Love a WordPress Plugin or Theme? Pay It Forward.

WordPress is an open-source application with an enormous ecosystem. The sheer number of available plugins and themes (many of them free) benefits developers and everyday users alike.

If, for example, you need a plugin to help with SEO, you’ll find plenty of options. Even if the first one you try doesn’t do everything you need, you can easily uninstall it and switch to something else. Want to update the look of your site? There are a seemingly endless supply of themes to check out.

The process of enhancing your website with a few clicks is something to behold. And it has also become second nature. If you’re a frequent user of the content management system (CMS), it’s easy to take all of this for granted.

What’s often missing is the act of sharing some love with WordPress plugin and theme authors. Many of us simply don’t take the time. But, by paying it forward, we can positively impact the people and products that help make our websites better.

Need some ideas? Keep reading for some simple ways to say “thank you”!

The Potential Impact

The WordPress developer community is highly-dependent on happy users. Whether they’re established commercial veterans or newbies sharing their first project, a simple act of gratitude from us can go a long way.

Consider a recently launched plugin or theme. It can be incredibly difficult to gain traction in a crowded marketplace. How can a WordPress product find the growth required to stick around for the long term?

Solo entrepreneurs and small agencies can’t necessarily afford to pay for publicity. That makes word-of-mouth from users especially valuable. Each shout-out could mean another handful of users who come on board. Over time, that can add up to something significant.

Even larger players can benefit. Momentum is often fleeting and can lead a product to languish. In a competitive environment, falling behind could mean a slow death. Positive feedback could be the difference in whether your favorite plugin remains actively developed.

Now that we know a little bit about what paying it forward can do, let’s look at some ways to put it into action.

Write a “Thank You” Note

So often, plugin and theme authors don’t hear from users unless something’s wrong. That makes sense, as people tend to go about their daily lives when things are working well. It’s not until a problem arises that we start to take notice.

Let’s meditate on that for a moment. As a developer, you might start to feel a bit underappreciated if you only hear the bad stuff. It could deflate your enthusiasm for sharing your work at all. Eventually, you may throw in the towel.

One simple way to counteract this is by writing a quick “thank you” note. Contact a plugin or theme developer and let them know that you enjoy the product. Point out how it made your website better and any particular features that you enjoyed.

It doesn’t have to go into great depth – even a few sentences will get your point across. But just think about the impact this positivity can have on someone’s day. It could be the affirmation they need to keep moving forward.

A sign that reads "Thank You".

Leave a Product Review

People pay attention to reviews. Whether they’re buying a new toaster or looking for a helpful WordPress plugin, the thoughts of other users can influence their decision.

Reviews especially help in a space with so many options. How, for example, can you tell which WordPress membership plugin is worth your time? Positive reviews are one way to filter out the best of the best.

Thus, if you’ve had a good experience with a plugin or theme, take a few moments and write an honest review. Point out your project goals and how the product helped you achieve them. And, if there were any shortcomings, it’s OK to mention them as well. Constructive feedback is helpful for future improvements.

Where can you leave a review? Items in the official WordPress plugin and theme repositories have designated places for feedback. If the item is part of a larger marketplace, they might also offer a reviews feature. Fail that, the product’s own website is also a possibility.

Star-shaped artwork.

Spread the Word on Social Media

Social media is a great place to sing the praises of a favorite plugin or theme. You can instantly reach a network of like-minded people who may be looking for such recommendations. In fact, there’s a Facebook group for precisely that purpose.

Again, you don’t have to go into great detail. A few words about why you like the product is more than enough.

In addition, it’s nice to tag the developer in your post. This allows them to easily find your feedback and even jump into the conversation.

Social media apps displayed on a phone.

Make a Donation or Go Pro

There are certainly many popular commercial products run by big companies. Still, a significant portion of the WordPress ecosystem is powered by solo developers or small teams.

These developers often make a lot of sacrifices to get their products out there. There’s the time spent writing code, supporting users, and marketing. And the burden can be especially large for free plugins or themes. Some trade a chance at more lucrative ventures for something they’re passionate about.

