8 Ways to Freshen Up Your Blog

You keep your blog current by writing new blog posts. As you write more posts, you may decide to change the focus of your blog. Or you want to make some minor changes. What can you do to freshen up your blog?

You can tackle it in two ways: maintenance and tweaking your blog.

Freshen Up Your Blog

Maintenance

As you continue to write and create posts for your blog, your website can start to slow down or links no longer work. You should take this time to do some routine maintenance on your blog.

Broken Links

Websites change their links, remove content or go permanently away. You need to check your site for broken links. If you have WordPress, use the Broken Link Checker to find them. If you are using a different CMS, try W3C Link Checker.

Clean up your sidebar

Is your sidebar working for you? Look at the items in your sidebar and decide if you have links, forms or products ads that need to be updated or removed. You may want to replace them with links to recent or popular posts or a signup to your newsletter.

Clean up WordPress

Your WordPress database over time can get messy. You add, edit and delete posts. You manage comments by editing or deleting spam. This can cause your database to become bloated and slow.

After cleaning or optimizing your database, you should update any plugins and themes that you use. Then, delete any plugins you are no longer using.

Tweak Your Blog

By updating your blog with simple changes, you can help to freshen up the content of your posts.

Update Graphics and Photos

Are your photos and graphics working for you? You may want to change them out for higher quality photos. Pick out pictures that work better for your blog and brand. You can use one of the sites mentioned on the The Badass List of Free Stock Photos Websites for Designers or take your own photos.

Add headings to your posts

When you first wrote your posts, you may not have used heading. Headings are a way to organize and highlight important information. They range from H1 to H6. Headings allow you to break up your post into easily readable and scannable chunks.

Add call to actions

You can use clickable buttons to let your readers know what action to take. You may want them to sign up for your newsletter, contact you or buy a product from you. Adding clickable buttons is a great way to get your readers to engage with you.

Add pull quotes

Create a pull quote to jazz up your design and draw your reader’s attention to an important idea. Use these tips to draw your readers attention with pull quotes.

Summary

Regular maintenance helps to keep your blog running smoothly. By changing photos, adding headings, pull quotes and calls to action, you can update old posts and improve your relationship with your readers.

Photo Credit: http://startupstockphotos.com/

5 Ideas for Making a Screenshot Great

You want to include a screenshot of your app on your blog post or website. How do you make it look great? You want your screenshot be apart of the design and attract the attention of visitors.
5 Ideas for Making Your Screenshot Great

What can you do?

Use a colored pattern

Put your screenshot on a solid or patterned background. The background can help to draw attention to your screenshot.Scrrenshot with blue-green background

Place it on an image of a computer or phone

Create a screenshot that shows how your app looks on a desktop, phone or tablet. With a blank template, you can size it to fit. First, resize the computer monitor image to the size you want. Then, resize your screenshot to fit inside the monitor. You may need to crop and resize to get it to fit without looking squished.
Screenshot in Monitor

Add text to the screenshot

Is there a feature or part of your app that you want to show? Take a screenshot that focuses on that area of your app. Then, use your favorite photo editor to add text that describes the features that you are showing.
Screenshot with text

Create Multiple Screenshots

One screenshot doesn’t show the uniqueness of your app. Try three. Layer them on top of each with the most important screenshot on top. Or show it on a desktop, tablet and phone.
Three Screenshots

Add a shadow behind it

Use your favorite photo editor to edit the screenshot and add a background shadow to the image. The shadow can make it look like it is hovering over the background on your page.
Screenshot with a shadow

Your screenshot is an important part of the design. You want to make it stand out. Mix and match one or more of these techniques. You can make it look great by using one or more of these additional design techniques.

What do you do to make your screenshot great?

Have you Customized your Bootstrap website?

Once you have built a few websites with Bootstrap, you may notice that your sites look too much alike. As a web developer, you want your websites to useful as well as attractive. How do you fix this problem? You can customize how your Bootstrap looks. By working with and customizing the design, you can create a Bootstrap website that doesn’t look like it was made with Bootstrap.

Have you customized your bootstrap website?

What web development techniques can you use?

