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August 23 2013


Pedal to the Metal: Websites should Drive like a BMW, Not a Barbie Car


What kid doesn’t lust after his or her own set of wheels? From an early age, kids want to get in the car and go – and for little girls, the ever-so-wonderful pink plastic Barbie car can provide hours of cul-de-sac circling and sidewalk cruising.

August 20 2013


Showcase of Innovative And Creative HTML5 Sites

In the past 10 years, web designers have been creating websites with Flash, JavaScript or other difficult software. But now you can easily design or create fast, interactive and interestingly good-looking websites that you have created never before. How? The answer is HTML5. As we all know very well that HTML5 is packed with all the latest technologies and features which help us for creating smooth transitions, fancy image sliders and animations. If you are thinking to design your own website with the use of HTML5 then this collection will help you.

In this round-up, we are showcasing 38 innovative and creative HTML5 sites for your inspiration. Have a look at these amazing HTML5 websites and get some ideas from these outstanding HTML5 websites and use your tremendous ideas in your own website. I hope you will like this collection and do not forget to tell us what do you think about this collection via our comment section is below.






Metropol Band


Arcade Fire: The Wilderness Downtown

Soul Reaper

This Shell

Frequency 2156


Saucony Kinvara 3


Danger of Fracking

Art Ingenious



GreenCampusGuide – ProjectGreen


Rally Interactive

Slavery Footprints

Soul Wire


The Expressive Web

Toyota Prius Projects

Wired Mind

Wing Cheng



Sunday Best Designs

In Motion Massage


South Mountain

Team Viget

Bigbite Creative

Une Journee en Zoe

The Drawing Room Creative

Sponsored post

July 03 2013


Reclaim The Web: Win One Year of Free Web Hosting with

 is a young and emerging hosting provider from the United Kingdom. They have a very clean product line, where you can freely choose between one product, the Zyma Web Hosting Plan. Zyma promises that you will not need any other choice. Looking at their feature lists, there’s little room to disagree. Today, three of our valued readers are able to get a year’s worth of time to judge for themselves as we are giving away three Zyma Web Hosting One Year Plans. Good luck!

April 16 2013


Website Stencil Kit: il kit indispensabile per ogni webdesigner

Sarà che la carta continua a mantenere il suo fascino. Sarà pure che per le sessioni di brainstorming, scarabocchiare su un classico foglio è assai più produttivo del ticchettare su uno schermo digitale. Questo non potete perdervelo. Si chiama Website Stencil Kit ed è prodotto da UI Stencils. Il pacchetto è costituito da un block notes, una matita e un’utilissima guida in metallo che consente di rappresentare, su speciali fogli di carta, il wireframe di un sito web includendo l’iconografia più diffusa. Costa $26.95. Indispensabile e decisamente molto stylish da esibire per ogni designer che si rispetti. Sono disponibili anche una versione per iPhone e iPad.

Website Stencil Kit, guida + matita

Website Stencil Kit, guida + matita

Website Stencil Kit, dettaglio.

Website Stencil Kit, dettaglio

Stencil Kit per iPhone

Stencil Kit per iPhone

January 25 2013


Interactive mind maps

To kick-start my thought process at the start of a project I’ll normally jot a few mind maps (or word maps). Sometimes I’ll use a thesaurus if there’s a word I want to pay particular attention to.

Late to the show, I stumbled upon Visual Thesaurus, a kind of interactive mind mapping tool.

Visual thesaurus

It was invented by Marc Tinkler of New York-based Thinkmap at a time when swissmiss was design director with his firm.

“I got to brand The Visual Thesaurus, shape the user interface of the actual app, do the first version of their site, and work on all marketing material. It was my last big project before I left and went out on my own and also one of the most exciting projects I have ever worked on in my career.”

(Quoted from an interview with Tina on The Great Discontent.)

Visual Thesaurus now contains more than 145,000 English words and more than 115,000 meanings. You can listen to British and American pronunciations, and there are beta versions in five European languages, too.

It’s subscription-based, or you can test it for free.

A brilliant reference and education tool for anyone interested in communication.

Identity Designed

Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

Related posts worth a look

July 25 2012


How to Use Custom Fonts in Your Web Designs with CSS3

Advertise here via BSA


The purpose of this tutorial is to show you how to use the latest version of CSS (CSS3) to use a custom font within your website. Nowadays, we’re looking for new and exciting ways to present our sites and there’s no better way to add an extra bit of personality to your website than including a wonderful custom font.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using a splendid text editor called Chocolat and using Safari but you can use any text editor and modern, good web browser to follow along.

Getting the Font

First, we need to get a font and then convert the font file into separate files for various browsers.

1. To start off, I’ll be using a font called FV Granada but you can use any TrueType font. I encourage you to get a font that is sans-serif. You can find fonts online — here’s my personal favourite for free fonts.

2. Next, we’re going to convert the TTF file that we’ve downloaded. To do this we’ll use the FontSquirrel Generator. Go there and click the ‘Add Fonts’ button, select Optimal and agree that you’re not doing anything illegal.

3. Your fonts should download and if you open the zip, you’ll find that several different files have been downloaded. We’re interested in the .eot, .woff, .ttf and .svg files, so copy them to the directory in which you’ll be storing them for use on your website.

Applying the Font

Now, we’re going to set up a basic HTML page and add the required CSS3 code to get the fonts working with your website.

1. Create two new files, index.html and stylesheet.css.

2. Make sure you save both of those files within a directory along with the fonts. For this tutorial I have a folder called ‘Custom-Fonts’, with an index.html and stylesheet.css in the first level and I’ve created an additional folder called ‘fonts’ to contain all of our font files.

3. Set up the basic structure of the HTML document — open up index.html within a text editor and set up a HTML document. Pull the CSS document in. Create a div for your title with an id of main-title and one for your content with an id of container. See the screenshot for details.

Screen Shot 2012-07-15 at 14.11.31

4. Now, head over to stylesheet.css and add the following code:

@font-face {
	font-family: 'FVGranadaRegular';
	src: url('fonts/fvgranada-regular-webfont.eot');
	src: url('fonts/fvgranada-regular-webfont.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'),
		 url('fonts/fvgranada-regular-webfont.woff') format('woff'),
		 url('fonts/fvgranada-regular-webfont.ttf') format('truetype'),
		 url('fonts/fvgranada-regular-webfont.svg#FVGranadaRegular') format('svg');
	font-weight: normal;
	font-style: normal;

#main-title {
	font-family: 'FVGranadaRegular';
	font-size: 72px;
	text-align: center;
	padding-top: 30px;

#container {
	font-family: 'FVGranadaRegular';
	font-size: 24px;
	width: 800px;
	padding-top: 30px;
	padding-bottom: 50px;
	margin-left: auto;
	margin-right: auto;

Screen Shot 2012-07-15 at 14.25.26

In the above code, the main thing we want to worry about is the @font-face tag. This defines all of our font files and their locations.

5. If you open up index.html within a web browser, you should find the text uses your custom font. Neat! If you find that your font isn’t applied then it’s likely that you have placed your fonts incorrectly. Go back to stylesheet.css and ensure that the src attributes for the font files are correct. If everyone is where it should be and they still don’t work, you may need to upgrade your browser.

There we have it, you have successfully applied a somewhat confusing CSS3 technique successfully and now you’re able to apply a custom font to all of your work!

Click here to download the source files.

Screen Shot 2012-07-15 at 14.14.30

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.


April 16 2012


Build a Basic Dribbble Fed Portfolio Website (Part 1/2)

Follow this step by step tutorial to create a simple single page portfolio website design that will self-update using shots from your Dribbble profile. In this first of the two part series we’ll go through the process of designing the website concept in Photoshop, before coding up the HTML and CSS next week.

Simple portfolio website design

The portfolio design we’ll be creating is a single page design and features the very basics of a design portfolio website: A logo, an intro, the showcase of work, an about me paragraph and a contact form.

Create a new document in Adobe Photoshop. I like to give myself a large canvas to work with that resembles a large monitor resolution. 1680x2000px will provide enough space to visually build our design as it will appear on screen.

Fill the background with a warm grey tone such as #f1f0ed. Using subtle tones as opposed to black on white will help avoid any contrast clashes.

Use the Noise filter (Filter > Noise > Add Noise) to add a subtle texture to the background to give the site a warmer, more tactile feel.

Draw an 820px selection in the centre of the document and use guides to highlight the centre and edges of this main content area.

Fill a circular marquee selection with a dark grey and add your initials in a font of your choice to create a simple logo.

Right click and select Rasterize Type on the initials layer then CMD+Click the thumbnail of the background circle layer to load its selection. Inverse the selection and hit delete to remove any overlap beyond the edges of the logo.

Dab a spot of a soft black brush, then hit CMD+T to transform the shape. Squash it down so it can be used as a shadow under the logo. Move it into place and reduce the opacity to suit.

Begin writing out a short introduction to your portfolio website. In the coded version we can use Google Web Fonts to make use of the @font-face CSS3 property, which will allow us to use a cool font for the body text. Here I’m using a downloaded version of Droid Serif to mock up the text in Photoshop to gain a feel for the text sizes.

Change the colour of text that will appear as a link and add the underline effect to simulate a clickable element. Planning these features now will make it easy to just copy and paste the hex colour values into the CSS stylesheet.

This portfolio will be self-updating using your shots from Dribbble, so begin copying and pasting the design thumbnails from your profile and align them accordingly in the Photoshop document. Hold Shift while pressing the cursor keys to nudge the element by 10px increments.

Add a Drop Shadow effect to the portfolio designs to lift them from the page. Effects like this that were once only achievable in Photoshop can now be replicated with the CSS3 box-shadow property.

Make a copy of the intro text and adjust the wording to create a brief About Me section under the portfolio elements. Maintain the same font hierarchy and link styling.

Finish off the design with a Contact section at the bottom. Use copies of the existing text to mock up the wording and form labels, then draw a rectangular selection as a base for the input fields.

Open up the Layer Styles window and add a subtle Inner Shadow to give the illusion that the field is inset, then add an off-white Color Overlay to reduce the contrast between the field and the background slightly. Then finally add a #dedede 1px stroke to define the border of the input field.