Providing a little financial support to the author of your favorite product can mean a lot. Even a small amount of money shows appreciation and may help them justify the time spent on the project.

On completely free products, you might see a call-out asking for donations. The WordPress plugin repository also provides space for this. If you have the means, dropping a few dollars into their virtual tip jar is a great gesture.

Otherwise, it may make sense to upgrade to the “pro” version, if one is available. You’ll likely gain access to more robust features and technical support. Even better is that you’ll be supporting the developer’s work. This will help them sustain the product into the future, which benefits everyone.

A person holding coins.

Support the Developers Who Support You

If you’re a WordPress plugin and theme user, think about what those items have meant to you. Have they helped you serve clients? Perhaps they’ve played a role in powering your business?

The amount of time and money you earned (and saved) because of these products can be significant. That’s an awesome thing and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Therefore, it’s worth making the effort to sing the praises of a product you love. You’re helping other users by recommending something that might benefit them. Plus, you’re giving the author some warm-and-fuzzy feelings. It’s a win-win situation!

The post Love a WordPress Plugin or Theme? Pay It Forward. appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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Weekly News for Designers № 610

The Story Behind TryShape, a Showcase for the CSS clip-path property – A look at how you can leverage CSS to make all manner of custom shapes.
Example from The Story Behind TryShape, a Showcase for the CSS clip-path property

Projectile – A GUI-based app to help you manage your JavaScript projects.
Example from Projectile

20 Free Payment Method & Credit Card Icon Sets – Add a touch of style to your eCommerce site with this free icon set.
Example from 20 Free Payment Method & Credit Card Icon Sets

RapidSketch – Create sketch-notes online and access them anywhere.
Example from RapidSketch

Tailwind Mobile – Check out this library of mobile UI components created with Tailwind CSS.
Example from Tailwind Mobile

Can we have custom media queries, please? – How CSS custom media queries could make responsive styling easier.
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The 10 Best Free WordPress Membership Plugins – Build a fully-functioning membership website with one of these free WordPress plugins.
Example from The 10 Best Free WordPress Membership Plugins

Pollen – This library of CSS variables focuses on consistent styling and rapid prototyping.
Example from Pollen

Web Designers No Longer Need to Sacrifice Performance for Beauty – How modern CSS and JavaScript can help strike a balance between looks and load times.
Example from Web Designers No Longer Need to Sacrifice Performance for Beauty

Accordion UI design – Everything you need to consider when creating accordion UIs in your projects.
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8 CSS & JavaScript Snippets for Creating Infographics – Examples that show how web technologies can benefit infographics.
Example from 8 CSS & JavaScript Snippets for Creating Infographics

Post Poly Application – Create and export 3D shape models via this browser-based tool.
Example from Post Poly Application

Dopefolio – Explore this “blazing fast” multipage HTML portfolio template.
Example from Dopefolio

Colors & Fonts – A color and typography system for designers. Compatible with Figma, Sketch and more.
Example from Colors & Fonts

Sail – This free CLI tool will deploy, manage and scale WordPress to the DigitalOcean cloud.
Example from Sail

50 Simple, Yet Highly Effective Logo Designs for Inspiration – Use these logos to familiarize yourself with simple logo design principles and inspiration.
Example from 50 Simple, Yet Highly Effective Logo Designs for Inspiration

The post Weekly News for Designers № 610 appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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Clients Make Too Many UX Decisions. Here’s How to Stop Them.

The boundaries between a web designer and their client can often become blurred. Designers, in an effort to please paying customers, put client feedback into action – even if it leads the project in the wrong direction.

A client may be pleased with themselves and happy to get their own way. But at what cost? The ensuing results aren’t always pretty. Crowded layouts, inaccessible design elements, and a general sloppiness can seriously harm the user experience (UX).

For example, consider a client who meddles in the design details of their eCommerce website. Leaving UX decisions regarding product layouts, calls-to-action, and hero areas to a non-designer could be disastrous for sales. And yet, any potential fallout may land squarely on your shoulders. Fair? I think not.

