Why Your Designer Might Not Be Able To Make Your Design “Pop”

Why Your Design Comments Are Open to Interpretation (Even More Than You Think)

How do you describe the color blue to someone who has been blind since birth?

Not easy, right? In your best efforts, you might attempt to describe a feeling or a memory. You could try to give examples, but none of them would work.

In all likelihood, both people in the conversation would wind up frustrated– one person due to their inability to accurately explain something, the other due to their inability to picture what is being described.

Pretty much the same thing happens in the course of professional design projects — whether it’s for logos, websites, billboards, or print media.

The usual scenario goes something like this:

The client wants something specific for the project. They do their best to explain it to the designer using whatever frames of reference are familiar for them.

The designer asks some questions, and then takes a stab at creating the design. When they send it back to the client, the client hates it (or likes somethings, but hates others).

Several rounds of not-quite-perfect designs later, things start to get ironed out, but the process leaves a bad taste no matter how the results turn out.

communicating about design challenges between designer and client

There are lots of reasons why the ability of the client to be able to communicate to the designer (and vice versa) is one of the most significant factors determining project success. When you just can’t understand each other fully, how can you create something that is truly amazing?

The challenge comes back to the way we communicate, and the assumptions we make about how well people understand us.

Both the designer and the client have their own special jargon. Specific words mean specific things to each person.

When the client says, I just want you to make it pop (arguably the most frustrating phrase a design client can utter), the designer knows that the problem could relate to the choice of font or imagery or color or other factors. It’s hard to narrow it down to the most significant issues.

And sometimes, for their part, the designer will often use language that would be unfamiliar to clients who have not been through design projects before. Phrases like pixels, hero image, slider, WordPress, content management system, and wireframe (all used familiarly by designers every day) can inhibit good communication to the point of stymieing progress.

If you are on a team that is struggling to communicate about design — or if you ever find yourself on one, I suggest that you and everyone else on your team take the time to review these 5 Tenets of Design Communication:

successful design communication with agency clients

It might sound like a pie-in-the-sky concept, but the right mindset really can make all the difference in conversations about designs…especially when it’s been hard to bridge the communication gap.

Why A Bad Process Can Kill Your Website Redesign Project

I’ve written at length this year about the core steps of the website redesign process — elements like research, information architecture, design, development, and content.

Lots of different agencies work in lots of different ways. But the good ones? They know how to use each different step to build upon the others, in order to create the strongest possible whole.

Most of them will have established a formalized process to ensure the most successful results and the most positive client experience. This is easiest to do when you have a team that is familiar and comfortable working together, and a strong project manager to keep everything rolling.

How does a website redesign go wrong?

A bad website redesign process means that team members are not held accountable to timelines and deliverables. Often, it means that timelines and deliverables are not outlined effectively.

A bad process means that quality can become questionable, because details get missed. Usability becomes an afterthought. Design and content quality often goes down. Development timelines get botched and shortcuts turn into major errors.

A bad process means that a mad scramble at the end for things which could have been obtained far earlier.

A bad process means client frustration, team strife, and a longer and more painful overall experience.

No one wants that kind of experience for themselves, their team members, or their clients.

No website redesign project is without its faults — every agency goes through that project which turns out to have been jinxed from the start because of a bad process.

However, many of the frequent problems can be resolved with the implementation of a careful process that everyone on the team understands, and a structure with which team members can be held accountable for results.

Have you experienced the pain of a bad website redesign process? What would you have changed?

How to Choose The Perfect Website Graphics

Choosing website graphics is a time-consuming process.

No matter how many rounds of edits we do to website copy, it pales in comparison to how long we often spend choosing and refining the perfect website graphics.

I don’t think that’s just us.

Selecting images is tricky, especially when you are trying to convey a specific feeling or idea. You often know it when you see it… but seeing it can require hours of browsing.

Most people don’t have that kind of time.

There are many paths to the right image, but you can get a headstart on the right path by asking yourself some questions beforehand.

What am I trying to say with my website graphics?

A photo that says “I am a trustworthy consultant” will look very different from a photo that says, “We serve delicious food.”

For each image you need to pick, you should have a purpose in mind (even if you are just scattering pictures of yourself and your team through the whole site).

That purpose can be direct, or it can be abstract and metaphorical. It’s important to know what you prefer so that you can quickly rule out photos that simply do not fit your message.

Who am I trying to say it to?

Audience matters when it comes to website graphics too. People in different age demographics respond in unique ways to different types of images.

If you are a business consultant looking for successful clients in their fifties, you’ll choose different images than you would if you were a restaurant experience or coworking space looking for twenty-somethings and startup companies.

You need to not only pay attention to the generational appeal of what appears in the image, but also the style of the image itself. For example, who might each of the images below appeal to?

website graphics for different demographics

Do I want a photo or another type of website graphic?

