The Designer’s Survival Kit

Part of being a freelance designer is not always knowing where your next job, or next flash of inspiration is coming from. It always pays to be prepared.


  1. CONTAINER – Start with a sturdy tin that’s small enough to carry with you, but large enough to contain things you need. You want something that isn’t a hassle to carry with you.
  2. MASKING TAPE – Some people may not agree that you need this, but as a creative, I find it incredibly useful to keep handy.
  3. ERASER – Always useful in case of mistakes.
  4. POST-ITS – Useful for annotating your sketchbook or paperwork which a client gives you.
  5. MINI POST-ITS – If you have room for these too, they will come in handy for use as bookmarks in document etc.
  6. SKETCHBOOK – Probably one of the most useful items. It will allow you to take notes, and even sketch ideas and things which inspire you.
  7. HIGHLIGHTER – Useful for it’s intended purpose. When clients hand you paperwork you can quickly highlight important parts.
  8. PERMANENT MARKER – You never know when you might need one, but useful for writing on something which a regular pen or pencil can’t, such as a CD case.
  9. DRAWING PEN – Your favourite pen for sketching and drawing, whatever it may be. Personally I prefer the Tombow Brush Pens.
  10. REGULAR PENS – I suggest having two colours handy, red and either blue or black. You can’t be seen taking notes with a pencil.
  11. PENCILS – Try and carry two, just in case. Useful for sketching, drawing and making documents non-permanently.
  12. USB FLASH DRIVE – Keep your useful files on it, such as a copy of your portfolio or other promotional material, your T&C’s, blank invoices etc. Also useful for grabbing a copy of files from your clients when you meet them.
  13. PENCIL SHARPENER – Make sure it’s a good quality one, and keep it sharp. Blunt/cheap ones will break your pencil lead.
  14. BUSINESS CARDS – You should always have these in your wallet anyway, but they’re small enough to tuck away into your tin.
  15. PAPERCLIPS – Keep a few of these handy. They don’t take up much room.

Microtransactions – In-App Purchases – Freemium – Subscriptions

If you’re thinking of developing your own App, you may have heard that they can be very profitable, and indeed they can. However, you need to carefully consider how you make money from it.

With the advent of the smart-phone, tablets and the App Stores that provide the downloadable applications they run, Microtransactions, In-App Purchases, the Freemium business model, and the subscription business model have exploded exponentially in growth. They’ve also creeped into the more ‘traditional’ software that you may be used to, and many people are not happy about it.

Forking over considerable amounts of money for ethereal goods, or just being allowed to rent software, these practices are, on the whole, having a negative effect and getting people riled up. What’s the future of these strategies? Will they divide us into the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ or implode on themselves?

There are a number of buzz-words floating around, but they all amount to the same thing – parting you from your money. Microtransactions and In-App purchases are pretty much the same thing, but Microtransactions are, as you may expect, typically smaller amounts. Freemium is a combination of ‘Free’ and ‘Premium’, that is something that is free, but has premium elements which you can purchase. And subscriptions are just that, something for which you have to pay a recurring subscription fee.

Now let me stress that I’m not against these tactics per se, but rather how they’re generally used.

They’re Most Prevalent In Games

In gaming for instance there has been a huge surge in the emergence of games which have been dubbed Pay-to-Win, and Pay-or-Wait. These are just lazy attempts to make people part with their hard-earned cash.

Pay-to-Win games generally make it impossible to complete a game without paying, while Pay-or-Wait games will slow down gameplay to such an extent that they’re no longer games but exercises in tedium.

As you may expect, gamers are furious about this, and so they should. Geoffrey Tim from presented this amusing image to demonstrate how these tactics work, and how absurd they are by applying the idea to a well-known game. His example is extreme but you get the message.


This image however isn’t an amusing fake. It’s very real. Worryingly so. It’s from EA’s Dungeon Keeper.


The gems allow users to speed up aspects of the game. Otherwise they have to wait for up to 24 hours. You see the ‘best value’ package of gems for £69.99? I always thought “who would pay that?” Well it seems that a very small proportion of people are willing to pay it. How far will £70 get you? Not very far actually. The gems will soon run out.

It may seem crazy that people are paying these prices, but they are. The figures are startling. If you look at Apple’s App Store, you’ll see that the highest grossing Apps are usually these Free-to-Play (F2P) games which rely on (Not-so) Microtransactions. Generally, less than 0.15% of these games users account for over 50% of the games revenue. These high-spenders have been dubbed ‘Whales’ by the gaming community, and it increasingly seems that app developers set out to ‘harpoon themselves a whale.’

Where does that leave 99.85% of the apps users? It leaves them frustrated and bored.

It’s Not Just Games

Even business apps and other useful apps are subject to the same practices. Splashtop Pro 2 is an example of this. Put simply, the app lets you access your computer from your tablet or or smart phone. Very useful, right?

You have to pay to download the app, and that’s fine, but there’s a problem. The app doesn’t let you access your computer from a remote location. I’m not joking. If you’re using the same Local Area Network, e.g. your home WiFi network. You can freely access your computer as long as your on the same network that your computer is, so you can access your computer from the next room, or maybe the garden. If you’re away from the house, you can’t.

What if you want to access your computer from work? From a hotel? On the train? You have to pay a subscription through an In-App Purchase. This is another example of Microtransactions going bad.


Subscriptions may be good for a company, but not so good for customers. Adobe have announced that they’ll be no longer be selling boxed software. You will have to download it, and even then you can’t actually buy it. You have to ‘rent’ it through a subscription service.

True, the cost each year is less than buying the software, but this argument isn’t really that valid. You don’t own the software anymore. Most people who used Adobe Creative Suite will skip different versions as the package is over well £1000 to purchase. So they will buy version 3 say, and then wait until version 5 or six before they upgrade again. So what if people fall on hard times and can’t afford the software? They can’t use it, and therefore can’t work. A horrible prospect. Adobe’s move has prompted many of those who use their software to seek alternatives. Again, this is giving the middle-finger to those who can afford it, and those who can’t.

Old School Tactics

Companies (Adobe included) have always offered demo version of their software or games in the hope that if you enjoy it, or find it useful, you’ll then go and purchase the full version. Companies which adopt the Freemium model claim that In-App Purchases stop software piracy, and that may be true to some extent, but people will always find ways around it if they’re that dedicated. The deme idea can be seen in some apps, but more often than not, it’s done in a very underhand way. That is, the user will be unaware that it’s just a demo until they hit the paywall (the pop-up message which stops the user from progressing unless they pay.) This infuriates users who may have invested a considerable bit of time into a piece of software, be it a game they’ve been playing, or some piece of software they’ve been learning to use. The moral of the story: be upfront about costs.

So You’re Thinking About Using IAPs?

In-App Purchases / Microtransactions / Paywalls – whatever you want to call them, are not necessarily a bad thing. They can be good for raising revenues, but they can also do that without alienating the majority of your users.