Therefore, it’s up to us to prevent such silliness from happening in the first place. Let’s explore some ways to keep clients at a safe distance from UX.

Define the Stakes

User experience is a critical factor for every website. Yet, clients aren’t always fully aware of what’s at stake. As is often the case, it’s up to web designers to provide some background.

It’s worth taking the time to talk about the importance of accessibility and ease of use. How the design of each element within a page needs to be measured against these factors. Oh, and the massive roles that performance and mobile compatibility play as well.

Then there’s the matter of personal preference. Clients often (and unwittingly) put their own opinions above the needs of the average user. Sometimes, implementing their preference is a detriment to everyone else.

The importance of UX and its contributing factors should be brought up from the very start. When clients are informed, they’ll be more likely to follow your lead.

Welcome Feedback, but Set Boundaries

How does a client go from providing useful feedback to taking over a designer’s job? It’s often subtle and can happen quicker than you think.

To be sure, some people insist on having control of a given situation. They may be just as likely to stand over the plumber fixing their leaky pipes as they are to pester a web designer.

In other cases, the mere fact that a client is paying good money for your services gives them a certain sense of entitlement. And although they may be well-meaning, it can lead to overstepping boundaries.

The dilemma is that getting a client’s feedback is necessary for a successful outcome. But it can also be fertile ground for such a takeover. So, how do you prevent it from happening?

The key is in setting clear guidelines. For example, defining goals for a particular item and asking for feedback based on those parameters.

Consider the hero area of a home page. Let’s say you’ve built something beautiful and need client approval. You might approach them by saying something like:

“I’ve set up the hero area, please take a look! Here is what we were hoping to achieve:

  • Introduce branding elements, including the logo, colors and fonts;
  • Encourage users to subscribe to the mailing list;
  • Mention the 20% off discount for new subscribers;
  • Keep the entire area accessible, easy-to-read and concise;

What do you think?”

The example above isn’t all-encompassing. But it puts the stated goals into a client’s mind. This helps you to narrow the scope of their feedback and (hopefully) avoid anything that distracts from the desired outcome.

A sign that reads "We Hear You."

Put UX Back Into the Hands of Experts

Don’t get me wrong – clients should absolutely be involved in the design process. It’s their brand, after all. And things usually turn out best with their input.

But the heavy lifting of UX should be done by experts like you. Your job is to turn a client’s vision into something that is highly usable. It’s about establishing a brand while helping users get to where they want to go.

If all goes well, they’ll take the path to conversion – whether that means sales, contact, or a subscription. That’s simply too important to leave to client whims.

Instead, educate and work with your clients in an effort to drive home UX best practices. Provide them with parameters to work within. The result will be a website that benefits its owner and users alike.

The post Clients Make Too Many UX Decisions. Here’s How to Stop Them. appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

What Are the Biggest Threats to Freelance Web Designers?

For freelance web designers, change is a way of life. Tools and technologies come and go, as do design trends. If anything, we may be better equipped to handle a rapidly-evolving world than most.

Take, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic. Chaotic as it has been, it’s led to some important realizations. Perhaps the biggest one is that we are indeed essential workers.

Not on the front line, mind you. But our expertise has played a vital role in helping our clients adjust to a new “normal”. We have also served as liaisons, spreading important information to the masses.

One could argue that web designers are as relevant as ever. Still, that doesn’t mean that individual freelancers are immune to the ever-shifting landscape. Long-term survival in this industry is not a guarantee.

As someone who has spent over two decades freelancing, I do see some potential threats ahead. That said, I also believe designers can prepare for them. Here are a few items to watch out for, along with ways you can mitigate their effects.

The Growing Complexity of Building Websites

Building a custom website is becoming more difficult. The development techniques behind the latest functionality trends are vast. In addition, the expectations from clients have also grown.

But, aren’t things supposed to be easier as technology improves? Well, yes and no.

WordPress is a prime example of this. The Gutenberg block editor has evolved to the point where crafting a custom page layout is relatively simple. Thankfully, extra plugins and hard-coding theme templates are no longer 100% necessary.

