All posts by Teddy Hunt

Teddy Hunt is a freelance content writer with a focus on technology. When not behind a computer, Teddy spends the majority of his free time outdoors and resides in Tampa, Florida.

Aesthetics: Creating the Perfect Template for the Right Audience

Any successful blogger knows how important it is to tailor your site to your target audience. This involves everything from content creation to aesthetics and design templates. The blog’s content typically comes easy—after all, most people have a purpose and a topic in mind when they create a blog.

Aesthetics, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. There’s no right and wrong answer when it comes to designing a WordPress blog, but there are certain guidelines and best practices you can follow to guide you on your way. Here’s a look at a few strategies for designing the perfect template for your blog’s target audience.

Get to Know Your Audience

As you start to brainstorm ways to appeal to your audience, take a step back and analyze who is really frequenting your blog’s stratosphere. Are the folks you’re writing your content for really the ones who are reading it? WordPress has a plugin that analyzes the traffic to your blog, and can help you pinpoint the demographic and geographic information about your site’s visitors. You may find this information helpful for tweaking your content strategy as well.

Offer Benefits Your Viewers Will Relate To

Even if your blog has a specialized focus, you might find that offering other topics that appeal to your viewers’ demographic groups solidifies their loyalty even more than your content. Become a sort of one-stop-shop for the things that your viewers are interested in. You can start enlisting the help of guest bloggers who write about different topics to give your site a breath of fresh air and change it up every now and then.

For instance, with the push toward digital streaming throughout the entertainment industry, people are constantly looking for the best Internet connection, so it’d only make sense to have a blog dedicated to helping people find the best Internet deals. And hosting a variety of blogs on such subjects will help drive in new traffic each and every day.

Recognize Psychological Principles

As with interior design, certain colors and shapes on websites invoke certain psychological responses in viewers. Here are some psychology-based principles to use in the design of your WordPress site:

  • Large headings attract attention more than images; the headline will determine whether visitors stay on your page or navigate away)
  • Image captions captivate readers; eyes naturally drift to the bottom of a picture to look for a caption. Psychologically, it feels like less work to read text that accompanies a photo
  • Less is more. The more choices web visitors have, the less likely they are to choose one.
  • Short width text will get more attention than long blocks of text. That is, shorter columns generally yield a better comprehension of the information given than long columns
  • Human faces drive attention. That is, viewers are more likely to follow the gaze of human faces looking at a prompt or photo than other graphics.
  • Certain shapes and colors spark subconscious emotional responses in viewers.

Learn From Your Audience and Your Peers

Don’t overlook the possibility of asking your audience for direct feedback. Poll your readers to find what they prefer, and determine their first impressions of your site. Their direct feedback could serve as a nice set of guidelines to help you pinpoint what areas you can improve upon.

Additionally, look to your peers for inspiration. Do you have a favorite blogger that you look up to, or aspire to mimic? Depending on your professional relationship (if you have one), you could benefit from reaching out to them to find what works well for their site, or how they came to decide on the template they currently use.

The WordPress platform has a huge selection of plugins and add-ons that you can use in the design of your weblog. Explore every resource it gives you. Ultimately every site administrator and every user has their own preferences and ideas about what works and what doesn’t. What are some of your personal ideas about WordPress web designs? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

 

5 of the Best WordPress Widgets

WordPress is one of the most versatile tools on the Internet today. You can sign up for a free account and rant and rave about whatever comes to your mind, or you can go ahead and pay for it and make a big investment in your topic of choice. It has a relatively easy user interface and gives you the power to allow your contributors to log in and upload their content for you to evaluate later.

Assuming you go the latter route, the thing that really makes WordPress an outstanding publishing tool is the sheer amount of widgets that make it easy for your readers to maneuver their way they want to around your site. As long as you avoid mistakes, your site can flourish with WordPress. Here are five of the absolute best and entertaining widgets you must have for your WordPress account.