To do that, don’t go ‘Whale’ hunting. The Freemium business model can only exist in its current form with these ‘Whales’. And personally, I wish that these people would realise that they’re fuelling a hideous travesty, and that if they curbed their spending, app developers would be forced to reduce their prices or change strategy, benefitting all users of their software.

Things To Consider

Some of these may not relate to your particular app, depending on what sort of app it is.

  • Don’t Hunt ‘Whales’: If you’re focussing on that 0.15% you’re telling the other 99.85% of your customers that you couldn’t give a toss about them.
  • People Don’t Like playing To Save Time: This primarily refers to Freemium games where the player is forced to Pay-or-Wait. Games should be fun and engaging.
  • Be Upfront: If you’re just offering a demo, let people know upfront and be clear about it. You may not get as many downloads, but those that do will now what they’re getting into, and will be more likely to give you a 5-Star rating if your app is good, rather than a 1-Star rating for being misled.
  • Use Paywalls Sparingly: Whether it’s a game, or a business app (such as mind-mapping software), don’t segregate each feature into its own additional paid-for add-on. Paywalls infuriate the user and annihilate the user experience.
  • Don’t Make People Pay To Remove Annoyances: These are things which simply get in the way and don’t offer any real benefit. It could be something as simple having to watch an advertisement each time before you use the app.
  • People Will Pay For Unique Content: Make the transactions unlock good content and features. When using In-App Purchases, the offerings should be tangible. E.g. Unlocking the full programme, or unlocking all features.
  • People Will Pay For Good Content: If you’re going to offer something extra to people who are willing pay, make sure that the content is worth it.
  • Nintendo Have Steered Clear Of The Freemium Model: And that’s despite one of their investors urging them to adopt it.
  • Treat Customers With Respect: EA are the main culprits here. Many of their games for phones and tablets are blatantly designed to gouge customers. See below.
EA thinks that accusing their customers of being tight-fisted will encourage people spend money just to speed up the game.
EA thinks that accusing their customers of being tight-fisted will encourage people spend money just to speed up the game.


It’s quite easy to summarise this post. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and treat them with respect. Carefully consider what you’re offering and how best to deliver additional content and features. Don’t treat them like idiots who will just throw money away, and whatever you do, don’t, like EA, insult them.

Carrot > Stick

Free Website Builder vs Website Designer vs Open-Source CMS

Free Website Builder

There are a number of “free” website builders available. Some well known, others not. Moonfruit are quite prevalent at the moment and are pushing out their advertising far and wide. Many hosting providers will provide one for you. Are these “free” services too good to be true?

Full Custom Build

In the early days on the publicly accessible internet, easy options to build a website didn’t exist and you needed the coding skills to make a website happen. Fully customised builds still do happen, but do they really need to?


CMS stands for content management system, and as the might expect they’re a system that allows you to manage the content that appears on your website. They come in two basic flavours: open-source (free) and commercial (paid). Are there pitfalls to using such a system?

Having a free website sounds great, but without wanting sound as though I’m trying to dismiss them offhand (after all, web design is part of what I do for a living,) you need to be aware of a few things before going ahead. If your needs are very simple e.g. you don’t need to add videos, picture galleries, or your site isn’t going to continue growing, then a free site may be suitable for you.

There are two main types of website builders out there, defined by where you’ll find them: hosting providers usually provide their own proprietary builders though will let you build your site however you like if you don’t want to use the included builder, and then there are companies such as Moonfruit which advertise themselves as website builders who will offer free hosting for your site.

Proprietary website builders aren’t really any easier to use than a freely available CMS, but their spiel may have you thinking otherwise. Companies such as Moonfruit are there to make money, and you’ll likely soon discover that your ‘free’ site starts racking up expenses.

This is how these companies tend to operate – the free package which which you signed up for will look slick, and you’ll quickly be able to get a site up rather quickly, but lets move forward six months…

Your free site provider has their logo stuck on your site site, and you don’t think that it puts across the professional image. Well in order to get rid of it you’re going have to pay a fee, probably in the guise of purchasing a premium account with a monthly charge. Free sites also tend to have a paltry amount of storage space, meaning that after adding some photos you may find you can add no more. Never fear, for an additional monthly charge you can buy more space.

I’m not trying to put these companies down too much, they do have their place, but a quick study of a relatively newcomer to the scene, Wix, could see people racking up some expensive monthly bills. It seems that every add-on doesn’t mean a one-off fee, but rather recurring monthly payments.

I made some quick calculations based on my site and to achieve the same thing (bearing in mind I have unlimited storage and monthly bandwidth,) I’d be looking at a figure of at least £90 per month (and I was being generous) That’s more in a month than my hosting costs for a whole year.

So you realise that maybe this proprietary website builder isn’t for you? You can just take your site elsewhere, right? No deal. It’s their system you’re using, you can’t take your site elsewhere. You’ll have to build it again.

Ah, the full custom built website. This used to be the only way that you could get a site online, you’d teach yourself the programming languages required to build one, or you’d hire a professional. This is difficult for those without the honed skills, and expensive to do f you hire a professional.

Fortunately, there are alternatives, but custom built sites do exist. I’ve built a few myself, though I haven’t been required to do so for quite some time, and when I did, more often they were my own websites. I think that it’s true of many designers/developers, whereby the site itself is a part of their portfolio.

One issue I came across when developing my own website from scratch was that if I wanted to give it a complete design overhaul, it proved to be a lengthy and complex process. Much of my code could be reused in newer versions, but it still proved to be an arduous task – however, having the skills to be able to do it is very useful.

Depending on the project, a fully custom built website may be the only option for you. If you’re trying to do something truly different and unique, you may find that a custom-built website is the way forward.

The problems surrounding such a site are numerous. Firstly, it’s proprietary, and when it comes to making some major changes to the back-end of the site, you may be tied into using the same developer. Even if you can get a different developer in to carry out the work it may turn out to be very very expensive. Different developers have their own way of working, and it can prove hard for another developer to untangle the code. It’s not unknown for developers to create code so complex that they themselves can no longer understand it!

Custom developed sites will always exist though. They can be a quick and simple way to get a holding page up, or develop a simple static website that won’t need changes. An example was a show-specific site I made for a theatre production. The design was quite image-heavy, but the content didn’t change. Instead, feeds from social media channels were embedded.

So fully-custom built websites certainly retain some use in modern day web-development, though it’s usually only used for very small, static websites, or very complex and unique ones.

Although ‘free’ website builders are a Content Management System (CMS) in their own right, I’ve separated them from what I consider to be true Content Management Systems (I’m sticking to open-source here) as they are genuinely free to use and adapt as you wish.

There are lots of CMS available to use, the three most popular being WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. In fact many medium and large companies, charities and organisations use a site built using one of the main three, including the BBC, Channel 4, the White House and so on.