Duplicate the form field and move it into place as the second input and a textarea element. The great thing about layer styles is they can be scaled to any size without being distorted.

Add a darker grey rectangle the represent the send button. Give this element a quick noise filter to match the texture of the background.

Use the same font styling to add the Send label, except change the colour fill to white, then finish off the button with a subtle drop shadow to help the element stand out.

Simple portfolio website design

This leaves our basic portfolio concept complete ready for part two, where we’ll export the few images we need from the Photoshop document then replicate this design with HTML and CSS before adding the simple code to pull in our Dribbble shots.

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.

April 02 2012


Cool Tips and Resources to Make Your Website Tablet-Friendly

Is your website ready for the Tablet Revolution? Unless you are one of those Doomsday Preppers and you’ve been living in your bug out bunker for the past few weeks, you know iPad 3 just hit the market, and people are going crazy over it. It’s only taken a few years, but the release of Apple’s iPad, among all of the other tablets, has created a new HUGE trend that website owners need to be aware of. The Tablet Revolution, as some are referring to it, has cause many website owners to rethink their website design and layout. Earlier you could simply build a website for desktops and laptops. Then mobile smart phones came along and changed everything. Many website owners now have a mobile version of their website ready for any visitors who decide to stop by from their mobile phones. Well, it’s time to update your website yet again, this time for tablet owners. In this article we are going to cover why it’s important for your website to be tablet ready, talk about some Do’s and Don’ts, provide some example companies who are making sure their website is tablet ready, and provide you with the tools and resources that you need to create a tablet-ready version of your website.

Tablets have been growing in popularity over night

Tablets have been growing in popularity over night

Image Source

Why is it Important to Make Your Website Tablet Ready

International Data Corporation predicts that by 2015 more U.S. Web users will access the Internet through mobile devices than by using personal computers. 2015 is only a few years away and obviously in order for this to come true, the trend between now and then is UP.  Think about it. How many times have you gone to a website from your smart phone only to realize it’s clunky and you cannot navigate through the site easily? How long do you stay on that website? How often do you return? Using that same philosophy, now think about what tablet users will do if they hit your website and it’s not tablet ready. With more and more consumers using the Internet from their tablets, it’s critical that you take some time to update your website as soon as possible.

Do’s and Don’ts for Creating a Tablet Ready Website

Now that you realize how critical it is to create a tablet ready website, let’s go over some Do’s and Don’ts. Let’s start with the Don’ts.

If you’re doing the following, your website is not tablet ready:

  • Don’t include Flash if you want your website to work on iPad.
  • Don’t have too many clickable areas (links, etc.) too close to one another. Make sure your navigation is easy to find and easy to interact with.
  • Don’t have too much media cluttering your site. Photos and videos are great, but too many on any given page can make the site looked cluttered and could possibly even cause loading issues.

In order to make sure your website is tablet friendly, here are a few things that you can do:

  • Access your current website from a tablet to see where the hang ups are, what looks good and what doesn’t, and what the overall experience is. Take notes and brainstorm ideas for making your website function better on tablets, while maintaining its functionality for laptops and desktop computers.
  • Add more “on the go” content and information. One of the biggest advantages of tablets are that they can come everywhere with you. Tablet users are mobile and that could mean that they are looking for more “mobile-related” content. Think links to Google Maps, your contact information, etc.
  • Make sure your website font can be easily read from a tablet. Glare and lighting, as well as, a smaller screen size can make certain websites hard to read from a tablet. Usually laptops and desktops are set up and used inside and in well lit areas. Again, tablets are mobile which means lighting is going to be an issue more often for tablet users. Update your website font style, color, and size if you need to.

Following the steps above will help you get started updating your website to be more tablet friendly.

Example Websites that Have Become Tablet Friendly

Tablets have acquired several versatile usages, including reading

Tablets have acquired several versatile usages, including reading

Image Source

In just under 2 years, the release of Apple’s iPad has created an unimaginable amount of change across a multitude of industries. With more and more people surfing the Internet on tablets like iPad, more and more businesses are taking notice. Here are a few examples of big companies who have made their website tablet ready.

  • – In 2011 Amazon made a huge push into the mobile space with the release of their Windowshop iPad app and with their new look website. Brennon Slattery of PCWorld commented, “the new look and feel of screams tablet. It has a lot more white space, the messy sidebar on the left is gone, the search bar is enlarged for touchscreen fingertip use, and the product photos are easily clickable icons”.
  • Utah Government – Last August the state of Utah released an updated tablet ready website to make interacting with their website easier for tablet users.
  • Nike – Nike has updated their website to fully take advantage of the tablet interface. Nike’s website is one of the very best examples of a tablet ready website.

As this new tablet trend gets a little old we are going to see more and more businesses begin to overhaul their website to ensure tablet users can easily navigate and interact with their website.

Tablet Ready WordPress Themes

Are you running WordPress for your website? If so, then you’re very familiar with WordPress themes. There are millions of free and paid version of WordPress themes out there for you to choose from. That said, as of today, there aren’t a ton of WordPress themes that will allow you to have a website that looks good on laptops and tablets. If you’re running WordPress and want a theme that you can install in order to create a tablet ready website, here are a few good ones to choose from:

  • Onswipe – Make your blog look beautiful on tablet web browsers in under 3 minutes.
  • MobilePRO – A beautiful professional WordPress theme for mobile devices. However, it looks great on any computer screen.
  • Mobility – An iPad-ready WordPress theme with finger sliding capabilities and a custom drag-and-drop gallery admin.

Tools and Resources to Create a Tablet Ready Website

Converting your website into a tablet friendly environment sooner rather than later is something that can separate you from your competitors. We will end this article with links to various resources and tools that you might want to check out if you want to take advantage of the Tablet Revolution and create a tablet ready website.

Pressly automatically lets you beautify your online publications

Pressly lets you beautify your online publications

  • Pressly automatically makes online publications as beautiful and touchable as native apps when visited on tablet web browsers.
  • For anyone looking to learn a little more about what the future holds for Tablet e-Commerce I highly recommend checking out Zmags recently released ebook entitled, “Mobile and Tablet e-Commerce: Is Anyone Really Ready?”.
  • Learning HTML5 would be a great skill to have if you’re thinking of making your website more tablet ready. Todd Anglin said, “virtually all modern devices with a web browser have broad support for the technologies defined by HTML5, like Video, Geolocation, Offline Apps, Local Storage, and CSS3 styling, making them the perfect target for aggressive HTML5 development.

Now that you have more information on why it’s some important for you to update your website tablet ready design and navigation, do you think it’s something that you’ll make a priority over the next 6 – 12 months? At the very least, open your website on a tablet to see what it looks like and how easy it is to navigate. Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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

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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

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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!

March 22 2012


What is Pro Bono Work and Why Should You Embrace It

Few weeks ago I wrote an article where I torn Spec work apart. There is no reason in going back and I think I should do as promised and explain why I think pro bono work is something you should do to help you build up a portfolio if you are new to the design business and to give a helping hand to different communities.

Pro bono work comes from a Latin phrase and is mostly used to describe professional work delivered voluntarily and without payment or at a highly reduced fee. Pro bono work is increasing in popularity lately in domains such as marketing, technology and yes, web design. Such a concept offers the specific skills of a professional for free to someone who is not able to afford them otherwise. The main difference between Spec work and pro bono work is that pro bono work is usually for a good cause and even if you don’t get paid, it will definitely bring you awareness and allow you to build up a portfolio and earn experience. The reason behind me preferring pro bono work instead of spec work is that it is usually for a good cause. We designers love the nature, optimistic and energetic volunteers and good causes like charity. Why not work for them and earn their respect rather than do Spec work and (most of the time) earn nothing?

We sometimes feel like helping somebody in need of our services and only ask for a trackback or a modest fee. If you really need to build up a portfolio in the beginning of your design career, doing this kind of work for non-profit organizations or charities is a win-win situation. You help them and, in exchange, you have your work online and will also feel better about yourself. It must feel better helping NGOs battling for disadvantaged children, disaster victims, people with special needs or poor people than doing work for a who-knows-who and not get paid for it, right?

Pro bono also means you have a big responsibility. It means providing fully professional results, not something done while watching your favorite show or while you wait for the train. You will not get paid for it in most cases, but you still need to be professional. Not only for the sake of your portfolio, but also for the sake of the organization you help. Only deliver designs you would normally deliver to people who would pay. I know it sounds difficult and does not make too much sense – why would you submit free high-quality work instead of asking for money for it?

Well, not all of us have a reputation that every company would be glad to fill our pockets for a redesign. When you start working in the business you will understand you need experience – and how else will you get it? I have knowledge of companies looking at people’s previous work and digging for pro bono publico. Why? Because it says a lot about you. It shows your passion for this business. It shows money may be on the low end, but you will always be there for the client and will deliver high-quality work. It shows integrity. It shows just the right qualities.

All design jobs I had when I was a lot younger were pro bono or poorly paid. I mostly did it for fun and to learn. I was proud of my work. I wouldn’t be proud of it today, but back then I was thrilled to be able to deliver friends and local charities their own website. I had no problem working for free and this helped me a lot. Sure, I was not older than 15 and money issues were not pressuring me; fair enough, I give you that one. On the other side, what was in it for me if I was starting to ask for money? Just think about this yourself, would there have been any chance for a 14-year-old without a bit of experience in the business?

Image by mrszooropa.

Is pro bono equal to volunteerism?

Many think so. I doubt it, however. I also volunteer in my spare time and it is quite different from undertaking pro bono work. The main difference is that while volunteerism means providing something for free, pro bono means acting as a professional, having client meetings, providing drafts, changing, providing another draft, changing again, getting the green light and so on. It is like in the real world. Pro bono is a playground for the real business. It is where we experiment with our techniques and skills. It is where we act as professionals although we are not paid – we only do it because of our desire to help.

Pro bono involves getting familiar with the client, the community you will provide for, their volunteers and their needs. Pro bono for a local charity means getting involved.