If you know this up front, you can disqualify images based on this factor alone. Photography is generally the most popular option for websites these days, but there are also plenty of vector icon style graphics out there, and even some that look hand-sketched or illustrated.

If you’re into including photography on your website, beware the stock photo. The canned happy business people or the canned happy family have had their heyday in website graphics, and may actually be a detriment to your site.

The free stock photos you can find online are much better, usually, but even some of those are starting to reach the point of overuse. (The good news is that new ones appear online all the time.)

However, vector icon graphics and other illustrations can (if done wrong) also give off an inauthentic feel, so choose carefully based on what will make your website visitors feel comfortable and confident interacting with you.

Where should I look?

Do not just use Google Image Search for your website graphics. I cannot say this enough.

Of course, you can use it (and Pinterest) to get ideas. But those are NOT your images.

When you use Google image search, Google crawls the Internet and brings back thousands of pictures which are labeled in a way that includes your key term.

In other words, just because you can Google it and see it for free doesn’t mean that the image is yours to use as you choose. Most of them are licensed and copyrighted, and that means you can’t use them for your website or social media.

It is, however, possible to filter your Google Image Search to show only images that are labeled for commercial reuse. You can do it yourself, as shown below, or you can use the Creative Commons search feature.

Finding Website Graphics in Google Image Search Filtered for Reuse

Besides that, there are individual artist websites with works for sale. There is Shutterstock and other stock photo websites. There are the free stock photo websites who disclose that the images can be used without compensation or attribution for website graphics and other purposes.

And if you find an image you like on someone else’s website, you can even write to them and ask about using it with credit.

But sometimes, you still can’t find the right fit.

Do I need custom website graphics?

When you’ve exhausted Internet searches — or when you know you have something particularly unique on hand — the time might have come to bring in a professional to handle your website graphics.

This can be true whether you are looking for photography or illustrations.

A professional photographer can do exactly what you are looking for in capturing images — whether it’s headshots and group photos of your team, product photography, or aerial shots. You can say a lot with a really amazing photo.

The same can be said of working with a graphic artist on illustrations.

Hopefully by now you have a good concept of what you are and are not looking for, which you can use to convey your requirements. A good artist will know the right questions to ask to draw out more of those important questions about style and color and approach, and can add the creative touches to make something amazing.

The advantage of taking the custom approach is that, at the end of the project, you know that everything on your website is uniquely yours, presumably branded appropriately to you.

It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve finally found the imagery that perfectly communicates your company’s purpose and vision. Last time you went through a redesign, how did you find the best website graphics for your message? How could the experience have improved?

Does Your Web Marketing Agency Deal Crack?

In the world of digital marketing, client retention seems to be a really big deal, and why wouldn’t it be? When I started this digital marketing agency in Orlando, one of the first things we thought about was how to obtain clients and keep them so we could gain a recurring income.

After thinking about this question for some time, we decided that providing value above and beyond the purchased service would be the way we were going to operate. This has really helped to build a strong client base and wonderful word of mouth referrals from previous clients and their friends as well! It seems people really like to talk about you when you have wowed them.

Unfortunately, not all web marketing agencies operate in this fashion. Some try to make it really difficult to drop their services. They do not want you to be able to implement these strategies yourself or find an agency that fits better with you and your business. Over the years I have seen a few tactics that some of these crack dealing agencies try to pull off in order to keep a higher rate of customer retention.

Does your web marketing agency have you on lock?

Locked out of your website?

For some businesses, this could be a great thing. You don’t have to worry about much, the agency takes care of everything, you send an email and the work gets done to your satisfaction. Great, right?

Is it? Really? Well, what happens when you make your requests and the agency does not make a move, doesn’t even email you to let you know that they have it scheduled in? What happens when this becomes a regular practice?

This is the point when you are generally going to start looking for an agency that will be able to meet your needs, maybe even at a lower price than your previous agency since you are just getting one to maintain the web efforts your current agency has set up.

What if you cannot just drop your agency?

Other than a contract, what is going to keep you bound to their services? You can just take your business wherever you want, right?

Sometimes this is not the case. Sometimes the agency you are working with is looking for ways to make it difficult to just drop their services, just like a crack dealer.

I have seen marketing agencies that have their own Content Management System (CMS) for websites, which they have developed for their clients. I’m all for innovation and making things easier on both the developer and client, but this CMS did not make things easier for anybody. Perhaps it is really easy for the agency to implement, but the admin area is not at all user friendly.

The company that bought the website from this agency is now in a position where they feel that they need the agency to update their website with content the client supplied at maybe $60-$100 dollars an hour, rather than getting a contractor or an intern who could do it.