Your basic CMS website will actually look rather ugly to start with, that’s because they’re meant to act as the basic structure which you then develop into something beautiful.

The beauty of a CMS is that you can you it on almost any hosting provider (dependent on the hosting package you have) and you’re not tied to to that hosting provider either – you can move your entire site from one hosting provider to another as it’s yours and doesn’t rely on a proprietary technology that’s specific to your provider.

Now using a CMS can be rather complex, and may appear to be a little overwhelming at first, but generally they’re quite easy to learn by yourself. However, you will most likely find that you need a designer or developer to create your site in order to make it look professional.

There are some pitfalls to be wary of when using a CMS. If you’re using a commercial option there may be recurring fees, if you’re using a free CMS, stick to one of the main three. This is because they have thriving communities of users and developers who keep it up to date. However, you may find that some plug-ins (add-ons which give greater functionality) that are available from third-party developers are either paid, or sometimes the developers just decide to stop updating a plugin meaning that they can stop working with newer web browsers or version of whatever CMS you’re using.

This has happened to me before, when a developer just simply stops working on a project. Fortunately, there’s so many developers, and so many plugins available, you’ll always be able to find a replacement for a broken plug-in.

Of the three options, this is my chosen route. I may be biased of course, but I honestly believe that an open-source CMS gives the best balance of usability, functionality and design / development cost.

To Summarise: Free Website Builder

  • May be a suitable option for a very small, first-time site
  • Be wary that your storage space and other essential elements will be severely restricted
  • Free websites are likely to have the bandwidth and page site load speed severely throttled
  • May include advertising on your site which can make it look unprofessional
  • Upgrading to premium packages and purchasing add-ons can work out considerably more expensive in the medium to long-term
  • You can’t take your site with you if you want to use a new provider
  • Generally user-friendly and easy to use
  • Future-proof (unless the company goes under)

To Summarise: The Full Custom Build

  • Quick to build a static website
  • Difficult and expensive to build a dynamic website
  • Would take a long time to build a dynamic site from scratch
  • Can be good to build truly unique websites (sometimes the only way)
  • May be difficult / expensive to maintain

To Summarise: Open-Source CMS

  • Initial set-up can be daunting, though many hosts provide easy installations
  • Free platform to use, actively maintained by a vast community
  • Changing the look and adding content may be a harder than a free website builder
  • Lots to learn, but a useful skill, and the basics are easily picked up
  • Lots of free plugins. Also lots of premium ones
  • Some plugins may not be maintained and so will need replacing
  • No unexpected costs
  • Highly flexible
  • Future-proof

The Conclusion: The Open-Source CMS

The Open-Source CMS trumps your other options. If you know what your doing, you can create your own site like you can with free website builders, but with more flexibility and absolute control. You may well require a designer to setup and design it for you, but it’s more cost-effective when you look to the medium term and beyond. With a free website builder you could actually end up paying more in a year than it would cost you to go straight to a website designer.

HTML Symbol Codes & Special Characters

Here you’ll find a comprehensive list of HTML codes to put ASCII special characters on web pages. Common codes are those to add a copyright symbol, or the TM trademark symbol, but there are plenty of useful characters available. Some ASCII codes were also initially intentioned to control devices, it was designed in the early 60’s, as a standard character-set for computers and hardware devices like teleprinters and tapedrives.

Web Browsers, Web Safe Fonts And Notes Of Caution

Most will display on all browsers, though not all characters may be supported, so be sure to test before you let a page go live. Also, please note that the HTML Names are case-sensitive.

While CSS3 and HTML5 now let designers use any font they wish on a webpage, the designer should be aware when using non-websafe fonts as some fonts don’t have some of these special characters.





Exclamation Mark
Double Quote
Number Sign / Hash
Dollar Sign
Percent Sign
Single Quote
Left Parenthesis
Right Parenthesis
Forward Slash
Less-Than Sign
Equal Sign
Greater-Than Sign
Question Mark
Capital A
Capital B
Capital C
Capital D
Capital E
Capital F
Capital G
Capital H
Capital I
Capital J
Capital K
Capital L
Capital M
Capital N
Capital O
Capital P
Capital Q
Capital R
Capital S
Capital T
Capital U
Capital V
Capital W
Capital X
Capital Y
Capital Z
Left Square Bracket
Back Slash
Right Square Bracket
Grave Accent
Lowercase a
Lowercase b
Lowercase c
Lowercase d
Lowercase e
Lowercase f
Lowercase g
Lowercase h
Lowercase i
Lowercase j
Lowercase k
Lowercase l
Lowercase m
Lowercase n
Lowercase o
Lowercase p
Lowercase q
Lowercase r
Lowercase s
Lowercase t
Lowercase u
Lowercase v
Lowercase w
Lowercase x
Lowercase y
Lowercase z
Left Curly Brace
Vertical Bar
Right Curly Brace
Single Low-Quote
Function Symbol
Double Low-Quote
Double Dagger
Per Million Symbol
Capital Esh
Left Single-Angle Quote
OE Ligature
Capital Grapheme
Left Single-Quote
Right Single-Quote
Left Double-Quote
Right Double-Quote
Small Bullet
En Dash
Em Dash
Lowercase Esh
Right Single-Angle Quote
Small OE Ligature
Lowercase Grapheme
Uppercase Y-Umlaut
Non-Breaking Space
Inverted Exclamation Point
Pound Sterling
Currency Sign
Broken Vertical Bar
Section Symbol
Umlaut (Diaeresis)
Copyright Symbol
Superscript Lowercase A
Left Angle Quote
Not Sign
Registered Sign
Degree Sign
Plus/Minus Sign
Superscript 2 (Squared)
Superscript 3 (Cubed)
Acute Accent
Micro Sign
Pilcrow Sign / Paragraph
Middle Dot
Superscript 1
Superscript O
Right Angle Quote
One Quarter Fraction
One Half Fraction
Three Quarters Fraction
Inverted Question Mark
A Grave Accent (uppercase)
A Acute Accent (uppercase)
A Circumflex (uppercase)
A Tilde (uppercase)
A Umlaut (uppercase)
A Ring (uppercase)
AE Ligature (uppercase)
C Cedilla (uppercase)
E Grave (uppercase)
E Acute (uppercase)
E Circumflex (uppercase)
E Umlaut (uppercase)
I Grave (uppercase)
I Acute (uppercase)
I Circumflex (uppercase)
I Umlaut (uppercase)
N Tilde (Enye)
O Grave (uppercase)
O Acute (uppercase)
O Circumflex (uppercase)
O Tilde (uppercase)
O Umlaut (uppercase)
Multiplication Sign
O Slash (uppercase)
U Grave (uppercase)
U Acute (uppercase)
U Circumflex (uppercase)
U Umlaut (uppercase)
Y Acute (uppercase)
SZ Ligature
A Grave Accent (lowercase)
A Acute Accent (lowercase)
A Circumflex (lowercase)
A Tilde (lowercase)
A Umlaut (lowercase)
A Ring (lowercase)
AE Ligature (lowercase)
C Cedilla (lowercase)
E Grave (lowercase)
E Acute (lowercase)
E Circumflex (lowercase)
E Umlaut (lowercase)
I Grave (lowercase)
I Acute (lowercase)
I Circumflex (lowercase)
I Umlaut (lowercase)
Eth (lowercase)
N Tilde (lowercase)
O Grave (lowercase)
O Acute (lowercase)
O Circumflex (lowercase)
O Tilde (lowercase)
O Umlaut (lowercase)
Devision Symbol
O Slash (lowercase)
U Grave (lowercase)
U Acute (lowercase)
U Circumflex (lowercase)
U Umlaut (lowercase)
Y Acute (lowercase)
Thorn (lowercase)
Y Umlaut (lowercase)
Carriage Return
Left Arrow
Right Arrow
Horizontal Arrow
Vertical Arrow
Up Arrow
Down Arrow
Left Arrow (double line)
Right Arrow (double line)
Horizontal Arrow (double line)
Vertical Arrow (double line)
Up Arrow (double line)
Down Arrow (double line)
Number Shorthand
Diamonds (card)
Spades (card)
Clubs (card)
Hearts (card)
For All
There Exists
Partial Derivative
Is Not
Set-Theoretic Intersection
Set-Theoretic Union
Approximately Equal To
Less Than Or Equal To
Greater Than Or Equal To
Square Root
Is An Element Of
Superscript N
Pints / Points
One Eighth
Three Eighths
Five Eighths
Seven Eighths
Is Not Equal To
Congruence Relation

