Posts on December 2016

Optimizing Photos for the Web

Optimizing the images on your website can be one of the most noticeable improvements in its speed you can make. If your page takes more than half a second to load, your number of users will decline as they leave your site before it ever finished loading.

Size Appropriately

Did you know many popular tools such as WordPress may not resize your images automatically? If you insert a 3000 pixel wide image in a container 1000 pixels wide, the browser will still download the large image. The browser will then scale that image down to fit into the allotted space. Resizing your image is an absolute must for best optimization.

Let’s take a look at an example JPEG that is 4608×3456 pixels and 4.71 megabytes. Consider a mobile user who is using 3G data (which has a top speed of around 750 kilobytes per second, but often less) This image would take them 6.3 seconds to download!

Just by resizing this image down to a good size for a blog post (500×375) can bring this image’s file size to 97.6 kilobytes, which would only take our same 3G user 130 milliseconds (about a tenth of a second) to download.

Change the Image’s Quality Settings

The most common format for photos, JPEG, is extremely flexible. It has the possibility to encode the same image many different ways. Your goal is to find the happy medium of acceptable image quality to file size.

How It’s Done – Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop isn’t free, but it is by far the most popular software out there for the job.

The easy way to optimize your images is to go to File -> Save for Web. A new dialog will pop up with many options you can choose from. The image file type (shown in blue in this image) is currently set to JPEG which is ideal for the photo we’re optimizing. Be sure this is selected. By default, another format such as GIF may be selected.

There are presets for quality options for your images you can choose here as well. Change the dropdown box next to “Preset” to select “JPEG High”, “JPEG Medium”, or “JPEG Low”. These will each sacrifice more quality for smaller file sizes.

Once you’re happy with the settings, hit the Save button.

Optimizing Photos with Photoshop

With our scaled photo, this brought the size from 97.6 kilobytes to 37 kilobytes!

 

How It’s Done – GIMP

There are plenty of free alternatives to Photoshop. One of those is GIMP, available from http://gimp.org/

With this tool, you have to set the options manually. Once your image is loaded and resized appropriately, go to File -> Export. From here choose a location and file name and click on Export.

Another window will pop up with the saving possibilities. To get similar results to Photoshop, change the Quality setting to 60. Under Advanced Options, uncheck the Progressive checkbox (unless you want that feature).

Finally, hit Export to save your changes to a file.

Optimizing photos with GIMP

With this scaled photo, this brought the size from 97.6 kilobytes to 29.7 kilobytes!!

Can You Tell the Difference?

There are two versions of the same photo below. One is saved at 97% quality, and is 97.6 kilobytes in size. The other is saved at 60% quality, and is 29.7 kilobytes.

Optimizing Images - 60% Quality

Optimizing Images - 97% Quality

They’re remarkably similar, and one is a third of the size. In this example, the quality difference is most noticeable on the white icicles at the bottom. The first photo has more JPEG artifacts around the edges, and it is indeed the lower quality of the two. They’re both still beautiful, and most people would be hard pressed to find anything wrong.

That’s It!

It can seem a little daunting when looking at optimizing your images for your website, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t spend more than 10 seconds on each image. And why wouldn’t you?

From the original full-size photo at 4.71 megabytes down to our scaled and optimized image at 29.7 kilobytes is over a 99.99% savings!

It’s DEFINITELY worth the 10 seconds of your life and saves your mobile users valuable loading time. So they spend more time engaging with your content, and less time looking at loading bars.

5 Skills Designers Should Have

So you want to be a designer? It’s an exciting and creative job that gives you a step up into the profitable and ever-changing world of website technology. And let’s be honest for a moment: people and businesses will always need websites designed. This allows for a considerable amount of job security. So what skills should you know before jumping into the deep end? Here are five key skills to have under your belt in order to become a stellar website designer:

1. Understand the Basics

Perhaps the most important skill for budding designers is the ability to understand basic HTML and CSS, the coding languages for the vast majority of websites today. Yes, there are tools that designers can use, such as Macaw and Webflow, that can create beautiful websites using only drag and drop principles. No coding required. The drawback is that you can only rely on these website builders for so long. As you grow as a designer, a client will eventually come up with something too large or complex for a drag-&-drop platform. Then you will want to NEED the knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Knowing the basics of HTML and CSS should be important to designers because it allows you to see the works of your hands come to life. This knowledge will allow you to come to a better grip of what your limitations and expectations as a designer are. HTML and CSS will tell you how different web aspects will appear, such as where images will be placed, how text will look, among other things. Would you build a house without a foundation? No? Then why would you choose to ignore the cornerstones of many websites?

