Category: graphic design

Freshbooks.com: Great for the designer who dislikes the invoice process

FreshbooksHomepage

If you’re like me, you’d rather be designing instead of invoicing.
I’ve seen Freshbooks publicized here and there by many designers, so I finally got around to setting up my own account.

Some of the things I like:

  • It’s FREE to try out with up to 3 clients.
  • Easily create invoices and send via email, ground mail, or save as PDF
  • Clients can pay online (you just have to set up an online payment gateway, like PayPal)
  • Track time for a project and synchronize with the invoicing.
  • And as with many accounts these days, you can personalize it to match your branding.

Thanks Freshbooks for helping designers be better at invoicing 🙂

My post-Big (D)esign Conference to-do list

I recently attended the Big (D)esign Conference in Dallas and could not say enough good things about it!  I took pages and pages of notes on web design usability and user behaviour and thoroughly challenged by brain to delve deeper into user experience and interactions.  I’d expected to come away with a long list of design websites to look up…but instead I came away with quite a long reading list of books relating to human psychology.

Here are some of the books mentioned by some of the conference speakers (I’ve linked the titles to the books on Amazon):

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

What Makes Them Click by Susan M. Weinschenk

Designing Web Interfaces by Bill Scott

About Face by Alan Cooper

Mind Hacks by Tom Stafford & Matt Webb

What is Strategy? by Michael Porter

Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen
Phew! That’s quite the summer reading list!

#bigD09

Hooray for a green online printing option!

I just found a promising option for sustainable printing:  www.greenerprinter.com!  I received their package of samples and it all looked great.
Aside from a nice website 🙂 here are some of the features that caught my eye:

  • Use soy and vegetable-based inks
  • Gloss, matte, and uncoated papers have a high percentage of recycled content.
  • 100% wind-powered thru Renewable Energy Credits (how cool is that!)

Let me know if you’ve printed with them! I can hardly wait!

www.greenerprinter.com

Free screen sharing with acrobat.com, it works great!

As a designer, there are times when it’s just plain easier to show instead of tell.

Adobe’s ConnectNow screen sharing is a really easy to use resource…and it’s FREE!  I learned about it in an Adobe webinar about Creative Suite 4.  You can have up to 3 meeting members and there’s plenty of functionality. ConnectNow is handy because it uses the Flash plugin to run.  Since most users have the a Flash plugin installed, there shouldn’t be any problems to get going quickly.

To get started:

  1. Set up an account and you’ll have your own personal “meeting room” link ex: https://connectnow.acrobat.com/yourmeetingroom.
  2. To start a meeting, go to www.acrobat.com and login.  (If you have CS4, you can launch right out of Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.)
  3. Send the link to your participants.  They just create a user name and enter your “meeting room.”
  4. Enjoy your meeting!

There are lots of “pods” within for your use in the meeting, including:

  • chat
  • whiteboard – good for brainstorming, participants can write on it too!
  • webcam
  • audio conferencing

There are also a lot of other great file sharing resources on acrobat.com.  Check it out when you have a chance!

This is a screenshot of what the participant will see during the meeting.
This is a screenshot of the participant's interface. The large center area will disply the moderator's screen.

CRM Email Marketing Add-ons..from a designer’s eyes

There are a lot of email marketing tools out there, so be sure you have your list of requirements ready before you try to research.

In this case, I was looking for a third-party add-on for Microsoft Dynamic CRM 4.0 so we could send HTML emails (remember, I’m thinking from a designer perspective)

My email marketing criteria:

  • Fully interated with CRM (so it “looks” like it’s part of the CRM)
  • WYSIWYG editor and template builder (Think of it like the text formatting toolbar in you email, like Hotmail or Gmail)
  • Image/asset library (A place to view and store your images)

If you’re in a similar situation as myself, here are some of my finds:

Exact Target
www.exacttarget.com

  • YES Integrates fully with CRM
  • YES WYSIWYG editor & template builder
  • YES image/asset library

c360
www.c360.com

  • YES Integrates fully with CRM
  • NO WYSIWYG editor & template builder BUT you can upload your own HTML templates, so if you have a web designer to create templates, then this could work for you.
  • YES image/asset library

Eloqua
www.eloqua.com

  • pricing structure is geared towards companies with large marketing lists, so it didn’t turn out to be the best solution for us.
  • YES Integrates fully with CRM
  • YES WYSIWYG editor & template builder
  • YES image/asset library

Vtrenz
www.vtrenz.com

  • pricing structure is geared towards companies with large marketing lists, so it didn’t turn out to be the best solution for us.
  • YES Integrates fully with CRM
  • YES WYSIWYG editor & template builder
  • YES image/asset library

I’m sure there are more out there, feel free to add a comment if you think I’ve missed something.

