TOP 5 Web Design trends to follow in 2020

The web turned 30 in 2019 and over the last three decades it has changed our world like no other technology. It’s empowered us to build experiences we’d never have imagined.
We’ve explored the design trends that will not only help build a better web but will also help brands catch the attention of users in a busy and constantly-connected world.
01: Whitespaces
02: Minimalist and simplistic design
03: 3D digital artwork
04: Black and white web design
05: AI technology: Chatbots

Trends aren’t just about the latest frameworks or immersive 3D experiences that only privileged users can access. It’s about how trends fit in the overall picture, and how we can improve the experience for as many users—as diverse as they may be—as possible.

01: Whitespaces

Whitespace is the blank spaces between the lines or columns of text, the spaces around each visual element and the margins on the website. While most commonly white, whitespaces can also be made up of any other background colour as long as it offers unused open spaces between design elements.

This trend is sure to dominate as it helps create a spacious and well-balanced feel among users visiting such a website. Choosing to add sufficient whitespace comes down to more than a cosmetic decision. It is a clever business decision as by incorporating whitespaces, users will digest content without feeling overwhelmed and will likely stay longer on a particular website thereby increasing the conversion rate.

02: Minimalist and simplistic design

The minimalist design trend is about confidently and fearlessly exposing users to your brand with a less is more design approach. To balance aesthetics with functionality, minimalist web design is defined by fearless use of space, stunning visuals, striking typography and an overall focus on the content itself – and nothing else.

Such websites are easy to spot with its clean and minimal layout that centres on the idea that design is created to support content. Websites that have perfected the balancing act between aesthetics and functionality offer a UX that is engaging, insightful and memorable.

03: 3D Digital Artwork

Websites are moving away from the traditional flat design to a more immersive design experience where 3D digital artwork breathes life to brands and products.
One area of the web where 3D digital artwork will have the most impact is with brands that exclusively sell online. The 3D artwork rendering of products will help improve online sales as users get to experience the product in more detail. This design trend is expected to revolutionise the way users do their online shopping.

Essentially 3D artwork opens the doorway to reduce the barriers to online shopping as anxious online shoppers grow in confidence while experiencing and engaging with the product on more than one-dimensional plane. Of course, 3D digital artwork as a way of creating captivating UX is not limited to online stores but can be incorporated into any brand from Coco-Cola to General Electric.

04: Black and white Website Design

Having millions of colours to choose from makes a web designers job all that easier but if this trend has its way, web designers will be helping brands tell their story in a monochromatic way. 2020 is set to see web designers exploring the design challenge of creating beauty with the clever use of black and white.

By limiting the web design to these two colours, brands will stand out in a world where an explosion of colour is expected. Keeping to black and white, brands will be able to paint a picture where users are forced to use their imaginations to bring the brand to life.

05: AI Technology: Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its way into web design by cleverly automating and humanising the way information is conveyed to users. Where chatbots lack emotional intelligence, they offer boundless opportunities for brands to offer sophisticated conversations with users by answering questions in real-time.

By taking the time to incorporate AI into the web design, brands can deliver around-the-clock support and assistance to website visitors.
While chatbots are only in its infant years, it is already regarded as the easiest way to reduce bounce rates, support users and improve conversion rates. As AI matures, we can expect to see a more humanised approach.

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8 Tips for Creating an Effective Online Presence for Your Small Business

Today, every business needs an online presence. Whether you run a local business or sell products online, a website, social media and other online profiles can help you reach a larger audience. Whether you’re just starting to build an online presence or looking to step up your efforts, here are some tips for your small business.

Create More Effective Instagram Videos

Video is the perfect outlet for getting a unique message across to your potential customers. If your target audience is active on Instagram, then you should be utilising video on that platform. But how can you make your videos more effective?

Use Organic Social Media as a Base for Paid Marketing

It’s true that ads and paid promotions on social media can help you increase your reach significantly. However, you can’t really make use of these options without a solid base of organic social media content.

Fix Your Local SEO Mistakes

When you’re trying to reach local customers online, you need to be very careful when shaping your SEO strategy. There are tons of mistakes that impact businesses and make their efforts less effective.

Target Adjacent Markets with Smart Risk Taking

If you want to expand your target audience, it helps to look into adjacent markets that are very similar to your current customer base. But it’s important to do this without alienating your current customers. That takes some smart risk taking.

Leverage the Full Potential of On-Site Search

A search function is important for any website. It helps your visitors find specific types of content they’re looking for, providing a better experience overall. But simply having a search bar may not be enough.

Examine the DNA of Shareable Content

If the content you create on your blog or website is shareable, you can extend your reach significantly.

Embrace Different Ways of Promoting Your Business

If you always stick to the same methods for promoting your business, you’ll continue to get the same results. So if you want to grow, you need to embrace new methods.

Create Content That Attracts Customers

Quality content can really help you step up the impact of your website and online presence. But it’s important to consider exactly how your content can attract your target customers, rather than creating generic posts.

 

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Surviving The Recession

Surviving The Recession

Most small businesses have already started noticing a decline in sales enquiries since autumn 2018 and could feel the effects of the “technical” recession long before the numbers were published. Almost everyone we speak to had cashflow problems during the past few months and most SME’s reported a decline in sales requests. Our latest recession combined with higher fuel costs creates an endless circle of decline and many small businesses will be struggling for survival.

One of the main observations we have noted is the large increase in marketing expenditure on Google and Facebook Ads. Many businesses are competing aggressively to dominate search results to increase their online visibility. This helps them sustain their businesses and cash-flow during the financial slump by generating more clients.

Our advice is to ensure your website is perfectly optimised for sales flow and that your Google Ads have the best possible conversion rate settings. There are many ways to increase your conversions (sales leads) and decrease your cost per conversion using historical data. We can help you build the perfect Google Ads campaign.


What is a Google Ads Conversion Rate?

The industry average for Google Ads conversions is about 2.35% and the top 25% of optimised accounts have a 5.31% conversion rate. We try to aim for a 10%+ conversion rate, but this takes time to build and requires lots of careful optimisations on both the website landing page and the Google Ads account.


