Case Study: Bella Pictures Review

October 18, 2011 in Uncategorized by Designussion

Bella Pictures is reviewed in this page.  A review site should have all the elements that are important to the visitor.    Notice how this page contains a full description of the reviewed site complete with a photograph of the web page.  It also includes the rating in a text format and a picture format.  Finally it should have social media widgets that allow the viewer to share the opinion with others.

Max Furniture – Great eCommerce CSS Design

May 26, 2011 in CSS, Inspiration by Designussion

Not very often do I find an ecommerce site that is truly unique. Max Furniture, while it uses standard navigation options as you would see on any ecommerce site, really looks nice. Love the vivid colors and use of CSS in the text font options.

Max Furniture

Max Furniture Screenshot

10 Great Tools For Web Designers

November 18, 2010 in CSS, Inspiration by Designussion

Using color in web design has seperated those average designs to those that make viewers come back for more. As web designer, there are many diffrent things that you should take into account when choosing colors for your design. Having the appropriate colors is very important for readability along side ensuring that the colors you select are viewable by persons with vision deficiencies such as color blindness which is a good practice to follow when thinking about web accessibility.

October 26, 2010 in CSS, Wordpress by Designussion

Web design is a pleasure and we’re sure you’ll enjoy designing and developing sites with these simple tutorials and tips. These tutorials are easy to follow and fun to do! Web Design tutorials are awesome for learning great effects and little tricks in Photoshop. Here are 10 awesome web design tutorials to help get you started.

Turn your talents to Site Flipping

October 19, 2010 in Inspiration by Designussion

I’ve been heavily involved in site flipping lately as I’ve taken my design business to new levels. I thought I’d write a short article with some tips.

Firstly, why I think it is a good way to start out for noobs (please note, you need to be able to afford at least a domain and hosting, approx $20) is because it’s a fantastic way to learn a little bit about every area of IM: web design, programming, servers, content creation, marketing, finding the right products, SEO, Reputation Managers, etc. If you can build and sell a site for profit, chances are you can do most methods on the forum.

Depending on your budget there are a few ways you can start.

* Noob/poor man – $20, buy domain and hosting, use free software to build site, use PLR content
* Mid-level – $150, buy domain with some PR and hosting, outsource everything
* High roller – $any, buy an established site, spruce it up and sell it

For a start, with every site you build and expect to sell, install Google Analytics and make sure you can track your specific income for this site – whether it be channels in adsense or whatever.

Now personally, I like to buy established sites cheap from places like DP, but I’ll start with how to do it from scratch. I’m not going to explain the technicalities of building a site, that’s what Google is for.

There are loads of different types of sites that sell but here are a few ideas for noob/mid-level:

* Do some keyword research, find a good niche, get a domain, throw up some articles (tons of tutorials in the adsense section)
* Buy a tool, learn to use it, offer as a service on your website. When you get bored of service sell the business
* Write an ebook, write a sales page, buy domain, sell some ebooks, flip the site when sales start to drop
* Buy a domain with page rank, add some content and sell (people love PR)

As a rule of thumb, don’t expect much for a new site – DP you won’t get much more than $50 whereas Flippa you might get $200 but have to pay the fees.

I would recommend starting out on somewhere like DP where there is no listing fee and learn how the business works with a few small transactions etc. If you can use escrow for all transactions, it is a lot safer than Paypal and at some stage you will get stung using Paypal (plenty of threads complaining about them)

Now for most of you that will be nothing new or anything earth-shattering so let’s move on to bigger fish.

For bigger sites (anything over $200) I would always recommend selling on Flippa. It has the most traffic of standalone marketplaces and a large number of qualified buyers with cash on hand. There is still a lot of crap listed on there, but that’s not a problem as you are selling a site not buying one.

What I tend to do, is browse DP for sites selling cheap (look for 2-3 months revenue as price), do all my checks against their stats (chances are if their stats don’t add up, they are lying so move on to something else no matter how good the deal sounds)

Once you’ve chosen your site and paid for it, got the domain etc time to get to work. I tend to buy sites that I feel I can add most value to. So if you’re specialisation is monetisation and you feel you can double the revenue, you’ve got a perfect site. If you can make kick ass designs, pick up an ugly site, spruce it up, happy days. If you’re a good writer, buy a site with no content, add content. You get the drift.