Hulu

Hulu

Hulu has a widget for WordPress, and it’s pretty slick. It involves code, but it’s easy to find. Hulu has been taking the entertainment world by storm for the past few years and has even made its way into the homes of a lot of television patrons. The show streaming service gives users the opportunity to watch their favorite shows on their time frame.

With this widget you can select a show to have playing on your site. From there, you can control exactly what you want to be shown on your site from full episodes, to clips, to everything that show has to offer. The coding part is only a matter of copying it from the little text box and pasting it into your WordPress under the HTML tab. It’s that simple.

SwiftType

swifttype

If you know WordPress, then you know that their search algorithms leave much to be desired. For some reason, they just haven’t found the right way to get their act together to allow people within the freedom to search properly.

With SwiftType, you can give your users, and yourself, the ease of being able to jump into the search bar and find exactly what you’re looking for. The algorithms used here are much different than that of the generic WordPress search and it tends to also be a little more user friendly, which is something most patrons to any site want to see.

Custom Facebook Feed 

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With social media on the rise, you might want to invest some time in implementing this widget. This widget allows you to see exactly what is being talked about on your feed and what people are saying about it. If you have this widget connected to your WordPress site, you can give other users a real feel about what you’re all about both in your words and the words of those who like your page on Facebook. This widget is a must have as far as upping the ante with self-promotion.

Floating Social Bar

FloatingSocialBarSetup

Share, share, share and share some more. These days, if it’s not being shared, then it’s not worth looking at, hearing about, or even renting space for a measly half second of thought. With this widget you can give your users something to share with, share about, and keep your speeds from tanking.

If there’s one thing most users have reported hating, it’s the lack of speed that comes from a site due to the amount of software being utilized at the time. With this widget, you can take the focus off of slowing yourself down and put the speed debate back on the users. Who knows? They might decide it’s time for them to get rid of their old slow Internet provider and pick up internet service with DIRECTV bundles. It’s something else they can rant and rave about on your site and bring you just that much more traffic.

PayPal Donations

Paypal Split the Check homepage
Say your site is kicking off and you want to start giving your audience a way to help you move your musings or product along. There has been a silver lining the whole time — with the PayPal Donations widget, your audience can do just that. You can go ahead and place your PayPal ID up for them to utilize on their own, or you can attach it to this widget.

If your site is strictly up for a charitable reason, you can utilize this widget to give people an opportunity to help you with your cause. Be sure to post pictures and updates. Most people want to know exactly what their hard-earned bucks are going toward. It’s also very polite to keep people in the loop, especially when they’re helping you out.

These are only five of the best widgets out there. With these five, you’ll be able to start exploring the WordPress universe and discover what widgets work for you. What are some widgets that you’d like to see developed or implemented on your favorite WordPress site?

5 Best BlackBerry Apps for Graphic Designers

New technologies are making life much simpler for graphic designers, and there are some great apps available for controlling your business, getting your life in order and succeeding in the graphic design field. It also can help build your brand. Here are the five best BlackBerry apps for graphic designers.

1. Palettes Lite

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Image via celestinacarmen.blogspot.com

Palettes Lite is the free version of the full software package, but it still has a huge amount of usability and is a more comprehensive tool than ColorRef. With Palettes Lite,  you will be able to create a color scheme with color codes, sliders, photos, or the color wheel.

The app is also shows complimentary colors and allows for new pallets to be created based on the merging of other colors. This great app also has a huge online palette sharing location where you can browse and download other user create color pallets.

2. ColorRef

colorref

Image via webdesign.about.com

ColorRef is a simple easy to use color scheme reference tool for graphic designers who like to match up color schemes while out and about. Sometimes in a moment of design inspiration you may want to check the compatibility of colors you are intending to use, and this is where ColorRef comes in.

The app can convert RGB, Hex or even CoreGraphics formatting, meaning that you can source colors from a variety of locations. There are some great online resources teaching about effective use of color schemes in web design if this is an area that you need more help with.