Recession Survival Tips:

  1. Look for new opportunities within your business or new ideas to make the current service more profitable and streamlined.
  2. Consider expanding to new areas or even globally if you offer a product or service that appeals to a global market. Don’t be afraid to move beyond the local area if your sales are slowing down.
  3. If your target market is suffering financially, change your offers or evolve your offer to find a new target market.
  4. During a recession, businesses and people will make hard choices about what expenses to cut. Try to find ways to compromise with a cost-effective solution to maintain the business relationship until finances improve.
  5. During a recession, people are more focused on price comparison and shift their priority towards value and will usually choose a product or service that represents the best compromise between price and quality.
  6. Consumers and business are spending money more carefully and tend to do more research when selecting a new product or service provider. Ensure your customer reviews are looking good and use good reviews in your marketing material.
  7. Use the internet wherever possible! Many stores are closing their physical shop locations and opening virtual eCommerce stores. You save massive amounts per year in rent and offer a more convenient shopping experience for your clients. Woolworths, Take-A-Lot and Domino’s pizza have very user-friendly and efficient online ordering systems.
  8. Don’t stop advertising! When cash-flow starts to decline, many businesses examine their budgets and start reducing costs including their advertising budget. This is only a short-term solution and cutting your marketing budget will decrease the already dwindling sales and will cause more harm to your cash-flow.

 

Almost any business can survive an economic rescission if you are committed to improving your business. Work closely with your marketing company to see where you can improve and what else you can do to increase your online visibility, target market and profits. You can survive the storm and emerge stronger.

 

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23 Best color combinations to incorporate into your designs

Maybe you stumble on a website with an absurd mixture of yellow, pink, and black. Or, perhaps someone you know decides to wear green pants with an orange shirt. These instances force you to recognize the importance of combining certain colors — and not combining others.

Color combinations have the power to evoke certain emotions, and can even influence our perceptions. But creating beautiful design is more than just ensuring you’re not combining orange with green — it’s also about using the best colors to convey your brand’s message.

When you’re creating designs for your business, it’s critical you use the best color combinations, but it’s easier said than done. Here, we’ve curated a list of the 23 best color combinations, so you can skip the coworker debates about whether pink and orange work well together, and get straight to the design itself.

Good Color Combinations

  1. Coral Red (#F93943) and Viking (#7EB2DD)
  2. East Bay (#424874) and Moon Raker (#DCD6F7) and Ghost (#CACFD6)
  3. Viking (#7EB2DD) and Karry (#FFE8D4)
  4. Tan Hide (#F98866) and Vermilion (#FF420E) and Acapulco (#80BD9E)
  5. Botticelli (#C4DFE6) and Nepal (#90AFC5) and Ship Gray (#3E363F)
  6. Persian Green (#00A6A6) and Vista Blue (#98DBC6) and Mauvelous (#F18D9E) and Sunflower (#E6D72A)
  7. Marigold Yellow (#F6E278) and Ice Cold (#BCF4F5) and Vista Blue (#98DBC6)
  8. Spice (#6E352C) and Tuscany (#CF5230) and Jaffa (#F59A44) and Calico (#E3C598) and Yellow Metal (#6E612F)
  9. Alto (#D9D9D9) and Mandys Pink (#F5B3B4) and Chestnut Rose (#D15656) and Stiletto (#94353C)
  10. Swiss Coffee (#E1DCD9) and Schooner (#8F8681) and Pharlap (#A67F78) and Mine Shaft (#3E3C3C)
  11. Tulip Tree (#F2AB39) and Punga (#563C16)
  12. Swans Down (#D1EDE1) and Monte Carlo (#7BC5AE) and Observatory (#028C6A)
  13. Your Pink (#FFC2C3) and Bittersweet (#FE7773) and Alizarin Crimson (#EA3238)
  14. Pampas (#F1EBE9) and Your Pink (#FFC2C3) and Melanie (#E6CBDD)
  15. Mountain Meadow (#1B998B) and Magnolia (#F8F1FF)
  16. Terracotta (#E07A5F) and Gun Powder (#3D405B) and Moon Raker (#DECDF5) and Acapulco (#81B29A) and Manhattan (#F2CC8F)
  17. Bittersweet (#FE7773) and Cosmos (#FFD8D8) and Nile Blue (#194049) and Seagull (#87CEEB)
  18. Mischka (#DAD5DC) and Pigeon Post (#A7C4DE) and Mystic (#D7EAEA) and Downy (#76C1D1) and Aqua Island (#ACDBDF)
  19. Malibu (#4DD7FF) and Aero Blue (#AEFFF1) and Picton Blue (#32C3EE) and Boston Blue (#3B8FA1)
  20. Navajo White (#FFE0AC) and Vivid Tangerine (#FF8C8C)
  21. Dove Gray (#666666) and Aero Blue (#B5FFE9)
  22. Cedar (#3C1518) and Dark Tan (#69140E) and Fire (#A44200)
  23. Milano Red (#BA1200) and Black Pearl (#031927)
  1. Coral Red (#F93943) and Viking (#7EB2DD)
  2. East Bay (#424874) and Moon Raker (#DCD6F7) and Ghost (#CACFD6)

  3. Viking (#7EB2DD) and Karry (#FFE8D4)

  1. Tan Hide (#F98866) and Vermilion (#FF420E) and Acapulco (#80BD9E)
  2. Botticelli (#C4DFE6) and Nepal (#90AFC5) and Ship Gray (#3E363F)

  3. Persian Green (#00A6A6) and Vista Blue (#98DBC6) and Mauvelous (#F18D9E) and Sunflower (#E6D72A)
  1. Marigold Yellow (#F6E278) and Ice Cold (#BCF4F5) and Vista Blue (#98DBC6)
  2. Spice (#6E352C) and Tuscany (#CF5230) and Jaffa (#F59A44) and Calico (#E3C598) and Yellow Metal (#6E612F)