I have also witnessed a situation where an agency used WordPress for the client website, except there was almost no custom code to the site at all. They built the site using a cheap template and about 28 or 30 plugins. This is bad for so many reasons:

Seeing Green

$ – The code behind the separate plugins may conflict, causing unforeseen problems in the future when the code updates
$ – The website becomes difficult to understand, especially determining what plugin changes what features
$ – The website may become slow to load, requiring unnecessary and possibly redundant optimization.

How to avoid being sold crack by your marketing agency

Before signing any contract or statement of work, you should make sure to ask about project handoff. No matter if you are having a website built, working on content marketing, having site SEO performed, or going through a rebranding, make sure that any “ongoing” work can easily be handed off to your internal staff even if you never intend for that to happen. If the agency seems reluctant to agree to this, I recommend that you look for other options.

For example, if I were running a Facebook ads campaign for your company, and you have really liked the results but wanted to have more control over the ads yourself, I would set up a way to hand off the project without any loss to you. If at all possible, I would have suggested monthly consultation sessions where I would teach you how to properly set up different ad types, how to write your marketing message and what images are going to work best for different kind of ad campaigns. Once you felt comfortable taking over the project, it would be in your full control. I would make sure that you knew we are available for further consultation if you were to need us.

It seems that most agencies view the above situation as the death of a client. I do not happen to share this view. The client, now pleased that they no longer have to pay to get similar results, has told their friends about their Facebook success, and how I taught them how to use ads. Some of their friends could care less, some have time to learn it on their own, and the few that are interested but who will require our services now know we exist.

Not only has this past client become an advocate, but they may require further services in the future. Now because they handled Facebook ads so well their business is booming. They know they should be on Google Plus, but have not found the time to venture onto the platform. And my phone starts ringing right on cue…

Does Giving Free Advice Mean Losing All Your Business?

giving-free-adviceI love free stuff.

When I go to the mall, I enjoy the free samples more than almost any other part of the trip. About a quarter of my t-shirts came to me as a free benefit from participating in different events. Free is fun!

Discovering the free Kindle downloads of classic books rocked my world (and was largely responsible for getting me to try an e-reader). Clearly, a smart marketing decision by Amazon.com.

I first sampled local Orlando restaurant 4Rivers BBQ at a food festival, and have visited their restaurant almost half a dozen times since then, reviewed them on Google, and brought others with me to eat there. Clearly, a smart marketing decision by 4Rivers.

You’ve probably got plenty of examples of your own, where a free benefit that you received affected your decision to purchase a product or service later on. We all know that free stuff makes sales.

For businesses, giving things away online is just smart.

And I’m not just talking about contests and gift card giveaways either. Though those can be useful for generating brand popularity on social media, when it comes to search rankings and sales opportunities, other things can be far more meaningful.

In his book of the same name, Jay Baer calls it Youtility— the idea that you can be more successful by helping people openly than by hoarding your ideas.

With the aid of Google, the answers to millions of questions are no further away than our computers or mobile devices. Real people like you answer those questions on their websites, blogs, magazine articles, videos, and more. Google catalogs it and, when queried, returns its picks for the best answers.

(It’s getting even smarter, too, with the evolution of semantic search—but that’s a topic for another day. If you’re curious now, take a look at this semantic search summary from Search Engine Watch.)

This answer-oriented approach means that, when you write something for your audience, it’s in your best interest to make it as helpful as possible. It’s in your best interest to be attuned to their needs.

Boost Your Business With Radical Giving

Freely available information and guides all over the Internet mean that your customers are free to fix the problem themselves. Why, they might not even need you anymore.

That’s the kind of fear that keeps business owners awake at night. That’s the reason so many businesses have shied away from embracing this kind of radical giving.

It’s actually an old and deeply ingrained sales attitude – that making sales depends on the business having more information than the customer.

The competitive spirit dictates that you hoard your ideas, sharing them only with strategic partners. Knowledge is your secret weapon, because if everyone knows how to do what you know how to do, you’ll never be able to get anyone to pay you for it.

That’s the specialization model, version 1.0: learn it, hoard it, and then sell it for massive profit.

With the advent of the Internet and the rise of Google, that attitude is antiquated. It’s based on assumptions that no longer hold water.


Consumers are more educated than ever.

In fact, they are actively looking for opportunities to become more educated about their purchase as the economy has struggled to regain its footing. Baer documented the number of information sources that your average consumer needs to look at before making a buying decision—and the more expensive the purchase, the more sources people will look at. A fast food restaurant? 6 sources. A car? 18.

Your customers are looking for answers. They are looking for help. They are looking for someone who cares enough to help them understand what they are doing.

If you’re willing to give something away for free through your website, the people you help will remember. And they will say thank you. In fact, if you give them the opportunity, they will probably thank you all over the Internet. You earn credibility by the people you help.

You can also earn sales by helping people directly. By virtue of the questions you answer, your audience grows to trust you. Your answers may mean that they don’t need you today, but someday they may not have time, talent, or inclination to do what you can do. Something may go wrong, and they may not be sure how to fix it. Because they trust you, you’ll be the person they call.