Yet, if you want to natively develop custom blocks, it’s not necessarily a straightforward experience. There is a steep learning curve for those who are not already proficient with JavaScript and the React library.

Then there is the whole concept of the “headless” website, where a content management system (CMS) feeds into a static HTML front end. Both the setup and maintenance processes are a whole new ballgame for many web designers.

You can still achieve quite a lot using visual, no-code tools. But going fully custom means digging deep into code. Understandably, that’s not everyone’s strong point.

How to Prepare
Experiment with different technologies and find ones that will benefit your business. That will be the key to providing your clients with cutting-edge service.

Another benefit: the more you know, the more you can charge! The ability to take on complex projects is a great way to boost your bottom line.

One-Stop Agencies

Web design is an ultra-competitive marketplace. Yet, it seems like there has always been enough work to go around. That’s a comforting thought.

But it ultimately depends on the types of clients you want to work with. For a certain level of clientele, a niche freelancer is becoming a less attractive option. Why? Because we don’t do “everything”.

Some organizations see a benefit to having all of their needs taken care of by a single provider. That means their web, print, and social media are in the hands of a one-stop agency.

The appeal is understandable. Instead of having a web designer over here, a graphic artist over there, and an SEO expert somewhere else, one company handles it all. Ideally, an agency will have a single point of contact and a more cohesive strategy.

When, for example, it’s time for a rebrand, the agency is there every step of the way. Even if the cost is higher, the ease of management may be worth the premium.

How to Prepare
Short of expanding your offerings and hiring additional people (thus, becoming an agency), competing in this area is difficult. However, there are some things you can do to stay in the game.

The first is to focus on clients who don’t require an all-encompassing level of service. There are plenty of organizations out there that will see the value in what you do.

You might also find an opportunity to work with an agency, as some utilize freelancers quite a bit. Coming on board means playing a key role in their projects. Plus, these types of gigs can become a source of recurring revenue.

People shopping at a convenience store.

Poor Business Habits

While outside threats get all the publicity, nothing can sink a freelance design career faster than poor business habits. They can lead you to lose money and, ultimately, your business.

There are several things here that can spell trouble, including:

  • Spending too much money;
  • Reliance on a single, large client;
  • Charging too little;
  • Failure to be thorough when creating project estimates;
  • Providing poor customer service;
  • Leaving yourself open to legal liability;

Quite often, it’s not a lack of talent or even a saturated market that kills a web design business. Rather, carelessness can be the biggest culprit. The seemingly small details of running a business mean a lot.

How to Prepare
Running a freelance web design business requires a lot of discipline. Therefore, it pays to be organized and develop processes for every aspect of the job.

In practice, this means accurately keeping track of finances, staying on top of ongoing projects, effectively communicating with clients, and general awareness of where your business stands. This will keep you vigilant and less likely to be taken by surprise.

A cluttered office.

Control What You Can

Some threats to freelance web designers are beyond our control. Market trends and the whims of clients are chief among them. Add to that the ever-growing complexity that defines what a website is and should be. Here, all we can do is try and keep pace.

However, there are many things we can control. We can choose to learn new skills that keep us on par with industry standards. This ensures that we won’t fall behind the curve when it comes to top-notch design and functionality.

In addition, we can run our businesses like a well-oiled machine. Doing so will allow us to stay organized and make the most of the opportunities that come our way. We may even recognize new ones that we wouldn’t have before.

Most importantly, we can choose the direction we want our business to go. This means further developing a niche and recruiting clients who fit our vision. The idea is to find clients who will benefit from our expertise and help them grow.

Yes, there are some existential threats to freelancers lurking out there. But with the right approach, they’ll end up as little more than bumps in the road.

The post What Are the Biggest Threats to Freelance Web Designers? appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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Create Content That Targets Your Existing Design Clients

When it comes to marketing your freelance web design business, it’s easy to spend the bulk of your energy on attracting new clients. That’s certainly a worthwhile pursuit. But it’s also important to focus on your existing ones as well.

There is great value in keeping existing clients in the loop. And not just from a marketing perspective. Sharing content of interest with them also helps to maintain your relationship.

