Top 5 Budget Content Tools

We live in a world where image is now ruling the internet.

When we all have a camera in our pocket, it’s no surprise that we’re becoming our own amateur photographers and uploading it to our favourite image sharing social sites.

We expect to see images everywhere we go, and it’s becoming the biggest tool in marketing. Nothing quite sells a product like an image. So why are so many small businesses still not understanding the importance of this huge marketing magnet?

An image draws us in, gives us a snippet of the story and encourages to read on.

Without them your marketing and written content is like a whisper in a crowded room, it’s never going to get the impact that you intended.

Many small businesses are under the illusion that great graphics and pictures are going to eat away at their marketing budget. A costly resource that they feel they don’t need.

But with the right resources and just a little amount of time, businesses can create their own bespoke images and get a far greater ROI on their marketing efforts.

Think of it from the customer’s perspective. Do you really want to be faced with reams of lengthy text without any images to help keep you interested or help to explain your words?

Flickr – Creative Commons

The most commonly used photo sharing platform on the internet. Flickr’s Creative Commons allows you to use others images for free as long as you provide them with a credit.

This is such a simple solution if you’re searching for an image specific to your subject, and with creative commons spanning across the globe, you’re sure to find something that fits the bill.

Canva

Growing in popularity, Canva is a free online image editing tool that anyone can use without being an expert.

Simple to use and with a library of cool graphics, templates and icons, it’s a small businesses dream, as any image can instantly be turned into an eye catching marketing tool.

No matter your marketing needs you can create social media graphics and printed artwork without any need for experience, which for a small business with a limited team and perhaps limited design skills, means you can use it with confidence knowing that your artwork is going to look as though it’s been done by a professional.

Budget Content Tools

Gratisography

Stock images can be expensive and it’s unfortunately often the case that the same image can be purchased by a competitor, leaving both parties looking a little red faced at the fact they’re unable to afford their own.

But small businesses can ease this embarrassment now with the help of a free stock image site Gratisography. Not only are these images unique and high quality, they are completely free for you to do what you wish. They would like it if you could offer a donation now and again to keep the site ticking over, but apart from that it’s yours for the taking.

The current portfolio of images is quite limited, but they’ve seen rapid expansion already this year, so it’s certainly one to keep your eye on.

Pixabay

With a vast library of images, Pixalbay is a hidden gem on the World Wide Web, but with such a great portfolio comes great power, and all they request is a credit to the source of the image.

A very small price to pay for images that could instigate a better reaction from your marketing.

Have a play around with what they have available and try to think outside of the box with the image that you want to represent your campaign.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that likeminded competitors are also using this an image source.

Photoshop

You may think I’m throwing a curve ball mentioning the holy grail of image editing that is Photoshop. But Adobe have realised that they’ve been alienating small businesses with their large lump sums for the software, so in order to encourage more users and less illegal downloads, Adobe now offer monthly low payment fees for anyone to have the software.

This could be a far more affordable option for businesses, as they could then invest in training a member of staff with companies such as Xchange Training, who offer bespoke courses to fit the needs and requirements you wish to gain from the software.

With so many options available for better images, there’s no need for your content to lack any excitement.

Choose relevant images that tell the story of your marketing and it could boost your business in more ways than one.

The 4 Hosting Types Explained

The internet offers a variety of access options for businesses of any size or purpose. However, business owners still need to buy their virtual ‘plot’ online in order to be seen. Sellers of these plots are typically called ‘web hosts’ and these companies create and manage server infrastructure so that end users can obtain easy and effective internet access.