But what can I possibly give away on my website?

gift_boxJust as you should think about the questions your customers ask when you are writing a blog post, when you’re thinking about meaningful giveaways for your audience, you should consider what you know and could release in a form that others could apply on their own if they so choose.

This can manifest itself in many ways, besides being fodder for regular blog posts–

1)      Publications are certainly always a good option, as long as you’re providing consultation-level advice. The extent of these publications may vary from a 10-page white paper to a full e-book.

2)      Helpful Graphics – Informative graphics, or ‘infographics’, can be immensely valuable as shareable material, and the high level of visuals makes them appealing and easy to understand.

3)      Templates, Outlines, and Plans – Maximize your usefulness by empowering your site’s visitors. You can read blog posts describing how to make Twitter backgrounds, but being able to download a template with visual guidelines makes it that much easier to do it yourself. Give away outlines, plans, forms, templates…anything that will help your audience in accomplishing their goals.

4)      Tools of the Trade – Got techies? If you can develop a free website plugin or (even better) a free app that other people can use regularly and make their lives easier, you stand a good chance of winning brand loyalty whenever your users have a need that aligns with your services.

5)      Old and New Products – Invite superfans and customers to sign up on your website to be part of a launch team for new products, or hold random giveaways to surprise and delight regular customers of your existing products.

Whatever you choose to give away, make sure you take advantage of the branding opportunities that are available through your giveaway. Logo placement, contact info… whatever you choose to do, in your quest to be helpful, just make sure people can remember who helped them!

Be Massively Useful.

This is our rallying cry for Internet marketing today.

Don’t try to hide your knowledge from your potential customers. Be massively useful. Overwhelmingly helpful. If your clients are in pain, be the good doctor they need.

Along the way, you’ll probably show them how much you love what you do. You’ll get to know them, because you’ll need to pay attention to what their questions really are. The relationships will feed the answers, and the answers will strengthen the relationships.

What could you give away on your website that would be massively useful to your potential customers?

YouTube Channel Art Template PSD

YouTube Channel Art Template

YouTube’s channel art has gone through many changes over the years. The current recommended size by YouTube is 2560px x 1440px, and no larger than 2mb. Even though the recommended size for your photo is rather large, you will not be able to see most of the image unless you are viewing the channel art from a television screen (like through the YouTube app for Xbox).

Channel Art Template For YouTube

The channel art has a responsive design on desktop computers, meaning that the image will scale to reveal more content on larger browser windows.

While accommodating larger size screens, there is also a minimum size at which point the image will no longer scale. When scaled all the way to its minimum, the channel art will be 1546px X 423px. YouTube claims that this is the “Safe Area,” given that text and logos will not be cut off, but I have found that this is not entirely true. Even though the image may display the area that is in the 1546px x 423px area, it is by no means safe. The logo that sits on top of your channel art is 100px x 100px and has a left margin of 15px. This means as the image scales, 115px to the left will be obscured by the logo, and since the image that is displayed at the lowest screen size is actually 638px x 176px and not the 1546px x 423px that YouTube claims, there will be a considerable amount of scaling done to the image, which makes that 115px to the left cover much more of your image than you may have anticipated.

Logo Covers YouTube Safe Area

The Safe Area is not Safe!

At the maximum desktop size, the channel art area to use is 2560px X 423px and the actual display size is 1060px x 176px. As you can see, the channel art banner will only grow in width and not in height. This means that the “SAFE AREA” will always be visible and the areas to the right and left might be visible depending on the viewer’s browser size.

Full Desktop Size YouTube Channel Art

YouTube recommends an image size of 2560px x 1440px to fit all television sizes. Even though only a small portion of the image shows on mobile and desktop, when someone views from a television the entire image will be shown.

Television and Xbox YouTube Channel Art

Important Info at a Glance:

YouTube Recommended Channel Art Size: 2560 x 1440

YouTube Channel Art Max File size: 2 MB

Total Size: 2560px x 423px though the actual YouTube art at maximum size displays at 1060px x 176px

Safe Area: 1546px X 423px centered on the image. Remember on smaller screen sizes the logo may cover the “Safe Area”.

Flexible Area: 507px to the left and 507px to the right of the safe area, may be visible depending on the screen size.

Even though the channel art safe area height is 423px, YouTube displays the image at a height of 176px on desktop. To achieve the smaller size, the image is scaled and not cropped.

Logo is always affixed to the top of the image 15px away from the left most margin and will cover a portion of the safe area.

Download the YouTube Channel Art Template

And don’t forget to check out the
Facebook Timeline Template with PSD
Google Plus Cover Photo Template with PSD
New Twitter Header Template with PSD

Looking for photos for your YouTube Channel Art? Check out Graphicriver!


Images for design template