It’s not rocket science but I would recommend starting out small as it does take a while to get used to, and ultimately it comes down to judgement and experience not clever tools or checklists.

I would recommend doing some good SEO on the site once you have it. I tend to have a blast with scrapebox although SEO is by no means my speciality. Sites that sell well on Flippa tend to have organic traffic and earnings through adsense.

This is important: if you have bought your site on DP chances are the site/auction has got indexed for the site name. So if anyone looks up your site they will see the auction, and where you bought it. This isn’t good

Make sure BEFORE you list on Flippa you can’t be found in search engines, or you’ll have problems selling.

Now a few tips for Flippa:

* 100s of sites get listed, so you need to stand out. You have to SELL the site to them, so use catchy titles with good selling points such as my site, 5 years old – NO RESERVE” – you get the picture.
* Buy auction upgrades. Don’t be tight, get a front page listing! You will get 10x more traffic and 10x more likely to sell. Not to say you can’t sell without it, but if you think about it in monetary terms: with 10x more people viewing your listing, will you get $30 (cost of featuring) extra back? The answer 9/10 is yes
* Write a good description. Put as much [good] detail in your listing as possible. Make sure you are transparent with stats – Google Analytics (or at least awstats) and as much historic revenue as you can.
* If you can, avoid telling people you bought the site 3 days ago! People like to see a consistent history with a site so no need to ruin that for them.
* If you have a unique traffic/revenue source – DO NOT tell people in the auction/by PM how it works. You lose your unique selling point and premium you can charge.
* Flippa buyers like page rank and alexa rank – don’t ask me why, but they do.
* Unique is good – unique content, unique design etc, adds a lot of value to buyers.
* Offer free hosting/free transfer with the site – either let them take over your hosting account or buy a reseller package with Hostgator and charge them 10 bucks a month to host with you (most won’t bother moving to their own server, especially at lower end).
* Incentivise the BIN price – offer some free articles, SEO services, hosting, support, other crappy domains etc if the BIN price is reached.
* Don’t worry if you’re site doesn’t get bids early – the number of watchers is the important part (over 20 is very good). People like to see the auction run, and don’t like to make the first bid, so get a friend to bid early on to get it moving. Most sites on Flippa tend to sell for BIN (in my experience anyway) so be patient. If bidding is made towards the end of the auction, it is extended by 4 hours to prevent “sniping”.
* Don’t auto-accept bids. Especially if it is a BIN. If the buyer doesn’t pay then it takes time and effort to relist. Check the buyer out (join date, feedback etc) and if in doubt PM them to confirm their bid is genuine.
* Selling price: general rule of thumb – sites with search engine traffic, age and adsense earnings will go for anything between 10-24 months revenue. Newer sites: 2-3 months revenue. Brand new sites: depends on design, content etc – aim for around $200 on Flippa or $50 on DP.
* Answer questions honestly and promptly. Whether in the listing or by PM answer them today not in 5 days time, you never know who is serious or not.

Most of my flips are relisted in a couple of days, and will be up on Flippa in no time. Work fast, and you should be able to make a good profit and all you need to do is answer questions and see the money come rolling in.

I recently co-published a course on Site Flipping. You can read more about it on my Flippa article or visit the Killer Flipping Secrets website direct.

References: www.reputationmanagers.com , www.dannydemichele.com

Monetizing Past Clients

July 25, 2010 in Identity by Designussion

Some freelance designers are of the opinion that the 80:20 rule applies to a freelancer’s business. They reckon that 20% of our income comes from 80% of our clients and 80% of our income comes from 20% of clients. I happen to agree with this, for the most part.

In my own experience I have found that business from previous clients was where the majority of my work generated from. This may not apply to freelancers who have just started out, but over the years business does head toward the 80:20 rule. Does this mean marketing to new clients is futile? No, that is ridiculous. What it means is that all your efforts in marketing will go further because a client who does come to you will be back for more business and will refer you if you play your cards right.