2. Marketing is Key

Your website will unfortunately not draw people to it on its own. The budding designer must be knowledgeable about the advantages of marketing. With the rise of social media, it has become easier than ever to get your name out to the public. However, many designers see this as the job of someone else or not important at all. In order for anyone to acknowledge your brand, they must be informed about it. Becoming fluent if not knowledgeable on major social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) will allow you to get your name into public awareness.

Another important thing to understand is the idea of actual marketing. There has been a rising trend of utilizing advertising campaigns. Websites can use paid marketing schemes such as Google AdWords to place ads in places where specific and targeted people will see them. Know the ins and outs of these marketing campaigns and they will help your clients get business!

3. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

After spending so much time on a design, make sure you follow through completely. It’s important to put effort into all aspects of your design. One of the highest priorities visually is the quality of the images on your site. Yes, designers can create engaging designs but should the images have poor quality then your whole site can be easily disfigured. Knowing the quality of good photography or graphics is vital to the overall look of your website. Spending the extra money and time on the quality of these things will not only improve your site but also improve your own image as a designer.

4. Print is important too

As a designer, you need to be well rounded. Not only will this open more doors, but it will also help to expand your skill set and make you more marketable. So learn how to design print materials for any websites you may create. Anybody can slap a logo on a template and call it a business card, but having quality print materials is a vital part to any business. That’s where you can come in.

Knowing how to translate a company’s website and logo into print is an excellent skill to have. Many industries still rely heavily on business cards, brochures, yard signs, and printed material. Having this skill will give you the edge when clients go looking for a designer.

5. Be Creative

In today’s ever expanding society of the newest and trendiest websites, you have to stay on the cutting edge of things. Being creative is an imperative part to any good designer’s tool kit. A computer will never be able to create beauty and that’s why you are so essential. Let your creative juices flow and create a masterpiece on the Internet. Keep an eye on those popular websites around you and learn from them. Note what looks amazing and what just doesn’t work. Be your own designer and create something unique and beautiful.

There are so many valuable skills a website designer should possess. The ones listed above are just a sampling of those considered most important. If you truly want to be a designer, start with creativity and go from there. Drive and desire will follow if you’re passionate and inspired. Best of luck!

Updating Your Website Design

Your website is arguably the most important piece of your business. You want to make sure you not only have one that functions, but that it’s also up to date, and easy to navigate. Here are five warnings signs that reveal if your website needs an expert redesign:

1. No traffic, no business

If you notice that the traffic to your site has decreased, this might signify a larger problem. The main goal of your website is to bring in as many visitors as possible and to have them make their visit worthwhile, buying your product, signing up for a service, or even just leaving a name and email. If people aren’t visiting, they certainly aren’t buying, and you are losing money.

In order to combat this, you have several options. Try integrating your social media with your website, and pushing your business on those outlets. You may want to invest in an advertising campaign. Try talking with a professional about search engine optimization (SEO) and how they can help you drive traffic to your site through ad-words and other means of advertising.

2. Not viewable on mobile devices

The technology market has steadily been moving towards the rise of mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets. If your website is unable to be viewed properly on these devices, you will lose visitors and potential customers. With a redesign plan, be sure to talk with a designer who has experience in this flexible design (also called responsive design.) This will ensure that your website will be able to be viewed across all devices and all browsers.

3. Slow… loading…

Does your website take forever to load? In today’s busy and stressful society, this could mean the downfall of your business. Overdramatic it may seem, but many people will not wait around for a site to load. They will simply move on to another, faster loading site to do their business. In order to make your site load faster, an update is highly recommended. Many older websites are very image and link heavy, making the site slower. Any designer worth anything will be able to change this, among other things, and will allow your site to run smoother and faster.