Does your website make these mistakes? – The ultimate website checklist

How They Hurt Your Site And What To Do About Them

Designing a site that meets only your needs / wants

It is perfectly understandable that you’re excited about your new site and all that you want it to do. However, the users of your site (i.e. your customers) are the people who will be spending their time there. It’s important to address their needs.

Is the purpose of your site instantly clear?

Any visitor, no matter how computer literate they may, or may not be, needs to be able to understand what the site is about, and what your business does within a few seconds of arriving at your website.

What is your sites focal point?

Every site should have a focal point. One thing that your visitors should see. This could be a request to sign-up for a free trial, the benefits of your service etc.

The site doesn’t look professional

A clean, contemporary design, free of errors (and one which takes note of the items in this list) will help your site look professional, and help instill a sense of trust in your visitors.

The web pages take too long to load

People expect to be able to access the information that they’re looking for quickly. The load time of your pages can make your visitors give up waiting and head elsewhere. A number of factors will affect loading time – the server it’s hosted on, large images, poor website coding, and plugins, amongst other things.

Having too much content on the home page / the home page is too long

Consider the homepage as a portal to the rest of the site. It should provide people with some key information, and make it easy to find what they’re looking for. Ideally, the home page shouldn’t be more than around two screen heights. Obviously this depends on the screen resolution of your visitor, so aim for the lowest common denominator.

Scan-reading the page doesn’t provide the visitor with the content they’re after, or tell them what the page is about

People are used to quickly scanning a web page, trying to find the information they’re after, or checking that the page will be of use to them. Arrange your content appropriately by using headings and lists.

Does disabling images or CSS styling render your site unusable?

This is especially important to visitors with disabilities such as blindness, where they may access the web with a screen reader. Not only that, a website which works without CSS and images is likely to be very search engine-friendly and properly coded.

Does disabling JavaScript break the site?

JavaScript should give added functionality and not be required in order to view a site. Some people choose to browse with it disabled.

Put things where people expect them

As the web has developed, there are certain things that people expect, such as the company logo will be at the top-left and clicking it will take you back to the home page, menu items will be at the top or on the left, and so on. Following conventions will mean that users can easily navigate your site.

Only use items which are necessary

Think carefully about everything that you add to your pages. If they’re not conveying an important message, or providing something useful, have a think if you could live without it.

Does your site use a lot of Flash?

Flash is now well and truly on its way out. It will continue to hang around for some time, as online games and similar, but when it comes to building websites out of Flash, it’s over. Flash is not very user-friendly, search engines don’t like it, and neither do mobile devices.

Don’t use splash pages

Splash pages are also a really bad idea. Like Flash, they’re bad for usability and search engines. They tend to drive your visitors away.

Sites should be tested on numerous devices, web browsers, screen sizes and mobile devices

Different devices will display your website differently. It’s a fact which drives designers and developers mad. What works on one, may not work on another. The trick is to create something which works across the board without the use of hacks (code which isn’t compliant, but tells the different devices or browsers to display something a little differently. Fortunately, it’s not important to have every device display your website exactly the same. Responsive design, where the site automatically adjusts to fit the screen is the way forward.

Is the site fixed-width or completely fluid?

This also ties in with the point about responsive design above. With the wide array of screen resolution that your site will be subject to, fixed-width (where the width of your site will not change no matter what), or fully fluid (where the site will always take up the entire width of the browser) can cause display and usability issues for your visitors.

Sounds or video plays automatically when the page loads

The intrusion can really irk your customers. You may be able to get away with it if you’re a musician or film-maker so that you can showcase your work, but even then I’d strongly advise against it. Some people (myself included) will open up numerous pages one after another so that I can then go and flick through them at leisure. If a video starts playing in one of the open tabs, it’s an annoyance trying to find the right one and close it.

iFrames should be avoided where possible

This comes back to usability, but it also causes display issues where your site will resize responsively, but the iFrames won’t. There are some instances where it can’t really be helped though.

Pop-ups should only be used in very special circumstances

Pop-ups will annoy your visitors no end. In fact, I can’t think of an instance where a pop-up would provide something which couldn’t be better done another way. Nothing should interrupt the visitor without an exceptional reason, and I’m sorry to say, asking them if they’re sure they want to leave your site, or asking them to hand over their email address before they’ve even had a chance to view the page, isn’t going to win you friends.

Has right-click been disabled?

People right-click for a number of reasons, opening pages in new tabs, copying a URL and similar. If someone is determined to copy an image you don’t want them to, there’s not much that can be done. They’ll always find a way. Better to keep your site user-friendly.

Keep links consistent

Keeping your styling consistent helps aid navigation as users can quickly and easily identify what’s a link, and what isn’t.

Too much, or too little white-space

Good use of white-space makes your site easy to read. Your calls-to-action will stand out, and users will be able to find what they’re looking for.

Too much text, or too little

People tend to skim-read web pages, so any copy you have should be relevant and necessary.

Only links should be underlined

Underlined text on a webpage has become synonymous with links, so it should only be used if something is a link. Inline advertisements should be double-underlined.