1. Thank You

Whenever I do business with anyone, I send them a thank you card. This is not always a matter of getting more business but rather its because I’m a nice guy. A side-effect of being a nice guy just happens to be that the client has a record of your contact details in the contact card and feels better and easier about recommending you to friends or family.

2. Mailing List

Add your previous clients to an email mailing list. The problem with mailing lists is that they become irritating, especially when they start to clog your inbox. The best way to have a mailing list which will actually have some effect is to email at most once a fortnight, you can increase this to once a month, but my experience tells me not to do weekly or daily emails.

3. Business Card

A business card gives you a professional look while being personal. The greatest advantage is that it is great for marketing as business cards make their way around. Since a business card has the vital info on there it should be enough to get a potential client to contact you.

If you don’t believe the advantages of business clients, I would tell you to go and watch Will Smith’s film ‘Hitch’. In the film his entire business survives on a single business card.

4. Warm cold calling

If you have a previous client’s details and worked for them two years ago, it may be time to give them a call. When you call them, be genuine and actually ask about them as opposed to launching into a tele-marketer script (like a guy from India who rang me today!). Once you have asked how they are, whether the service you provided for them was good, you should pitch to them.

Don’t ask them, tell them.

Say “Have you heard of our 25% off deals? Yeah, its very limited and as soon as we were offering it I thought of you. Shall I come down and discuss it with you?” That is more likely to receive a yes than the tele-marketer who rang me saying “Sir, my name is John Price (in an indian accent) you want to take advantage, we have excellent deal blah blah blah (for five minutes)”

Finally…

These are not all of the ways of getting business from previous clients, but rather some of the best ones from my personal experience. What does your experience say? Please be kind enough to share your experience with us so all our readers can learn.

Freelance Designing Without ‘The Secret’

July 9, 2010 in Inspiration by Designussion

A couple of years ago, I was young and naive so I made the error of reading Rhonda Byrne’s book
“The Secret” which tries (and fails) to explain an idea which it calls “The law of attraction”. After wasting a good few hours of my life reading about this “law” i realised that it was complete and utter rubbish and the only “secret” about the book is that it is terrible!

As with any self help books there were a few valid points, for example the book explains excellent ways of motivating yourself, however i would strongly urge you not to waste your time with this pile of junk that calls itself a book. All of the remotely decent points found in this book can easily be found elsewhere, so trust me, elsewhere is where you want to look. Try reading some genuine work by Tony Robbins or Timothy Ferriss.

SET TARGETS

Whether it’s a better hourly rate, more money or just more free time to enjoy yourself that you want, the key is visualisation.

Visualise what you want then break it down into small acheivable steps, dont make the mistake that many make and jump straight in at the deep end. Smaller, bite-sized chunks enables you to take that extra step towards your goal.

Start working through your bite-size steps one at a time, making sure you focus on the important tasks first and in no time you’ll on the road to achieving yours goals.

Picture this; your a new Freelancer with the ultimate goal to gain an income, therefore it’s clear that you need some clients.

Step 1, ‘create a sample portfolio’, ‘start your own blog’, ‘do some market research’ and so on. Eventually this will lead to ‘get yourself a client’, keep going step by step and you will soon find yourself acheiving your goals.

VISUALISE

I know i’ve mentioned it already, but visualisation is key! In order to motivate yourself to work towards your goals, visualise what you will achieve by getting there. If your a freelancer who’s dream is to drive around in a Lamborghini Gallardo or own a villa in the Bahamas, dont just sit around thinking ‘it will never happen’, instead think ‘how can i make it happen’. Get a picture of the car or that villa and put it on your notice board, spend 5 minutes a day looking at the picture and think how it would feel to own it, visualise how you are going to get it! This should set you up for the day and give you the motivation you need so to achieve your goals.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Who says you’ll never afford that Villa? That Lamborghini? The answer? YOU! If you sit around thinking you can’t achieve great things, then you won’t. Beleive in your ability, beleive that you have the ability to make the money, get those clients, retire early. This is not to say that this won’t require hard work, but by beleiving and actively focusing on your goals you will find yourself armed with the drive to achieve what you want. Believe in yourself and you’ll find your clients more satisfied, your time better spent and yourself enjoying what you do. Remember, your are in the position you are because you have skills that
other people do not. You are a freelancer for a reason and that reason is talent, beleive in this talent and you will soon be on your way to acheiving your goals!