4. Outdated and antiquated

Sometimes the popularity of your website will have nothing to do with the product or service you’re selling. There is constant competition between rival businesses about which site looks better, runs faster, and is considered “trendier.” You might be surprised at how much appearance counts for in the website business. Try visiting a competing website and going through the process to buy something. See if there is anything you might be able to improve on your own website.

5. No change, no gain

Have you updated your website since it’s launch? If the answer to that question is “no”, then you may need to evaluate your design. Even if your site has only been around for a year or two, trends in the industry seem to change every day. Paying attention to these shifting trends, can ensure that your website is up to date and utilizing all possible advantages technology has to offer. Be willing to make these changes and you’ll be rewarded with an increase in traffic and more business.

As is evidenced above, a possible update and redesign for your website can be quite important. If your website does not take full advantage of every person that visits, then it’s wasting precious potential. Guarantee your website is up to date, and you will see your business increase.

5 of the Best Startup Practices

In many ways, operating a startup business is a lot like running a marathon. Both require lots of time, training, and planning, as well as self-discipline and flexibility. Like anyone training for a race there are just best practices to efficiently run your startup.

Timing is everything

During a marathon, you rarely see people take off at a flat out sprint in the very beginning. Instead, professional runners set a pace and know when to start pushing themselves. This is critical to a startup company. You must know the market and know when to start pushing your product. If the market is flooded with similar items, you may need to wait in order for your business to take off.

Another important key to the timing of your startup is to make sure you are moving quickly and decisively. Once you start making moves towards your business plan, act with a purpose! These are some of the most important steps in the life of your business. Too many startups have gotten bogged down at the very beginning because they simply dragged their feet getting off the ground.

Surround yourself with supporters

Most marathon athletes have a network of support. This support group is usually made up of friends, family, and other marathon runners who constantly strive to improve and encourage the athlete. In business, this is also important. Make sure you have people in place in your business who will be with you for the long haul. Most startups won’t get off the ground in six months, some not even in a year, so make sure you hire people who are committed and who desire to improve your business. These people will be the cornerstones of your startup.

On a more personal note; try to involve your friends and family in this process. Not only will they be there to help you through the tough times, but they will also be there to celebrate with you in your triumphs. We all need a little encouragement – or a call from a friend reminding us to get some sleep.

Stick to the plan

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of any undertaking is self-discipline. In reference to running a marathon, serious runners have the self-discipline of a monk. They adhere to rigid training regimes, nutrition plans, and practice schedules. In order to have a successful startup, you must adopt this attitude as well. That means setting forth a budget and then sticking to it – not a single penny over. Perhaps you can afford to go over your budget, but in the end, it’s the principle of the matter. If you go over your first budget, what will keep you from going over it for the rest of the life of your business?

In addition, it is recommended that you set forth a schedule for yourself concerning when you want to get certain things done. That way you can see your schedule days, weeks, and even months in advance, and know what you need to get done. It should be well known to anyone reading this article that startups require more time and nurturing than an established business. You should be prepared to spend as much time as needed on your project.

Bend but don’t break

A flexible runner is a good runner. If you run while you’re stiff, you will inevitably injure yourself. Any runner, marathon or not, knows stretching before a race is invaluable. You loosen up your muscles and give your body a chance to enjoy a wider range of motion and to recover faster after the race. Being flexible with your startup is equally important. Things can change in almost any aspect of your business and they might require tweaking. Sure, your company might be your baby and you might have everything perfectly in order.  However, what if things change and initial testing of your product shows you need to alter your course?  Given that your product has never been tested in the marketplace until your first round of testing, you do not know whether or not your idea is one that will stick. Therefore, it is vital to have the flexibility to adapt and change as new factors arise.

Don’t forget to follow through

After all the training and all the preparation, don’t chicken out. Put your feet to the pavement and just go. All the tips and helpful hints are worth nothing if you don’t have the perseverance or knowledge to just get out and do it. This goes for marathons, startup businesses and anything else that might require any great effort. At the end of the day, make sure you know how to do what you need to do rather than what needs to be done. Don’t come to the end of things and be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You’ve come too far to quit now. Follow through.