Here are some links, resources, and downloads for my Effective Website Design Now class. This material is in addition to the class handouts and personal recommendations given.
If you found the class merely whetted your appetite to dig deeper into web design and development, terrific! Coding, content strategy, content production, visual design or optimization are all in demand. You could have a fascinating career in web design or development. Definitely check out the links listed below. Pick up some detailed books or classes, and play in the WordPress sandbox provided to you in class. You may want to scan my 2017 Recommended WordPress Plugins Guide. I will be doing a new one for 2020 because several things have changed (such as Google Site Kit).
If you are saying, “Look, I just want to use the web as a communication tool, not geek out,” excellent. Take the basic concepts from the class and use them to find solutions that work for you. Maybe hire someone to do the details or tech. Focus on the resources section and skim to the bottom of the page for the information on hiring professional freelancers. You may also want to check out my 2018 Recommended Web Hosting post. They haven’t changed. And finally, go ahead and download my 5 Simple Actions to Grow your Business PDF.
Thank you for taking my class. Enjoy!
Publications for Web Designers and Developers You Should Know —
Even If You Are Only Hiring One
If you are thinking about becoming a web designer or developer — or if you are thinking of hiring one, here’s a book and two websites you need to know about.
- Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Kruge (affiliate link) is the seminal book on web usability and human-computer interaction. It’s also easy to read and understand. Even if you don’t want to read the whole book, you should familiarize yourself with the concepts before hiring anyone to do any web work for you. With chapters on topics like “How We Really Use the Web,” designing for scanning instead of reading, the art of not writing for the web, navigation design and much more (including new research on mobile usability), it is essential reading for anyone who wants to claim to be a web designer or developer.
- A List Apart — As their masthead used to state: For People Who Make Websites. A List Apart (ALA to web designers) is like an online academic publication of web design and development. They are “academic” — but with a focus on practical application as well as theory. Or as they put it: “A List Apart explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.” They also hold conferences (An Event Apart) and publish books (A Book Apart publishers). If someone claims they are a web designer or developer I always ask them what’s their favorite section of A List Apart (ALA, if they are really arrogant). And you should, too. If they say they don’t know what I’m talking about, I know they aren’t a real web developer or designer because even if you don’t read it, you should at least know it exists. It’s like saying you’re a hockey fan and then saying “Wayne who?” Or a basketball fan who never heard of Michael Jorden or Larry Bird.
- Smashing Magazine — Okay, I admit ALA is a bit heavy and dry and I don’t hit it monthly. But anyone who is interested in web design or development should know Smashing Magazine. There are decidedly non-academic articles on things like “How To Design Profitable Sales Funnels On Mobile” and “Abstracting WordPress Code To Reuse With Other CMSs: Implementation (Part 2)“. In addition, there are events and jobs sections to hire web developers — or get hired as one. (See far below for more sites if you want to get hired).
If You Want to Learn to Code, Create Digital Art & Graphics, or Seriously Design Websites or Apps
- Lynda.com (now part of LinkedIn Learning) — Lynda.com was the grandmother of graphic design — and later web design — instruction, first with books and workshops and then online. The business was purchased by LinkedIn recently.
- LinkedInLearning, along with the Lynda.com library, also offers many WordPress, Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace tutorials. Also, there are hundreds of corporate-oriented classes for things like Slack, project management, and — well, pretty much anything else a corporate employee might need or want. (Yep, MS Office, data analysis, cybersecurity, and on and on. Just search on it and see what’s available.) LinkedIn Learning (with Lynda.com) costs US$29.99/monthly subscription (with 1-month free) or US$19.99/monthly subscription when you pay annually (with 1-month free). So the annual rate is a bargain — if you are serious about a career with corporate clients (or a job). If you are planning to do any freelancing for corporations or looking for a job with a largish company, you’ll need a good LinkedIn profile so go ahead and get an account.
- Sitepoint — The source for on-going, online career development for uber-geek web programmers and designers with over 350+ ebooks and classes. The ebooks have the ability to allow you to test code from inside the app (or browser). And they frequently run massive sales on access around Black Friday through the New Year. (Right now it’s US$9!) This is the site for true coding nerds. But it does assume you can learn from books or the occasional self-directed online class.
Resources for Images, Art, or Video
Best “Free” Resources
First, you cannot grab free images and use them to resell or redistribute, including on products like posters, prints, t-shirts, phone cases or other products. In addition, you can’t use free images with identifiable people in an offensive or negative way, nor can you imply an endorsement for your products or brand. All of the sites listed have various licensing restrictions, although most are extremely generous. (Check out Pexels license for an idea of what is and isn’t allowed.) Basically, just think how you would feel about seeing your image or video used in the way you intend to use it.
