I have done is get a local paper run! Being a paperboy gets me out into the fresh air and I get paid to listen to music and get fit! Perfect!!!

Robin van Doorn

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

After graduating and fully focussing on my company I gain a bit more weight. It’s not that big (yet) but eventually it’s time to do something about it..

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

So.. what do I do to improve my health:

1) Running
What’s the beauty of creating your own apps? You can use it yourself! Run Trainer (with run schedules, easily learn to run) is one of my own products and works perfect to learn to run.

2) Soccer (commonly known as football!)
I’ve been a goaly for over 12 years and quitted due to my study/graduation. Starting next summer i’ll be back on the field and hopefully will be the old me =).

Danny Keane

Have you noticed any change in your health that may be related to your work as a Designer?

Over the past year or so I’ve paid close attention to my health and fitness as I know that for most of the day I’m spent sat down in front of a computer screen. I think that its very important to have some form of exercise at least once a day. Not only is it good for keeping your body healthy but also your mind; it’s important to switch off from work mode and actually relax.

Due to the nature of our work, its very easy (especially for freelancers) to overwork. It’s like a domino effect, we start to get tired, stress and frustration starts to build up because we are tired, productivity slums and the next thing we know we realise we haven’t eaten anything because we’ve been too busy.

What steps do you take to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle?

I’m sure we all know people use the excuse “I’m to busy” or “I don’t have time to exercise” and I guess we can all be guilty of this sometimes but I feel it is important to make time to help improve health. It doesn’t have to be a chore, do the things you like to do and most importantly find out what works for you.

I try to keep fairly active throughout the whole week I hit the gym at least five-six times a week for at around 2 hours a day before setting out on my commute to work. I do this because not only do I enjoy it but because it helps me clear my mind, release my stress and frustration so that I have a fresh head on my shoulders every day I sit down to work.

If I were to give any tips to help improve ones health and fitness:

- Eating healthily
Eating a relatively good diet throughout the day, keeps you full of energy and helps improve your concentration and cognitive ability.

- NEVER skip breakfast!
No matter how late I’m running I always try to eat something, your body needs energy to kick start its functions especially in the morning. Stick to your whole grains these will release slow carbohydrates that will help keep you fuller for longer.

- Set goals and keep track of your progress
This helps keep you focused and motivated exercising and keeping fit. There’s no better feeling knowing you’ve broken a personal best, or have achieved something you might never thought possible.

- Make it fun
Find things you enjoy doing, exercising does have to be boring. Don’t think of it as a chore, think of it as a tool; a utility if you like, to relieve stress and tension.

- Don’t be afraid to try something new
This links closely to the point above but don’t be afraid to try something new. It helps give you a different out look on exercising, there are so many variables you can change to help find what works for you. Try different training methods, training with friends or even playing different sports. By doing so you’re learning more about yourself and how you want to keep fit.

- Drink plenty of water
Probably one of the most important points of all, make sure your drinking plenty of water not just when your exercising but in general. Water not only quenches a thirst but it also helps increase productivity. By keeping hydrated we are giving our body exactly what it needs in order to function to the best of its ability.

- Stay consistent
If you want to see the results you need to keep consistent!

May 15 2011


Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – 100+ Links of Design Elements and Resources

This time we will review some helpful resources for designers, how you can find them, and how can they help you.

Have you ever thought that every day, while you are busy doing your work, there are a lot of people doing almost the same thing as you? And they are releasing it. For free.

And sometimes we just forget all this stuff and lose a lot of time doing things that just didn’t need to be done. Someone else has done it for us. Why should you start from scratch if you can get some cool things and just make them better?

So, this is a post with a lot of links, and with my opinion about many of them. In short, we will be talking about:
• Creative photos collections
• Cool Icon packs, Buttons & Menus
• Professional Font faces
• Useful patterns, brushes, backgrounds, textures
• Templates and other miscellaneous elements
• Online generators and other tools

So, let’s rock!

Creative Photo Collections

Actually, most of you always use stock photos in your layouts. Yeah, they are nice, but many of them just don’t get the point across that you want. Don’t get mad, they don’t ruin your work. But they don’t make it brilliant either.

So, usually you have 2 options:

  1. Use premium stock photos
  2. Take your own photos

I think there is a third option that we almost always forget: Some really artistic and creative photos out there.

We have a lot of photo collections, with photos for specific situations. Think about it, when you are talking about victory, for example, it’s much better to use a real emotional winner photo than a commodity clip art trophy image.

Why they are good: Using in-context funny or emotional images is the easiest way to get your reader’s attention, so you get more time to explain your point.

What you should pay attention to: You must pay attention in copyright notices for images. We can’t steal someone elses image just because it is on the web.

Good Start points:

Cool Icon Packs, Buttons & Menus

Sometimes we need an idea of how could we put those 20 links that the customer wants in a really good-looking menu. Moreover, you have to worry about all the “call to actions” and semiotics stuff for icon and button design.

When you feel like this, it is time to steal someone elses design :D

Why they are good: Depending on the site you use to search, it is possible to find really complete icon packs, with “generic” icons for customization (just the background, for example). Many people may have solved the problem with 30 links in the same menu already.

What you should pay attention: It is worthless to find a really cool icon pack, button or menu that you don’t know how to customize. So, if you get a cool wooden icon pack, but don’t know how to make a “home” icon (maybe it is missing), you can’t use it.

Good Start points:

Professional Font Faces

I have to tell you a secret. I don’t know anything about typography. For real. I know just the basics, that serif and sans-serif stuff, but anything beyond this, don’t count on me.

Everytime I read something about typography I get amazed on how this is a wide field to study. And how we are getting better and better at it.

With all this @font-face stuff, it is almost a crime to not use a really professional font in your headlines (at least) without fear of the monster of cross-browser compatibility.

Why they are good: They give a really professional look to your project and they are easy to use.

What you should pay attention: You should notice copyright restrictions (yeah, not every font is free), and whether or not the font you want has some special characters (it is hard to find, for example, c with cedilla or grave accent, really used in Portuguese).

Good Start points:

Useful Patterns, Backgrounds, Textures

Yeah, I love patterns and textures. I used to download patterns because some of them I just don’t know how to create myself, and sometimes I just need a preview of how the work would look with that pattern. Actually, there are so many combinations of patterns, textures and brushes that you could spend all your life just trying combinations. So it is better just to pick some good samples, isn’t it?

Why they are good: They save you a lot of time, with complex and tiled patterns.

What you should pay attention: When you use a texture for websites you have to pay attention in their screen size, because we have a lot of different screen dimensions nowadays, thus many users can see that ugly white background when your texture ends.