  3. Alto (#D9D9D9) and Mandys Pink (#F5B3B4) and Chestnut Rose (#D15656) and Stiletto (#94353C)
  1. Swiss Coffee (#E1DCD9) and Schooner (#8F8681) and Pharlap (#A67F78) and Mine Shaft (#3E3C3C)
  2. Tulip Tree (#F2AB39) and Punga (#563C16)
  3. Swans Down (#D1EDE1) and Monte Carlo (#7BC5AE) and Observatory (#028C6A)
  4. Your Pink (#FFC2C3) and Bittersweet (#FE7773) and Alizarin Crimson (#EA3238)
  5. Pampas (#F1EBE9) and Your Pink (#FFC2C3) and Melanie (#E6CBDD)
  6. Mountain Meadow (#1B998B) and Magnolia (#F8F1FF)
  7. Terracotta (#E07A5F) and Gun Powder (#3D405B) and Moon Raker (#DECDF5) and Acapulco (#81B29A) and Manhattan (#F2CC8F)
  8. Bittersweet (#FE7773) and Cosmos (#FFD8D8) and Nile Blue (#194049) and Seagull (#87CEEB)
  9. Mischka (#DAD5DC) and Pigeon Post (#A7C4DE) and Mystic (#D7EAEA) and Downy (#76C1D1) and Aqua Island (#ACDBDF)

  1. Malibu (#4DD7FF) and Aero Blue (#AEFFF1) and Picton Blue (#32C3EE) and Boston Blue (#3B8FA1)
  2. Navajo White (#FFE0AC) and Vivid Tangerine (#FF8C8C)
  3. Dove Gray (#666666) and Aero Blue (#B5FFE9)
  4. Cedar (#3C1518) and Dark Tan (#69140E) and Fire (#A44200)
  5. Milano Red (#BA1200) and Black Pearl (#031927)

 

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8 Website Design Guidelines for an Exceptional User Experience

When it comes to designing or re-designing a website, it can be easy to get hung up on the aesthetics. “That shade of blue just doesn’t look right …. Wouldn’t it be cool to have the logo on the right side of the screen? …. How about we put a giant animated GIF in the middle of the page?”

However, if you’re truly trying to accomplish something with your website (e.g., brand awareness, lead generation, etc.), you’ll need to focus on more than just how your website looks.

In a world where folks have more than a billion websites they can potentially land on, you need to make sure your website’s design is optimized for usability (how easy your website is to use) and user experience (how enjoyable interacting with your website is for actual users).

Now, you could spend years studying the ins and outs of usability and UX, but for the sake of giving you a jumping off point, we’ve put together the following list of helpful guidelines to apply to your next web design project.

1) Simplicity

While the look and feel of your website is important, most visitors aren’t coming to your site to evaluate how slick the design is. Instead, they’re coming to your site to complete some action, or to find some specific piece of information.

Adding unnecessary design elements (i.e., elements that serve no functional purpose) to your website will only make it harder for visitors to accomplish what they’re trying to accomplish.

From a usability and UX perspective, simplicity is your friend. And you can employ simplicity in a variety of different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Colours. Don’t use too many. It is recommended using a maximum of five (plus or minus two) different colours in your website’s design.
  • Typefaces. The typefaces you choose should be legible at the very least. And when it comes to colours, you shouldn’t use too many. A common recommendation is to use a maximum of three different typefaces in a maximum of three different sizes.
  • Graphics. Only use them if they’ll help a user complete a task or perform a specific function.

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

Strip away everything that doesn’t add value, then add some visual texture back in.

The great car designer Colin Chapman famously said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” This principle owes something to that mindset. Every element on a page must add value to the user or the business—and ideally, to both. Taken literally, the process of stripping away non-value-adding elements can produce a rather Spartan design. This is where adding some visual texture back into a page comes in. This approach means:

  • The page focuses on the key content.
  • The necessary visual texture and interest is present—supporting the aesthetic-usability effect—but not at the expense of the key page content.

2) Visual Hierarchy

Closely tied to the principle of simplicity, visual hierarchy entails arranging and organising website elements so that visitors naturally gravitate toward the most important elements first.

Remember, when it comes to optimising for usability and UX, the goal is to lead visitors to complete a desired action, but in a way that feels natural and enjoyable. By adjusting the position, colour, or size of certain elements, you can structure your site in such a way that visitors will be drawn to those elements first.

3) Navigability

Having intuitive navigation on your site is crucial for ensuring visitors can find what they’re looking for. Ideally, a visitor should be able to arrive on your site and not have to think extensively about where they should click next — moving from point A to point B should be as pain-free as possible.

Here are a few tips for optimising your site’s navigation:

  • Keep the structure of your primary navigation simple (and near the top of your page).
  • Include navigation in the footer of your site.
  • Don’t offer too many navigation options on a page.
  • Don’t dig too deep. In most cases, it’s best to keep your navigation to no more than three levels deep.
  • Include links within your page copy, and make it clear where those links lead to.

Another pointer: Once you’ve settled on what your site’s main (top) navigation will be, keep it consistent. The labels and location of your navigation should remain the same on each and every page of your site.

4) Consistency

In addition to keeping your site’s navigation consistent, the overall look and feel of your site should be consistent across all of your site’s pages. Backgrounds, color schemes, typefaces, and even the tone of your writing are all areas where being consistent can have a positive impact on usability and UX.

That’s not to say, however, that every page on your site should have the same exact layout. Instead, you should create different layouts for specific types of pages (e.g., a layout for landing pages, a layout for informational pages, etc.), and by using those layouts consistently, you’ll make it easier for visitors to understand what type of information they’re likely to find on a given page.

5) Accessibility

Research shows that tablet internet consumption grew 30% between 2013 and 2018. Smartphone internet consumption, meanwhile, grew 78% during the same time period. The takeaway here: In order to provide a truly great user experience, your site needs to be compatible with the different devices (and operating systems, and browsers) that your visitors are using.

At a high-level, this means investing in a website structure that is highly flexible — like responsive design. With a responsive site, content is automatically resised and reshuffled to fit the dimensions of whichever device a visitor happens to be using.