Image by twestival.

Another difference between pro bono and volunteerism is that pro bono leads sometimes to paid work. If the local charity will need a poster, a more professional website or an advertising campaign and will have money for it, whom do you think they will turn to first?

How to choose?

It depends a lot on the area where you live. There are a lot more charities in Chicago then in a small city outside of the Ukraine capital Kiev. But providing you live in an area with lots of them, choosing a local charity or a non-profit organization to do some pro bono for might be tricky.

I heard lots of opinions about doing pro bono from more experienced designers and developers. I think there should be several reasons behind doing it, not only one. You should not only do pro bono in order to improve your portfolio and your skills, because let’s face it, all of us like to help. This is a good way to show your support and make a charitable contribution. If you find at least one of these reasons being enough for you, then you should undertake pro bono work. Why we do it is not as important – charities and organizations will appreciate our help anyway.

The search for a suitable organization might be long. Try to choose something that fits you, something that you like. If you like dogs, you will most likely be more excited about doing a website for an animal shelter than for an Elderly Home. Keep in mind that money is out of this equation and the only thing that can make you run and keep you still wanting to help is working for a cause which is close to you. Your main goal is to find a charity or an organization whose agenda and goals match your own. You need to feel passionate about a group’s cause in order to do professional pro bono for them.

Another thing you should remember is that many of these organizations already have their own websites on the internet, therefore think of upgrades, tweaks and redesigns instead of new web pages.

Another piece of advice would be to start locally. I say this because getting in contact with volunteers and clients will be much easier if they are located 10 minutes from your home, than if they are placed somewhere 10 hours away. Also, don’t forget that larger organizations probably have lots of sponsors and already own a website or have what they already need.

Image by sarah_dr.

Finding the right client should take some time, but it shouldn’t be a tremendous effort. You can start looking for the following:

  • Religious organizations or churches
  • Adoption agencies
  • Community projects
  • Community theaters and playhouses
  • Public school projects
  • Private and public after-school programs
  • Academic organizations
  • Political organizations
  • Food banks and other aid distribution organizations
  • Disease research groups

This is a just a list out off the top of my head. There should be many more out there and a simple Google search will probably reveal hundreds or thousands more from you to choose from.

What’s in for you?

Besides the things we already talked about, there is something else for you as well in pro bono work. Besides polishing your skills and padding your portfolio, earning some promotion is also on the table. Because there is nothing else they can offer, many NGOs will allow you to post a link of your portfolio on their website. They also have large networks and as said earlier, pro bono might result in paid work for you somewhere in the future. And not only the organizations have a network, but also the volunteers and people involved. Imagine what kind of viral marketing you can get from a group of 500 people in your small city.

Bottom line

So yes folks, this is why I think you should embrace pro bono instead of Spec work. If you read both my articles it should be more than enough to convince you that doing something for a specific community is worth much more than doing something for an unknown person that is highly unlikely to pay you.

Until next time… what do you think about pro bono? Is there a clear difference between it and Spec work or you still consider both as being under the same umbrella? Have you ever undertaken pro bono work?

December 10 2011


14 Wiki CMS To Help You Build Your Own Wikipedia

Wikis are a rare breed of websites – we all would agree on that. Designing a portfolio, corporate blog or any such website is an entirely different concept from designing wikis. When it comes to wikis, not only does the website ‘rise’ in terms of its size, but also in terms of complexity. Wikis need to be so designed that the finished website does not look clumsy or unorganized – no matter how much data it has, and at the same time is simple enough for even the most novice user to understand. Following that, and perhaps most importantly, wikis need to be edited not by an individual but an entire community – again, simplicity and ease of use come into play!

Content Management Systems meant for wiki websites, too, like wiki sites themselves, need to strike the right balance between robustness on one hand and ease of use on the other. In this article, we take a look at some of the most popular wiki CMSs out there!

1. MediaWiki

Who doesn’t know Wikipedia? MediaWiki is used by Wikipedia as well as many other projects of Wikipedia’s parent organization Mediawiki Foundation. If you’re looking for a CMS for your wiki website, MediaWiki should be your safest bet! Not only is the CMS powerful, it is also very versatile and is ideal for any sort of wiki website.



2. DokuWiki

DokuWiki is meant for developer workgroups, collaborating teams and small enterprises. As a CMS, it restricts itself mainly to documentation websites. The syntax is powerful and creation of structured texts is simple. Further more, DokuWiki does not need any database to run on as it stores all its data in plain files.



3. PhpWiki

PhpWiki is another versatile wiki CMS. Unlike DokuWiki, it uses databases to store the information and is therefore, a slightly bulkier CMS. If you are looking for a nimble wiki CMS, PhpWiki might not suit your purpose. However, overall the CMS is a worthy competitor to all the others in the game.



4. PmWiki

PmWiki attempts to bring the WYSIWYG approach to wiki websites. In general, you do not have to employ extensive knowledge of HTML in order to develop a website using PmWiki. Indeed, such features make PmWiki ideal for users who are not well-versed in HTML. On the downside, PmWiki’s update frequency has been erratic in the past.



5. TikiWiki

TikiWiki is known to offer many features ‘out-of-the-box’, such as setting permission levels for even the home page. It is loaded with numerous features, many of which might leave even the most experienced user overwhelmed. Currently standing at version 8.1 (stable), TikiWiki is a very popular CMS for wiki sites. It also features a bug/issue tracker mechanism as well as native support for RSS feeds and Calendar/Productivity addons.



6. WikkaWiki

While WikkaWiki may not be known due to its modest feature set, it is one of the swiftest CMSs coded in PHP to date. Its speed and ease of use are remarkable, and if you plan to create a small wiki site that may not require heavy CMSs, you should consider WikkaWiki as an option. It uses MySQL databases to store information.



7. JAMWiki

JAMWiki is a JAVA clone of MediaWiki. Thus, it uses the same syntax as MediaWiki and is one of the leading wiki CMSs coded in JAVA.



8. Enterprise Wiki

Confluence Enterprise Wiki is an enterprise CMS that targets teams, workgroups and other collaborative entities. It is a paid CMS – for a website with 11-25 users, you’ll have to shell out $800. You can also opt to host it on their servers, for a monthly hosting fee. In any case, Confluence is an option mainly for enterprises and is definitely not the CMS for your not-for-profit website.

Confluence Enterprise Wiki

Confluence Enterprise Wiki

9. Canvas ColdFusion Wik

Canvas ColdFusion Wiki is a CMS built using Model-Glue. It keeps track of all the editing and revisions performed on each page and is a decent CMS for teamwork.

Canvas ColdFusion Wiki

Canvas ColdFusion Wiki

10. XWiki

XWiki offers a generic platform for developing wiki websites. It is built using JAVA and is licensed under the LGPL open source license.



11. TiddlyWiki

TiddlyWiki is a unique concept in its own right. In fact, it is not even a full-fledged CMS. It is a single file, that brings to you all the characteristics and functionality of a wiki (including the style sheets, editing, saving, searching, tagging, etc.). Since it is nothing more than a single file, it comes with the added advantage of portability – you may upload it on your web server, copy it on to your USB drive or email it to your friends.



12. DekiWiki

MindTouch DekiWiki is another enterprise solution. It aims to boost the productivity and efficiency of enterprises by offering a simple and non-interfering CMS.

MindTouch DekiWiki

MindTouch DekiWiki

13. ScrewTurn Wiki

Don’t let the name fool you! ScrewTurn Wiki is a fast, powerful and simple ASP.NET wiki engine. It is free and open source (commercial licenses are also available). The installation process is straight-forward and ScrewTurn Wiki has also been localized into multiple languages.

ScrewTurn Wiki

ScrewTurn Wiki

14. TWiki

TWiki is an enterprise collaboration platform and knowledge management solution. It is a structured wiki CMS that can act both as a groupware solution or a collaborative resource over the internet or intranet. TWiki’s niche lies in the fact that it is backed by a massive gallery of plugins/extensions.



With that, we come to the end of this round-up. If you’ve used any/all of the above CMSs, do share your experiences with us!

November 22 2011


Showcase Of Small But Useful Content Management Systems

There are lots of Content Management Systems on the internet and sometimes it might be difficult to choose one of them. Sure, WordPress is leading and Blogspot is following on the second place, but what if you want to have something else? If you are one of the ones who needs an advice, then this article should be perfect for you. Today we take a look at popular CMS all over the web and describe them so that you know which one fits you best. Although I could write about them, I would rather skip WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Blogspot, because everybody knows about them and I do not think they need descriptions.

1. Expression Engine

Expression Engine is one of those CMS that is easy to use. Within few minutes of testing it, you will already know the basic functions and will be able to play with them right away. This CMS is very flexible and creating content should be much more than easy. The templating system shows you immediately the changes you make and the last-generation caching system minimizes the database usage, which means faster loading times not only for you, but also for your visitors. Another advantage Expression Engine offers is the option to embed and run PHP directly in the templates, similar to the widgets from WordPress.

Expression Engine allows you to have multiple sites with just one installation. The caching system I was telling you about earlier keeps the site running fast because it stores database queries in the memory and reduces the database connections when web pages are generated. The license has to be paid only once and ranges from $99 for the “Freelancer” pack to $299 for the largest pack.

2. Business Catalyst

Business Catalyst is an Adobe product considered to be very powerful for developers. Basically it is also for content publishing, but has many other features such as e-mail marketing and site analytics. The analytics are maybe one of the most interesting features, thanks to the depth of the information the user gets, such as customer’s actions. The CMS lets you build and manage a customer database (which is feature most of the other CMS lack) and allows you to sell your products online. Unlike many other CMS, Business Catalyst can easily be integrated with PayPal, Google Checkout and other pre-integrated payment gateways.

The main difference between Adobe’s CMS and other ones is that Business Catalyst focuses much more on online businesses than on blogs. If you want to have a blog, then Business Catalyst is not the way to go. However, if you have products you want to sell, you can skip a lot of coding and stress by going with this option, because it is probably the best one out there. You can create a custom HTML/CSS layout, upload it and then integrate the available modules into it  - it can’t be easier. Adobe offers five types of monthly licenses for Business Catalyst, ranged between $9 and $79.