There are numerous hosting options available for businesses of all sizes, and the costs and options vary widely. Let’s take a look at the six different types of hosting that are commonly offered:

  1. Shared Hosting offers individual websites access to a server that has resources shared by multiple websites. Resources include disk space (data storage), CPU (processor power) and memory. Shared hosting is usually the simplest and least expensive option, and offers almost everyone the opportunity to have a unique, cost effective internet presence. The upsides are the low cost and ease of use. The downsides (depending on the purpose of the website) are:
  • Traffic slow-down due to overloaded servers
  • The potential for website termination due to excessive server access limits

Hosting Types

  1. Virtual Private Server allocates server resources to individual users. Basically, with this hosting type, you reserve a portion of the physical server for your own needs. You will have a dedicated CPU, RAM, disk space. None of these resources will be shared amongst other users. Also, you will have your own operating system and have much more control over your server. This option gives medium or large websites better flexibility and there are many cheap VPS server options to choose from. They offer a good start for small and mid-sized business websites because the cost is relatively low, but the provided server resources are quite good.
  1. Cloud Servers offers access to a single cluster or several clustered of different servers. Each separate server or cluster offers individual computing power to the greater whole, and the cluster itself acts as a larger, single computer. The division of resources to dedicated clusters leads to improved performance in general – you are no longer dependant on one physical server. These servers usually provide improved security, more stability on high loads and more reliable hardware. Cloud computing technology is growing very fast and is becoming the preferred hosting option for larger companies, especially international companies, which can access data from multiple locations at a single site.
  1. Dedicated Servers offers servers where all server resources are dedicated to one user… This is a more expensive ‘individualised’ option, but it reduces exposure to loss caused by overloaded server crashes.

Large enterprises are typically looking for hosting services that provide numerous service options, enhanced security features.

Web hosting offers every business the opportunity to enjoy a carefully crafted, individualised and functional internet presence, regardless of size or purpose.

How the web-design industry has changed over the years

Over the past couple of decades, the business life of the typical web designer has changed a great deal. The actual design process has changed and even business tools have changed a great deal. We take a look at what has changed in that time.

Modern projection systems reign supreme

The days when you could just show a potential client your designs by clicking the links in their presence or sending them a list of links are long gone. Today, web-design firms use powerful projection systems from businesses like Videonations, to show potential clients detailed descriptions of projects they have handled in the past. The presentations must be colorful, insightful and show the client what was done to meet specific demands.

Tables are now history

Before now, web designers experienced in the use of tables could easily make a website take any look they desire. Shims and image slices were popular with such designers but today, all that has become history. Web designers of today are expected to be very good with CSS styling and Semantic markup. Here is more on CSS.

How the web-design industry has changed over the years

Flash is going away gradually

A few years back, the Adobe Flash plugin was the perfect answer for designers anytime they ran into web problems. It was easy to use any fonts without being confined to the restrictions of the early Internet. However, even with the freedom it offered, it still lacked accessibility and also lacked depth. Flash is still with us today but it is no longer the force it was when it comes to building whole sites. This is partly down to the fact that mobile devices on the iOS platform cannot access it. Designers are instead turning to jQuery and CSS to accomplish some of the things Flash would do back in the day.

Web is more social than ever

It doesn’t matter what you think of it, the social media world is now an important part of web design. In the last decade alone, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have strengthened their grip on everyday living. This means support for social media sharing and integration is more important than ever in website design. This means designers are expected to have a proper understanding of how to include social media sharing in the web strategies for every website being created. Here is more on adding social media to your web design.

Expectations are higher than ever

The average website owner expects a lot out of their websites these days. Gone are the periods when people saw websites as a casual extension of their business online. Today, websites are deemed as a powerful part of any business. This means clients expect a website that offers easy interactions while coping with the strain of diverse kinds of media.

All of these mean that web-design firms have to adapt very quickly if they are to stay relevant in this sector.

Does a Domain Name Determine a Sites Design?

Anyone who has a business will probably also need a website, regardless of whether the company is run online or has physical premises. One of the first things you will need to consider is registering any domain names you plan to use. Next, you need to build your website. Unless you are particularly talented with computers, technology and software, you might well consider hiring the services of a website designer. But, when the time comes for the designer to get to work, will the domain name you have chosen subconsciously affect the way the website is designed?

Planning with a web designer

In some ways, it may not. If you have met with the website designer in advance and discussed what you want to achieve in terms of design, they may simply follow your instructions. Issues you should cover in the discussion include layout, content, visual elements of the site, fonts and graphics, links and ease of navigation for those who use the site. If you are trying to develop a particular image, then this is something else that you should discuss with the designer and you may need to create a logo for your business.