Website Prototypes

I was recently introduced to some website prototyping software: Axure and Protoshare. The main difference is that Axure has to be installed and Protoshare is web-based. If you need some first-hand feedback on both, I’d recommend talking to the owner of ten24web.com, David Crouch, he’s tried both of them (but currently uses Axure). He was a big help to me!  Thanks David!

I chose the trial of Protoshare because it is web-based. As a designer, the advantage of using this software is that you can lay out the site architecture and navigation before getting caught up in design, CSS, or HTML prototypes.  But, you can add in your design and CSS later to give a pretty accurate prototype of the site before going into development.  So far I’m really enjoying this because I don’t create hundreds of Photoshop layers to show variations, nor do I waste my time setting up an HTML page to show modest interactivity.

Protoshare
PROS:
– web-based, access anywhere
– clients can login to view and interact with prototype, section for adding comments
– easy drag and drop functionality for layout
– can apply CSS id and class tags to give accurate styling
– easy site-map creation

CONS:
– a little bit buggy, but their Support is very quick to respond 🙂

Links:

www.protoshare.com

www.axure.com

LinkedIn, more than an online resume

Recently I’ve become addicted to the Question & Answers section of LinkedIn.  If you haven’t checked it out and still rely on the first 10 search results from Google, then you’re missing out. The Q&A section consistently brings me insight into current tools/software that other web development and marketing professionals rely on. I’ve started to prefer it over random web forums as well because you can see more about the background and experience of the person providing the information, thus making the answer more credible.

I’ve used LinkedIn for recommendations on:
– Online printing companies
– Content Management Systems (CMS)
– Web design prototyping tools
– Email marketing services
– Email marketing integration for Microsoft CRM
– …the list goes on. So I’ll let you check it out now 🙂

Camtasia vs. Captivate, my two cents

I’ve been dealing with the same software quandary as others creating e-learning: work with Adobe Captivate or Camtasia?  And it really comes down to, what are you trying to create?  Both products offer different resources, so try to become familiar with what they offer and go from there.

I recently worked on a company orientation project that involved Powerpoint slides and screencast training of software.  At the time, I had to make a hasty decision about which software to use for the project.  I chose Camtasia for the trial, and successfully completed my project.

Once my 30-day trial with Camtasia was up and I prepared to purchase the software, I realized I should give Captivate a trial.  I’ve been playing with the trial of Captivate and reading various forums, but I’m going to stick with Camtasia (see below for links).

A quick list of the elements that swayed me to Camtasia:

– zoom-and-pan effect in screen recordings
– Powerpoint add-on to record the screen
– timeline editor (instead of slides like Captivate)
– multiple options for file formats (MOV, AVI, MP4)
– price – approx. $300

    Here are some resources I’ve found helpful in making my decision to stick with Camtasia for my purposes.

    – An extremely thorough comparison of Captivate and Camtasia by Michael Hanley

    -Summary of presentation on Captivate and Camtasia – be sure to read the comments at the end of the blog, lots of good feedback there.
    – Good example to demonstrate the zoom-and-pan effect in Camtasia

      Online printing, so many options

      I’ve used a lot of online printers over the past 7 years and these are some of my favorites.  The main deciding factors come down to price and turnaround, but the functionality of the site is becoming an influencing factor as I frequent these sites.  I’ve organized them by preference so far, and I’ll certainly update it as I change my mind

      UPDATED 12/17/2014

      Disclosure:  Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because I want to help people quickly find quality printing that fits their turnaround and budget, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.  Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them.

      1. PrintPlace.com

      I use Print Place a lot because their online ordering system has a lot of options. You can easily adjust different factors, like turnaround or quantity, to see how it will change the final cost. I also like that they offer will-call pickup at their facility in Arlington, TX. I’ve often used them for last minute printing of business cards and booklets and they’ve always come through with great quality printing.

      2. Gotprint.com

      I’ve used GotPrint since about 2008 and have had great experiences with every product I have ordered. The quality is good, they have great prices, but they are not always the most practical when I’m in a rush because their turnaround times can be a bit long.

      3. OvernightPrints.com

      Overnight Prints also has great prices and nice quality. They also have a really nice upload tool that creates a 3D mockup that rotates so you can ensure that your postcard/business card flips correctly (Trust me, this is an awesome tool. I accidentally printed postcards where the back side was upside down and this tool will help prevent that).

      4. 48hourprint.com

      They are what their name says! If you’re in a rush, check them out, they’ve always made good on their name when I’ve worked with them. However, the last time I used them, the online checkout slightly awkward because you needed to fill out your billing info before you could see the final price. Personally I don’t like handing over my billing info before I know my final costs.