3. Cushy CMS

For Cushy CMS you don’t have to pay anything, because it comes free of charge. You can, however, go pro for $28 per month, but you have pretty much what you need if you are a beginner in the free version. Cushy is very similar to WordPress in this matter. If you go for the free version you have only very basic features available and will not be able to upload your own logo, change colors, use your domain name, customize the themes and others.

The main advantage of Cushy is that is simple and you do not require PHP, or any other programming language to use it. Cushy produces as well standards compliant, search engine friendly content. Another advantage is that the server space is unlimited even with the free version.

4. Contao

Formerly known as TYPOlight, Contao changed its name in June 2010 and is an accessible open source CMS that enhances functionality. There is no CMS in the world that can compare itself with WordPress in terms of plugins and extensions, but Contao does its best efforts with a large database of useful plugins available for everybody. There are hundreds of additional modules which are easy to install and customize and there are also lots of templates available.

The downside of Contao are exactly the custom templates which have to be bought and for which you might need to know some CSS, because they definitely need to be customized to fit your needs. The templates are not great and if you look to create a visual impact but don’t have design and coding knowledge, Contao might not be the best choice.

5. Radiant CMS

Radiant CMS is based on Ruby on Rails and has a very active community for support and updates. Radiant focuses on making everything user-friendly for everybody and offers flexible templates which can be customized right after installation. Radiant features a very good and flexible site structure, custom text filters and page caching. It is not full of plugins and modules, but it gets the job done. Moreover, the CMS is free of charge.

6. SilverStripe

SilverStripe is another open-source application written with the use of PHP. It has many configurable options and targets websites with a lot of content, because it is very easy to manage it. Built on the Saphire framework, SilverStripe offers very good SEO support and allows users to customize the administration area too, which is quite rare nowadays.

The downside of SilverStripe are the default layouts, which are pure basic templates, but as long as you know some design, customizing them should not be a problem. You might also find some custom templates on the internet and spare some time designing yourself.

7. Textpattern CMS

Textpattern is a relatively popular Content Management System due to its simplicity. It provides great tools and allows users to create content very easy, quick and according to web standards-compliant pages. There is not a WYSIWYG editor included, because the CMS uses textile markup for content generation, which means text is automatically generated into HTML (this option is available in WordPress as well, so you should be used to it). The administration panel is very easy to use and follow.

Textpattern comes free of charge as well and allows many things such as layout editing, file and image upload, plugin installation, SEO tools, subscribing features and a big support team which continuously improves the platform.

8. Alfresco

Alfresco is very easy to install and lets you convert files into documents. Alfresco might be a bit more difficult to get used to, but if you put some time into it, in the end it will pay off. Alfresco is not that much for beginner bloggers, but targets developers much more. Don’t get me wrong, this CMS is very flexible and usable and the administration panel is organized, maintained and easy to navigate through, it just takes a bit more time to get used to it. Alfresco is an open-source product as well.

Tips on choosing the perfect CMS for you

After reviewing these CMS, you probably have a difficult choice in choosing one of them, therefore I thought of sharing some tips with you very fast. First time you have to think what your needs are. If you are business oriented and want to sell something, Adobe Business Catalyst is probably the only choice, although it might be a bit pricey. The rest of the CMSs reviewed here are for bloggers, although Expression Engine might be a bit too expensive, so try to avoid it if you only do this for passion and don’t plan on getting serious with it.

You also have to think how intuitive and easy to use the system is and how good the GUI interface looks. If the administration panel is difficult to use, then why should you choose that one? In the end, the administration panel is the place where you will spend 95% of your time.

Think also if the CMS is flexible enough and allows you to use plugins or modules. And make a short research before choosing one of them and see if the available plugins and modules are enough for you. If the CMS is not extensible, I personally don’t consider it worthy to be chosen.

In case you are a developer, this tip might not be for you, but if you are a blogger only, or maybe a front-end designer, would you feel comfortable to have to edit or PHP pages/modules? If not, then choose a CMS that doesn’t force you to do this. If it is too complex it might not be for you.

Other important thing you should consider is the security. I am aware of the fact that the largest CMS in the World, WordPress, has security issues all the time, but at least they try to work on them. There is no perfect CMS if we take a look at their security, but hey, this is the internet today, there is not that much you can do. However, it is a good to make a bit of research and see which CMS is the most secure.

Find out if the system is optimized for speed and performance, like Expression Engine is, and then look into the documentation and support. At some point in time you might need some help and it is important to have a place where you know you can find answers.

With this last tip I put an end to this article. I hope all the small, but very good and interesting CMS I’ve reviewed today look interesting to you and I hope this article helps you a bit in the process of choosing your next Content Management System.


Earlier today Salman talked about Pligg, a Social Networking CMS for people who want to create a website like Digg and Reddit. Also included are 20 examples of how Pligg is used. Be sure to check it!

September 17 2011


Best Approach to Mobile Website Design

We’ve heard 2011 being many times named as the year of the mobile web, although the last couple of years we heard this association many times. As technology advanced, so did the mobile phones, which we call smartphones today. The internet usage increases every month and the tablets and smartphones start being adopted by every family. 53.6 million people in Japan access the internet from a mobile phone per month, which is almost as much as the users who access the internet from a PC. In the United States around 20 million users use Facebook to check-in every month, so the number of people who access the internet has to be somewhat bigger. According to different sources, the number tends to get past 100 million users monthly. Nobody expected this to happen 10 years ago, but here it is. Therefore the developers have more work to do now with so many companies asking for their own mobile website.

In this article we will focus on a user-centered approach of the mobile webdesign which became popular in the last couple of years. With smartphones having a narrow screen, limited space and less keys, the mobile webdesign is quite different compared to the classic one, for computer screens.

On-going cycle

There are many steps from the idea of a mobile website to actually having one. The user-centered mobile design cycle has five different phases, which we will take a look at soon. The phases are: Analyze the situation, Understand the users and their needs, Prioritize the features, Design the website, Review, testing and refining. This cycle is ongoing on a long-term basis and never ends. Several months after the official launch you might find yourself in the situation that you need to start the process again. As a matter of fact, this happens in web design as well, with companies redesigning their websites/portfolios very often due to analyzing the situation again and realizing things need to be improved.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each phase and see why each one of them is important in its own way.

1. Analyze the situation

Analyzing the situation starts with the following question: “Do I really need a mobile website now?“. It sounds silly and for most of you might not be relevant, but companies have to ask themselves this question. Not only is a mobile website going to cost several hundreds of dollars, but it requires research and, as we mentioned earlier, a lot of ongoing work. If the company does not have a design department to maintain it, a mobile website might become useless or ineffective in a few months. What you have to do is to find out if your website is accessed from many mobile platforms. You can simply do this by checking your stats in Google Analytics or any other tracker.

Do you need a mobile website?

Image Source:

It is not a bad idea to see how the competition is doing in the field. Don’t forget you are not alone in the market and these small details might make the difference at some point in time.

When you created a desktop website, you had some clear ideas in mind: you wanted to raise awareness, to increase the sales and get your company beyond the borders of your town, region or country. Think about whether the mobile website would do good for you and your company. Otherwise why bother to design one if you don’t get anything in return?

If you don’t see any reason for creating a separate mobile site, then just optimize your site for mobile devices (e.g. images size) or install a plugin if you run WordPress. Banks and online shops need a mobile website, there is no doubt about this, but I doubt you need a mobile website if you own a clothing manufacturing company. Big companies like IKEA, Burger King or Mercedes do not have mobile websites, because they consider there’s no need for one right now. So think twice about it, if these huge companies do not have a mobile website (and it’s not because they have money issues), would one bring you some advantages?

Now if you still think you want to go through with this, then let’s go to the second phase and get closer to the user and how should we please him.

2. Understand the users and their needs

The whole web design process is user-centered, because the user is the one whom we create a website for. Mobile web design is the same. To achieve the best results you have to understand the needs of your users. This is one of the difficult parts, because everything starts from here. If you get this wrong, the whole solution will fail. The research can be concluded through observation (how the user interacts with your page, what are the main things he is interested in), interviews (quizzes) and focus groups (form of research in which the interviewed is represented by a group).

Understand user's needs

Image source: BBC UK

Some of the main questions you need an answer to are:

  • Why do they (want to) access your webpage from a mobile phone?
  • What features are they mainly using?
  • What is important for them when browsing on the go?
  • What is it they do not like when browsing from mobile?
  • What devices, browsers or applications they use to access the web from a mobile device?

After having the answer to these questions, what you still have to do is to research the market. Now you have a good understanding of your users, but you need to know how to design in order to maintain your solution within the popular trends. Opera’s State of the Mobile Web, comScore, Forrester, eMarketer and others are good places to do your research.

3. Prioritize the features

After you conclude the research, you’ll probably have found out what features your users are accessing the most. This and the other answers gave you an insight of what is it you have to feature in your mobile solution. The reason why you can’t just insert all the features from launch is because you might not be able to handle maintaining all of them. Don’t forget, it all requires effort, money and time. Try not to build everything from the beginning and stick to the most important features, then if everything works well there’s always more place on the web for the rest of your ideas.

Prioritize features

Image Source:

While we have this figured it out, let’s move to the most interesting part.

4. Design the website

This next phase can be considered a short guide to mobile web design. When you design a site for the desktop, you use some basic rules you’ve learned when you first arrived in this business. Well, it is exactly the same with the mobile websites, only there are some other rules. There are lots of mobile design considerations you need to think of and we take a look at the most important right now.

One of the most important differences is the context the user is accessing a website from. When he uses the desktop version, a user most probably sits in his own chair at home, with maybe a cup of coffee, listening to music and chatting at the same time. This is comfort. When a user browses from a mobile phone, the context is different. He is probably on a bus or train, maybe even at work in a meeting or on their lunch break, probably trying to multitask while viewing your site on a small device that has a narrow screen with a small font. Now that’s a big difference.