- Pixabay — Offers over 1 million+ photos, illustrations, vector images, and video clips for use without requiring attribution. (though it’s a good idea because you don’t know when the rules might change and it’s just polite)
- Unsplash — Strictly photos but some stunning ones, especially if you are looking for backgrounds or wallpaper images. Unsplash focuses on quality, not quantity. Again, attribution is not required. But they have an excellent guide on how to do it correctly — and why you should.
- Pexels — Offering mostly photos but now offering high-quality, high-resolution stock video clips as well. It provides a very clear (and generous) licensing agreement.
- Flickr — Flickr is the granddaddy of photosharing sites (it literally was the first) and many of the images are available under a Creative Commons License, however, many are not and require permission from the photographer. Flickr can be especially useful if you are needing a location- or event-specific image such as SpiedeFest or Apalachin, NY. My spouse has licensed several of his small-town images for a fee ranging from just attribution to $50. So check first before you use someone’s images here. As Quantas Air Line discovered, it can be *very* expensive to steal a photo.
- StockFootage4Free — Here you’ll find high-quality, high-resolution video clips for use free — unless you are doing a professional production with a real budget. Be certain to check out the licensing agreement. Also, you will need to set up an account and there have been some complaints about how well the log-in works.
Recommended Commercial Stockphoto and Video Sources (with freebies)
If you are wanting to use the images to create products for reselling or redistribution, you will need a commercial stock photo or video source. You will also need to read the licensing agreements and make certain you are buying the right one. There is usually a Standard License (presentations, websites, ads, et al) and an Extended License for resale or print runs over 5,000 copies. Video licensing is based on broadcast production use.
iStock — iStock (originally, iStockphoto) has been around for a long time and is now a part of the Getty Images empire. (Created by Bill Gates before he decided to stop trying to corner all the licensed image libraries and became a philanthropist). You can find photos, illustrations, vector images, and video clips. (They moved music to a different site. Yes, there are stock music and free stock music sites.) It’s free to get an account but you will then need to either purchase credits or a monthly subscription plan based on how many downloads you want per month. I use the credits which range between US$8.50-11.00 each (dependent upon how many you buy at one time) for a Standard License. Essential Images or videos run 1-3 credits each and Premium Images/Videos more. The images are all high quality and you get a new free photo, illustration/vector image, and video clip every 1-2 weeks to download. I started using them before they were merged with Getty. (And yes, you’ve seen iStockphoto images in class and on my sites).
DepositPhotos — Works like iStock but is newer and offers a bit better pricing, especially their new annual flexible account for US$299/year with 30 monthly downloads and any additional downloads only $1 each. I’ve only recently discovered DepositPhoto but I’ve liked them.
Best Resources for Design & Content Development Ideas & Process
Infographics and Data Presentation
- Raw Data Infographics Designers’ Sketchbooks — It walks you through the development of several infographics used to convey various types of information to various audiences. (Frankly, I’d love to see this as a Netflix or YouTube series but I’m a design nerd.)
- Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling — A more recent and concise title with an emphasis on web design. If you only get one, this would probably be my recommendation. (I’m certain you will become as fascinated and hooked on visual design as I am. 🙂 )
- Visual Design: ninety-five things you need to know. Told in Helvetica and Dingbats. — As its title implies, the approach is light-hearted fashion, but the subject is taken very seriously. Topics range from the basics, such as proportions and typography, to in-depth issues, such as theme and working within limits. It focuses mainly on print infographics. However, the fundamental design knowledge that applies online as well. Infographics, especially on social media like Instagram, is usually is presented as a poster image.
- The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (by Edward R. Tufte) — This is the great-granddaddy of them all. And it says something that it is still in print and still used as a basic textbook in design classes. However, I won’t be insulted if you start with something else. Personally, I love his first book (released 1990), Envisioning Information which looks at all types of visual information from semaphore to computer displays to charts and infographics. And last, but definitely not least, there is his Visual Explanations: images and quantities, evidence and narrative which looks at strategies, logic, and processes of depicting quantitative information.
- Datapine.com/Blog/ — This is a serious data analysis company. So unless you are interested in heavy-duty data manipulation skip to their article on the Best Data Visualization Books. We are communicating more and more with images and graphics (hence the rise of Instagram), so learning to explain information visually, especially complex data, is important. Think of it as being data literate. Some of the titles in the list are out-of-print or deeper than you may want to start with. However, here are a few I recommend considering (all are Amazon affiliate links, FYI but order through whatever bookstore you like):
Content Development and Management
Content and content management are big subjects by themselves. There are many different subspecialties such as copywriting, user interface design, database design, and so forth. Below I offer the very basic rules for content creation today plus some recommended books for more detailed study.
The Basic Rules of Content Now
The most basic rules in creating content — whether for your website or your social media — are:
- Know the purpose of your post. Are you attempting to build trust and authority with information? Persuade a purchase, contact, or other action? Or increase awareness of you or your business through sharing something of interest to your target audience?