Domain Name Determine a Sites Design

The influence of domain names

However, if your domain name directly relates to the products and services you are offering, then a web designer could potentially be influenced by this name when they are developing your website. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it can be part of creating your image or brand. For example, if you are selling perfumes and this is reflected in the domain name, the website designer is more likely to design the website with women in mind and use pastel colours, swirly fonts and informal content. On the other hand, if you are offering legal services, then the website designer is more likely to veer towards an overall more formal look. The content, layout and graphics will be geared towards the type of services you are offering.

Similarly, the website designer may be influenced by the target market they believe will be interested in visiting a website with a particular domain name. If they believe that the customers are likely to be males in their twenties, the sites design will reflect this. If the domain name suggests to the designer that visitors to the site are more likely to be women of retirement age, then they will keep this in mind during the design process.

Overcoming problems

If you feel that the website designer has been influenced by a domain name with negative results, then you need to talk through your issues. It is your business and your website, so it is important that you are satisfied with the end result and feel it is a positive reflection of your business. However, the website designer is likely to be a professional with a lot of experience in the industry. Therefore, if they offer reasonable reasons for their design decisions, then it is important that you listen to what they say as their experience may justify the way they have designed the website.

Overall, it is possible that a website designer may be influenced by a domain name but this can be a positive if the finished website is of a professional standard and is designed with your target market in mind. By discussing with the designer what you hope to achieve in the preliminary stages of the design, you can limit the potential for problems at a later date. If you are not happy with the finished result, and feel the designer has been influenced negatively, then it is important to resolve these issues with them in order to get the look that you want for your business.

Top Five Tips for Beginning Web Designers

One of the easiest ways for beginning designers to set up a site is with a web-building template. Depending on the type of site you plan to create, templates are designed to suit a wide variety of needs. Whether you plan to set-up an e-commerce site or a fashion blog, the choices that you make will depend on your specific requirements. The following five tips can help you get started.

1 – LocateWeb Templates

Most sites today use templates; some are extremely complex, while others feature easy to use tools. Sites such as Top 10 Compared offer ideal resources for beginning web designers. It helps to compare popular templates, see what other users have to say and decide for yourself which formats meet your needs and web-building skills. Once again, website building templates vary considerably and they are generally suited to a specific range of sites.

2 – Choose the Best Template for your Site

Once you have compared several website templates, you will need to choose a template that is right for your site. Many web-page templates deliver great results, specifically designed for novices. The right template can be extremely simple, yet it can deliver professional results. While both experienced and beginning web-designers use templates, newcomers to the web-business often benefit by using tried and proven resources.

web design

3 – Use your Template to Save Time

Templates provide streamlined tools for creating attractive web pages. Very simply, the majority of sites follow a basic navigational system. They include navigation tools, contact and copyright details, and branding strategies, such as company logos and slogans. What will differ from page-to-page are specific contextual elements, images and content. A well-crafted template will save time, offering flexible setups for each of your pages.

4 – Take Advantage of Template Benefits

Allow your template to take care of many of the details. While no system is foolproof, top web building templates include HTML requirements. Regardless, you will want to check for consistency. A website that flows from page to page will assure visitors that your site is legitimate and that you are providing quality products and/or services. Selecting the right colors, graphics, font sizes and content are just some of the ways that simple details can encourage visitors to stay on your site to look at what you offer.

web design

5 – Use the Best!

Once you have selected a template, pay attention to all of the details. There are many benefits to using a predesigned web-building template. Just remember to select a program that is suited to your specific requirements. Moreover, try to avoid overdoing it. Generally, too much of anything can be overkill. Select the very best images, and match your navigational system and add-ons to specific design elements.

While many web-builders want to design a web-template, selecting a premade template offers many distinct advantages. Therefore, if your time and experience are limited, a ready-made web-building template may be the perfect option for you as a beginning web designer.

Startups and the Web: How the Internet Has Changed the Face of Entrepreneurship

With the advent of the Internet, an entirely new frontier was created for business. The first dot-com boom in the late ’90s saw the rise of hundreds of businesses and firms still operating today: Amazon and eBay are just a couple of the prime examples of online companies that have achieved astounding amounts of success since then.