GO OUT AND DO IT

“The Secret” may be a waste of time, but a clear message throughout most decent self help books has been summarised above.

If you want to be a successful freelancer then the key is action!

Take the steps talked about above now!

Don’t think ‘I’ll do it tommorrow’ as tommorrow will becoming the next day and the next day will become never. Take control of your career, take control of your life and push yourself to acheive what you know you can!

Weekends: to work, or not to work?

June 25, 2010 in Identity by Designussion

Some of the older readers of Designussion may have fond memories of Loverboy’s 1981 hit “Working for the Weekend”, but how does this apply to most of us who are freelance designers? A common dilemma faced by freelancers is whether or not to work at the weekend. There are rewards in terms of more earnings and it can be hard to say no.

Working as a freelancer can mean quitting the 9 to 5 routine to find more appropriate times to work, but does it also mean you have to become a machine who works weekends, bank holidays and the like?

What problems are encountered by those of us who work and the weekend, and why should we avoid it?

Needing a day off

I think most of us who are self-employed can remember the day we quit our jobs. I was free, excited and had the whole world in front of me. It didn’t take too long to notice that freelancing is not as easy as it sounds, and can actually be very difficult. Maybe one of the biggest reasons why it gets so hard so quickly is due to the fact that many new freelancers struggle to manage their time effectively. Before long, you’ll be working far more hours than you did in your day job, missing lunch breaks and forgetting to go to bed.
If this sounds a bit like you and your current habits, you really need to stop now and re-think your work-life. Everybody needs a day off sometimes, and without taking one you will be lost for inspiration, poorly motivated and you won’t see a prosperous future. Start taking a regular weekend off to spend time with loved ones or enjoying your favourite hobby.

Working on the Weekend

There can sometimes be advantages to working over the weekend, however, I would say if you want to do this, then allocate some days during the week to take time off. All of us are productive at different times of the day/week so work around this accordingly. If you happen to be most productive on the weekend, then by all means work; just make sure you take time off during the week to compensate.

Certainly, the joys of taking a day off on a regular week day for myself is that everywhere is quiet and I can get a lot more done. For example, when shopping, there is a smaller queue so I can get what I need a lot faster. This also helps reduce the stress of shopping which can be a nightmare on the weekends. Combine this with being able to walk around freely without worrying about hurrying back to the office to keep the boss happy!

One of the other problems with working weekends is that your clients often don’t. This means you may have to wait a number of days to get a response to a simple question and can even delay getting paid. I tend to find working on my own personal projects is most effective over the weekend as I have no-one else to rely on.

In Conclusion

Working on the weekend can quickly kill your motivation and therefore effectiveness as a freelancer. Make sure you arrange time off during the week to make up for time worked elsewhere. There is no right or wrong way to do it – you work for you now so can make your own decisions. Find out what works best for you and go with that. No-one is going to tell you that you are wrong so just experiment!

Your work has been rejected.

April 27, 2010 in Identity by Designussion

Again.

After dedicating your valuable time and effort into a project the last thing you want is for your hard work to be rejected or ties to be cut by a dissatisfied client. Unfortunately this can often happen and the blow can be disheartening.

Sometimes the stress of rejection becomes too much and emotions become hard to control. It would be somewhat fruitless for me to tell you to “stop feeling this way”, however there are ways to motivate yourself once more through analysing what went wrong in the first place so to avoid such situations reoccurring. Even some of the finest freelancers in the business find themselves becoming sceptical of their own ability after the crushing feeling of having all their time and efforts put to waste. However, the key is often in the basics. Think of it as a great novelist who makes spelling mistakes, or a chef who cooks brilliant food but doesn’t do so quickly enough. By ironing out these basic errors you’ll find yourself at the top of your game once more with clients queuing up for your services.