After using different considerations, we can come up with three main reasons why people browse with smartphones: microtasking (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), boredom (playing games, listening to radio) and activities related to the social, offline life (finding shops or restaurants nearby, checking reviews). Besides these, the basic things that need to be taken into consideration are the following:

Design for smaller screen

Remember that the mobile web design is designed on a big screen. It is definitely not easy to make everything perfect when working like this. There are so many screen sizes out there for computers, but there are even more for mobile phones. Almost every smartphone manufacturer has its own preferred screen sizes or resolutions. Even the iPhone 4, one of the smartphones with a big screen, is tiny in comparison with a default setting of 1024 x 768 for a desktop screen. Moreover, some phones are able to change orientation and the website has to change accordingly. No computer screen changes orientation, so this is actually something new for developers.

Image Source:

The best solution is to opt for flexible layouts that will adapt for smaller and larger screens. The easiest way of doing this is having a wrapper with sizes given in percents, not in pixels. Furthermore, every little detail in the HTML has to be given in percentages and not in pixels to make sure the layout is flexible. This way the website will look the same on screens of 150px width or 200px width. Also, depending on the mobile platform, there are different groups of users sorted by the browser they have. It can be Safari, Opera Mini, Nokia WebKit (only for Europe), Android WebKit or BlackBerry WebKit. All these browsers have their own problems and do not support different kind of languages, although all of them support CSS 2 and soon CSS 3 as well.

Simplify the navigation

There is no mouse on phones, therefore the developers have to focus on the navigation a bit more. Upon the small screen, users also rely on touch, trackballs and keypads to click and navigate, so the experience is very different compared to the one on a PC. Information and main features are usually presented on several lines (as you will be able to see at the end of this article), because most of the mobile screens have a larger height than width, therefore it is also more vertical space to work with. The most important features usually come first, because the user might have to scroll down to see the last ones. The numbers of categories, links and levels of navigation have to be reduced as much as possible.

Although not many websites do this, providing key shortcuts (0-9) to access different links might be very useful as well. CNN did this a while ago, although we do not know how well it worked out. Because people have to navigate by touching most of the time, make sure the height and width of the buttons are proper. If you have three buttons in row with a width and height of 15px it might be difficult to tap the one in the middle. Do not use pixels, but percentages! There is a big difference between a button with a width of 30px on a 250px wide screen and one with the same width on a 150px wide screen.

Your mobile website needs to make an immediate impact, therefore try to make the links as visible as possible (see CBS News’ website). Always offer a link to the full-sized webpage, because if a user is on a wireless connection he should be able to visit the main website if he wants. I usually use the footer for this link. Because navigation isn’t as deep and difficult, there is no need for breadcrumbs to use space.

CBS News Mobile Website
CBS News Mobile Website

Prioritize information

Because there is not much space, you have to be concise and only type in the important information. The reason behind you linking to the master webpage is for users who are interested in finding more information about you and your company. There is no reason for you to fill paragraphs with useless information, because the mobile webpage is for presentation only. You don’t sell from there and the main reason behind it is to bring in more clients. You gave them a “teaser”, a chance for finding more (the full-sized webpage), now it is their move.

Minimize user input

Because the user is not in front of his keyboard, it is also a good idea to help him a bit. Keep the URL as everybody else does ( or If the user requires registration, narrow the fields as much as possible. Instead of asking for city and state, ask for the ZIP and there you go, one field less to type in! Also, make use of the geolocation if you can feature it. Use smart features, such as remembering the latest data input. Applications related to transport usually remember the last stations the users typed in. It is a bit different with the websites, but try it. Moreover, offer the possibility to stay signed in.

Keep the usage low

Even if today we have 3G speeds and wireless connections, users in some countries still pay for each bit of data they use. Therefore don’t insert too many images (or at least not high-quality ones), keep the page small, cut unnecessary code, comments and optional tags.

Furthermore, you can use a script to detect if users visit your homepage from a mobile device. If this is the case, simply redirect them to the mobile website. Flash, JavaScript, cookies, HTML5, frames and pop-ups do not work on mobile phones yet, so do not rely on them. You will probably need to make your users scroll, but only do it one way. Most websites scroll vertically, do not make the users scroll in both ways.

5. Review, testing and refining

After you are done with these four phases, you still have a small step until the official launch: you need to test your solution. This does not take too much time, but it is another important step, because releasing a product with bugs might make you lose clients or visitors, in our case. Double check the code (it would be a good idea to do it by W3C’s standards) and try to use your mobile website on a smartphone, because mobile phone emulators are good, but not entirely precise. Ask your friends to offer you their smartphones for short 10 minutes tests and make sure everything is in place. Otherwise go back to phase 4 and refine the website until it works perfectly.


As discussed earlier, this is an ongoing cycle, so you will have to make improvements all the time. They can be updates, new features or a whole, from scratch, redesign, but always try to offer something new to the users. Try to track your mobile website visitors and observe their behavior. If they spend way too much time on your site, it is probably because it is too heavy and it loads slow. If they spend next to no time, it is because you can’t catch their attention immediately. Track your users and determine your website’s strong and weak points and refine them.

Conclusion and examples

There are so many things to talk about on this topic, but we will stop here. I think we’ve covered enough for one day and, as all the basic information has been given out, I am sure now you know more about how to approach the design process of a mobile website. Here you can see a showcase of several mobile websites designed very intelligently and featured the way they should be.

1. Yellow Pages

Yellow Pages

2. Walmart


3. Vimeo


4. Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor

5. Flickr


6. Digg


7. DeviantART


8. CW TV


9. Amazon


Further sources on this topic

Tips to design iPhone apps and webpages

Mobile webdesign trends of year 2009 (this may be a bit old, but many elements still apply today)

Tips and best practices for mobile webdesign

Is there something else you would like to add? Do you have other opinions about this process or is it maybe something you do not agree with?

June 26 2011


Traits Every Small Business Website Should Have

There is always vast room for improvement with any website, and small business websites are no exception. With the phone book a communication tool of the past, establishing a solid online presence is at the forefront of a lot of small businesses.

If you’re a small business owner, your website is a pivotal part of your marketing and branding, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s integral to not just focus on appearance – but usability – as this will play a major role in how long your customers stay around.

In this article I will address the areas that factor into whether a small business website is ultimately successful or not.  Pay careful attention to these areas in your next design for a small business, as they will reap benefits for your clients in the long run.

Articulate Your Mission

In today’s society buzz words are a thing of the past. Freely express your vision for your business with the world on your website. You can start by asking yourself (or your client) these three questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who are your potential customers?
  3. How can you tell your potential customers who you are?

After answering these three questions your can begin to develop a creative strategy for your website that will ultimately make it more effective. These questions hold the key to making marketing decisions, branding your business, building fierce loyalty within your customer base, and a lot more.

You’ll find mission statements for some well-known companies here.

Keep these tips in mind in creating copy for your site:

  • Employing overly sophisticated language or industry-specific jargon could confuse, isolate, and frustrate clients. Use words you would use when speaking to someone in person.
  • Read your marketing material to a child in late elementary or middle school. Do they understand your product? If not, what did you need to tell them before they did?

A Call to Action

You’ve spent hours upon hours designing a beautiful website for your clients, complete with custom illustrations and a flashy new slideshow, but your client isn’t getting any new business. A fundamental error of many small business websites is they fail to include a clear Call to Action. If you aren’t leading users to commit to an action (buy a product, contact you or subscribe, for example), then you are losing them.

You may have spent a lot of time driving traffic to your client’s website, ultimately to only have these customers not convert into new business. If a call to action is a small link buried in a sea of text, it’s easy to see how these customers got away. To achieve a business’ goals, creating a successful call to action to guide users where they need to be should be at the forefront of your web design check list.

The call to action button above is placed in a prominent location; it’s large and has a distinctive color with respect to surrounding elements. To provide additional context on what it means to “Purchase the book”, the call to action button is followed by text explaining cost and available format (traditional book or PDF).

Keep the following in mind when creating the right call to action:

  • The design of a call to action can be broken down into 4 simple elements —size, shape, color, and position. Each plays a vital part in determining how effective the call to action is in directing the user.
  • Don’t overdo it with multiple call to actions on each page.
  • Provide access to the call to action quickly. Your visitor is most interested in accessing this information as quickly as possible so don’t create any unnecessary hurdles!



We all love a beautiful website, but when that website loads slowly or gets in the way of accessing pertinent information, it’s time for some restructuring. It’s important to address what is the ultimate goal you wish your visitor to achieve in visiting your site. Your site should ultimately draw focus to the content, and all those bells and whistles are just icing on the cake.

Most people won’t read everything on your page, so it’s critical to decide the most important content that needs to be there. This can be achieved through a visual hierarchy that guides the user through the page and creates a more enjoyable user experience.

Here’s an article on Eye Tracking to give you a better idea of how to structure content.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when structuring your content:

  • White space is necessary. Giving your content room to breathe allows the user to focus on the most important aspects on any given page.
  • Break up lengthy blocks of text into digestible blocks. Heading, sub-headings, bullets, blockquotes, and paragraphs are all necessary components of a well-structured website.
  • For every flash animation or widget on your web site, your site’s loading time will increase while your screen real estate decreases.
  • Challenge every item on each page and ask, “Does it really need to be there? Does it serve a specific purpose? Can I live without it?”
  • Crisp layouts, cohesive colors, and well thought-out design elements give off a sense of know-how and experience.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should also be addressed in your overall website strategy. Quality content with legitimate mentions of key words and topics related to your business will help to bring more business your way. What’s best is results are now consisted of all kinds of content, including videos, images, maps, business listings, tweets and even Facebook Page posts.

  • Add a Blog. Search engines love fresh content and if your client updates it regularly, they will experience a distinct SEO advantage. The interactivity also increases the likelihood that potential customers will social bookmark it and share it with their network.
  • Consider creating a YouTube channel. Every video you post to your channel can be tagged and indexed, increasing the odds your brand name will appear in natural searches for keywords associated with your business.
  • Remember to add footer links to every page, use meta description tags, and make each page unique.



MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. In addition to a user-friendly navigation, a prominent call to action button is displayed, encouraging users to get started.