3. Evernote

Evernote

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Hands down one of the best organizational apps out there, Evernote is a comprehensive tool that can be accessed from any device, even newer ones like the BlackBerry Q10, making it ideal for graphic designers who are always on the go. Simply make notes and memos on whatever device you like and then once saved, you can retrieve anywhere anytime.

With a few little add-ons you can also save webpages, bookmarks and create reading lists to refer back to. The premium edition ofEvernote has some extremely useful features such as note and file sharing as well as many other tools.

4. SAP TimeSheet Lite

saap

Image via appfinder.lisisoft.com

If you are the kind of designer who needs help with time management, client rates and other office work, then this app will be a nice addition to your BlackBerry device. TimeSheet Lite is a free version to the full package, and it allows you to track time sheets, project details and client details so that you never have to worry about forgetting to log down your work again.

The full version has some really neat tools that will help to keep you on track up to date with clients.

5. Storage Made Easy

storagemadeeasy

Image via storagemadeeasy.com

Many graphic designers work from a variety of locations, which can lead to a messy trail of files, documents and media. Storage Made Easy consolidates your file storage into one central point so you can get access to it from whichever device you are using, meaning that whether you are at your desk or on the train, you will never be without your files.

Mobile devices makes life easier for graphic designers, and the fact that you can use these apps from any place makes them even more convenient for those working in various locations.

9 Steps to Becoming a Top-Notch Designer

Not everyone is born with artistic skills. Many people spend years honing their craft. If you have any interest in becoming a graphic or web designer at all, here are a few ways to go about achieving your goal.

Buy Books

llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam - HDR

Image via Flickr by MorBCN

This is a bit obvious, but the first place you should turn to for help would be to books. What better way to learn how to be an amazing designer than to learn from the best people themselves? A great starting point would be “White Space is Not Your Enemy: A Beginner’s Guide to Communicating Visually through Graphic, Web and Multimedia Design” by Rebecca Hagen and Kim Golombisky. This book covers a wide range of topics, from simple forms to websites.

Read Blogs

Blog!

Image via Flickr by Gina Vasquez

Expanding on researching the topic, there are many graphic design-related blogs out there. Follow the authors on social media, assuming they have a link to their accounts on their site. You’ll often find that they’ll post early versions of their work, and they may even talk with you and help you out.

Learn to Draw

drawspace_img

Image via Flickr by mmagnum

As a person who isn’t great at illustrations, this is much easier said than done. There are multiple resources out there for you to take advantage of. Searching brings up multiple sites, but one of the best is DrawSpace. On DrawSpace, you’ll get tips for people who are new to design, an introduction to drawing, how to properly draw outlines, shading, figures, and how to really make your works of art spring to life. Every lesson comes with a price, though. You’ll have to turn in assignments and you’ll get to interact in a virtual classroom setting with other people who want to learn how to draw. The certification courses allow you to receive feedback from your instructors, and earn credits toward your certification. Classes last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.

Learn the Grid

Web design grid (768px wide)

Image via Flickr by guyweb

In order to build a well-balanced design, you’ll have to build a layout. Divide your layout into evenly spaced columns and rows and use them as guides. This allows you to focus on the creative side of your work. This can be used as a guide for the layout decisions. And like developing landing pages, sometimes keeping your design simple is best.

Make Mock-Ups

Mockup design for Blommer Chocoloate Company

Image via Flickr by SayShea

You can read about design all day, but at some point, you’re going to have to put the blogs away and try out some designs on your own. For web designers make sure to browse through options and select a proper theme. Create mock-up designs for fake companies, or try your best to replicate some popular designs. Try out designs for websites, brochures, logos, or anything else that comes to mind. You could try using a computer to do this, but a tablet would be preferred. One of the many tablet pc uses, in addition to social media and gaming, is graphic design. It’s much easier to draw designs on a tablet than a desktop computer, and they’re becoming more affordable.