  • Create a custom style sheet
  • Use Custom Fonts
  • Add Custom Photography
  • Use Font Awesome
  • Customize Bootstrap’s Buttons

Create a custom style sheet

You want to create a custom style sheet to keep your design customizations separate from Bootstrap. Nothing more annoying than upgrading and realizing that you lost all of your design work because you added them to the Bootstrap CSS and forgot what you did. If you use Adobe Kuler or COLOURlovers color scheme generators, you can create a Bootstrap theme with the color scheme to start your designs from.

Use Custom Fonts

Fonts as well as colors should be unique to your website. By using custom web fonts, you can change how your site looks quickly and easily. When you choose the wrong font, your site can look bad. Where can you get ideas for choosing the right fonts? You can use the following resources Top 20 Google Fonts and How to Use Them and 10 Great Google Font Combinations You Can Copy.

Add Custom Photography

With sites like pixabay.com or Death to the Stock Photo, you don’t have to be a photographer to add unique and interesting photos to your website. With tools like Photoshop, you can crop, add photo effects and more to make a photo unique to your website.

Use Font Awesome

With Font Awesome, you can incorporate these icons into your designs. You can use them on buttons, navigations bars or anything else that you need.

Customize Bootstrap’s Buttons

Bootstrap comes with default buttons for you to use. You can customize the way these buttons appear in your design. Use this Bootstrap Button Generator to create the look that you need.

With web development tools like photos, Font Awesome and CSS, your Bootstrap website doesn’t have to look like a standard Bootstrap website. You can customize it to look the way you want.

Paper Prototyping

Have an idea for project? Do you start by opening your code editor and getting started? I have. Those projects seemed to take longer and failed to become good products. What works is prototyping or sketching the product out. Sketching helps you to slow down and think about the problem. It makes you choose one solution over the other and even seen things that you may not consider if you had jumped into coding first.

Paper Prototyping

Why paper?

  • Paper is cheap and easy. You just grab a piece of paper, a pen and start drawing. If you don’t like it, you can throw it away and start over.
  • Easy iterations. A paper prototype also allows you to create multiple iterations as possible without the expensive of writing code.
  • Documentation. No need to create additional documentation. The prototype becomes your documentation. With paper, you write notes on your design or on the back or add them with Post-It Notes.
  • Collaboration. You and your team can quickly and easily draw out ideas on paper and share them.

What do you need to get started?

  • Paper
  • Pens and pencils
  • Stencils

When do you use paper prototyping?

  • Brainstorming new ideas
  • Creating a mock-up of a new feature or product
  • Redesigning an older feature that no longer works

Should you use it for every project?

It depends. If your client or project can be easily understood by simple sketches, then you can use them to present your ideas. For some project, you may need to create a more interactive mock-up. Your client may need to see a working product in order to understand how you plan to implement your idea.

Paper prototyping is the easiest and simplest way to get started. If you want to stop talking and start sketching, this guide can help you get started.

Why a Lean UX Design Process?

Design is a marketing tool. The best marketing tool you can have is a well-designed product.
Annie Wang

How do you create a well-designed product? By focusing on solving the right problems and delivering value to your customers. A Lean UX Design process gives you the tools and system for developing a well-designed product.

Why A Lean UX Design Process

In Designing with Lean UX, Kate Kutter describes UX as

  • a mindset
  • focused on delivering value
  • inspiring the right kind of ideas
  • guides your decisions

What is Lean UX?

In A Lean Design Process for Creating Awesome UX, Annie Wang described Lean UX as a repeatable process that is goal-driven and outcome-focused. Your team has a designer, developer and product manager. Most startups are going to have small teams. They focus on the following principles:

  • Rapid cycles: think, make, check
  • Generate many options and decide quickly which ones to develop
  • Focus on solving the right problems
  • Recognize hypothesis and validate with user feedback
  • Research with users as the best source of information and inspiration

What does a Lean UX Design process look like?

A typical UX Design Process may incorporate the following:

  • Discovery
  • Wireframe
  • Prototypes
  • Validate Internally
  • Summarize
  • Iterate

In Lean UX, Lean doesn’t equal Skinny. Less is more.  You want to build a product that is simple and clear with less features and more details. You want to go through cycles of Think, Make and Check. The key is user feedback and to reduce cycle time, not your build time. Not every product needs to follow the same UX Design Process.

As we develop our own UX Design process, we want to focus on thinking, making and checking. User feedback is key to making products that are simple, clear and easy to use.

Have you created your own UX Design Process?