Good Start points:

Templates and Other Elements

Yeah, we have a lot of other elements ready to use, that couldn’t be in above list. There are a lot of boxes, ribbons, slide shows, form elements, complete page templates and many other things that you could use in your work. There are a lot of creative design solutions for problems that we all could pass (like slide shows, or complete admin panels), and with this samples, you save a lot of precious hours.

Why they are good: They surely save you a lot of time, and brings you inspiration for common problems.

What you should pay attention: For every element we have a lot of possibilities, and many of them could be good. You don’t have to find a magical unique solution for everything, for each problem there’s more than likely a solution out there. This is why we have so many links in here :D

Good Start points:

Are You Hungry Yet?

I know that you have some useful links to share too. Why don’t you put them in comments, or write a response in your blog?

I’m sure that we will always need new sources to make our designing process more effective.

May 13 2011


Two Cats In A Sack: Designer-Developer Discord

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The differences between designers and developers often erupt in pointed jabs on the Web or at conferences. Jokes or not, the jabs create friction whose consequences are real.

I am a designer, and by no elaborate means of job-title-rejigging do I consider myself a developer, but I see the cruelty of designer and developer egos going both ways. So, what happens if someone throws a pair into a sack to hash it out? How do we emerge? Our projects, careers and maturing industry rely on our ability to learn to work together instead of against each other, and looking at what we have in common is one way to begin addressing interdisciplinary cat fights.

00McDaniel-CatsInASack-v31 in Two Cats In A Sack: Designer-Developer Discord

Shared Priorities

A belief that design and development have competing interests is an obstacle to successful collaboration. There are, of course, developers who design and designers who code (I’ll return to this point later on), but the tension referred to here is between the designer and developer who believe that their respective discipline is more important. Conquering this belief is crucial to avoiding a clogged workflow, low team morale and, ultimately, limited project success.

Design is not completely an aesthetic concern, nor is development an entirely technical one; designers must consider how functionality affects form, and developers must be creative in building out functionality. Similarly, if we look closely at design and development, we find that principles of good design are often similar in good development. Focusing on these overarching ideas reveals a large pool of reciprocal interests.

Harmony of Parts

Paul Rand, a designer’s designer, creator of the IBM, ABC and UPS logos, wrote in A Designer’s Art:

Copy, art, and typography should be seen as a living entity; each element integrally related, in harmony with the whole, and essential to the execution of an idea.

He wrote this in 1985. Today, the principles remain mostly the same, but one component is sorely missing from Rand’s statement: technology. Copy, art, typography — and technology — are the bones of a project, where design and development are the joints and skin that connect and hold together the parts. When all of these elements fit together well, you essentially have design and development working together as the support structure for the user experience and overarching concept, the so-called “living entity.”

While far too simplistic a metaphor to cast a strong light on the process (building a website in fact looks much messier), Harmony of Parts does illustrate how design and development should ultimately work towards the same goal.

01McDaniel-HarmonyOfParts-v2-1 in Two Cats In A Sack: Designer-Developer Discord

It is also worth mentioning that development, like design, encourages the harmony of parts in programming concepts like polymorphism and encapsulation. These ideas quite broadly mean that pieces of functionality should work well when placed inside or beside other pieces, another way of saying, “each element integrally related, in harmony with the whole.”


Both design and programming are teachable, and where there are talented individuals there is also hard work, discipline, teachers, mentors, standards, taste, ruthless editing and constructive criticism, all of which are cultivated. There is bad work and breathtaking work. There is the scrap heap, the slush pile, the useless code: all evidence of learning.

This commonality between disciplines is important because it presents an opportunity: designers can learn about development, and developers can learn about design. The democratization of resources in this information age (which some would argue we’ve already passed) means that we have little excuse not to obtain, or teach, at least a basic understanding of each other’s crafts. Not doing so will work to the detriment of the team. And when there are gaps in knowledge, rather than reprimanding, we should encourage an open dialogue to protect our most valuable learning tool: the ability to ask questions.

Elegance and Efficiency

Chris Coyier, self-described Web craftsman, blogger, author and speaker, writes in “What Beautiful HTML Code Looks Like”:

Code? Beautiful? Sure. After all, code is poetry. This is just HTML, so it can’t be quite as intricate and elegant as a dynamic language, but it still bears the brush strokes of its creator.

What is elegance? It could mean restrained beauty and grace, as in art and fashion. But in design as well as math and science, something elegant typically embodies simplicity and effectiveness, sometimes solving two or more problems at once or by an unexpected insight. Elegance, then, refers to underlying content or an underlying process.

Design may rely on aesthetics for its medium, and development may rely on code, but both draw on theories of efficiency (perhaps a synonym for elegance) to create effective output: elegant code is efficient code, and elegant design is efficient design. This means that design and development share some core values of process.


In his article “Design Is Not the Goal,” Francisco Inchauste writes:

The end product (website or application) should always be the focus.

Inchauste goes on to say that too often, process insists on polishing irrelevant deliverables; for example, over-updating wireframes instead of moving on to the build and user testing. The true deliverable is the final product that we launch and that people interact with. Jeff Gothelf goes more in depth in his article “Lean UX and getting out of the deliverables business.”

In a healthy team environment, we designers, developers, copywriters, user experience designers and project managers are all shippers. Bigger agencies tend to lump design and development teams into the Production Department, for better or worse, and this is telling. It demonstrates that both “creative” and “technical” professionals share a predominant interest: they must ship.

Correcting The Workflow

It may be that designers and developers are perfectly capable of collaborating effectively, and that management and process are the biggest hurdles or frustrations within a team.

Good Ideas Intersect

The logistics of securing work often mean that the earlier a great idea is identified for the project, the happier and more secure the client will be, resulting in a better working environment for everyone. However, it also means that stakeholders will come together early in the process to come up with ideas. This can occur to the preclusion of the very people who will produce the final work, especially in hierarchical agencies. This undermines the designer or developer’s ownership and discourages self-direction and personal investment in the project.

One solution to this problem is to ensure that great ideas are universally respected, wherever their origin. Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship famously preaches an agile workflow, saying in a New York Times interview:

We also invite people from all of our disciplines into all of our brainstorms. Great ideas come from everywhere.

A policy like this opens communication channels in a team framework and dispels departmental inequalities. When something goes wrong, finger-pointing is no longer an option if everyone’s had an opportunity to provide input, and collaborators are forced to learn from mistakes. This is not to say that responsibility is evenly distributed, but allowing teammates and workspaces to intersect in unexpected ways will allow great ideas to surface.