At a lower level, improving accessibility can be as simple as adding alt-text to all of your images (so visitors who can’t see images in their browsers can still understand what’s on the page).

Ultimately, it’s more important that your website provides a great experience across different platforms as opposed to having to it look identical across those platforms. And that can mean adhering to platform-specific design conventions instead of trying to squeeze in unique elements that users of that platform might not be familiar with.

6) Conventionality

There are certain web design conventions which, over the years, internet users have become increasingly familiar with. Such conventions include:

  • Having the main navigation be at the top (or left side) of a page
  • Having a logo at the top left (or center) of a page
  • Having that logo be clickable so it always brings a visitor back to the homepage
  • Having links change colour/appearance when you hover over them

While it might be tempting to throw all such design conventions out the window for the sake of being completely original or unique, this would (likely) be a mistake.

In order to provide the best experience possible for your site’s visitors, take advantage of the fact that you already know what types of web experiences they’re familiar with. You can use this information to make your site easier for visitors to navigate.

7) Credibility

Ultimately, using web design conventions — design elements and strategies that visitors are already familiar with — can help give your site more credibility. And if you’re striving to build a site that provides the best user experience possible, credibility (a.k.a. the amount of trust your site conveys) can go a long way.

One of the best ways to improve your site’s credibility is to be clear and honest about the product/service you’re selling on the site. Don’t make visitors have to dig through dozens of pages to find out what it is you actually do. Instead, be up front about it, and dedicate some real estate to explaining the value behind what you do.

Another credibility tip: Have a pricing page. While it can be tempting to force people to contact you in order for them to learn more about pricing, having prices listed clearly on your site can definitely make your business seem more trustworthy and legitimate.

8) User-Centricity

At the end of the day, usability and user experience hinge on the preferences of the end users. (After all, if you’re not designing for them … who are you designing for?)

So while the principles detailed in this list are a great starting point, the real key to improving the design of your site is to conduct user testing, gather feedback, and make changes based on what you’ve learned.

68% of visitors fail to convert because they don’t think you care about their experience. So as a final bit of usability/UX wisdom, start caring more! Put yourself into the shoes of your site’s visitors and keep them in mind every step of the way.

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15 of the Best Calligraphy Fonts You Can Download for Free

The right font can instantly improve the look of your marketing presentation, impress your client, or escalate your design from average to exceptional.

But it’s often tough to find a font that falls somewhere in-between classy and dramatic — particularly when you’re not willing to pay for an experienced calligrapher.

We’ve compiled 15 of the best calligraphy fonts we found online. These fonts are subtle, professional, and eye-catching. Best of all, they’re free, so you can download and try them all before picking your favourite.

Most of these fonts are for personal use only, but some of them are available for commercial projects. Below each font, is specified whether it’s free for personal or commercial use — however, if you’re considering using the font for commercial purposes, please read the font’s individual licensing agreement.

1. Alex Brush

This font is classic and understated. It’s also legible and clear, with decent space in between each letter, so you can use the font even for dense paragraphs of text.

Download at: 1001 Free Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

2. Adreno Script Demo Regular

 

Adreno Script is more playful and fun than most of the other calligraphy fonts in the bunch, making it a good option when your design intent is more lighthearted.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

3. Balqis

If you’re designing an artsier project, like a book cover or presentation swag, this font is folksy and down-to-earth, and doesn’t appear too formal.

Download at: Free Design Resources

Free for personal and commercial use.

4. Bukhari Script

Bukhari Script is bold and fluctuates in shading, making it appear vintage and old-school. It’s a good font to use if you’re trying to invoke some nostalgia in your marketing.

Download at: Font Fabric

Free for personal and commercial use.

5. Champignon

This font is decorative and classically formal — you’d probably use this font for invitations, placeholders, or titles, rather than long paragraphs of text or a presentation.

Download at: Dafont

Free for personal and commercial use.

6. Easy November

The swoopy, exaggerated nature of Easy November makes it a great font for titles or branded items like calendars or stickers. Its eye-catching nature makes it appropriate for many different platforms.

Download at Font Space

Free for personal use.

7. Great Day

This font falls somewhere between retro and conservative, making it fitting for both professional presentations, or playful signs or titles. The spacing between each letter also makes it easier to read than some of the other calligraphy fonts.

Download at Font Space

Free for personal use.

8. Kristi

This is one of the more casual and spirited fonts in the mix, evoking memories of girls names in high school yearbooks, which could be ideal if you’re looking to add a personal or hand-written feel to your design.

Download at: Font Squirrel

Free for personal and commercial use.

9. Learning Curve Pro

If there was ever a font that mimicked a “Learn Cursive” activity book, this would be it. The simple, precise lines make it a good bet for any longform content you’re trying to spruce up, while remaining traditional.

Download at: Font Squirrel

Free for personal and commercial use.

10. Pinyon Script

This formal design echoes nineteenth century letter-writing styles, making it a tasteful option for formal posters, invitations, or namecards. This is a good font to use if your theme is more conservative.

Download at: 1001 Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

11. Ralph Lanok Future

Ralph Lanok Future is dramatic, and sleek. While it seems too theatrical for dense text, it’s a great option when you’re aiming to draw a viewer’s attention to a few words or phrases.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

12. Sacramento

 

 

This casual, funky font is a throwback to styles of the 1960s — perfect for large signs or advertisements aiming to create a vintage feel.

Download at: 1001 Fonts

Free for personal and commercial use.

13. Sophia

Undoubtedly one of the more feminine, charming fonts in the list, Sophia uses wide and thin strokes to appear beautifully hand-drawn. This font would work perfectly for any design calling for a soft, graceful feel.

Download at: Creative Booster

Free for personal and commercial use.

14. Special Valentine

 

 

Special Valentine is one of the few classic fonts where the uppercase and lowercase letters are similar sizing and aligned. This makes it useful for full paragraphs by ensuring easy readability, but it’s still elegant enough to also use for invitations or titles.

Download at Urban Fonts

Free for personal use.

15. Qaskin Black Personal Use

There’s something about this font that screams “outdoors-y” to me. I don’t know if it does the same for you, but regardless, Qaskin Black is an unusual calligraphy font, seeming more tough and rustic than the others.