Check for broken links and missing pages

Coming across dead links is frustrating. Not an issue if it happens once, but can grate on you if you find many. Exacerbated by an unhelpful 404 page.

Your logo, images and other content should be professionally made

Well produced elements make your site look more credible.

Your logo should link back to the homepage

It’s expected and is quite often the first method people will use to navigate to the homepage even if there is a ‘home’ link.

Links should be short and descriptive

People like to know where they’re being taken so that there’s no nasty surprises.

Images should be optimised

Images can often have large file sizes. Compressing them suitably can mean that they will load quickly, yet the quality will still be high. Of course, you sometimes want to provide high-quality images.

Graphics shouldn’t be used for text

Not using images to display text means that your site is accessible to those with screen readers and similar. Also, search engines can’t read images.

Animated GIFs are distracting

They also have a tendency to look very cheap and put added strain on your server and visitors bandwidth.

Visitors should always know where they are within your site

Not much of an issue for very small sites, but as it grows, it can become rather confusing. Mystery Meat Navigation should also be avoided (MMN is navigation which uses obscure text or abstract images to identify links.)

Does your content entice people to return?

You want people to keep coming back to your site, time and time again. The key is to provide great content, making it engaging, useful, readable and adding fresh content frequently. Copy that was written for print will need to be edited for the web.

Ensure that lines of text are not too long, or too short

Lines which are too long long or short quickly become tiresome to read. Ideally you’re aiming for between 7 and 13.

You should have dark text on a light background

The reverse can be quite hard on the eyes after a while, and a low contrast can also be bothersome.

Use external CSS style sheets

CSS is now the recognised way to style a website, and using it an an external page, not inline. It makes it easier to maintain the site, not to mention doing your visitors a few favours, such as reducing load time.

Do you have a search feature?

Extremely helpful for visitors to be able to search your site for what they’re looking for

Check to see that your website code is valid

Adhering to W3C standards will have a number of benefits. Users are less likely to encounter errors, and your site stands a better chance of displaying the same across all platforms (With the exception of Internet Explorer, but I have high hopes that IE10 will finally fall in line and render sites in the same manner as the other major browsers).

Do you use tracking code?

Inserting tracking code, most probably Google’s, will give you invaluable feedback about how people use your site. Analysing it will provide incredible insight and flag up potential issues. No need to stop with Google though, ClickHeat will actually show you where people are clicking on your site.

Ensure the date is on time-sensitive articles

Some people don’t like doing this as they don’t want people to know that they haven’t added any new content in a while, however, it can be frustrating to read something only to discover that it’s out of date. Update articles if the content isn’t timeless. For events and such like, give the full date with day of the week. It lets people mentally check if they’re able to make it.

Check to see that your website code is valid

Adhering to W3C standards will have a number of benefits. Users are less likely to encounter errors, and your site stands a better chance of displaying the same across all platforms (With the exception of Internet Explorer, but I have high hopes that IE10 will finally fall in line and render sites in the same manner as the other major browsers).

Is the language suitable for your audience?

Language style should be for the readability of a teenager, though that isn’t all that useful as I’ve know some that are highly articulate, while others are borderline illiterate. And there’s no mention of where on the teenage scale you should be aiming. However, make it easy to read, avoid jargon and acronyms, unless you’re sure that your audience is specialised and will be fully aware of the meanings. You should still ensure that each acronym is explained the first time it is introduced into an article. Or you could use a tooltip.

Special characters should be encoded

Although browsers are now much better at handling ampersands and other special characters, they can still display incorrectly for some users.i.e. use ‘&amp;‘ instead of ‘&’ in your code to display the ampersand.

Don’t use hit counters

People consider them to be very 1990’s, however, there could be special instance where it would be useful to know, or an involved part of your overall website strategy, such as fund-raising.

Provide your contact information

…and make sure it’s clear and easy to find. This will help instill trust. Give people different options too. Physical address, landline number, contact form and email address. To stop spammers, it may be reasonable to not display your email, instead relying on a contact form, or maybe displaying it as an image. Though you’ll still need a way for people who cannot see your images to email you.

Avoid the long con

I’m referring to those sites which have a tall sales-pitch style of homepage, or those that make you click through a number of pages in order. It makes you product appear to be snake oil.

Ensure the correct file format has been used for the right purpose

JPEGs for photos, or PNGs. GIF for small images which don’t require transparency. Yes, GIFs do offer transparency, but the transparent parts can only be on or off, giving jagged edges.

Avoid table-based layouts

DIVs are the way to layout your future-ready website. Easy to control, and much easier to maintain.

So is that all?

Not by a mile. There’s always things which can be improved, and it seems that there’s no such thing as the perfect site. They’re all flawed in some way. All you can do it strive to make it better, and I guarantee that it’ll be worth it in the long-run. I hope that you’ve found it useful, and if you have any tips, please share them.

Have an ecommerce website? Then maybe you should check out (geddit?) how to increase conversions.

Why you shouldn’t buy email lists

Buying email lists is never a good idea. This is no longer the 1990’s, there’s now legislation in place to try and stop it, people are fed up with it, and they’re more savvy about reporting it. Although it may initially seem like a good idea, you may be setting yourself up for more heartache than it’s worth.

Is Sending Spam Legal?

Many people ask this question, and those thinking of buying email lists often ask ‘is buying email lists legal?’ The fact that these questions are asked should get alarm bells ringing. Yes, buying email lists is legal, and so is sending spam as long as the rather paltry requirements of CAN SPAM are met. These are:
1. Your email must include an opt-out link
2. You give a physical postal address
3. The email headers have not been forged

I Do All That, So What’s The Problem?

With increasing contention surrounding spam, buying email lists is more hassle than it’s worth. Although it’s possible to get targeted email lists, they’re still very ineffective – the only people who benefit from spam email lists are the people who sell them. There have been a few high-profile cases where the buying and using of email lists have caused untold grief for the company who sent them. Here’s the reasons why you should never buy an email list:

This is particularly true of the cheaper email lists which have been compiled by unscrupulous methods such as using bots to scour the web and gather up all email addresses that they come across. Safe to say that the owners of these addresses won’t have opted in.

There are no quick fixes. If you want a highly relevant and effective list, build your own. It’s a slow process, but of a much higher-quality than you’ll be able to buy.

Think about it, if a company has gone to the trouble of creating a high-quality list, why would they then sell it as oppose to renting. (Renting is marketing slang where a company sends emails to their list on your behalf. You never see the email addresses.) Not to mention that the list you buy will have been bought by many other companies, all spamming the same people. Renting a list will al least mean that the owners have put some care and consideration into its compiling.

Marketing experts the world over tend to agree on this. Renting is expensive, and that money is better spent elsewhere. Somewhere where it’ll get you more for your money.