02McDaniel-GoodIdeasIntersect-v2 in Two Cats In A Sack: Designer-Developer Discord

Waterfall vs. Agile Thinking

In waterfall-structured processes, where development is held up by unfinished designs, developers are the ones who end up staying late to finish the project on time. Not only is this unfair to developers, it is complicated, because pointing the finger at designers for taking too long is too easy an answer. Responses to a design can be so subjective and cryptic (“I don’t know why I don’t like purple, I just don’t”); true insights require time to unearth and can result in unpredictable delays in the process.

Hold-ups are best avoided not by keeping design and development separate but by bringing them closer together via an iterative workflow. This agile methodology distributes responsibility and assigns value to each team member. Furthermore, departments are not tied to an inflexible plan. All of these attributes of agile thinking help to alleviate designer-developer tension.

Giving Credit

In the fable “The Lion, the Bear and the Fox,” a lion and bear fight over prey until they can fight no more and fall over exhausted. Meanwhile, a fox who has been watching the fight sneaks up and steals away with the prize. The moral is this:

Saepe alter alterius fruitur labribus.
From the labors of others, it is often another who profits.

Giving credit where credit is due and sharing the rewards is better, but unfortunately, in a fast-paced digital environment, whoever is left sitting at the table is often the one who gets the final praise. It is up to that last team member (the project or account manager, art director or tech lead) to pass feedback onto the rest of the team in a meaningful context. The cost is minimal (however long it takes to shoot an email or walk to someone’s desk), but the shared joy (or misery) will bond design and development teams because they will see the end product as the force that unites them.

Work Habits: Playing Nice

Sometimes playing nice is as simple as extending a courteous email; other times it is as complex as learning a new skill set. There are many concrete ways, big and small, for designers and developers to become more compatible colleagues. Let’s first look at efforts that can be shared, then at tasks more specific to designers and to developers.

03McDaniel-GoodHabits1 in Two Cats In A Sack: Designer-Developer Discord

Both Designers and Developers

Despite being in separate disciplines, our greatest commonality is that we are human. So, many of these shared tasks demonstrate how to play nice with anyone:

  • Keep an eye on the big picture.
    Pre-established goals that are developed by the whole team should inform decisions (and compromises) throughout the process.
  • Cast a wide net for inspiration.
    Look to a variety of sources for a well-rounded understanding of the topic. Discriminate material by quality, not subject matter.
  • Check in early and often.
    Avoid making too many decisions in isolation.
  • Be nice.
    If you must criticize, make it constructive. Being kind often reaches far beyond office walls.
  • Teach each other.
    In their book Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson preach transparency between companies and their customers: “Letting people behind the curtain changes your relationship with them. They’ll feel a bond with you and see you as human beings instead of a faceless company. They’ll see the sweat and effort that goes into what you sell. They’ll develop a deeper level of understanding and appreciation for what you do.” This works for designers and developers, too. Revealing the inner process means teaching, and teaching is a way to invest in a relationship and build mutual respect.


There are innumerable great tips to help designers become better colleagues. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Explain the design rationale.
    Design isn’t magic, and making an effort to analyze and share design decisions will create a conversation and demonstrate to colleagues that their insights are valued.
  • Practice PSD etiquette.
    Adopt the Photoshop Etiquette Manifesto for Web Designers.
  • Design thoroughly.
    Think through the interactivity of the product, which includes designing the on, off and current states, designing error messages for forms, designing 404 pages, etc. This will save your teammates valuable time.
  • Be considerate.
    Avoid making others wait on you. Be proactive and organized, and ask for feedback often.
  • Enlist a developer.
    If the technical implications of the project are unclear, grab a developer to go through it with you. They’ll likely appreciate being involved.
  • Learn about development.
    Knowing even a little about code will make you a better designer.


Here are a few ways for developers to improve their work habits:

  • Make yourself available.
    Being a part of the process from concept to realization will translate into a sense of ownership of the project. Ask colleagues what they’re working on. Make your expertise available as a resource.
  • Simplify the explanation.
    If you can help team members from all levels and backgrounds understand high-level concepts and how they affect a project, you will become more valuable.
  • Develop the design details.
    Much of a designer’s craft lies in the details; if they are forgotten or changed, the designer’s time and effort will be wasted.
  • Be honest about what can’t be done and why.
    Big ideas often struggle against time and budget constraints; that’s nothing new. Knowing the development constraints ahead of time allows the team to create more appropriate solutions.
  • Learn about design.
    Theories, rules and standards play important roles in aesthetic and usability decisions. A little knowledge of these concepts will help you better navigate designs.

Some of the tips for designers will certainly also be useful for developers, and vice versa. Being able to work well on a team often depends on the individual’s personality, so take those habits from either group that will contribute to better collaboration. Do you have other good ideas? Share them with us in the comments.

The Hybrid’s Role

Designers and developers come in many shapes, and design and development skill sets are overlapping more and more. Hybrids, who have one foot in each discipline, seem to be increasingly sought after by clients and employers. This begs the question of whether we need to get along better or simply become more like each other.

Hybrids are in a unique position to answer this question. If you consider yourself both a designer and developer, tell us: What is it that you find easier or harder about being involved in both disciplines? What do you like or dislike about it? What can we all do to become better collaborators?

Post-Disciplinary Collaboration

Way back in 1999, Andrew Sayer, professor of sociology at Lancaster University, published an article titled “Long Live Postdisciplinary Studies! Sociology and the curse of disciplinaryparochialism/imperialism.” Despite the hefty title, he wrote quite simply:

Interdisciplinary studies are not enough, for at worst they provide a space in which members of different disciplines can bring their points of view together in order to compete […] Post-disciplinary studies emerge when scholars forget about disciplines and whether ideas can be identified with any particular one; they identify with learning rather than with disciplines.

Competition is fierce in our industry, and as talented new generations join the workforce, it will only become fiercer. Web makers will need to work harder and more efficiently to retain that quality that clients and consumers value: the ability to surprise. For this, we need innovation, but designer-developer cat fights take up precious time that could be put to innovation. If we instead incorporate post-disciplinary collaboration into our process (a fancy way of saying, “Let’s forget about job titles for a moment and work toward something together”), I believe we’ll be more successful and find our jobs more enjoyable.

(al) (il)

© Cassie McDaniel for Smashing Magazine, 2011. | Permalink | Post a comment | Smashing Shop | Smashing Network | About Us
Post tags: communication, Design, designers


15 Most Influential People in Web Design

The web design industry is continuously changing and there are many people who are setting the bar higher every day with their incredible work and contribution to the web design community. Here is a list of just a few of the people who are responsible for changing the meaning of web design with their awesome work and concepts. All designers listed here are equally amazing, this isn’t mean to be a ‘Top Ten’ type list, we’re not ranking them, just listing innovators in web design.