Even if you haven’t worked with someone for a while, regular communication makes an impact. At the very least, it keeps you in the front of their mind. Down the road, it may even serve as a catalyst for starting up a new project together.

Despite those potential benefits, staying in touch can be difficult. Creating original content takes precious time. Plus, writing doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Figuring out what to say and how to say it is challenging.

Don’t be discouraged! Today, we’ll share some tips for writing informative content that is sure to pique your client’s interest.

Understand Your Audience

Writing for your existing design clients isn’t quite the same as trying to reach prospective ones. Just as you’d greet a longtime friend differently than a stranger, you’ll want to communicate with clients on a more personal level.

That means keeping the cheesy sales pitches to a minimum. It’s safe to assume that your clients are already sold on you and what you can do for their organization. Thus, there’s no need to reel in a fish you’ve already caught.

With that in mind, think about the most effective ways to communicate with your clients. The message is important, but so is the medium. It’s vital to meet people where they are, rather than expect them to come to you.

Social media has its place, but it’s probably not the best way to reach clients. Blogging can also be beneficial, but needs help to draw in your audience.

That leaves email as the best option. It’s often the preferred method of contact between designers and their clients. Sending your latest client-focused content serves as a natural extension.

Write from Experience

Web design is an industry that is constantly changing. This means that subject matter for client communication is all around you.

To find inspiration, look back at past experiences. Think about a website you built a few years ago. Compare the look, features, and process to the one you built more recently. How have things changed? What trends have emerged?

Odds are, those older sites are lacking in some areas. Must-have attributes such as accessibility and responsive design are common examples. And, even if they were previously implemented, it’s likely they could benefit from some modernization.

These are prime subjects to share with clients. Not everyone is aware of technological shifts. Having access to this information will allow them to stay up-to-date and make better decisions.

A person types on a laptop computer.

Explain the Impact

Informing clients about a particular subject is only part of the equation. It’s also important to explain how it impacts them.

For example, you might write a blog post touting accessibility standards. While an article about color contrast ratios and ALT attributes could go into great depth, clients are unlikely to read it without context.

First, they need to know why they should care about these subjects. In this case, you’d want to mention key points, such as:

  • Who is impacted when a website isn’t accessible;
  • What features make a website accessible;
  • How to know if your website is accessible or not;
  • The potential legal ramifications;

The idea isn’t necessarily to bombard them with facts or scare tactics. Rather, it’s about providing a brief description of a subject and how it relates to their website. If they’re interested, invite them to contact you for more information.

A group of people view a computer screen.

Stay on Schedule

Sending out communications regularly helps to keep your relationships going strong. Yet, it might also be the most difficult part of the process.

If you’re busy working on projects or trying to attract new clients, that leaves little time to reach out to existing ones. We tend to focus on the squeakiest of wheels, after all.

However, there’s no need to put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to write all that frequently. Monthly or even quarterly newsletters can still be effective.

The point is in making an honest effort to stay in touch and provide relevant information. It’s something that clients will appreciate. They’ll be more likely to stay with you as their needs evolve.

A wall calendar.

Maintaining Relationships, Fostering Growth

Your web design clients can bring significant value to your business over time. Unlike other industries, building a website is not a “one-and-done” scenario. Maintenance, content tweaks and redesigns are all part of the deal.

The best way to achieve that long-term value is by being proactive in your communication. Keep your clients informed on what’s happening and how it impacts them. Write content that sparks curiosity and encourages them to contact you. And meet them where they are.

By doing so, you’re giving them every reason to stay involved with their website and make improvements. It’s no longer a matter of waiting for clients to ask you for something – you’re now helping them figure out what they need.

This, as much as anything, will keep your freelance business thriving for years to come.

The post Create Content That Targets Your Existing Design Clients appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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How to Work With Both Good & Bad Design Clients

Today, I want to talk about our favorite subject as designers: clients. Oh, clients. You can’t live with them, you can’t punch them! The primary thing to remember when dealing with clients is this: you can never – I repeat, never – make a bad client into a great client. Let me say that again: you can never make a bad client into a great client.