Craft Coffee
Craft Coffee is a coffee discovery service that explains the value it brings to customers as soon as they enter the website. After highlighting their services, they direct users to “Buy a Tasting Box” with one of their highly visible call to action buttons.

Your Web Job
Your Web Job is a hub for job-seeking web professionals — project managers, copywriters, SEO experts, usability folk, social media gurus, and designers and developers — and for those who want to hire them. A call to action button is placed right at the top of the page, encouraging visitors to submit jobs right away.

These simple procedures in web design are just stepping stones on your way to creating a memorable website for your business. These are just a few rules, have you found any others in creating small business websites for your clients?

June 23 2011


20 Reasons Why Your Website Design Sucks Part 2

In 20 Reasons Why Your Website Design Sucks part 1, I’ve started with a short introduction about why clients should be just clients, and why some self-proclaimed web designers shouldn’t be “designing” at all. We then explored important concepts which you need to know before you start designing and planning a website. A thorough knowledge of concepts like balance, white-space, and overflow make the difference between a good and a bad design.

Like the previous article, we’re focusing on another 10 mistakes that can transform your website design into an unpleasant place to be. However, this time I won’t show you extremely bad layouts that make you laugh, we are now on the next level and will focus on bigger mistakes that good designers make.

11) Distracting Animations

A boring design does not bring light to your visitor’s eyes, however, having too much animation on your website brings plenty of downsides to your business. Distracting the user from the purpose of their visit ensures he doesn’t get the message and doesn’t return. If you plan to use animations on your website, make sure they are appropriate for the product you are selling or displaying. After that, make sure it is correctly balanced with your content, so in order to do that, you need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is the first thing you look at when you visit that specific page (animation or content)?
  2. How long it takes to view the entire animation?
  3. Can you read text easily while the animation is playing?

The answer to the first question will probably be the animation, if it’s not you have passed the test and your animation is not disturbing your visits. If the animation is the first thing you see, it means it has a bigger visual impact than your content, and you need to answer the second question. If the answer to the second question is “looping” or “too much”, you have a problem and the answer to the third question will be “no”.

So the rule is simple – the user can’t be distracted while he’s reading, so make sure your animation ends quickly or has a small visual impact.

12) Cross-Browsing

In a perfect world, there would be no IE, people would use the same web browser everyday, and web developers wouldn’t have headaches while coding their websites. However, in the real world, there are hundreds of web browsers and each one renders a website differently.

“Cross-browser refers to the ability for a website, web application, HTML construct or client-side script to support all the web browsers.”

When you start building your website, you simply can’t forget that it will render differently in Firefox than in Chrome or Internet Explorer. So in order to get consistent results on most popular browsers, you need to write clean code and follow the W3C standards.

13) Confusing navigation

Navigation should help the user to navigate your website. If it fails in that purpose, there is no point in calling it navigation. One thing I really hate about it is the need to search for a website’s navigation or the need to figure out how a navigation system works. If you don’t tell the user how to proceed to the next page, he leaves. Your navigation should be consistent, easy to find, and intuitive.

Another thing you should always try to do is to use text instead of symbols. Remember, never ask the user to think.

Confusing Navigation

I actually like’s design, however, there’s a problem with the navigation. The blue text on the right are buttons which can be tricky to identify as such. I had to move my cursor over those elements to figure out they had a little animation while the cursor is over them, telling me that those elements are indeed buttons. If you need to move your cursor over a button to confirm it’s in fact a button, it means your navigation is somehow confusing.

14) Bad use of themes

With the increasing popularity of market places, it’s possible to see more and more amazing themes with great design and functionality, and companies and individuals who buy them as soon as they see one they like. The problem appears when those themes are not suitable to the image of the company, or when they are incorrectly used. I have seen many companies turning great themes into ordinary designs. That amazing design doesn’t always fit that amazing brand, so be careful buying the best-seller theme on Theme Forest.

15) Labyrinth of information

Although this topic title may sound weird to you, it’s a really common mistake which I usually call the labyrinth effect, and in part, it’s also a problem related to usability. There are great websites out there with dramatic content problems. If the user has problems finding information, he will leave and won’t return.

Make sure your information is easily reachable. It is also extremely important to always provide your contact information on every page of your website, and to make sure the user can easily find it.

Labyrinth of information

I really like bitbytebit’s design, but it clearly suffers from the labyrinth effect. Contact information is situated in the middle of the page, hidden among other information squares.

16) Image versus text

Typography is one of the most important elements in web design, and almost the only element that can be used both for aesthetics and text. However, its misuse can make your website bad for both the end-user and also for programmers and web designers. Make sure you choose a font that’s readable and suitable to your target audience, but you can’t also forget about the person who is in charge of the website maintenance. Using images to replace typography can be a huge mistake, especially in big projects or projects that won’t be updated by yourself.

17) Image Optimization

If your website takes too much time to load, you lose visits and probably profit. You already know that you simply can’t resize your image in Dreamweaver or Notepad, right? The image resolution will be smaller (or bigger) but the file size will be the same, so there is no point in resizing that way. You need to resize your image with image editing software like Photoshop or Fireworks. Resizing, however, is not enough – you also need to compress the image. Depending on the image, you should compress it as much as possible, until you start seeing image quality loss. You can compress it using JPEG, PNG or GIF format.

18) Clear Message

The crucial element of a website is the message that’s transmitted to the user which illustrates its purpose, telling the user what the website is all about. The message should be clear and immediately recognized by the user, as soon as he sees the site. One thing you should always have in mind is that the user simply doesn’t care about you or your website, they do care about fulfilling their desires and ambitions which is why they visit your site in the first place – to help the user with his mission.

Clear message

The example above fails to transmit a clear message, or any message at all. I need to click on another button to figure out what the website is about. Remember, the user doesn’t care about you, so if they find another brand with a clear message they won’t think twice to exit your website.

19) No Updates

This doesn’t really make your website suck, but it definitely helps. No one cares about a website that is extremely outdated and whose posts are from 2008. Remember that content is more important than aesthetics, so it is very important to keep your website updated as much as possible. If you have a beautiful website with no useful content, the user will leave and won’t return.

20) Full Dedication

Having a website with 20% of inactive functionalities transmits lack of confidence to the end-user. Building a website requires full dedication and attention from your end. Most of us have an “update list” for each website, where we write that during the next week, the 404 Error Page, or the widget discussed during the first meeting needs to be online. After two weeks, you realize you didn’t have the time to do it,  because you are now with three more projects in hand, and you also noticed that you have yet to finish some minor details in your online portfolio.

Organization is important, but without dedication it loses its value. When you finish a website, try to also finish every item on your “update list”.

June 04 2011


6 Tips For Designing an SEO Friendly Website

It’s not enough these days to design a beautiful, functional website that addresses your clients needs. If you truly want your client to reap the benefits of having an online presence, then SEO is a necessity. Search Engine Optimization is a method of improving the visibility of a website in search engines through organic search results, and is now a viable online marketing tool for a lot of businesses.

Through the following design practices you can improve a website’s SEO and ultimately their visibility. With these foundation in place, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing the website you spent hours designing (and developing) is now a top contender for search engine visibility. You may also find some of these tactics also go far in improving user experience as well.


Keywords are important part of any search engine optimization campaign. If you’re using the wrong keywords, search engines and your target market may never find you. It’s important when starting a website to first establish what the business objectives are. Do you want to target a local area, national or global? With this plan in place you can then build pages that target these specific keywords, or decide where these pages may go down the line once the foundation is built.

The process of creating
1. Create a list of potential keywords (i.e. words that are relevant but not overly-used)
2. Input your proposed keywords into a keyword research tool (i.e. Google Adwords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, Wordstream, etc)
3. Finalize your keyword list based on research (Create a list of both broad and targeted keywords)
4. Prepare them for launch (typically go after 3-4 related keywords per page)


Keyword Placement

For a website to successfully integrate into Google you first must tell us what a particular page is about. It’s important to get keywords on the right position on the page, but don’t overdue it. Here are the best places:

  • Title tag
  • Meta description and keywords
  • Website slogans
  • Navigation
  • Breadcrumb trails
  • H1, H2 and H3 tags
  • Bullet points
  • Alt text
  • Title attribute on links
  • The main website copy
  • Internal links
  • Footer links
  • URL’s
  • File / folder names

Search Engine Friendly Navigation

Having Search Engine Friendly Navigation basically means creating a structure that search engines can follow. A major culprit in search engines not being able to find a website is due to the links being images instead of text. So make sure you address this and all links and buttons are text-based. CSS3 can achieve the same effects that Photoshop can, which has contributed a lot in terms of modernizing the web and speeding up load times. Wherever possible, try to avoid the use of JavaScript, as search engines find it difficult to understand and may result in crawling issues. With the push towards mobile devices supporting the web, using advanced scripting languages on your website won’t fly so well, either.

URL’s and Filenames

Having an SEO-friendly URL means search engines can quickly identify what a page is about. It’s also a good tactic to include keywords in the URL as this increases Search Engine visibility.

An example of a not to friendly URL:

A better, more descriptive URL would be:

As you can see, the second option has a better selection of rich keywords, which will help the search engine in their efforts to index you.

It’s also a good habit to name your images using descriptive keywords. An appropriate filename can be the difference between your image appearing in Google images searches or not. For instance the name “1234.jpg” isn’t going to be as successful as “midcentruy-furniture.jpg” when someone is looking for design inspiration.

Website Images

  • Images are often an overlooked aspect of SEO, but play just an important role in the process.
  • You need to optimize you images to achieve faster loading times and subsequent search engine visibility.
  • Try to keep your images’ file size as small as possible so mobile visitors in addition to those with slow internet connections can get the same intended, fast experience.
  • An optimal image size is anywhere from 30-100kb and the best resolution is 72dpi.
  • You can also set the image size as part of the corresponding tag for the image.
  • It’s best to place your images on context in the page. The more relevant the text around your image, the better results you’ll get for rankings.
  • Place your images inside a folder named “images” or something similar so the final URL of the image looks something like this: /images/image.jpg.