Download at Font Space

 

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You have until July to Install SSL or Google will mark your site “Not Secure”

Chrome 68, due out in July, will warn users about HTTP sites.

The time has come for all websites to migrate to HTTPS. You have until July when Chrome 68 releases.

Google has also pushed the date back a couple of times trying to avoid the massive disruption that will occur when websites start getting labeled, “Not Secure.”

If you haven’t been following, here’s what you need to know:

Google and the rest of the browsers have been working on this for a long time. Last year Google and Mozilla began the push towards universal encryption by changing the UI on their browsers. In addition to the padlock icon, any website with SSL is marked “Secure.”

The idea was that website owners would gradually adopt SSL as more and more features were being taken away.

The browsers also began marking HTTP sites “Not Secure.” This was done more gradually. The warnings started out just warning users when they were about to enter a password in an unencrypted field. Now, with the release of Chrome 68 in July, Google is cranking it up to 11. Any website served via HTTP is going to get the “Not Secure” indicator.

What’s the Big Deal with HTTPS?

HTTP is ancient by computer standards. It’s a protocol for communication and it worked fine for a while. Unfortunately, HTTP is not secure. When you make an HTTP connection with a website that connection is not secure. That means that anyone can eavesdrop on the connection and steal or manipulate any data passed back-and-forth.

HTTPS is secure. When you make a connection with a website the data being sent is encrypted. That essentially makes it worthless to anyone without the corresponding key. Beyond security, HTTPS also blocks ISPs from injecting ads on your website, it is faster and performs better than HTTP and, finally, you have to have encryption in order to use HTTP/2, which is becoming more widely adopted by the day.

What do I need to do?

You need to install an SSL certificate and migrate your website to HTTPS. Before you order one though, take stock of what you need to secure. You may just have a single domain or you may have something more complicated like sub-domains or even multiple domains, in which case you’ll want to find the right certificate. Don’t worry, there’s a diverse set of offerings that cover just about every use case. Webnova can assist all clients hosted with us, if not done already.

Next you’ll need to migrate to HTTPS, you can do this by changing the protocol in your URLs to HTTPS, then using 301 redirects. You may also want to take the time to add your website to HSTS preload list.

Either way, the key takeaway is that you have until July to get an SSL certificate, in case you anger Google.

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Why Startups Need to Invest in Marketing

The life of an entrepreneur isn’t easy.

Startup founders are bringing their ideas to life one day, and the next, they are deciding which vendors to pay — and which to ignore.

There is never enough time, and they are scrambling to put together business plans for investors and hire the right talent for their growing team. In addition, many founders find their messaging, target audience, and even the product or service evolving. So why market what’s not ready?

Paying for marketing might seem like another unnecessary expense or something to put off until the “right” time or stage in development. So, why should startups make investing in marketing a priority?

It’s not about tactics — you need a holistic approach

‘Marketing’ is more than a clever email campaign or Facebook ad. Rather, it’s a discipline that should be baked into a startup’s process and product from the inside out. There’s a myth in some circles that building a great product is all that’s necessary for a startup’s success. ‘Build it, and they will come,’ so to speak. But basing your go-to-market strategy on a quote from a movie is a recipe for disaster. Rather, we think of marketing in the holistic sense, including the brand, interface, key messages, as well as distribution channels and, methods for user acquisition. In reality, the lines between ‘product’ and ‘marketing’ are blurred, if nonexistent, and failing to invest in those key areas, such as your name or brand personality, means you’re leaving key product decisions to chance.

Ideas need momentum

You can have the best idea in the world. But if you don’t couple that with a strategy to spread your story, your idea isn’t going to go very far. Most startup founders would agree that marketing is important, but many still don’t understand how much more complicated marketing is today than it was even five years ago. So, our advice is this: When you’re seeking an agency partner to help spread your story, make sure that partner can both believe in your story and that they also have the strategic insights to spread that story in today’s complicated marketing web.

Everyone starts as the underdog

Studies show that 25% of significant tech business news is about early stage companies, and most of that reporting is about the ‘it’ company of the moment. So nearly every startup begins its PR journey as an underdog. But they have to build market and mind-share from somewhere, and PR, if done right, can be highly efficient. It offers a market voice, validation and significant distribution. But we believe it has to be part of a broader communications strategy that revolves around strategic uses of content and smart leveraging of various channels, social and traditional media, and conventional marketing channels, like direct mail, events (like webinars), and even advertising. The secret to effective, contemporary communications is a precise message conveyed in well-crafted narratives delivered through multiple channels to the many consumptions platforms (phones, tablets, TV, desktop computers, traditional media).

It offers the best return

If you think marketing is too expensive, you should try how expensive it is to build a company without it. Marketing is the highest ROI toolset in the startup arsenal. Where else can you find one finely honed approach to:

  1. market validation and critical early feedback,
  2. actual customers, distribution paths, and quite often sales and revenue, and
  3. a pipeline for potential partners and employees.

Every rand invested in marketing has a triple return for a young company. The skill and capability of the marketing team should be a critical concern for the founding team and investors, and that’s why it often is. A solid product without an addressable market need is called a hobby. An eager market waiting for your next product is called nirvana. The difference is all in the right approach to marketing to shape that market’s expectation even while the market’s expectation shapes the products’ expansion.

You need a brand and people who care

Establishing a strong brand is the best investment a startup can make. Smart marketing can help legitimise a new company, create excitement, and engage potential clients. Nobody knows you yet, so you need to get people to care enough to try what you offer.

Startups need customers — fast

It’s simple: Without marketing, no startup can acquire new customers or clients at a rate that will allow them to grow into a mature company. Marketing can be done internally without having to hire an agency, but it will typically be cheaper to hire a full marketing agency to provide a variety of services and have been tested as a group, as opposed to trying to hire a team and acclimate them to each other.