Dissatisfied clients

Whether a highly regarded client turns down your work or a customer ends a long lived connection, you need to get to the root of the problem and find out the reason why. As mentioned previously it is likely that basic and avoidable errors were key to your client relationship downfall, not your own ability. Something that may seem so insignificant such as timekeeping could in fact be the cause of your client’s dissatisfaction. It is vital that you look to remove these seemingly trivial issues in order to improve your service for the future.
If you fail to see the problem in order to fix it, a good idea is indeed to get in contact with the client and find out from them. The most effective way of doing so is to send them a quick questionnaire regarding your service. The key to getting the best answers is to focus the attention of the questions towards their discontent, be straight up and ask direct questions such as “What was your main issue with the service provided?”, furthermore ensure the options are both clear and realistic, such as ‘failure to meet deadlines” and “cheaper rates were found elsewhere”. Not only will this provide you with feedback allowing you to evaluate exactly where you went wrong, but it is much more effective than for example a phone call whereby the client is likely to be more reserved in their responses. By using a questionnaire you not only make things easier for yourself, but you may find yourself in the position to approach your former client with a solution to their problem, with luck on your side they will see your willingness to improve and may offer you a revised deal.

Rectifying problems

An important lesson to be learnt is that feedback is the key to improvement, by putting stubbornness aside and recognising where you went wrong, great benefits can come about.

Timekeeping can be one of the easiest problems to avoid. Firstly ensure that you know exactly when the deadline is, and what is required to meet it. This will allow you to break down the project into parts, block off adequate time to complete each part and prevent you from becoming bogged down and rushing. By breaking down the project into small pieces, you will also find it more manageable and the end result more thorough. If you are unsure of how long each piece will take to complete, break it down into smaller pieces until you are sure. It is fundamental that you agree the deadline before accepting it, there’s no use taking on a project you simply cannot meet the deadline for. In this case it may be necessary to negotiate the deadline, ensuring you leave yourself a buffer zone to rectify errors in case not everything goes to plan. By following these steps you should find projects far more manageable and eliminate the issue of timekeeping altogether, you’ll find yourself less stressed and in time develop a natural deadline meeting prowess.

Lack of qualifications can be an issue for some clients. If you find this is the case you may need to learn the new skills required. However this can be time consuming and costly, I advise you only take this route if you are finding this to be a continuous problem, this is as many clients don’t mind, as long as you get the job done to their standard.

Overpriced service. This is a less common complaint amongst clients in my experience. Although of course it is possible to overprice your services and alienate yourself from potential clients, from personal experience, I have found that the minority of clients that indeed complain about costs are usually in fact willing to pay the cost, yet are trying to take advantage of you, my advice is to hold firm with your price if you can justify it. If the client still asks for a reduction then ensure that you negotiate a deal which suits you both equally.

Unproffessionalism can be an issue for certain clients, simple things such as dressing smartly if meeting a client in person and ensuring emails or other communication forms are kept formal and professional. This gives the impression that you are proficient in what you are doing and will reflect upon this in your work.

Final advice

Think of any rejection of your work in a positive manner, rather than becoming disillusioned with thoughts of failure “what if’s”. Put yourself in the position to change for the better by using the negative experience to reassess what went wrong. This mindset will allow you to repair any flaws in your work and come back stronger than ever before.

Are you failing as a Web Developer? Here are some reasons why…

April 16, 2010 in Identity by Designussion

There is so much information available to us as web developers, whether it is from blogs, articles, books or publications.

It’s obviously a brilliant part of our industry, and will undoubtedly remain that way. Every now and then it is important to take a step back and realise what we do wrong.

Some things can have a negative effect on our progress as a developer, even though in the short-term they may help pay the bills. Sometimes it is important to look at the bigger picture for the long-term.

Much of this should be considered hypothetically and I would encourage you to think about what I have written and comment with your thoughts.

Anyway, here are some key factors that could be conducive to failure in the long-term.