Also, with this list I have shared their Facebook, Twitter, Dribbble & LinkedIn information so you can always stay connected and get inspired by their work.

1. Jeffery Zeldman

Jeffery Zeldman is the King of Web Standards & co-founded The Web Standards Project. Zeldman was one of the first bloggers and independent publishers. He has written design books like “Designing With Web Standards”& “Taking Your Talent to the Web”.

Dribbble: N/A

2. Jason Santa Maria

Jason is a creative director for Typekit & founder of Typedia. Inspired by traditional print design and typography, he has worked with WordPress, Miramax Films, The New York Stock Exchange, PBS and many others.

LinkedIn: N/A

3. Dan Cederholm

Dan is a designer, author, and speaker and a co-founder of Dribbble. He is know as a CSS guy. He’s worked with some of the heaviest hitters in the web industry including: Google, YouTube, Blogger and many more.


4. Vitaly Friedman

Vitaly is a founder of Smashing Magazine which is one the largest online design magazines on the web. They regularly publish really high quality articles that help designers and developers across the world.

Dribbble: N/A

5. John O Nolan

John is a talented designer from the UK and is working as a member of the WordPress UI Team, he is also developing user interface for Virgin Atlantic Airways. Besides his personal blog, he also contributes to Smashing Magazine, Web Designer Depot and Envato Network.


6. Brian Hoff

Brian is a graphic designer who focuses on corporate identity & branding. His recent project includes redesigning Mojo Themes. Inspired by typography and layout, Brian focuses on usability & design.


7. Douglas Bowman

Douglas founded Stopdesign under which he worked with Google, Capegemini, Blogger & other big clients. Later, he worked at Google as a Visual Design Lead and after that he moved on to work with Twitter as its creative director.

Facebook: N/A

8. Aarron Walter

Aarron is a designer, author, professor and speaker. He is the lead user experience designer for MailChimp. He also leads the development of the InterACT curriculum project that helps connect the design industry & education.

LinkedIn: N/A
Dribbble: N/A

9. Ethan Marcotte

Ethan is a passionate designer, speaker and wrote ‘Handcrafted CSS’. New York Magazine, Stanford University, and the World Wide Web Consortium are some of the clients he has worked with. Ethan can be found blogging about design-related articles on his blog.

Facebook: N/A
LinkedIn: N/A
Dribbble: N/A

10. David Airey

David works from a Northern Ireland-based home studio, he is a brand identity designer who has worked with clients of all sizes. His client list include Giacom and Yellow Pages. He writes on design at  Logo Design Love and He also authored the book ‘Logo Design Love’.

Dribbble: N/A

11. Patrick McNeil

Patrick is more of a developer than a designer but he has contributed equally to the design community. He has been featured in .NET Magazine and authored the book series “The Web Designer’s Idea Book”.

Dribbble: N/A

12. Jason Beaird

Jason is a user experience designer and front-end developer with a degree in Graphic Design. He is currently working as a user experience designer at MailChimp and also authored the book ‘The Principles of Beautiful Web Design’. He has also spoken at many SXSW events.

Dribbble: N/A

13. Chris Coyier

Chris is currently working at Wufoo, he is the founder of CSS-Tricks which shares tons of useful tutorials and tips. He has also co-authored the famous book Digging into WordPress.

Dribbble: N/A

14. Eric A. Meyer

Eric is the author of ‘CSS: The Definitive Guide’. He has been working with the web since 1993 and is an expert of HTML & CSS. He is also a co-founder of An Event Apart & GMPG.

Facebook: N/A
Dribbble: N/A

15. Luke Wroblewski

Luke worked as the Chief Design Architect at Yahoo and was the Lead User Interface Designer of eBay. He has authored two design books and is currently the Chief Product Officer and co-founder of Bagcheck Inc.

LinkedIn: N/A
Dribbble: N/A

Your Turn

Let us know about the designer you are influenced by and tell us which of the designer listed here you like the most.

May 11 2011


Prosite – fully customizable portfolios from the minds at Behance

Behance ProSite: Fully Customized Portfolio Websites, No Coding Required, Massive Exposure

Behance launched, a new service that allows creative people and teams to create fully customized portfolio websites through a revolutionary drag-and-drop interface.

How will ProSite revolutionize the online portfolio space in the creative industry?


Endless Customization, No Coding Required

In contrast to other portfolio site providers, ProSite does not require any programming knowledge to access a full range of customization options. You can design a website using sliders, color pickers, and an intuitive drag-and-drop interface in a matter of minutes. Check out a few example ProSites.


A “Connected” Portfolio, In-Sync With Behance, LinkedIn, & More

ProSite syncs your online portfolio with the Behance Network and other portfolio display applications on LinkedIn, AIGA, AdWeek, plus more networks and galleries around the web. You can create a customized website on your own domain name, and then manage your entire online creative presence from one central place.


Powered By Behance’s Growing Platform

ProSite is built upon the Behance Network, the leading platform for creative professionals. Hundreds of thousands of creative professionals use to display their work on Behance as well as LinkedIn and other exclusive curated galleries around the web, including the award winning collection of Served sites.

Millions of creative enthusiasts visit Behance sites every month to watch and follow the latest and greatest work by creative professionals across industries. Top creative companies around the world use Behance to find incredible talent. In the past 30 days, Behance’s sites collectively received over 50 million pageviews and growth is in the double-digits.


ProSite launches this week and is free to sign up at

Premium service includes unlimited media, personal domain mapping, hosting and support for just $11/month (or $99/year).


Check out the 90-Second Launch Video For Behance ProSite:

5 Examples of ProSite Customization & Connection With Behance

Official Classic

Behance Profile:

Felix Ng

Behance Profile:

Jonas Nyström

Behance Profile:

Jack Radcliffe

Behance Profile:

Anthony Neil Dart

Behance Profile:

Mauro Hernandez

Behance Profile:

More Examples:

About Behance

Behance is a NYC-based company with a mission to organize and empower the careers of creative professionals. Behance oversees, the leading online platform for creative professionals; The 99%, Behance’s think tank and annual conference devoted to execution in the creative world; and Action Method, a popular online/mobile productivity application and line of organizational paper products for creative people and teams.

Sponsored by

Made By Tinder

Advertise on Fuel Brand Network.
Fuel Brand Network 2010 cc (creative commons license)

Prosite – fully customizable portfolios from the minds at Behance

March 03 2011


Why Designers Should not Work Alone

So let’s say you have what it takes to become the next big thing in the field of web design (Okay, fine… Maybe you actually do have what it takes to become “the” next big thing). You have just about everything you need to be an effective, even great, designer – you’re creative, artistic, you’ve got an eye for color and texture, plus you’ve got yourself great problem solving skills and technical abilities. With these skills, anyone can make it big in the web design industry, right?