Sometimes you can make a bad client into a passable one, but, unless you’re getting compensated extremely well, it’s rarely worth the effort.

An unreasonable, demanding, emotionally disturbed client already has those qualities before you even meet them. It’s not personal – they’d most likely be that way with any designer.

If you want to have a challenging yet rewarding, insanity-free working relationship, you must start with a good client.

Fair enough, you say. But how am I supposed to tell which clients are good and which ones aren’t before I work with them?

In my experience, there’s an easy way to determine which clients are worth the trouble and which ones you should just skip over, and it has to do with their budget. Not the specific amount, per se, but their attitude towards budgeting in general.

There’s a profoundly important difference between a reasonable client who doesn’t have much of a budget, and a client who’s just, well, cheap.

The former you should, by all means, seek out and work with – the little guys need good design too! Clients who can’t pay you what you feel your standard rate should be can usually help you out in other ways that will lead to much more lucrative opportunities later. Let me explain what I mean.

Something For Nothing

When working for less than your standard rate (and again, there’s nothing wrong with that, especially in today’s economy), you should always negotiate for something else in exchange for your “discount.”

And you should treat it like a discount. Your client is receiving your services at a lower rate, and they need to be aware that, as such, there are certain deliverables that won’t be available to them.

If your client can’t pay the initial price you quote them for the work, the second price must carry a reduced amount of work. The initial price you quoted them has value in the client’s mind.

If you are willing to “bend” on that price – if you, say, do a job worth several thousand dollars for a few hundred – what happens is that you reduce your perceived value to the client. The client will know then that you weren’t serious about your standard rate, and they may try to take advantage of you and get more work for even less money.

Always be firm about how much you cost. When clients know that you value your work and don’t compromise your own worth by wavering on your prices, they will value your work as well. Just as you wouldn’t expect to get an oil change and new brakes for the price of a car wash, your potential clients must know that there is a limit to how much service you can provide on a budget.

If a client is worth working for, they’ll accept that your higher-priced services are out of their range, and will be willing to discuss other, non-monetary options as part of your compensation. What kind of options? Well, I’ll tell you.

If you’re dealing with a reasonable client, you’ll be able to negotiate for three main forms of non-monetary compensation. You can negotiate for just one, or all three, but using this technique will help you quickly weed out those clients who don’t value you or your work.

The three main elements that can be included in your compensation are:

1. Referrals

Not “exposure” – that’s a vague word which can mean almost anything. But actual, genuine referrals from your client personally to people who can and will hire you. A list of warm leads directly from a paying client is worth its weight in gold, and can sometimes be more valuable than a single paying job.

It’s not too much to ask, and if you’ve got a good client, they should be more than happy to provide at least a few. If not, run far away. That client is not worth the trouble because they aren’t going to get any more reasonable.

If someone can’t be bothered to come up with two or three referrals among their friends or colleagues, what makes you think they’re going to trust your design decisions or resist unnecessary scope creep?

2. Creative Freedom

You can and should use your lack of financial compensation as leverage to secure more creative freedom on a project than you would have otherwise.

This doesn’t mean go berserk with the composition or give them something completely inappropriate. But a client who’s receiving a discounted form of your services can absolutely be expected to hand you the reins and allow you the freedom to make the decisions you feel are best for the project.

3. A Guarantee of Future Paid Work

Whether it’s at your current rate or at a more standard one, your client can offer to provide you with more work in lieu of more money upfront.

Perhaps something more challenging that has a bigger budget, or something recurring that you can deliver on a regular basis. Be creative, and think of all the ways you can provide value to your client.

A good, satisfied client will be happy to give you first priority for future work, if you let them know that you would like it to be part of your compensation. Again, this is not too much to ask for, and any client who thinks it is is a bad client. Period. Runaway.

Never Slave Away for Peanuts

Always make sure to discuss these options with your clients to make sure you’re never just slaving away for peanuts. It goes without saying that, if you expect to receive these kinds of extras, you should do your very best work and provide as much value to your client as possible for the price they’re paying.