Today, there’s speculation that we are currently in the middle of yet another dot-com boom. To give an idea of the scale at which this is occurring: at the end of 2013, over 140,000 startups were established, and over half of them were based in nations outside of the United States. Israel, for example, is leading the footrace with 375 startups per million people. In comparison, the United States lags far behind at a mere 190 per million.

So, the main question here is, ‘What’s creating this business growth?’ ‘Why are companies like Selby Associates investing and buying start up tech companies?’  The answer can be boiled down to a couple of major factors:

The wireless age

Compared to the surge that was seen in the late ’90s, the Internet is now more easily accessible than ever. So many devices allow for internet access from virtually anywhere, and with developers putting out smartphone and tablet apps to facilitate online business development, creating a startup is less risky and more experimental in nature than it was 15 years ago. This gives entrepreneurs a lot of leeway in trying out unconventional marketing and upkeep strategies.

This emphasis on mobile computing and the ubiquitous nature of wireless Internet access makes it possible to start and develop your business anywhere and utilise the tools to manage and expand it at any time, all with extremely low overhead costs.

How the Internet Has Changed the Face of Entrepreneurship

Crowdfunding and social media marketing

Another huge edge that today’s businesses have over the e-commerce startups of the ’90s is the easier access to funding. If you go to Kickstarter or Indiegogo, hundreds of businesses are looking for ways to fund their product, and a lot of them see a great deal of success. It’s a live demonstration of the effectiveness of showing your consumers what they want and rewarding them for contributing to making the things they want on the market a reality.

Social media is arguably one of the most crucial marketing tools a startup has: it’s a fast, easy way to communicate to hundreds of millions of people that you have a product or service and you want input from consumers. Better still, there are plenty of services out there to make the process of marketing through social media even more streamlined: Hootsuite, for example, lets you post onto up to six different social networks at once and schedule dates and times for future posts too!

Easy-to-use web hosting

These days, it’s extremely cheap for Internet startups to set up a site and populate it with everything from content to products for potential customers to peruse. With this in mind, web hosting services are welcoming entrepreneurs with open arms. These hosts offer way more in terms of flexibility than they did a decade ago. Many of the most reputed web hosts give domain owners unlimited bandwidth and disk space so you can conveniently store and access all of your content without having to sweat over limitations.

Combine that with the overall convenience of cloud computing with cheap outsourcing for what used to be expensive in-house testing and development. Then add content management services like WordPress ensuring that anyone with access to a computer can create an appealing and user-friendly website without extensive knowledge of Flash, PHP, or HTML, it’s no wonder so many people are willing to try their hand at creating a startup!

So, what are you waiting for? The fruit of entrepreneurship is ripe for the picking and easier to access than ever before. If you’ve got a plan for something you want to share with the world, the tools are out there to make your ambitions a reality!

Top 5 Data Visualization Tools

Only recently, we have got introduced to these data visualization tools as something individually operable. But before that, it was the task of highly technical designers or a team of developers, who were the only ones who had complete and crisp accuracy and beauty in this aspectual consideration. But now, through some web-based data visualization tools, the technical skill-requirement has no more been an obstacle. Any person can now, personally enhance and beautify his data using these visualization tools and widgets. Following are instances of such useful tools.

1. TimelineJS

TimelineJS is such a wonderful device that furnishes a beautiful reciprocating timeline. It responds to the clicks of mouse by the user, which in turn makes it less complicated to create advanced timelines that give out large information within a confined and compact space. You can click on each section to get an in-depth view, which makes it a gorgeous way to give an over-all outlook simultaneously with providing full details.

2. Infoactive

Infoactive has found a substantial implement to create less expensive and custom info graphics that are appropriately represented and can be easily interpreted as well. It can be used if one doesn’t want to use design software or appoint a technical person to create info graphics. If you are self-dependent, straightaway head for this immensely usable stuff.