Perfect Website Optimization explains how to incorporate keywords into your alt tag.

Social Media

Social Media should be part of your SEO strategy as building relationships and interacting with connections can help build your brand enormously. Not only that but it gives you exposure and helps build a trusted community and gain credibility.
Link building is perhaps the number one reason to jump on board the Social Media bandwagon: the process of visitors sharing links within their own network can result in a large number of inbound links. In summary, social media can provide an organization with an affordable channel that accomplishes results.

Get started by joining:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg

Additional Resources

This guide by Google is a very helpful guide in learning about SEO.

55 Quick Seo Tips Even Your Mother Would Love.

Monitor where you stand with Google Toolbar and Alexa.


These are a few important ways to ensure your website reaches visibility in search engines. Although there are methods in place claiming you can reach the top spot in Google overnight, nothing is as effective as first having a solid foundation for a website in place first – the rest will fall into place. Of course, nothing can help you sell yourself as much as having a trusted, reliable product or service to begin with but with these measures ensure your online presence is seen. Take inventory of your web marketing goals and use the tools that are most appropriate to achieve the results you’re looking for.

May 24 2011


20 Reasons Why Your Website Design Sucks Part 1

We all have or have heard about those clients from hell, those that really love pink pages with red text. Even worse, what about those people who call themselves “web designers” with expensive prices and services listed on their really messy, horrible and amateur portfolios, just because they made their uncle’s business page and they liked it.

Unfortunately, many people believe that web design is all about personal style and smart IDE’s with pre-built buttons. Let me tell you something – they are wrong. I love to play football, but that doesn’t make me a professional player, and Dreamweaver does not make you a professional web developer. Web Design and development demands knowledge, practice, daily effort to learn and study, and passion, like professional football players.

(Design conventions: Necessary guidelines in order to improve a specific design.)

No matter how good or bad personal style is, the truth is that everyone has one. However, when design conventions are left out of a project, the result will be a bad or uninteresting design. That is exactly what happens with those terrible clients, when they try to implement their personal style without knowing anything about design conventions.

1) Balance

Balance is a basic principle in design. It is directly connected to every element, and helps you control the design flow of your page. There are two important concepts in balance – symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. With Symmetrical Balance, elements have equal weight on both sides, leading to a formal and traditional web site, however, with asymmetrical balance, elements have a different weight which leads to a different and unique layout.

I decided to include this topic because its importance is major in layout design. If incorrectly used, it can lead to the total ruin of your layout.

Above is a good example of asymmetrical balance. Did you notice the “DECO Windshield Repair” text on the right, and the background map image on the left? Although those elements do not have the same weight, it feels perfectly balanced. However, if you hide the text on the right, the page will lose its balance very quickly. Now take a look at the white bottom section, those three columns don’t have the same weight, but it’s perfectly balanced because the left text (“You can’t be everywhere…”) has equal weight as the top right text on the red background.


The result is a “cross balance”, meaning that the weaker and strong elements create a balance between them. I consider this to be of huge importance in asymmetric balance.

The website above fails in so many ways that I could use it as example in the remaining nine topics below, but let’s stay focused on this one. Do you feel the balance? Yes, you are correct, there is no balance. The left side has plenty of images plus a video of the person standing, which results in the left side having more weight than the image on the right.

2) Bevel and Emboss

I had to include this one. It’s really annoying to see the misuse of this layer style. For those who are starting, I understand that you think bevel and emboss is a nice effect and it should be everywhere on your page, but it’s not. Bevel effects should be used sparingly. There are plenty of tutorials on how to transform bevel and emboss into a powerful technique, but if you don’t know how to use it, don’t use it at all.

Bevel and Emboss

3) Distracting Backgrounds

Implementing a busy background distracts the user’s attention, hides important information, and disrespects visual hierarchy. If your background image has a higher visual impact than everything else, users won’t catch the message of your website and will leave quickly.


John Kavanagh’s website makes good use of background images, respecting visual hierarchy and also content information. Reading is left to right, and in this case, the user’s attention follows the buildings on the left towards the Eiffel Tower and London Bridge on the right, consequently leading to navigation (which is not visible in the image). This is a perfect example of how background can be used as a “tool” for design flow.

Distracting background

Above is a perfect example of what not to do with your background.

4) Lack of Detail

If your website sucks, it’s probably because you didn’t care about the minor things. When you think your design is complete, you need to start from the beginning and try to apply detail on every single element. As soon as you finish with detail, you need to start again and consider where it can be improved. A single stroke, light effect, or shadow makes the difference between a good and a great design.


Blackberry’s website is a good example of what you can achieve by spending time with details.


Detail, detail, detail.

Lack of detail

For a company with the size and impact of Microsoft, their website is far from great. It’s definitely a good example of lack of attention and detail.

5) White Space

White space refers to the space between elements, and it does have nothing to do with the color. If you don’t know what I am talking about, stop your design projects and read about this subject – How to Actually Use Negative Space As Design Element. White space defines the space/distance between your site elements, providing good readability, focus, and design flow. It also gives your website a clean and professional look. Clean layout is not the same as minimalist, think about clean as the opposite of cluttered where content is all over the place.

One other thing you should consider is to use the same height between elements, so if you have three divs vertically aligned, and the middle div is 50px from the top div, it should also be 50px from the bottom div. This is not mandatory, but helps you achieve a good balance between elements.


Uberspace’s website makes good use of white-space.


Just looking at the image above, gives me a headache. The quantity of information is overwhelming, but the way it is displayed is even worse. Cluttered information makes the user feel lost and unhappy. Avoid it!

6) Flash Intros

Once upon a time, having a flash intro in your website would make you a web design ninja. There are plenty of great intros out there, and plenty more of really bad attempts. Nowadays, most visitors want quick access to information and when you demand them to wait, they leave. If you want an intro in your website, make sure it has a point, it adds value and that it is well made.

Flash intros

7) Music

So I have my headphones on, I open several tabs, and suddenly I jump from the chair because irritating music starts playing. I then search for the correct tab and when I find it, I search for the mute button and guess what, there isn’t one. I don’t want to mute my speakers so I close the page and I won’t return to that loud place. Loud and boring music coming from your website is really annoying, but not having a way to shut it down, is an exit ticket from your website.


8) Tables

This is a controversial topic, some people defend the use of tables and others not so much.  This topic is not meant to convince you not to use tables, but to use tables when and where you should. Personally, I do not remember the last time I’ve used tables, I simply don’t like it. However, for tabular data, tables are the best choice, since it increases readability and organization.


Shopify’s pricing page is a good example of how great the use of tables can be for tabular data.


Never use tables to style your layout!

9) Colors

The wrong choice of colors can ruin an entire website. Contrast, saturation, types of colors, target audience, style, etc. There are many factors you need to consider when choosing the right colors for your website. If you don’t know where to start, Tina wrote a great article about this subject – Colors in Web Design: Choosing a right combination for your Website. Using too many bright colors, or a similar contrast for your background and foreground elements, or even warm colors along with cool colors, you are basically forcing your visitors to leave.


Color needs to fit perfectly, according to your target audience, style and personality.

If you enter the website above, please be sure to use sunglasses.

10) Overflow

Unless you’re building a website with horizontal layout, showing a horizontal scroll bar is a mistake and looks bad. Make sure your layout is optimized for a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, this way 98% of your visitors will be able to visit your website without problems. If you really want to use a bigger background image, be sure you hide the horizontal scroll bar, using the CSS property overflow-x: hidden.


I hope you have found this article useful. I’m preparing part two, so if you have any suggestions, feel free to make them.

March 10 2011


Cost Effective Services to Help You Launch Your Own Site

Creating a website does not really require you to have all the technical skills to create one. There are various services available, both free and paid, that will be a great help in your website building process. Whether you are a developer, a designer, or neither, you can still have your dream website, all you have to do is read through this guide. This article is primarily for people who have always dreamed about having their own site, but always thought you had to be a tech savvy person to have one. However I will also touch on and explain how to leverage rapid website building possibilities for serious entrepreneurs too! I am sure you’ve been there – you had an amazing new project idea one that you wanted to realize immediately but the painfully long process of website creation took too much time and you lost your excitement or even worse – never launched your website!

If you can relate with anything I’ve written above, then this article will be a great time and life saver for you! I’ll explain several ways to launch a new website for free or extremely cheap! Quality doesn’t need to suffer because you don’t have a few thousand dollars to spend on unique website design coding or extremely cool features. If you’re going to launch a new start-up – it’s always smart to start small, start with just core functions to see how people respond to your creation! Once you see they enjoy it and there is a market, then you can consider seriously investing  some money on improving your site. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money when just you’re just starting out.

With my advice you will be able to create a new website really fast! If you have a great idea you don’t want to have to spend hours working on it before you get to test it in action! Website creation doesn’t need to be a confusing and time consuming process! The main thing is to get your idea out there! Let’s get started!

In this article we’ll focus on:

  1. Basic solutions to launch small projects online for free or really cheap.
  2. Slightly more advanced solutions for entrepreneurs who want to test their new idea fully while spending only a little money on it.

Free Solutions Versus Paid Ones

There’s always certain advantages and disadvantages in everything we do or use, this principle applies to website creation as well. Free options aren’t always bad and paid options aren’t always better. You just have to know what strings to pull to find the best deals on the internet. Well, you won’t need to pull any strings here, because I will share with you the most effective solutions.

Advantages of Free Solutions

Image representing Iconfinder as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Well, if you are on a tight budget (or even better – no budget, just a dream)  you can always count on resources that are offered for free by their creators. There are resources out there that are premium-like in quality but are free. Why free? Don’t they want to see dollars on their bank accounts? Of course they do, but the thing about giving away free softwares, logos, themes and other deliverables is pure marketing to grab attention and gain exposure.  We can seriously benefit from such freebies too regularly searching for premium free resources.

For example, I rarely buy any icons, because there are so many free ones – take FindIcons, IconFinder websites for example.