Large volumes of unsolicited mail will undoubtedly result in a large number of those mails bouncing back, either soft (where a message reaches the intended mail server, but is returned as the user ‘bounces’ it by flagging it as spam, the mailbox is full, not functioning or your message is too large) or hard (where the email address is invalid, or the recipient server has blacklisted your mail server), and this puts added strain on the mail server. Your hosting provider will have rules on the sending of bulk mail, and breaking those rules can result in their refusal to offer you hosting.

Tied in with point 5 about annoying your hosting provider, being blacklisted is a huge problem – blacklists are global and subscribed to by different ISPs, meaning that more and more servers will refuse mail from you.

MailChimp is a common one. They know that purchased lists are not the way things should be done, and they don’t want anything to do with them as they’ll harm their own reputation.
“No purchased lists (no matter how expensive).” – MailChimp T&C’s

…and your soul. Many consumers will lose respect instantly, with some people going as far as to vow to never deal with such a company.

Such is the need to combat spam, that the numerous organisations that have appeared to combat the problem set ups traps to find those who spam, and those who create the email lists. These are email addresses that are created and hidden on web pages so that bots harvest them. When the email receives an email, it can only be from a spammer, or spam list. The sender is then blacklisted.

The money is an obvious one, but having to deal with all nonsense that comes about from using a bought list can take up a great deal of your valuable time – dealing with complaints from recipients, your ISP, ‘cleaning’ the list, and so on. By creating your own list, you put in the legwork now, but reap the benefits later. Better still, you haven’t annoyed anyone.

How Should It Be Done?

  • Create your own lists by getting permission from customers and potential customers
  • Offer a newsletter or another good reason to sign-up for a regular email. Such as coupons
  • Don’t email them too often. Unless you have great, time-sensitive offers, once a fortnight is more than enough. People tend to unsubscribe after the third email unless they perceive that they’re receiving something useful
  • Comply with CAN SPAM
  • Give your mail recipients something useful. Give them a reason to read your mail, and not flag it as spam
  • Use double opt-in – This means that not only have they agreed to receive email, but their email address is confirmed as live and correct
  • Clean your list regularly. Make sure that you’re only sending to people who want it, and that there’s no dead addresses
  • Test, test and test some more. Make sure that your email displays correctly in the major email programs and that they don’t break if people block images
  • Consider using multiple email subscriptions so that people can choose which types of emails are relevant to them

Is It Legal To Buy Or Sell Email Lists?

Each country has their own laws, and the CAN SPAM act doesn’t actually forbid the selling or buying of email lists. This may be where a flaw in the CAN SPAM act lies; it doesn’t penalise the people who harvest these email addresses, though there is protection from this in the Data Protection Act (UK), and other countries will have their own laws. So unless everybody on those email lists have explicitly given permission for their details to be sold, the sellers and buyers are likely to be breaking the law.

Many companies who sell these lists describe them as ‘clean’. Doesn’t that mean that they’re inherently dirty?

Ecommerce – How To Increase Checkout Conversions

We’ve all done it. We’ve been shopping online, or maybe just browsing. We’ve added things to the basket and started the checkout process, only to abandon it. There’s a number of reasons for this, some that you can do something about and some that are more difficult to resolve.

So Why Do People Abandon Their Shopping Baskets?

There’s been many studies on the subject, and although there are also many answers, a number of them are extremely common. You won’t be able to convert all those abandoned carts, but you should be able to make some impact. Let’s start by looking the reasons people jump ship part way through the buying process:

HIGH SHIPPING COSTS – Getting through the checkout to find that shipping costs are high will make customers think twice. Particularly if the cost are unjustifiably high. Customers can feel that some sellers profit from postage costs and this really irks them.

CUSTOMER WAS BROWSING OR COMPARING PRICES – Many people will idle away time by simply doing a little window-shopping. There’s not a great deal you can do about those. In regards to the second lot, are your prices competitive?

CHANGED MIND / BUYER REMORSE – Sometimes people just second-guess themselves, feeling a little guilty about spending money that they could be spending on something they need, rather than want.

SAVING PRODUCTS FOR LATER CONSIDERATION – Maybe they want to check out the high street prices, remembering that somewhere may have a sale on. Or just maybe they want to sleep on it. Can tie-in with buyer remorse.

TOTAL COST IS TOO HIGH – Airlines have recently been busted by the Office of Fair Trading for this, adding additional fees, suc as taxes and card-handling fees at the very end of the checkout process, meaning that something which looked like a good deal initially, actually wasn’t at all. A sure-fire way of raising your customer’s blood pressure by wasting their valuable time.

CHECKOUT PROCESS IS TOO LONG – The longer people spend in your checkout, the more time they have to change their mind.

CHECKOUT ASKS FOR TOO MUCH INFORMATION – This also couples with the ‘long checkout’ reason above. Only ask for the minimal information required in order to process the payment. Additional information can be gathered later.

SITE REQUIRES REGISTRATION IN ORDER TO BUY – This is unnecessary, at least to begin with. By all means give users a ‘tick box’ option to create a account, but don’t demand it. Registration is another obstacle for your customers.

SITE IS UNSTABLE / UNRELIABLE – 404 errors, timeouts, security warnings will all put doubt in the mind of your customers. Make sure your site works correctly and loads quickly.

FEEL UNABLE TO TRUST THE SELLER – Do you and and your site come across as trust-worthy? Customers need to be able to verify that their details are safe and that they’ll receive the product.

3D SECURE – In the UK, the most common 3D secure system is ‘Verified by Visa’. If you haven’t had the misfortune of dealing with it, you’re lucky. It’s an ill though-out system that supposedly adds extra security, but does nothing of the sort. It confuses / infuriates customers and is the slayer of ecommerce sales. No joke, it obliterates on-line sales and has even put a stake through the heart of some sites.

OK, So How Do I Increase Sales?

Fortunately you can do lots to stop people from abandoning shopping carts/ baskets, and although you won’t be able to win the battle every time, you should hopefully see an improvement. Let’s have a look at what you can try, starting with tackling the main reasons.