Data Visualization Tools

3. Visual.ly

Visual.ly was inspired greatly by the founders of Mint.com. It is famed and popularly known as both – a demonstrator for infographics and also as a hub and fulcrum centre for publishers, designers and researchers. Its info graphics have been posted on NPR, The Huffington Post and CNN too, which is a matter of pride. It provides an austere instrumentation in order to create astonishing data visualizations and also enables you to dispense your creations easily without any messing up.

4. DataVisual

DataVisual makes it simpler for you to blueprint variegated charts and graphs for your data to be effectively represented and visualized. Data Visual makes performers avoid repetitive formatting tasks and also makes it dispensable to edit the output formats in different applications. Also, Data visual has been chosen favorably to become the first early-level company to join the Daily new Innovations Lab.

5. Better World Flux

With the subtitle “where progress flows”, Better World Flux is a marvelous data visualization tool which evidently confines its scope on the information regarding what actually matters in life. Criteria like those of happiness, increasing life expectancy, escalation of literacy rate, etc. are given prior positions and are crystal clearly depicted in a vibrant flux. This tool majorly stresses on world optimizations and gives out cute and radiant pictures and stats of the major world depressing factors. This is quite useful when you want to construe and write something on burning topics of the world like under-nutrition, starvation, and poverty etc. This tool may not allow you to give in your own data but in fact, is a magnificent gadget to create suitably nice and interactive fallouts.

8 Tips on Creating a Great Website Layout

Website building has become more common than air. But there are minor things which are forgotten. Fresh interns and beginners may not completely know of all that gets and should get covered. So, these simple precautionary and remedial steps will get your job done with ease and ability.

1. Record your thought processes visually

Before you get on to begin with your layout work, it is trivially necessary for you to have a clean sketch of what you are actually going to present. For this, you can let flow out your thoughts and ideas for the project through the tip of your pen onto a paper. This lets you have an absolute outlook of what your plans are. There, you get ready to proceed further.

2. Make use of a single Font Type

It is generally found that standard websites make usage of only a single font type. It rather makes work look professional and upgraded than making it look dull and simple.

3. Portray the structure of your plan on a top level

This helps you in knowing the exact content and the sub contents of the program that you are currently working on. Through this, you can have a clear point of view regarding what the needs of your website will be in the future.

4. Make the wordings convincingly distinct

This includes proper background color selection, text color choosing etc. One needs to be quite attentive here at this point because legibility is of utmost importance in a website. Choose contrasting background and text color which makes it easier for your visitors to incept your points. Let there not be a hitch created to them in retaining what your plan priorities are.

Tips on Creating a Great Website Layout

5. Two font sizes are better

Be cautious when you are choosing two font sizes. Its better when there is distinct difference shown in between your normal text and your significant titles. This promises your visitors a segregation through which they can decide what they want to go forward for, pick up and read.

6. Decide on a pleasing color theme

Apart from giving legibility, the color themes even work out great polarities in terms of pleasing the visitors. Using fewer themes makes your website look standardized and sophisticated with profession and induces in it a sense of seriousness too.

7. Design interactive options with a universal motive

Every section of your layout is yet another comprehensive single. But let not them subdivide and indulge into an extremity. Provide punctuating ends wherever possible so as to assure and direct towards the single and the universal aim of your website.

8. Lighten files

Let not your visitors wait for too long to get their tasks accomplished on your layout. Manage to ensure that the files that can be downloaded from your website are not too bulky. This will create a gratifying user experience, which definitely will add up to the goodness points of your website layout.

The Essential Guide to Starting A New Design Business

Starting a new business can be massively daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. Thinking about everything that can go wrong can be massively scary – but rather than focus on potential negatives you need to focus on the huge potential that is out there for you if you get it right.

A lot of people have great ideas but are put off by the logistics of getting their business set up. You might be a great designer, but sadly, this often isn’t enough. In this post I’ll go through a few top tips to starting your business so that you can see how simple it can be to get it off the ground.

Getting the Fear

The first thing to do is to get the fear. Not everyone can do this, but in my view, making the leap from your old jump before you set up gives you the drive you require and the time you need to make your business a success. Make sure your idea is solid first by all means, and only make the leap if you have some money saved or a backup.  You may also consider tapping into your home equity line of credit for a low-cost means of financing. Regardless of if you obtain financing or if you need to save first, consider a budget planner. If you can save and safeguard your position, this is a great approach.