- Know your target audience. What are their needs and interests? What can you offer them that genuinely meets those needs and interests? How do they prefer to receive information, text, images, video, audio? Are they looking for in-depth coverage of a subject or brief, specific highlights? (Short attention span or long?) And how will they use the information? Immediately or print out and save for reference? (There’s a reason why the best recipe sites offer a printable version.)
- Know your personality and style. Often called brand identity. It is the consistent use of specific visual elements and communication style. Is your style dry and authoritarian? Or casual and approachable? Are you trying to convey calm and security or dynamic and creative?
- Use the KISS Principle: Keep It Simple, Seriously. Follow the rule “Don’t Make Me Think” and design your content with clear navigation and organization. Use hierarchal headers, keep paragraphs brief (about 150 words), include the keyword phrases your audience searches on, and follow the mobile-first design principle (Big Beauty Media, Text, Call-To-Action).
Recommended Books for Mastering Content Creation and Management
- Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — It’s definitely the go-to guide for writing today — especially online. Along with the current rules of grammar and professional copywriting techniques, it covers tips for addressing specific social media posts as well as key website content such as Home page (I don’t entirely agree), About page, Landing Pages, headlines and even creating good infographics. If you are only going to get one book on creating content, make it this one.
- Creating Fat Content: Boost Website Traffic With Visitor-Grabbing, Google-Loving Web Content — While I don’t like everything he says if you are looking to build content that ranks better in search engines and gets more sharing by site visitors, this one is worth a read (or scan). It provides a comprehensive history of search online and Google’s ranking system to date. The book covers all the possible content from clickbait to headlines and text to video, audio, infographics, images, PDF downloads and whatever. It also covers background things like metatags and design issues plus it tells you what not to do. Which is often the most important information. If you are wanting to create content that boosts site traffic, both for your site and social media, this is worth a look.
- Content Strategy for the Web — Answers the question (her second chapter), “Why does your content (still) suck?” The focus is on website structure and how to make smarter decisions on what kind of content to create in the first place. Not as dry as most books on the subject but remains solid and comprehensive.
- Web Content Management — Actually about Content Management Systems (CMS) and how to evaluate all myriad options, choose the right one for your purpose and manage the project. It’s an O’Reilly publication so it is authoritative but decidedly geeky and technical. But if you are ever working on a corporate project and want to sound thoroughly knowledgeable about CMS, it’s worth a scan.
There are many more books (and classes) out there so feel free to look around for something that appeals to you personally.
Sites to Find Freelancers and Web Developers — Or Become One
If you have the budget for a top-tier web developer or coder — or you want to see what it takes to get these kinds of positions, check out Toptal, Dice.com, Hired.com, GitHub Jobs, or Stack Overflow. Here are some more affordable options (and a possible place to start a career). However, keep in mind that web development has gone global. Many small communities have turned to freelance web gigs to produce income. So you are competing against people whose cost of living is considerably smaller — and charge considerably less. Look for specialists with proven skills and definitely look at portfolios and ask questions about experience and previous work. Remember to ask a question about Don’t Make Me Think, A List Apart and Smashing Magazine as well.
- 99Designs — Strictly for creatives and hated by all graphic designers over the age of 35. It basically works two ways now. Option 1 is that you list a job like designing a banner ad and 99Design connects you with a freelancer to do the job for a specific fee. Option 2, you list a specific job at a specific price and start a contest where freelancers create their vision and you choose one of them. 99Design started with the Option 2 method which caused freelance design rates to fall through the floor in the mid-2000s. However, it’s a way to get started, build some clientele, and develop professional case studies. There’s an annual membership fee.
- Smashing Magazine Jobs Boards — You can post a job or find a job here. The listings are all web-oriented but they can cover many, many specialties and tasks.
- Envato Studio — Basically, a site where freelancers can post specific tasks they are willing to do and what they charge them. It runs the gamut from logo design to app development. There are lots of WordPress specialists here since Envato has another business selling themes and plugins for WordPress, Joomla, and other CMS platforms. It’s also an excellent place to get a feel for what different kinds of work costs (or will pay).
- Guru.com — Not just online and creative freelancers but not as large as Upwork and Freelancer (see below). Again, a good spot to explore and discover what to expect and what it cost/pay.
- Freelancer.com — Very large job site which covers things other than web or even tech. It is dedicated to freelance jobs and not full-time positions.
- Upwork — The most massive freelance hiring service out there. You can pretty much find anything. Usually at surprisingly low costs (pay). Most of the most successful freelancers are in foreign countries or have very specialized skills. I read recently that the average per hour wage on freelance sites like this one is around $3/hour…
Whew! That’s more than you probably wanted to know. Bookmark this page or my site so you can find this info if you need it. And as one of my students, you can always email me if you have any questions.