Wrong. There’s one very important factor lacking in the equation – TEAMWORK!

Superman needed Batman and the Justice League to defend the world from a slew of villains. Michael Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and the Bulls all together conquered the NBA. Even Megamind needed Minion in becoming the world’s baddest bad guy. All these successful guys have their team to support each others’ backs in one way or another.

My point is: Nobody Works Alone!


It’s a reality that in the dynamic world of web designing, too many of us work alone. When we talk about the great people making it big in the industry, we think about highly creative people.

In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

~Rollo May

The very popular concept is that highly creative people work really well when they are alone. I know a lot of you guys know what I’m talking about. Freelancers work all by themselves. A person starting his own advertising agency works everything out all by himself. There are a bunch of guys out there able to run a complete website all by themselves.

Indeed, isolation fuels creativity. With solitude you can hear yourself think, you can meditate and reach the deepest part of yourself, and with solitude you can focus and concentrate more. The idea of working alone is very tempting: no distractions. Just quiet.

Too quiet…


Sometimes I am distracted by the silence”.

Who’s with me? I mean, sometimes it just gets too quiet. So quiet that you can’t think because you keep hearing your own thoughts and they start to get too noisy.

Going back to the subject, indeed there are a lot of good things about working alone. However, everything has its pros and cons, the same goes for the idea of “working alone”. As web designers, working on one’s own can also be counter-productive. Although it can fuel a creative designer’s mind, boost productivity and attracts fewer distractions, it also have some negative points. The benefits above can be outweighed by these negative points.


The following are harmful and might lead to choking and eventually death as web designers.

1. Social Isolation is Bad for your Health


This is perhaps the single biggest reason why designers should not work alone. Human beings (including web designers) are “social” animals. We are designed to mingle. We evolve and surpass challenges by sharing our experiences with mankind. We communicate for the sake of progress.

When we work alone, we isolate ourselves and it can really do damage, not only to our careers as designers, but also to our mental health.


When working alone, it is very easy to get used to isolation. There’s no boss, no working hours, you can work freely on your own based on your own rules, and in fact just the idea of taking care of everything yourself is really exhilarating. It is really possible to pull it off all on your own, but as time passes it can be very difficult on you.

Just like everything else in this world, there will come a time when you cannot handle everything on your own. By that time, you will become too comfortable with working alone that you’ll find yourself uncomfortable with other people and you won’t be able to work with them. Worst case scenario: Irritability, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, and inactivity. Plus you’ll no longer be able to enjoy what you usually find enjoyable. In other words, you’ll lose interest!

Thus, it is okay to work in solitude, but do not make a habit of isolating yourself. You see, solitude and isolation are two very different things.

2. Working Alone = Creativity


It’s true that creativity flourishes in solitude and creative people work at their best when they are alone, but only to some extent. You cannot be creative on your own forever. Creativity requires dynamics. At some point, everything you do would seem like a routine and that’s not creative.

As designers, it is our job to always make things a little bit better. Ideas must be dynamic and in motion. Say for example you have this crazy idea, you can always discuss it with the team and this crazy idea of yours might turn into an even more crazy idea, an exceptional one!

Therefore, as designers we have our team to share our ideas with and turn them into something amazing.

3. Too much Increase/Decrease in Confidence Level


Without a team to work and converse with, working alone can have either a horrible increase or a saddening decrease on a designer’s confidence level.

Since you are working alone, you are a lot less likely to have interaction with other people and you may find yourself battling depression from time t time. If you’ve become too comfortable working alone you may have a hard time imagining yourself attending big gatherings, or work with a team amd discuss your idea because you don’t have confidence to do so. For web designers and developers, there’s always room for support and that’s where the team comes in.

On the other hand, some people might have the opposite effect. Since they have been too comfortable working alone they feel really good about themselves and they are a bit on the arrogant side. Plus, there’s no team to question their ideas if they are wrong. For these web designers, there’s always room for a solid reality check. Just like a family, the team is always there to guide good web designers.

Let us remember that no one is perfect and that there’s always room for improvement. So, be sure to surround yourselves with a team of great people and make sure to be open for suggestions.

4. Working Alone means No Second Opinions!


That’s right, it will be like a room full of chairs but no one’s there to have their say. A room full of opportunities but no one’s there to grab it. It’ll be just you and your doubtful yes or no. When you are working alone, you are handling all the work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a team to share the burden with? And wouldn’t it be nice to have a team to share all the glory with?

Even if you’re a really, really great designer, you’ll reach a certain point where you are confused too. When that time comes, wouldn’t it be nice to be surrounded with a team of great players and listen to their opinions?

Before we are designers, we are human beings. “Social” animals that are designed to work in teams, never designed to work alone.

The Bottomline:

  1. Social isolation is bad for your health.
  2. Working alone does not equate to creativity.
  3. Working alone can lead to too much increase or too much decrease in confidence level.
  4. Working alone means no second opinions
  5. Nobody works alone!


This is just me. It would be my pleasure to read your comments and please don’t hesitate to add anything as I fully realize that it is necessary for learning.

How about you guys? Do you prefer working alone? Or are you more productive when you’re communicating with the team?

February 20 2011


Knowing the people that contributed to a website

Human.txt is an initiative for knowing the people who have contributed to building a website – interesting idea and one that both I and @kathleenw have discussed in the past. Really hopes this takes off.

February 19 2011


Difference Between Artists and Designers When it Comes to Creation

Creating as an Artists or a Designer? Do you follow paths or make your own ones. Is either of the choices here better than the other? We will try to take a look into the designing process from different standpoints and ask various people about their opinions on the subject.

Our goal will be to find the pros and cons of these approaches and find their respective target audiences and finally, to find you in it all.


Let’s begin with defining what the words “artist” and “designer” for the length of this article.
From definitions are as follows:

Artist – a person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.

Designer – a person who devises or executes designs,  especially one who creates forms, structures, and patterns, as for works of art or machines.

Those don’t put any clear difference in the meaning. So we will have to create one ourselves for now:

Designer – we will view designers as trained people with vast knowledge in rules of the design process, how to use different elements to ones benefit, meaning of colors etc.

Artist - artists will be those guys out there, who probably are self-taught, they have a basic understanding of the rules out there and saw their use in multiple occasions, but in their work they tend to go their own ways.

With that we can move on.

Finding your way

People who are very good at something usually enjoy whatever it is they are doing. That gives them the drive to constantly improve their skills, learn new tricks and improve the old ones. That’s why it’s important that you make an aware decision when choosing your path.