Attend Lectures

Lecture Hall

Image via Flickr by unniinnsbruck

Check around and attend lectures online or at Universities. There may be a small fee associated with the lecture, but the small fee is just a small price to pay compared to what you’ll learn. The lectures are hosted by people who have been in the profession for years, so they know what they’re talking about. Make sure to take notes, you’ll want to recall the things they have to say.

Network

Boulevard Networking Event 2010

Image via Flickr by 1102 Grand

To bridge off the last point, it’s important to connect with other graphic designers. These are people that have the same passion that you do, and they’re struggling to make their mark as well. You never know how your new mates will be able to help!

Brainstorm

Deep-thinking

Image via Flickr by Eneas

Brainstorming sessions are where the magic happens. Make sure that you have a pencil handy! Don’t worry about adding fancy ideas or colors, just worry about setting the framework for your design. Once you’ve got something solid, try to recreate it in the program of your choice. Never settle on a single design. Play around with your different sketches and see which one looks the best.

Tell a Story

Story Telling

Image via Flickr by Pumpkin Chief

Tell a story with your work. Think about your topic, and what it covers. For example, for an electronic recycling campaign, someone made this poster. The ultimate objective is to tell a story with as little as possible. You want something that grabs the user’s attention; something that’s extremely unique.

The path to becoming a top-notch graphic designer isn’t an easy one. No matter what your background, you’ve got a seemingly insurmountable path ahead of you. The Internet offers many ways for you to network and improve your skills.

4 Reasons Why Long Shadow Design is Trending

Long shadow is throwing shade at other design styles. The hype is real. This simple, flat design with a blocky, diagonal shadow extending from its main focal points is making rounds in multiple design genres. But, what makes long shadow design so trendy?

Perhaps it’s just easy to replicate or maybe it’ll come and go like the afternoon sun. Whatever it is, long shadow is casting its umbra all over the Internet. Here’s a look at four reasons why long shadow design is trending.

1. Social Design Communities

my dribbble tee

Image via Flickr by erenemre

Design communities such as Dribbble are a virtual drawing board for the latest in design trends. Social media sites are commonly associated with what’s current or “trending,” so it makes sense that design communities set the standard for long shadow designs. These types of social design trends both spread and become contained like digital wildfires, and what’s hot today may change tomorrow, but for now web and graphic designers agree, long shadow design is what’s on the mind of almost every designer.

2. Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe's Wheel-o'-Icons

Image via Flickr by Charles Williams

According to Digital Trends, “Creative Cloud will make Adobe’s applications available in a way they never were before.” That’s because users no longer need to shell out hundreds of dollars upfront to gain access to the now subscription-based software. The more designers with access to Adobe, the more accessible the long shadow design trend. Are you sensing a theme here?

Longtime Photoshop educators, such as Howard Pinsky, can reach even more students with easy long shadow tutorials for users of all levels.

3. Mobile Technology

Guidelines for Building Cross Platform Games

Image via Flickr by Official GDC

Mobile technology is an excellent platform for long shadow design. New design trends consistently flood the ever-changing smartphone and tablet landscapes. Consequently, long shadow is especially popular with app design. Long shadow design is an extension of the flat design trend. Apple, a leader in mobile technology, set the precedent for flat design with their upcoming release of iOS 7 – the entire Apple icon set plays off flat design.

Reasonably priced cell phone plans keep users connected with long shadow design trend.

4.  CSS3 and HTML 5

CSS3 iPhone

Image via Flickr by aaronparecki

Trends in design are only emphasized by the tools available. Much like Adobe Creative Cloud, CSS3 and HTML 5 only enhance a designer’s ability to easily replicate the trend throughout the Internet. CSS3 and HTML5 allow for open source designing. Techniques that were once possible only with pricey design software are now open to the masses.

The truth is, these reasons apply to almost any current design trend. Without the Internet and easy access to it via mobile technology, trends like long shadow wouldn’t be as evocative.

What do you think of the long shadow design trend? Is it just a product of the current times? Would you love for it to end or hate to see it go? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.