– Be clear about your shipping and postage costs
– Don’t let it be a nasty surprise at the end of checkout
– If possible, let them know the costs upfront
– Or offer free postage and packaging

– Make sure that people can find the total cost quickly
– Save the basket items so when they return, the items are there
– Keep your prices competitive
– Promote your particular USP (Unique Selling Point)

– Keep the buying process very short, don’t give them time to change their minds
– No nasty surprises (e.g. adding costs)

– Make sure that you’re prices are competitive
– Consider offering ‘Free Shipping Weekend’ offers or similar
– Remind people that they have items in their basket

– Some repetition here: be upfront about costs

– Streamline the process as much as possible, keep people moving along quickly
– Let people know how long the process is (e.g. a percentage gauge)
– Inform people of exactly where they are in the process, and let them easily move back and forth without losing details

– Keep it to the bare minimum
– Give people different payment options so that don’t have to give card details

– Make this optional
– Give this option after the sale is complete

– Optimise images so they they jave a small file size, but keep quality
– Check for broken links, create a custom 404 page which gives alternative options
– Test your site in all common browsers. Do it load correctly?
– Check for error messages. The Internet Explorer ‘Unsecure Items’ is quite a common one
– Is your sever up to the job? Check for down-time and time-outs
– Update your CMS (whatever platform you’re using) and ensure that your website code is compliant

– People buy from people, not faceless websites. Let them know who you are
– Make sure that you give your physical address
– Include your telephone number – a landline number
– Let people use buying methods that they’re comfortable with, such as PayPal so they know they have security
– Use HTTPS (not just HTTP) when collecting sensitive data. Get an SSL Certificate from a vendor such as VeriSign Secure

3D SECURE (Verified By Visa / MasterCard SecureCode)
– Just don’t use this – not until shoppers are comfortable with it or it’s mandatory

3D Secure systems are not the secure and user-friendly tools that they claim to be. Feel the wrath of the consumer public (your customers) here. It’s not just me that hates it.

General Tips To Increase Sales

Underline your links – All text links should be underlined or have a clear difference which makes them stand out from other text, and only your links. It helps users navigate your site.

Improve the overall aesthetic quality of your site – Don’t underestimate the value of good design and what it can bring to your site. A slick looking site can increase the perceived worth of the products your selling, and makes you look more legitimate. This also applies to your overall brand.

Improve the overall aesthetic quality of your site – Don’t underestimate the value of good design and what it can bring to your site. A slick looking site can increase the perceived worth of the products your selling, and makes you look more legitimate. This also applies to your overall brand.

Include a highly visible phone number – Must be a landline. This really makes you seem trustworthy. The majority of shoppers won’t ever ring it, preferring to use email, but just knowing they can puts them at ease.

Check for typo’s and grammatical errors – Although they do creep in here and there, they can make a site look very unprofessional.

Don’t bury your pricing information – Be open and frank about it. Your customers will thanks you for it and due to the immediate gratification culture, this can give you an edge on your competitors. Even though who may have slightly lower prices, but customers are just unable to find the information.

Add an ‘about us’ page – Don’t dismiss the benefit of the personal touch. It shows that you stand by what you offer and are open and upfront.

Give clear calls-to-action – ‘Buy now’, ‘add to cart’ and so on. Guide people through the buying process.

Answer telephones calls and respond to emails promptly – Delays in getting back to people can really give them cold feet, and more importantly, gives them time to shop around elsewhere. It seems obvious, but so many people put these things off.

Let them know of the payment options – Display images and seals of the payment methods you offer, such as PayPal and the cards you accept. Also show security seals of the tools that you use to make shopping on your site safe.

Let users choose to save information – This could be the delivery address for example. This speeds up the process next time they shop with you.

Let customers easily change quantities and continue shopping – Customer expect to be able to do this, and customers often decide to add extra instances of the same item (most notably consumables) if the price is right, or if it means they qualify for free shipping.

Get reviews / testimonials – Although some customers are wary of these, due to the there being instances of faked and paid for reviews, they can still be an effective way of alleviating fears.

Give a clear final review – Just before the user clicks the button to complete the purchase give them an overview, showing all the details so that they can quickly confirm. Let them know what they can expect from you in the way of confirmation emails etc.

Recommend related products – This can be a great way to do some up-selling just before the start of the checkout process.

Include your contact details – This is very important. Not only does it make you appear more trust-worthy, but if they have any questions or problems during the checkout they can quickly get in touch.

Provide multiple buying and shipping methods – People have their own preferences and requirements, so do your best to pander to them.

You saved this much / You qualify for free shipping – If people have made a saving or qualified for some other benefit, such as free shipping or a free gift. It helps stave off buyer remorse.

Was this price, now this price – Showing current/previous prices can help people know that they’re getting a deal. This has a reduced effect now as so many ecommerce sites seem to permanently display these price comparisons, thereby eroding any credibility. Best used infrequently and for short periods, such as a weekend.

Time your newsletters / product launches / sales carefully – Experiment with different times of day, days of the week. If your audience is quite localised, even check what the weather is doing. If it’s a bit grim outside, you may get more people stuck indoors browsing your site.

Give estimated shipping / delivery dates – Not an exact science as any number of things can get in the way, but let people know what to expect and send them an email when it’s sent out to them.

Offer rewards to get people to take action – This could be a referral programme, entry to a draw for giving reviews or testimonials.

Offer free samples – Free samples can be offered to either encourage people to spend a little more, or just to promote other products they may be interested in.

Offer great after-sales support – Good customer service gives people a greater sense of security and breeds trust. Maybe offer a longer returns period, although this may not be suitable for every business. However, the longer the return period, the less likely people are to return items. Strange but true.

A/B Split Testing – This should be done continually by presenting different customers with slightly different content and layouts. try changing the colour of buttons, the positions of your calls to action and so on. They might seem like very minor adjustments, but they can inexplicably have major effects.

Identify product features / benefits with bullets – Website visitors, on the whole, have short attention spans. The bullet point is your friend as it quickly distils information and encourages people to read the entire list.

Collect opt-in email leads – This allows you send special offers to your customers. Don’t spam them though, and only send them something they genuinely will be interested in.

File Types And Extensions – What They Are And What They’re For

There’s a bewildering array of different file types out there and just occasionally you may come across one that you’re not quite sure what it’s for. When having designers create work for you, if you’re having the work printed yourself, then they might have handed you files which your unable to open – here is a list of some of the most common types you’re likely to come into contact with and what you need to open them.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list – there are thousands of different file types. Also, just because a particular programme may open a file, it may not enable you to edit it.

Files Types / Extensions And Their Associated Programmes

.3DS 3D object file

.3GP Video format, designed primarily for mobile phones

.7z A zipped file. 7-Zipped format

.abr Adobe brush file

.aco Adobe colour pallete

.ai Vector graphics file

.aif / .aiff Audio Interchange File Format

.bmp Windows graphics format

.cad Computer Aided design file

.cr2 Canon Raw – RAW photographic file

.css Cascading style sheet, used to stylise HTML documents

.dmg Apple Disk Image

.doc MS Word Document

.docm MS Word master document

.docx MS Word Document

.fla Flash source file

.flac Audio codec / file

.flv Container for Flash Video

.gif Compuserves’ Graphics Interchange Format

.gz A zipped file

.htm / .html Hypertext Markup Language – web page file

.jpg / .jpeg Photographics Experts Group graphics file

.js JavaScript file – typically used on the web

.mid / .midi Synthesised music file

.mov Movie / animation file

.mp2 / .mp3 Audio file

.mp4 Video / Audio

.mpg / .mpeg Video / Audio

.pdf Adobe Portable Document Format

.php Hypertext Preprocessor, a server-side scripting language

.png Portable Network Graphics – image file

.psd Photoshop file

.qtvr Quicktime VR – interactive movie clip

.tif / .tiff Tagged Image File Format – lossless

.txt A basic text file

.wav Sound file format

.zip Archive file

Design, Web and Print Glossary, Terms, Definitions – A

As a designer, I need to know a lot of jargon as I deal with printers, web developers etc. etc. Although I try not to use it when speaking to clients, it can occasionally slip out.