If you do this, another great tip is to get a small office sorted so that you get away from home and get into the work mentality. You can get short term, low risk lets from companies like Priestgate Offices, or you can look at sharing with other companies.

Essential Guide to Starting A New Design Business

Develop a USP

To succeed you ideally want to have a unique selling position (USP). Consider working with a business coach or someone whose an expert in the design field to refine this if you need to, but really focus on what it is that you sell or do that makes you stand out. Why would someone pay you money for what you do? Would you pay for it? Once you ask yourself some difficult questions you’ll learn a lot more about your potential business!

Get Yourself Out There

Once you have your product or service refined, you’ve made the leap and you’ve gone public, you need to get your message out to find new customers. A great way to do this is by using video and promoting it on YouTube. If you’re offering a service, people are buying based on their faith in you rather than what you do – but how can they do that if they don’t know who you are? Consider using a company like Posh Gecko to get a personalised video or animated promotional clip created to help sell what you do in a professional and approachable way.

It all depends on what you do as to how you can promote yourself. If you’re selling products then attend trade shows, send out samples, and talk to buyers. If you’re selling a service, attend relevant networking events, get active on Twitter and make a name for yourself. Either way the key is to make a noise and get your new business talked about!

It’s tough out there, but not as tough as many would have you believe. Have faith in yourself and you can succeed in setting up your own business!

10 Icon Tools for Mac and Windows

Usage of icons in this new era of defining experience has become a matter of premier importance. There have erupted methodologies that can be used to foster liveliness of your screen. The following are a few catchy and the most useful icon tools, prescribed both for Windows and Mac, which can be used for immediate conversions of images into icons and vice versa.

1. IconPackager

IconPackager enables one to have an immediate default icon replacement in windows. This also makes the changing of custom colors possible along with an option of using live folders unlike other icon packages. It gives place to high quality custom icons and ensures usage of icons directly avoiding longer procedures.

2. IconCool Editor

IconCool Editor works for Windows8 or Vista Operating System. It is an extraordinary Icon Cool Mixer. It enables visible filter operation and is extravagantly flexible to perform gradient editing. This also enables easy and simple editing of I phone and Android images.

3. Axialis IconWorkshop

This icon tool provides service to both windows, Mac and as well UNIX. Icon Workshop creates PNG images with variable transparency even from the existing Widows and Mac icons within fewer clicks. This alpha transparency allows creation of sleek icons with smooth borders and reflection.

4. Iconion

The difference of Icon ion is that it creates icon files from icon Fonts. You can select icons from Font Awesome, Entypo and any other symbol fonts you like. They can be saved as jpeg, png, bmp or ico files. These images will also be of the same standard no matter what size is selected. It works for Mac.

Icon Tools for Mac and Windows

5. IcoFX

This is a professional icon tool, which is also a cursor editor. It too works for both windows and Mac. It supports Windows vista icons with PNG compression. It enables you to convert your favorite images into icons and vice versa. BMP.PNG, JPG, JPG2000, TIF and GIF are the supported formats.

6. Junior Icon Editor

It allows creation of icons in customized and standard sizes. You can choose from 16 million colors, which it provides. It works for Windows with 8-bit alpha channel.

7. Pic2Icon

This is a simple and less complex icon tool that ensures you to convert images into icons and also makes you perform batch conversions. This works for Mac.

8. IconSlate

IconSlate is honed for the creation of icons on both desktop and mobile. It can design icons of varied sizes easily and can balance your work. It suits Mac.

9. Greenfish Icon Editor Pro

It provides you with equipment that can open, create and save icon files and also patch icons in .exe files or make batch conversions of images to icons. Creation of new cursors, small pixel graphics can also be made possible through this. It works with Windows and Vista.

10. Ico Converter

Ico Converter entitles effortless conversion of images into icons. It works for both Windows and Mac. It supports PNG, ICO and ICNS image formats.