Try to remember what made you interested in becoming a Computer Graphic. The reasons can vary quite a lot. Maybe you were just looking at all those pretty pictures and designs and decided – hey, I want to have a go (that’s my story), maybe one of your friends got you hooked up with the idea, or you just thought it’s going to be an easy way to make money, why not?

We’re only looking for the reason to find out where to go from here really. For instance – if you got into design just to make a quick buck you probably want to stick with our “designers”, nothing absolutely wrong with that. On the other hand if you’re driven by the passion to create pretty and original things, then working for corporate, big companies will probably be the definition of torture for you.

We don’t really want to see you suffer (no, really). So think hard on where you came from and where you want to go to.
Don’t jump to conclusions that  designers do their job only for cash or other non-sense like that. Just trying to make a point here.

My own strength

So now that you know where your path lies, we’ve got to think on how to get there.

Know your own strength

Every person is different on many levels. No real discovery made there. But that means, that everyone will have a different approach on design. In a field where you are expected to create things by yourself, your personality makes a huge difference. It’s hard to compete with others in everything, so how about challenging them in what your best at instead?

Make your best assets the core of your design and build around them. You may exceed at creating colours and mixing them, or you a have keen eye for details, creating unique navigation methods. Whatever it is, try to use it to your advantage.

There will be times though where you just can’t, then what? Just do the best job you can. The fact that your skills in other fields may be inferior doesn’t mean they are useless. To some extend you’re a one man army out there, especially as a freelancer. Any knowledge is to your advantage.

So find out what are you most comfortable with and build around it. Here comes the difference though – our designers will probably want to get a lot of knowledge from every direction where our artists would mainly focus on their strong sides and figure out how other fields can improve them. Again, neither way is wrong, it’s just taking a path that suits better your personality.

Focus on your own area of expertise

While the above may sound at first familiar to the above section, the concept I will try to grasp here is a bit different.

With programs getting more simplified by the year there is a growing number of human-factories, folks that can create Graphics, Code, Music, Video, etc., all done by one person. Adobe with every presentation of it’s new Creative Suite makes us want to believe, that now you will be able to easily operate any of the programs with no problem nor knowledge. Truth to the matter is though, regardless of the improvements made, we’re still far from being able to do a perfect job in all fields.

If you’re looking to do work for small companies and not very demanding clients, then you probably can get away with multitasking across different programs, but at  some point you will want to evolve further at which point you’re going to find out, that you simply just won’t have the time to do so.

So at some point you’re going to have to narrow down your area of expertise, whether you want it or not. When you begin working with others, would you prefer that they’re very good at their thing or mediocre in many? That’s how others will view you as well.

Knowing standards will be to your benefit

For designers that’s a given. Artists may scream here about ripping the bounds, going into new worlds and so on.
The truth is though – you need to know how things are done. In school they will teach you that until you are so bored of it you’re ready to burn the place down. If you are self-taught though, you need not only to learn this stuff yourself, you have to find out it exists in the first place.

You may create the most original an ingenious projects known to humanity, but if there is no way to make them work, it’s just junk.

Where to start? The old-fashioned books are a great way to get you out the door, or a Video Course (not to mistake with a Video Tutorial). You are basically looking for something, that will give you all the essential knowledge, technique, issues etc. of the field. Otherwise you’re in danger of running into those problems by yourself and that may hurt. Nobody wants  to have the project done and ready to take payment, when suddenly you realize you’ve done it all wrong. It does happen more times than you think, so be sure it does not happen to you.

I’ve found my Path

So you are finally good to go. But are you sure? Let’s try to think about what you’re getting and what you’ve missed out on.

Impact of your choice

Your works style will differ dependant on your path choice. I’ve had companies tell me in the past, that they love my portfolio, but my style is different to theirs. You rarely will have the option of second impression, even if you could change your style to match theirs. Why would they revisit you though? If they can find someone else, who’s style is originally more compatible to them. Often advertisement agencies focus on a particular type of clients, hence develop a style, which will suite their clients.

Your path will have an impact on who you work for. Once you land a client which wants a flashy website, you are going to have a portfolio with a flashy website in it. With that you can advertise to another client, then you have two designs, which are the opposite of toned-down and clean and so the wheel starts turning.

To further dwell on the subject, I’ve went ahead and asked a few company owners the following question:

In designs for your company do you put more emphasis on the fact that they should be in compliance with various standards or do you prefer to see more originality, even if the usability may suffer because of it.

The answers are  as follows:

Well, depends on a purpose of use I guess. General recipe for the design would be to make it compliant with various standards, original and usable. Company web site’s should be as easy to use and as clean as humanly possible. Another story are games’ layouts, like the one for Werdelion – major point for game’s layout is its connection to the game; of course usability also matters a lot and the design shouldn’t “suck the big one” in neither of those points as long as it’s both clean and relatively original in relation to common standards of usability.
Konrad Jurkowski,

I try to make a compromise between keeping the standards, usability and to make it look original.. but if this can`t be done I’d go with standards and usability since this makes more sense from marketing side, after we get the website popular then we can try to do something different… and at the end people can choose the way they like it more
Patryk Kita, Dating Site

First I was thinking about originality, not usability. I thought “I’m going to make something original and simple”, so I did. Although when it comes to usability it’s kind of bad, because people don’t know what is what. They see the website and have no idea what to click.
So I did not think about usability, therefore my portfolio is down in the dumbs.
Piot Bozetka,

For us it is more important that the clients will not have any problems with using it.
Roberto Tariello,

Definitely I expect originality, that may be in compliance with various standards ;)
Małgorzata Suknarowska,

School vs. Self-Taught

I’m not trying to make a statement here that you should not go to school. But is there some backside to beginning your education there, compared to trying to learn things by yourself? Let’s make a statement – “School kills creativity” and think about it. While you may enter the school with eagerness to learn and visions of a great, artistic future ahead of you. The story will probably be different by the time you finish.
It really depends on the school and their approach to teaching, we shall not discuss that vast topic here though. Let’s just say that there is a good possibility, that by the time you get your degree, your mind will be programmed to think more in design terms then the artistic ones. On the other hand, when you learn by yourself, you are probably doing so for a certain purpose, to gain necessary knowledge and skills. Only to be expected then, that after having learned those you will want to play around with them and by so, give an outlet to your artistic side.
Of course all depends on a person and the results will vary, but the above does in fact happen more often than not. I did ask around with some people I know and the majority of them have the opinion, that apart of getting a paper, design school was a waste of time. Then again, it’s your own responsibility and in your best interest to check the school you’re applying to and make sure you will be getting your times worth.