Small budgets don’t equal a lack of options

‘Investing in marketing’ doesn’t mean you have to hire TBWA or you’re done. Thanks to Facebook, SEO, and the blogosphere, there are marketing options for even the tiniest idea. Growing an audience beyond your friends, family, and backers is important for company morale. Once you get some momentum, experimenting with PR and paid media is a good next step. Also, we’ve found social media is excellent for beta testing and consumer feedback. Get some robust numbers and you’ll be into your next series of backing and running pre-roll and bunch of banners we’ll never click on in no time.

 

The time to build an audience is now

You should always be marketing, even before you have a finished product. You don’t necessarily need to launch an incomplete product into the market, but to make launch day a little bit easier, you must start growing your community — whether this be extending your personal brand or that of your startup.

People often approach agencies (especially PR agencies) for help in order to tap into their networks, and to gain access to their ‘rolodexes.’ But imagine already having those contacts to begin with? This certainly makes going at it a lot easier (and cheaper). Start with building solid relationships with a few key players (i.e., influencers, media, outlets and other agencies trying to win your business — they are more opt to help get the word out because they want to win you over)

It’s essential to consider the other reasons why investing in a marketing agency can help you grow your startup:

  1. Your time should be spent building a really great product. Leave the marketing efforts to the experts.
    2. Agencies have a much more unbiased approach to marketing your startup. They know what the media want to see and hear which isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
    3. Marketing agencies are really great at crafting compelling stories, the why, of the company. This is what you ‘sell’ to the media.

Focusing on design is not an option

With an immensely competitive market, these startups must launch strong right out of the gate with not only a functional product, but with a smart and compelling brand experience. This is the new normal — it is no longer acceptable to keep design as a secondary notion. Design is a critical factor to the success of a startup launch. The market is too competitive and high-risk with expensive and limited (talented) resources. A close collaboration with the startup will not only lead to a more vital brand and product, but also provide an integrated and agile approach to user experience, product development and branding.

The user experience markets itself

Launching a startup product from the ground up involves a multi-step process, from research and design all the way through development and marketing of their product. Our focus is on the UX and UI design aspect of that process (which, in turn, markets itself), which allows startups to refine their ideas through user experience design. The cost of a project, if approaching design and development together, can be exponentially costly. By separating design and investing in solid UX documentation, a client can see their development cost decrease, based on the focused process of defining how a user interacts with that product. The design process is conceptual, and allows for lean iterations.

 

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How to Write a Business Plan

Not all business ideas are good ones. A lot of people have business ideas — it’s whether these ideas are any good that really matters. That’s precisely why, if you intend to actually build a business from your idea, it’s helpful to create a business plan so you can build out your concept in detail and prove that it can really work, both logistically and financially.

What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a living document that maps out the details of your business. It covers what your business will sell, how it will be structured, what the market looks like, how you plan to sell your product or service, what funding you’ll need, what your financial projections are, and which permits, leases, and other documentation will be required.

At its core, a business plan helps you prove to yourself and others whether or not your business idea is worth pursuing. It’s the best way to take a step back, look at your idea holistically, and solve for issues years down the road before you start getting into the weeds.

This post covers tips for writing a business plan, followed by an outline of what to include and business plan examples. Let’s start with some basic, overarching tips before we dive in to the details.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Narrow down what makes you different.

Before you start whipping up a business plan, think carefully about what makes your business unique first. If you’re planning to start a new athletic clothing business, for example, then you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the numerous other athletic clothing brands out there.

What makes yours stand out from the others? Are you planning to make clothing for specific sports or athletic activities, like yoga or hiking or tennis? Do you use environmentally friendly material? Does a certain percentage of your proceeds go to charity? Does your brand promote positive body image?

Remember: You’re not just selling your product or service — you’re selling a combination of product, value, and brand experience. Think through these big questions and outline them before you dive in to the nitty-gritty of your business plan research.

Keep it short.

Business plans are more short and concise nowadays than they used to be. While it might be tempting to include all the results of your market research, flesh out every single product you plan to sell, and outline exactly what your website will look like, that’s actually not helpful in the format of a business plan.

Know these details and keep them elsewhere, but exclude everything but the meat and potatoes from the business plan itself. Otherwise, you might risk losing your readers’ attention.

Format for easy skimming.

Your business plan shouldn’t just be a quick(ish) read — it should be easy to skim, too. That’s where formatting becomes particularly important. Use headers and bullet points, bold or highlight the key lines or metrics you want the reader to take away, and even attach labeled tabs to your copies (paper and digital) for easy reference.

You can (and should) change it as you go.

Keep in mind that your business plan is a living, breathing document. That means you can update your business plan as things change. For example, you might want to update it a year or two down the road if you’re about to apply for a new round of funding.

How to Write a Business Plan

Here are the key elements in a business plan template:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Description
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Product and/or Service
  5. Operations & Management
  6. Marketing & Sales Plan
  7. Financial Plan
  8. Appendix

Here’s what goes in to each of the elements of that business plan outline:

1) Executive Summary

The purpose of the executive summary is to give readers a high-level view of the company and the market before delving in to the details. (Pro Tip: Sometimes it’s helpful to write the executive summary after you’ve put together the rest of the plan so you can draw out the key takeaways more easily.)

The executive summary should be about a page long, and should cover (in 1–2 paragraphs each):

  • Overview: Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company Profile: Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it and what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or Services: Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The Market: Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis.
  • Financial Considerations: Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

Example of an “Overview” section of the Executive Summary:

Jolly’s Java and Bakery (JJB) is a start-up coffee and bakery retail establishment located in Cape Town. JJB expects to catch the interest of a regular loyal customer base with its broad variety of coffee and pastry products. The company plans to build a strong market position in the town, due to the partners’ industry experience and mild competitive climate in the area.

JJB aims to offer its products at a competitive price to meet the demand of the middle-to higher-income local market area residents and tourists.

2) Company Description

Next, you’ll have your company description. Here’s where you have the chance to give a summary of what your company does, your mission statement, business structure and business owner details, location details, the marketplace needs that your business is trying to meet, and how your products or services actually meet those needs.