No matter what you do, we all have a tendency to use our industry jargon when speaking to others. Here, I present a glossary of design / web / print terms for your personal edification.


A (Paper Sizes) – ISO paper sizes. Each is double the size of the one before it. A4 is the most common size, used for letterheads etc. A4 is twice the size of A5, half the size of A3.

Above The Line – Traditional, non-direct advertising of print, TV and radio.

Acetate – A transparent sheet, such as used on OHP’s or as a protective cover for bound documents.

Acid Free Paper – A paper type that resists discolouration and deterioration as a result of age.

Adobe – Adobe is the company behind a range of professional design software e.g Photoshop, Illustrator.

Acrobat – Another piece of Adobe software. Acrobat is used to create and view PDF files.

Achromatic – This refers to ‘non-colours, that is black, grey and white.

Agate – A type size that is 5&#frac12; points.

Air (Print) – A term used to describe large, blank areas in design layout. More commonly called ‘white-space’.

Air (Software) – Software for developers to produce, stand-alone applications across various platforms and devices.

Airbrush – A compressed air tool that uses a fine mist of either paint or ink, usually used to touch up images. Also sometimes used to refer to the digitally touching up of photographs.

Alley – The space between columns of a layout.

Aliasing – spatial aliasing, which shows as visible pixelation – a blocky or jagged effect that is usually apparent on lines which are not quite horizontal or vertical.

Alignment – The position of text and items in a layout. Can refer to either vertical or horizontal alignment.

Ambient Media – This refers to non-traditional forms of media. It can either be a new technique or using existing forms in new and innovative ways.

Analogy and Visual Metaphor – These use something to represent something else. The analogy campares a similar item to help explain something. A metaphor is the use of a word or phrase to imply characteristics, e.g. Fox = sly / cunning.

Animated Gif – A bitmap-based format specifically designed for use on the web. It supports a low number of colours (256) and can contain a number of .gif images that can be viewed as an animation. The use of animated gifs has fallen out of favour.

Anti-Alias – A method of blending the edges of an object to to jagged edges.

Anti-Aliasing – Most commonly seen as an option on computer display settings, where fonts are smoothed to remove jagged edges and aid readability.

Arms – The elements of letters that branch out of the stem of a letter, for example ‘Y’.

Artwork – Refers to any graphics, layouts, photographs etc.

Acender – In typography, the ascender is anything that appears above the x-hight of the font. b, d, f, h, k, l and t all have ascenders.

Aspect Ratio – Ration of a screen, monitor, video etc. Older TV’s were 4:3, widescreen is typically 16:9.

Alpha-Channel – An 8-bit channel that is available in some file formats. .PNG is commonly used on the web as the alpha-channel allows transparency saved in an image. JPEG does not allow this and GIF only allows transparency to be on or off, so there is no partial or semi-transparency allowed, resulting in jagged edges.

A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  E  |  F  |  G  |  H  |  I  |  J  |  K  |  L  |  M
N  |  O  |  P  |  Q  |  R  |  S  |  T  |  U  |  V  |  W  |  X  |  Y  |  Z

Clients Are From Mars, Designers Are From Venus

I thought that it would be an interesting exercise to post a question on LinkedIn, asking about client / supplier relations. I pride myself on having good relationships with my clients but I’m aware that just sometimes, clients and suppliers can fail to understand each other. I went ahead with my question and received some interesting answers. Suppliers were more forthcoming with answers, read into that what you will.

So for an insight into the minds of your clients or suppliers, continue to read the comments in the columns below. They’re quite revealing!

These are direct quotes from the responses I received, and do not necessarily reflect my own opinions!

Suppliers/Designers Answers

1. “There are three concepts for the client to consider, they are Fast, Cheap, and Good. You can pick two, and only two”

2. “Graphic design is a strategic communications tool and not just simply ‘art'”

3. “That if design is extremely cheap, it’s probably not actual design and won’t be effective”

4. “I’ve spent a lifetime learning and honing my skills, so I probably know best at least some of the time”

5. “Clients should, in fact, sweat the details”

6. “Delaying payment is a lot harder on me than you realise”

7. “Quality is extremely important to me, so please don’t cheap out on art/photos”

8. “Intellectual Property Rights are all that keep creatives in business and should therefore be respected”

9. “‘Crowdsourcing’ will not get them good results and only serves to hurt the industry”

10. “Most designers actually make less than the average salary”

11. “If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is”

12. “Please appreciate that offset vs. digital printing differs greatly in quality and turn around times”

13. “That social media is an ever-changing entity. What worked on Facebook last month may not be the best practice for this month”

14. “A sentence that begins with ‘can you just…’ makes many designers blood run cold. What appears to be a small change can often be several hours work”

15. “Appreciate my hourly worth (particularly true of highly experienced and educated designers)”

16. “Delays in providing content and in making decisions makes that important deadline harder to hit”

17. “The software and equipment I need costs me a lot – upwards of around £6000 and it seems something always needs replacing / upgrading in order for me to carry on working”

18. “We work very long hours. I’ve pulled all-night working sessions before now”

19. “Images pulled from your website are not suitable for printing! The resolution (dots-per-inch) is too low”

20. “The software isn’t ‘magic’. I do the hard work, the software does what I make it do”

21. “I love what I do and want to provide the best possible results”

22. “Delays in making decisions means that my projects all run together”

23. “Have your own photography done. It’s personable and more sincere than using stock photography – There’s one particular photo of a blonde woman wearing a headset that appears on so many sites” – I think he means this woman

Clients Answers

1. “Please don’t use jargon. It may all be second nature to you, but means nothing to me”

2. “Deadlines are there to be met. If you think it can’t be met, flag it up in advance”

3. “Using buzz-words doesn’t inspire me with confidence in your abilities”

4. “I know my business and I’m experienced in my field. I occasionally know what I’m talking about”

5. “Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, tell me what I need to know. I’ll respect you more for it”

6. “Allow me to put forward some of my ideas. I may surprise you!”

7. “I’m mediating between you and others my team / my boss / a committee”

8. “If you can’t do something be honest with me”

9. “Out-sourcing is a bit of a minefield, so I will have lots of questions and be wary of being lumbered with a charlatan”

10. “There’s a huge variation in prices for certain types of work and it’s not always obvious why one person should be worth more than another”

11. “Stay in contact! It’s extremely worrying when freelances can’t be got hold of”