Learn from others, bring it to the next level

You won’t come up with all the ideas by ourselves. If you are one of our “artists” then you probably really want to thought. Other people have good ideas, that’s an undeniable truth and it’s your choice if you want to fight it or make it work for you. There is nothing wrong with looking at how others tackled the same problems you’re facing. See what they came up with and think if it’s good for you and can you make it better, bring it up a notch. That helps as well unify the ideas out there. Remember that your clients may not necessarily want to learn a new navigation or others things, just to visit your website. There is a place for everything, don’t try to put everything, everywhere though.


Everything I said may be my own opinion, but I tried to present it in such a way, where opinion does not really come into place. Whether I’ve succeed or not is really up to you. Either way I hope you’ve found this article helpful in some way. The choices you make today will make a difference tomorrow, so choose wisely.

January 17 2011


January 15 2011


Web Designers’ 2011: New Year’s Resolutions

Time to kick 2010 out and kiss 2011 hello. Yep,  it’s that time once more when you make new year’s resolutions. And looking at it, it’s pretty much just like last year – funny. Well for some, who can really stick to their resolutions I salute their determination. One fact about resolutions is that they are just too good to be true, which makes it even harder to accomplish. For example – “A chain smoker’s resolution : Quit smoking”. Now, that would be very hard to do because as we know smokers are addicted to nicotine and feel like they’d die without a puff an hour. It’s better to go like – ” Go slow and take only 3 sticks of cigarette a day instead of 5″. You can’t rush perfection, take one single step at a time. This time, lets stick to making a more realistic list and something that would make you realize your list of resolutions.

Here is an inspiring list of resolutions for web designers, developers and bloggers. Hopefully to get you started on the new year right.

1.Better Time Management & Get Things Done

Ending the holidays, you might find yourself in a high. You still might be pretty lazy to getting back to work and do your thing. To get yourself warmed up, why not organize and update your new daily planner. If you don’t have a daily planner or organizer – get one! Write down what you need to do for the day and prioritize your activities. Starting from the most important to the least. Using your time wisely will make you productive and efficient.

2.Leave Your Creative Comfort Zone

Venture to different type of creative outlets relevant or irrelevant to your usual thing. For example – if you are into print designing, try anything on web designing. If you are into web designing, then try print designing. Whatever your preferences maybe. Take yourself to a new and challenging forms of activities or hobbies that would also make you profit in the near or later future. Expand your horizon and explore. There’s a whole lot more to learn from.

3. Acknowledge Your Imperfection

It is understood that you can make really bad moves and decisions. The one thing that hinders us to change or improve is pride. Yes, it is difficult to admit you are wrong. But face it, everybody makes mistakes. If you don’t, then you might not be normal. If you own up to your mistakes and realize that you are not perfect, you are making room for improvements and change for the better. But of course, it always better to put it to action than just putting it in your mouth. You have to really commit to making improvements. If not, you’d just be sour-graping and that’s not a good thing either.

4.Try To Read One New Book a Month

Take a time to relax at least once a month. Reading a good book will take your mind off things and enhances your creativity by your imagination. Discover new things and words to add up to your vocabulary. Reading also boosts up confidence.

5.Clean the Clutter on Your Desktop

Start clean & fresh. Get rid of all the clutter in your desktop and make room for new to come. Keeping unused or unwanted files or software on your desktop make you no less than a pack-rat. So you better start cleaning – you’ll be amazed how much space those useless items are taking up.

6.Update Your Portfolio

Since this is another year for you and your business, freshen up and update your portfolio. Create a new design and add what’s most recent on your designs, themes, photographs etc. Keep your clients, followers & fans updated.

7.Step Away From The Computer And Exercise

Sitting in front of the computer half of the time if not most, may cause laziness or could make you gain weight – considering it makes you eat unhealthy junk food. Go for a hike, jog, do yoga or engage in a sport.  Slide in a workout routine to your planner for half an hour or more and get yourself fit. Remember, health is wealth.

8. Stretch Your Patience

This new year, go the extra mile and stretch your patience. The survival and main objective of a business is to cater clients’ demands and needs. So be extra patient with your clients. It will pay off when they get really pleased with your services, and that will make you happy. As well as your wallet.

9.Find New and Better Ways to Connect with Clients (Google Voice, Google Wave, etc.)

Reach out to clients in every way possible. This is also one of the many strategic marketing techniques. Some clients don’t know where to find good service providers. Be there to help them out and show them that you can live up to their demands and expectations. Promote your services and offer them the best.

10.Try a Color scheme You Have Never Even Imagined

Never be too cautious with designs. Because unique designs always stand out. Be more creative, play with colors. Maybe you will be the first to mix and match a new color that will go well that others haven’t tried. Step out of the circle and think out of the box.

11.Master At Least One Application Or Programming Language

Improve your performance by focusing on one application or programming language. This way you have a target on what your main work or field is on. After which, then you could proceed to another.

12.Take an Extra Class About Design

Make time for your passion. There are always new things to learn, better learn it from real teachers and go to school. When you know that you’re good at something and want to make the most out of it, it is better to keep enhancing that talent. That is what school does – it harnesses what’s the best in you and develop your skills even more than what you actually know.

13.Follow Top Designers on Twitter and Interact with Them

Get inspiration from top people in the business.  Twitter will get you updated on their latest activities. If you get lucky and get the chance to interact with them, they might give you tips about how they got successful.

14.Really Impress your Clients–Current and New

Never miss to surprise your clients. They are like the better half of your business. You need to keep impressing them to make your business last. Show them something fresh and innovate. New clients are as important as the new ones. Mainly because they both could find another service provider if you don’t meet expectations. So find new ways to excite them and always maintain that harmonious relationship with them.

15. Take Time to be Inspired

Always be on the look out for new inspiration. Make time to browse the web for anything fresh on the scene. Search for newly discovered digital artists, designers, web designing businesses, softwares, gadgets, applications etc. Everyday is a new day and that makes yesterday old news.

*These New Years resolutions are pretty much easy to accomplish. I know everyone has a struggle in fulfilling resolutions. But if you don’t start now, when? Hopefully you are now looking for a great year ahead. Making a New Year’s resolution is just the first step, putting it to action is the most important leap. If you have anything to add, feel free to share. Cheers to 2011!