Example of a “Company Summary”:

Sam’s Creative Center is a startup, to go into business in the summer of this year. We will offer a large variety of art and craft supplies, focusing on those items that are currently unavailable in this area. The Internet will continue to be a competitor, as artists use websites to buy familiar products. We will stock products that artists don’t necessarily have experience with. We will maintain our price comparisons to include those available on line.

We will offer classes in the use of new materials and techniques.

We will build an Artist’s Oasis tour program. We will book local Bed and Breakfasts; provide maps and guides for appropriate plain-air sites; rent easels and materials; sell paint and other supplies and ship completed work to the clients when dry.

We will expand the store into an art center including: A fine art gallery, offering original art at, or near, wholesale prices; Musical instruments/studio space; Classrooms for art/music lessons; Art/Music books; Live music/coffee bar; Do-it-Yourself crafts such as specialty T-Shirts, signs, cards, ceramics for the tourist trade.

3) Market Analysis

One of the first questions to ask yourself when you’re testing your business idea is whether it has a place in the market. The market will ultimately dictate how successful your business will be. What’s your target market, and why would they be interested in buying from you?

Get specific here. For example, if you’re selling bedding, you can’t just include everyone who sleeps in a bed in your target market. You need to target a smaller group of customers first, like teenagers from middle-income families. From there, you might answer questions like: How many teenagers from middle-income families are currently in your country? What bedding do they typically need? Is the market growing or stagnant?

Include both analysis of research that others have done, as well as primary research that you’ve collected yourself, whether by surveys, interviews, or other methods.

This is also where you’ll include a competitive analysis. In our example, we’d be answering the question: how many other bedding companies already have a share of the market, and who are they? Outline the strengths and weaknesses of your potential competitors, as well as strategies that will give you a competitive advantage.

Example of a “Market Analysis” summary section:

There are two distinct groups of target customers. These two groups of customers are distinguished by their household wealth. They have been grouped as customers with <R1 million and >R1 million in household wealth. The main characteristic that makes both of these groups so attractive is their desire to make a difference in the world by making investment decisions that take into account environmental factors.

The financial services industry has many different niches. Some advisors provide general investment services. Others will only offer one type of investments, maybe just mutual funds or might concentrate on bonds. Other service providers will concentrate on a specific niche like technology or socially responsible companies.

Market Segmentation

The target market has two distinct groups. The groups can be differentiated by their difference in household wealth, households of <R1 million and >R1 million.

  • <R1 million (household worth): These customers are middle class people who have a concern for the environment and are taking personal action through their choosing of stock investments based on companies with both strong economic and environmental performance records. Because these people do not have an over abundance of money they choose stocks that are of moderate risk. Generally, this group has 35%-45% of their portfolio in stocks, the remaining percentages in other types of investments.
  • >R1 million (household worth): These customers are upper middle class to upper class. They have amassed over R1 million in savings and are fairly savvy investors (themselves or the people they hire). These people are generally concerned about the rate of return of their investments but also have environmental concerns.

4) Products and/or Services

Here’s where you can go into detail about what you’re selling and how it benefits your customers. If you aren’t able to articulate how you’ll help your customers, then your business idea may not be a good one.

Start by describing the problem you’re solving. Then, go into how you plan to solve it and where your product or service fits into the mix. Finally, talk about the competitive landscape: What other companies are providing solutions to this particular problem, and what sets your solution apart from theirs?

Example of a “Products and Services”:

AMT provides both computer products and services to make them useful to small business. We are especially focused on providing network systems and services to small and medium business. The systems include both PC-based LAN systems and minicomputer server-based systems. Our services include design and installation of network systems, training, and support.

Product and Service Description

In personal computers, we support three main lines:

1) The Super Home is our smallest and least expensive line, initially positioned by its manufacturer as a home computer. We use it mainly as a cheap workstation for small business installations. Its specifications include …[additional specifics omitted]

2) The Power User is our main up-scale line. It is our most important system for high-end home and small business main workstations, because of …. Its key strengths are …. Its specifications include ….[additional specifics omitted]

3) The Business Special is an intermediate system, used to fill the gap in the positioning. Its specifications include … [additional specifics omitted]

In peripherals, accessories and other hardware, we carry a complete line of necessary items from cables to forms to mousepads … [additional specifics omitted]

In service and support, we offer a range of walk-in or depot service, maintenance contracts and on-site guarantees. We have not had much success selling service contracts. Our networking capabilities …[additional specifics omitted]

Competitive Comparison

The only way we can hope to differentiate well is to define the vision of the company to be an information technology ally to our clients. We will not be able to compete in any effective way with the chains using boxes or products as appliances. We need to offer a real alliance.

The benefits we sell include many intangibles: confidence, reliability, knowing that somebody will be there to answer questions and help at the important times.

These are complex products, products that require serious knowledge and experience to use, and our competitors sell only the products themselves.

Unfortunately, we cannot sell the products at a higher price just because we offer services; the market has shown that it will not support that concept. We have to also sell the service and charge for it separately.

5) Operations & Management

Use this section to outline your business’ unique organisation and management structure (keeping in mind that you may change it later). Who will be responsible for what? How will tasks and responsibilities be assigned to each person or each team?

Includes brief bios of each team member and highlight any relevant experience and education to help make the case for why they’re the right person for the job. If you haven’t hired people for the planned roles yet, that’s OK — just make sure you identify those gaps and explain what the people in those roles will be responsible for.

Example of a “Personnel Plan” section of the Operations & Management:

The labor force for DIY Wash N’ Fix will be small. It will consist of a part-time general manager to handle inter-business relationships and corporate responsibilities. In addition, DIY Wash N’ Fix will employ three certified mechanics/managers; their duties will consist of the day-to-day operation of the firm. These duties fall into two categories: managerial and operational. Managerial tasks include: scheduling, inventory control and basic bookkeeping. Safety, regulatory issues, customer service and repair advice are the operational tasks they will be responsible for.