There are many free resources available but with most of them you’re either going to sacrifice quality, aesthetics and with themes/templates you cannot be sure if  code is well written. If you’re getting something for free, you often cannot expect to receive good support and you cannot expect to receive the highest quality. There’s a quote that goes “if you are good at something, don’t do it for free,” and you guessed it! Beginners and intermediate designers/developers quite often provide free resources because they’re not at the level yet where they can sell everything they design or develop. The good thing about this system is that though they may not make money they build their reputation and potential customer base by providing quality resources for free.

To summarize – yes, there are a lot of amazing free solutions available and some are high quality. While free is good – you can run into problems such as overuse(everyone using the same trendy free pack of social media icons), no brand recognition, looking cheap because without the necessary knowledge you may not use resources as they are intended to be used. My opinion here is that you can surely use free graphic design resources because what you see is what you get! However you should be careful picking up free themes and templates because often they aren’t very well documented or supported and you may encounter unexpected problems as bugs, compatibility issues with different plugins or modifications you will want to do.

I still consider free solutions to be a pretty good starting point if you don’t want (or can’t) spend any money on it. To explore more about free resources and their pros and cons, read this excellent article by Jared – Can Free Design Resources Be Exemplary?

Zilch Experience in Web Dev?

For people who are not into development but want to have a website for a business or for personal use there are many options to choose from, both free and paid. Free themes, free hosting, and free anything has its downsides and would not work for a blog like 1WD or for e-commerce. Good thing the citizens of the information age, and of the internet, are good enough to offer a free taste which can work for both people who have the skill to develop a website and for people with zero experience with such.

Now, there are tons of free services out there which offer good things, but here I will focus on things that I have used firsthand.

The first thing to ask yourself is…what is this site going to be for? What’s your goal? – personal diary, portfolio site, just a fun project, serious blogging project, startup, website to support your application or software you have, forum, e-commerce site? You need to set clear goals at first!

Basic free solutions for beginners : Hosted Websites

This solution is very good if your goal is just to have some internet presence, have a personal diary or you want to build a small community for friends, work colleagues or maybe just a fan club. However I will list the advantages and disadvantages of this solution, because I really do not recommend it if you have any plans to expand. You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve read pros and cons:


  • Well, it’s free or super cheap!
  • Updated automatically – no maintenance issues at all! You don’t have to worry about updates and any compatibility issues
  • Free hosting – you don’t have to worry about your site being online, you don’t have to solve any technical issues
  • Easy to setup and launch – it will take just a few minutes for you to launch such website, no previous experience needed!
  • Search engine friendly – many marketers use those free website solutions to promote their main site! Why? Because usually those big blog platforms have excellent rankings in search engines, you can get ranked extremely fast because of that.


  • Little control over configuration, design and customization – your chances to pick appropriate templates are limited, you can use only a few supported plugins. It’s hard to build/design something that stands out from the crowd there.
  • Very hard to monetize – Well, these sites will be monetized, but not by you! It will be monetized by those big companies who own the site, because they need to cover their own expenses. Basically you’re paying them in both cases – you pay them cash or they earn some cash with ads.
    Image representing Tumblr as depicted in Crunc...

    Image via CrunchBase

  • No branding- many hosted websites will look the same. Your  website will also look cheap because of the ads the hosted website platform will implement automatically.
  • Limited resources – while hosting may be free, many platforms have limitations for bandwidth and space usage. You won’t encounter these problems early on
  • You don’t own the content – this is the most serious one – if one day the site decides to stop working and they change their policies, you could lose your content and it’s usually difficult to transfer to your own website later on.

Ok, now you know some of the things you may deal with if you choose this option!

For hosted blogging platforms I recommend you choose from Posterious, WordPress, Tumblr.

There is also a very interesting Flash website creation solution I encountered some time ago so I am going to talk about it a bit too, because it’s great for beginner users:

Flash or Not?

To help you decide, first you need to know the purpose of your website. Is the purpose to have an online portfolio so that employers and potential clients will see you and be impressed? If  that’s the case, I believe that a flash website is a good choice because it provides flexibility when it comes to creativity. If the goal is to start an online store or a blog it would be best to go for a more dynamic solution, one of my recommendations above may be better suited to your needs.

Flash Website

The good thing about having a flash website is the creative freedom. Colors, effects, and animation is not a problem. A Flash-based website will save you the trouble of learning jQuery and other languages/scripts for added effects. Here’s the rub, if you have a slow internet connection like mine you won’t fully enjoy the website. Opening a light-weight flash website on my end takes up to 30 to 50 seconds. Not fun at all.

There is a free flash website builder, which allows people without any knowledge of programming and designing to come up with a new website via drag and drop. Wait, drag and drop? Yes, that easy. Wix allows its users to create a flash-based website using a very simple process. Trust me when I say that the registration process only took me 5 seconds and I’m good to go with my website. Alright, I’m dropping it now, it’s free. But if you are the meticulous type and serious about it you can always upgrade and have your own domain name.

With Wix you get to choose from a wide selection of free layouts and edit them at your whim. Literally drag and drop, you can manage information with just a few clicks.

See their gallery for a full list of what you can do with Wix.


The quality of the design is amazing, with its wide selection of layouts you can’t help but notice the high quality while most are free to use. Many of the design elements are drag and drop, no programming or designing skills needed.

Drag and Drop

This eliminates the need to code and design, all you have to do is choose, drag, and drop. Very user friendly. Menus are easy to understand, you won’t get confused trying to figure out what things do. Anything that you can see is clickable and editable, no worries if you don’t like the color, it only takes a few seconds and clicks to change it to suit your taste!

Below is a screenshot of how layouts are edited.


Wix is best for people who are on a budget but need to be online. Best for portfolios and personal websites. As mentioned, there’s an option to upgrade your plan from free to premium where you will get your own domain and other features that you will love. I like this approach because you can easily switch and see benefits immediately  (no ads, own domain, hosting, support, analytics and so on).

Wix Sample Websites

Remember, you can build your website via drag and drop using Wix, no programming required!

I don’t want a flash website! What else?

Up to now I really do not know what to call it: standard website, traditional website, HTML website, etc.. Whatever, what’s important is that you know what I mean: not flash.

During my free time I am developing a website, although I’m not that good at coding. My real problem? My design skills are terrible. Free solution? Minimalist design. I’m not saying that minimalism is easy, I’m pretty sure I’d still be troubled by it. If only I had the money I’d buy something from ThemeForest or hire a designer friend.

“I have a design but I can’t code”

Relax! There is a great solution for that. If you have a design (in generally accepted image format) and you want it coded in 48 hours one thing comes to mind: Code My Concept. Although it does not come cheap, at least you are assured that your design will be hand coded in valid HTML and CSS within 48 hours. Saves you the time and effort, and it’s professionally done too.

An alternative is Code Canyon where you can literally purchase scripts. Just like Theme Forest, rest assured that the codes and scripts delivered there are properly moderated and are of high quality. All for a fair price.

Some of the things you can buy:

Many people have trust issues when it comes to these type of things, 1stwebdesigner is willing to help you find a designer or a coder among our 24,000 plus followers on Twitter. We can tweet your needs if you need it, how does that sound?

Shopping for code and plugins is very easy, very helpful too if you are on a tight budget, or time won’t allow you to hire a developer in time or it’s not within budget. Think of it like building your own computer, buying parts that will complete the whole. That’s how it works.

“I know how to code but I can’t design well”

Aside from Theme Forest where you can purchase web templates, there is Graphic River where you can choose from a wide selection of stock graphics ranging from simple icons to a sophisticated prints.

A free solution would be free stock photo sites like or a site like Deviant Art but you can’t expect to find specific web elements to add on your website.

Here are some free things that you can use to build your design:

Create Your Own Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is crucial task, because you’ll build your whole branding around it. There is a problem though, it’s very hard to get a good .com domain which is still free. Actually there is a serious problem in getting any good domain names at all! To help you through this process I suggest you try this nifty website – Domainr. It’s a site to bookmark, that’s for sure!

Well, I also suggest you use the site GoDaddy to register your domain. You can get domains really cheap from as low as  7.49$ per year! They also have a pretty good suggestion system to find related domains if the name you really wanted is taken already. Their backend system may seem confusing at first, but I’ve had positive experiences with this site, so I can really recommend it.

Choosing a Web Host

Catchy “Unlimited” bandwidth and disk space, several hosting services offer monthly payments from $4 to $10 for shared hosting. What does it mean?

In truth there is no such thing as Unlimited disk space and Unlimited bandwidth, the service provider assumes that you won’t use too much (which is true most of the time) so they use the word to their leverage. Is it any good? It depends on how you will use it, of course. For a personal website or an online portfolio it is more than okay if you want your own domain. I use GoDaddy and so far I have not experienced any problems, except for the fact that their control panel is a huge mess. Hostgator is one of the cheapest and good hosting services too. Both start from $4 (as of writing this) for shared hosting and both offer VPS. Dreamhost’s record is near flawless, you can google up “Dreamhost reviews” and use your instincts to see if the review is a sham or not. I know three people who use Dreamhost and they say it’s flawless, of ourse it does not come cheap.

new coming at us...

1stwebdesigner is hosted by Eleven2. Is it any good? It speaks for itself. 1WD receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a month and it’s still doing fine. If your website will have great traffic in the future you may want to start with a good host to avoid the hassle of transferring to a new host when everything is in motion. You don’t want to lose even 30 minutes of uptime.

If your goal, on the other hand, entails great traffic and thousands of users every day you might want to opt for a Full-featured hosting. For a couple of months now I have seen many people cuss about their hosting services because of hours of downtime on their blogs. Probing deeper I learned that most use shared hosting. In my opinion you can’t trust shared hosting when it comes to big businesses online. A solution would be to shift from shared hosting to full-featured hosting.

Quick Review:

Hosted Website Solutions

  • For hosted blogging platforms I recommend you to choose from PosteriousWordPressTumblr;
  • Easy site builder for a flash website you can use Wix;

Website Design

  • Theme Forest offers high quality,unique and very affordable themes.

Code Shopping

Hosting And domains

  • GoDaddy -register domains with ease.
  • Eleven2 Hosting – great hosting 1WD uses for a year already!
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