January 10 2011


January 04 2011


10 Tips for Newly-Hired Junior/Entry Level Designers

As a recent hire myself, I understand the hardships of finding a job, the interview process, and working in a new environment. I’ve read plenty of articles on how to boost your resume or land a dream job, but I rarely find articles on what to do when you first start working. Here are some of the most useful tips I’ve learned so far that may be helpful for other novice designers:

10. Ask Questions


It might seem intimidating to be in a new workplace. You can’t keep up with anyone’s names, let alone the occupation they hold within your company. And you don’t want to start off on the wrong foot. One issue I was a victim of was when to ask questions. You don’t want to seem stupid by asking a potentially simple question, yet you really need the help. My advice is to just go for it. Chances are, your co-workers or your boss will appreciate your desire to learn and will be glad to answer anything you have to ask, even if it might be a simple question. Most of the time they don’t even consider your questions stupid. They’re eager to take on that authority figure and lead you in the right direction. Just make sure you show that you are truly interested and listen carefully to what they have to say.

9. Take Notes


As a designer, especially a junior one, you will constantly be getting feedback and tips. Maybe you’ll receive some cool pointers on shortcuts for Photoshop. Or maybe your boss will critique your design and provide information on things that would need to be changed. Making the mistake of not taking notes can affect your work efficiency. Not only does it show that you’re not really paying attention, it will come to bite you in the behind when you are left to edit your design and can’t remember all the changes that need to be made. So remember, keep a pen and notepad with you all the time. Don’t worry about not making eye contact if someone is giving you feedback. I think they can understand when you’re busy jotting notes down.

8.  Request Feedback


Showing that you’re eager to learn and eager to improve your skills is very important at a new job. Most companies who hire new graduates assume that they will have to do a lot of hand-holding and are prepared for that. Help make their lives easier by going to them and asking what you can improve on rather than sitting quietly at your desk and making them come to you when there’s an issue. It shows initiative and dedication when you seek the advice yourself instead of wait for it to fall into your lap. Doing so on a regular basis and not just once a month will also ensure that any kinks that do exist will be cleared up right away.

7. Get to know your co-workers


Companies come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s up to you to choose whose opinions you value and who you look up to and strive to become. Just because someone is your boss doesn’t mean you can’t get to know them a little more personally. Or just because someone works in a different department than yours doesn’t mean you can’t say hi or make small talk. Designers don’t just stick to designers. What we do usually affects how the rest of the company runs too, and we are constantly working with other people to produce the best results. Make things less awkward by scheduling lunch with a co-worker, or a one-on-one session with your boss. Trust me, this will make those future meetings far easier to deal with. It’s also a time for you to talk about things you might not feel comfortable talking about in front of others. So really take advantage of these moments and schedule them consistently.

6. Be Social


This sounds simple enough but is overlooked more often than not. Junior or Entry Level designers are usually fresh out of college. Meaning, the youngest people in the company. Because of this, personalities and hobbies are usually different. Your boss might enjoy things such as yoga, baking, or spending time with her 2-year-old. You might enjoy things like going to bars, clubbing, and watching TV. This might make you hesitant to talk since you don’t have much in common with other people. But making the effort is what counts. Maybe show an interest in what your co-workers like to do and try one of their hobbies. Likewise, they might go to you to find the best bar to go to in town just for a night of fun. Just because personalities are different doesn’t mean it should be a social barrier. And next time there’s a company softball game or happy hour, sign up to go! It will be fun to see people outside of the work environment. And you’ll probably be surprised to learn that they really aren’t that different from yourself.

5.  Organize your files and layers


As a designer, you’ll most likely be working with Photoshop and Illustrator or any other design program. The glory of these programs is that they allow you to layer your designs, making life oh-so-much easier. But organizing and renaming files can be a real pain. While it might be more comfortable for you to just work continuously without stopping to name your layers, you will need to think about other people. Sometimes you may be swamped with work and have to have someone else take over your project for you. Imagine what a hard time they’ll have when they open up the file and all they see are rows and rows of “Layer 45 copy.” Or what if your boss is looking at your design and asks for you to make a tweak on the spot? Don’t be caught in the embarrassment of digging through your layers to find the one that needs tweaking. Just be safe and name or group your layers as you create them. This makes working together on projects so much less painful.

4. Research your industry


Designers often make the mistake of thinking that since they specialize in design, they only stick to aesthetics and nothing else. That notion could not be more wrong. Design is usually closely related to marketing since what you create is generally seen by a large audience. You will need to think outside the box in your designs. What would you want to see if you were a customer looking at this design for the first time? What is the goal you want the customer to do? Thinking about your design from a marketing approach in addition to your creative approach is just as important. To get the best marketing knowledge, it’s also important to keep up with the fast-paced economy. Check the news every day to see if there are any changing trends within your industry. This will help keep you up to date for your designs and will allow you to keep up with everyone else. Don’t be the lone person who doesn’t know what everyone else is talking about. Be the first to know the news and bring it to everyone else’s attention.

3. Gather your assets and tools


Efficiency is key when it comes to working professionally. Deadlines are usually tight and timelines are short. Save time by compiling a list of resources you can refer to when you need them. Keep a list of websites to go to for swatches, or keep a folder of Photoshop brushes and patterns to use when you need them. Fonts are also a good asset to collect. Other examples are icons, vector art, gradient swatches, and shapes. If you don’t have a large library to choose from, ask your fellow design friends or co-workers. Everyone has different sites they go to and the larger the pool, the merrier. And don’t limit yourself to just tools. Gather a list of blogs or website tutorials that you enjoy and keep up with them. Tips on those sites may come in handy when you least expect it.

2. Be open to criticism and disagreements


You’ve probably heard the quote: “Everyone is a designer.” Or so they think. You will never win if you are looking for 100% happy campers. But there’s such thing as compromise. People who aren’t designers will sometimes tear your design apart because of different reasons. It doesn’t work with the marketing message, it doesn’t fit on the webpage, etc. Be prepared to change what you need and to have something you worked on and completely love be thrown out in favor of something else. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But understand where they are coming from and keep the advice they give you in mind for your next design. It’s important to get everyone’s feedback, not just other designers’ feedback.

1. Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions


Lastly, speak up! Yes you want to make everyone happy, especially those who control your income. But don’t be afraid to stand by your work. Sometimes people will have completely overlooked something and by speaking up, you will have brought something crucial to their attention. Or sometimes people will favor one thing over the other but hearing your opinion on why design A is better than design B will show your style and the fact that you defend what you care about. Although be sure you know your limit. There’s a line between making a point and being stubborn or opinionated. And if you ever have too much to do, or too little to do, tell someone. Don’t be scared that they’ll think that you’re lazy or that you can’t handle your workload. They’ll love the extra help, or they’ll love to help you. That’s what working at a company is. Working as a team.

I’m sure there are plenty more that can go on this list. But these are the 10 that have come most in handy thus far in my career. Feel free to share if you have any others you’ve thought of. Or maybe you have experienced some of these uncomfortable situations. Then share your experience and how you changed from it!

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10 Tips for Newly-Hired Junior/Entry Level Designers

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