You Can’t Say No to Any Client

This may sound stupid, as after all, every client puts money in our pockets and adds to our portfolio. As I’m sure all of you would have experienced, it doesn’t always turn out this way.

Some projects, I’d rather not publicise, not because of my personal work, but the fact the client didn’t take on board any of my suggestions regarding design and usability, and as such, the final result was not as I would have hoped.

Of course, we don’t all have the luxury of choosing our clients like some of the bigger firms do. But we have to at least be able to understand for ourselves what type of client we might be averse to working with. There may be circumstances where we simply can’t afford to turn a client down, so that’s acceptable.

If we are able to identify some characteristics in clients or projects that we find undesirable, then it’s likely we’re making some progress as developers, and we’re not so much concerned about making money but are primarily focused on making the web a better place.

You Try to Do Everything

This is one of the debateable points I mentioned earlier. But consider this scenario: You are a web developer who does it all: You can create a logo in Illustrator, design a website in Photoshop, are able to work with a range of back-end frameworks, can program in multiple back-end languages, can code valid XHTML and CSS, can create raw JavaScript, have learned to play around with 3 or 4 JavaScript libraries, can do copy writing, content strategy, IA, UX, and even dabble in SEO and SEM.

How realistic is it that you’ll be able to keep up to date and be on the cutting edge of all of those different technologies, concepts, and languages? It’s not realistic at all, so it’s best to pick a few areas that you can keep up with and focus on, and if a particular client requires other services beyond your focus, well, that brings us to the next item on this list.

You Don’t Network

One of the best ways to ensure you keep up with all the current trends in the industry and even stay ahead of the game, knowing about events before they occur, is through networking – whether it be on or offline.

Of course, some of us might be limited when it comes to personal networking, whether because of geography or personal reasons. But we can all network and build relationships with quality developers online. Just interacting with bloggers or posting in webmaster forums could help build relationships.

Another brilliant way to make contacts and keep up with recent happenings in the community is to attend any events or conferences in your area. Many of these events are put on by some of the biggest names in the web design industry, and the information shared is always up to date and often ahead of the game.

As discussed, this goes back to the previous point about avoiding trying to do everything. If you have a solid network of available professionals, you can pick and choose work and specialise in a field – outsourcing to more experienced people in a particular area.

My best advice with networking is to ensure mutual benefit. Don’t just leech ideas, contribute and share your own thoughts. The only way an equal and long-lasting exchange can take place is if greed and selfishness is left behind and you are willing to be just as helpful to those from whom you expect help.

You Don’t Think About Progressive Enhancement

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Even if it does, the sound is irrelevant, because it didn’t serve a purpose.

This can happen with a website that isn’t backwards compatible and lacks wide accessibility. This is where progressive enhancement comes in, and it needs to be considered during the planning stages, as it considerably more difficult to implement further down the line or once a design is live.

Progressive enhancement (which is one of the key ingredients when implementing accessibility) ensures a website’s content is SEO-friendly and is available to all site visitors, including those with older browsers, assisted technology, or those browsing the web with JavaScript and/or Ajax capabilities disabled. If your site’s content is not accessible to search engine spiders, then it’s like that tree that falls and nobody is there to hear [see] it.

Thinking about progressive enhancement in your web projects is a good sign that you are trying to maximize the reach of the site’s content and, by extension, maximizing the site’s ability to turn a casual visitor into a sale.

You’ve Already Thought Up a Response To This Article Explaining That I Am Wrong

Much of this article will be dismissed by readers as inaccurate and presumptive. Of course, there are points I have not included, and details I have not expanded on. But before you decide these points are of little importance to a “successful” web professional, take the time to consider what your goals are in building web sites, and where you see yourself in a few years.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of working with and for people whose only interest in web design was business-related (that is, their goals were mostly financially-driven). Because of the potentially far-reaching effects of what we do as web professionals, our goals should go beyond such superficialities and we should be constantly assessing our personal values to ensure that our progress as web professionals is helping making the web a friendlier place.

Putting focus on reaching such goals, and not always on “making the sale”, is what will eventually make you a successful web professional.