Additionally, customer service clerks will be hired to perform the most basic tasks: customer service and custodial. DIY Wash N’ Fix will have a single general manager to coordinate all outside business activities and partnerships. The business relationships would include accounting services, legal counsel, vendors and suppliers, maintenance providers, banking services, advertising and marketing services, and investment services. “Name_Surname” will fill this general management position. She will be receiving a BComm. from the University of …

The daily management of the business will be left to the lead mechanic. Even though DIY Wash N’ Fix is not a full service repair shop it can be expected that some customers will attempt repairs they are not familiar with and need advice. Therefore, we intend to hire three fully certified mechanics. The mechanics will not be authorised to perform any work on a customer’s car, but they will be able to take a look at the car to evaluate the problem. To reduce our liability for repairs done incorrectly we feel only professional mechanics should give advice to customers. The primary function of the mechanics will be customer service and managerial responsibilities.

6) Marketing & Sales Plan

This is where you can plan out your comprehensive marketing and sales strategies that’ll cover how you actually plan to sell your product. Before you work on your marketing and sales plan, you’ll need to have your market analysis completely fleshed out, and choose your target buyer personas, i.e., your ideal customers.

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like: how do you plan to enter the market? How will you grow your business? Which channels will you focus on for distribution? How will you communicate with your customers?

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like: what’s your sales strategy? What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time? How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale? What’s the average price per sale? Speaking of average price per sale, here’s where you can go into your pricing strategy.

Example of a “Marketing Plan”:

The Skate Zone plans to be the first amateur inline hockey facility in Johannesburg, South Africa. Due to the overwhelming growth of inline hockey throughout South Africa, the company’s promotional plans are open to various media and a range of marketing communications. The following is a list of those available presently.

Public relations. Press releases are issued to both technical trade journals and major business publications.

Tournaments. The Skate Zone will represent its services at championship tournaments that are held annually across South Africa.

Print advertising and article publishing. The company’s print advertising program includes advertisements in The Yellow Pages, Internet, The Skate Zone Mailing, school flyers, and inline hockey trade magazines.

Internet. The Skate Zone currently has a website and has received several inquiries from it. Plans are underway to upgrade it to a more professional and effective site.  In the future, this is expected to be one of the company’s primary marketing channels.

7) Financial Plan

Finally, outline your financial model in detail, including your start-up cost, financial projections, and a funding request if you’re pitching to investors.

Your start-up cost refers to the resources you’ll need to get your business started — and an estimate of how much each of those resources will cost. Are you renting an office space? Do you need a computer? A phone? List out these needs and how much they’ll cost, and be honest and conservative in your estimates. The last thing you want to do is run out of money.

Once you’ve outlined your costs, you’ll need to justify them by detailing your financial projections. This is especially important if you’re looking for funding for your business. Make sure your financial model is 100% accurate for the best chance of convincing investors and loan sources to support your business.

Appendix

Finally, consider closing out your business plan with an appendix. The appendix is optional, but it’s a helpful place to include your resume and the resume(s) of your co-founder(s), as well as any permits, leases, and other legal information you want to include.

There you have it. We hope this has helped you get a better idea of what a business plan should look like. Now it’s time to turn that business idea into a reality. Good luck!

 

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Great web design with the help of Gestalt Psychology

 

Have you ever asked a colleague for something and feared the words, “It’s on my desk”? Because standing there looking at the mess, you wonder how anyone can find anything. They would probably call it organised chaos.

All it really means is that they know where everything is and the rest of us don’t. This happens on websites as well and it is something that we want to avoid when designing a website. The question remains; “How do we create a perfectly ordered website”, a website that not only is pleasing to the eye, but that also conveys the message of the organisation it represents in a simply yet effective way? There are a lot of theories and methods that designers across the world use. One of these is the Gestalt Psychology. Gestalt Psychology helps us to create an esthetical and well-ordered website. So let’s jump in and make sense of the chaos we see.

Figure-ground

One of the first things we look at is that a person sees some objects as the focus point also known as the foreground/figure and other objects as the background/ground. Our job as designers is to make sure that the viewer sees and focuses on the object that is important. Keeping the background clean and complementary to give the figure it’s time in the spotlight. Generally, the darker colour will automatically be the figure until the viewer makes sense of what they see and then decide what the figure is. Look at the image below. In both cases the black is more prominent and therefore we perceive it as the foreground. However, we know that the white laptop on the black background should be the foreground, but we struggle to except it that way.

Figure 1: Figure-Ground

Similarity

Similarity refers to the idea that we place objects with similar characteristics together in groups. These characteristics can include colour, shape, font, texture etc. It could then be said that on a website similar objects would possibly be looked at as one group or thought idea subconsciously even if the subject matter does not correspond.

Figure 2:  Similarity

Proximity

Proximity is the belief that we place objects that are near to one another together. This is where the use of white space comes in handy. White space allows us to organise sections of a website, giving the viewer the time and space to look at something without them feeling rushed into the next piece of information. The other side of the coin is that we can also force the user to continue reading or jump from one object to the next. Allowing them to quickly go through the page to get to the part in the website that is the most important.

Closure

Our minds close object that are not necessarily together or complete to create a whole. Closure is something that people love to use in logo design. The best way to explain closure is by example:

Figure 3: Closure

As you can see in the example above. We can perceive that there are three circles and even a triangle in the middle though neither of these objects are in fact complete. Same with the panda on the right. We know it is a panda even if some of the lines are missing.

Continuity

Continuity refers to when your eye follows a line or a line-up of objects until your gaze is interrupted by space or another object.

Figure 5: Continuity

Order

This is the belief that alignment and symmetry is attractive and essential for clear design. Think of it this way, have you ever sat in someone’s living room and the painting hanging on the wall is skew? You can maybe avoid it if you don’t see it, but it bothers you every time the masterpiece catches your eye. Well go ahead and align that painting, then step back and look at it with wonderment. That sense of peace coming over you is what you should feel when you browse a website. Even if the site has an energetic look and feel, it should not be irritating.

 

The moment we ignore Gestalt Psychology principles, the design starts to feel imperfect and chaotic. You might look at such a website, not knowing what exactly is wrong but that something is off. Start applying Gestalt Psychology and you will see that the site becomes pleasing to look at and easier to browse.

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