No client is going to refer a bad designer to their friends, nor should they be expected to. But if you’re awesome, and you do awesome work, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t expect to be fairly compensated, even if the client is on a budget.

I think that the most important thing a designer can learn is how to be discerning, and how exactly to go about negotiating extras.

There’s an art to it, which many designers, sadly, have not yet mastered. The key is to project confidence and subtly make your clients aware that you have other options without coming off as arrogant, rude, or condescending.

By gently but firmly negotiating extras in your compensation package, you’ll make even the most budget-conscious clients respect you and desire to work with someone of your performance level.

And the “cheap” clients who won’t budge? Leave ’em – they’re impossible conversions!

The post How to Work With Both Good & Bad Design Clients appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

Don’t Let Legacy Software Stop You from Adopting the Latest Web Technologies

Web design is an ever-evolving field. It seems like a new tool or technique arrives every day. And there’s a lot of pressure for professionals to keep up with the times.

Maybe it’s a bit scary. But there’s a certain excitement that comes with it as well. You learn something new and apply it to your daily work. Most of the time, you’re all the better for it.

For example, consider a new CSS layout that makes multiple columns a breeze. Or a JavaScript library that enables you to build a stunning UI. These are the things that help to push us forward.

Yet, there’s also something that holds us back. A twist of fate so cruel that it laughs in the face of the great new thing you just mastered. We’re talking about legacy software.

This ragtag collection of old browsers, operating systems, and server configurations can be more than just a painful reminder of the past. They can also get in the way of true progress.

But don’t let it ruin your good time. Today, we’ll look at some reasons why you may not need to hold back on implementing the web’s latest and greatest.

Look at the Potential Risks and Benefits

It’s never a good idea to throw a new technology onto a website without careful consideration. Otherwise, you run the risk of negatively impacting both users and your bottom line.

Before you dive headfirst into that cool feature, take some time for analysis. Creating an old-fashioned list of pros and cons can provide you with a macro view of the situation. From there, you’ll have a better idea of whether or not to move forward.

Let’s take CSS Grid as an example. It’s all the rage these days. But is it right for your project? To find the answer, start by writing a list:


  • Makes complex layouts easier;
  • Code may be leaner, better performing than other layout methods;
  • Lots of modern browser support;


  • No or spotty support in legacy browsers;
  • The same layouts may be possible with better-supported methods;

That’s just a partial list, but you get the idea. The mere act of writing (or typing) out your thoughts can lead you to go further in-depth. The deeper you go, the more thorough your analysis will be. The ultimate goal is to make the most informed decision possible.

Usage Statistics Matter

We know there are people out there still using legacy software. And while web designers tend to think in terms of browsers, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Operating systems also play a role. They not only make a difference in what features are available, but they are also likely limited by older hardware configurations as well.

For instance, looking at desktop devices, the version of macOS or Windows a user is running may restrict what browsers are available. On the surface, this might make you think twice about using a newer image format such as WebP.

Mac users who don’t have the Big Sur version of the OS or later or are stuck with a version of Safari that lacks WebP support (Chrome and Firefox support WebP, however). And someone using the aged Windows XP won’t have access to Microsoft Edge.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the visitors to your website are among the legacy crowd. By looking at your website’s analytics, you’ll have a better idea of which browsers, operating systems, and devices are being used.

If you find that these users make up a tiny percentage of your overall visits, that may be convincing enough to move ahead with the new technology.

Data charts displayed on a screen.

Fallbacks May Be an Option

OK, perhaps you want the best of both worlds. You not only want to adopt the latest web technologies but also keep on supporting legacy users. “Leave no user behind!” is your motto.

This is very much possible with the use of fallbacks. What’s a fallback? It’s a method of switching out code that a specific browser can’t understand with something that it can.

Sticking with our CSS Grid example, we know older browsers aren’t going to do very well with it. But they do understand something like Flexbox or even old-fashioned CSS floats.

Using a tool such as Modernizr, we can detect which features a browser supports. If it supports CSS Grid, wonderful. If not, we can serve up an alternative layout.

The great thing is, you get to decide how it all works. Maybe someone using IE 11 doesn’t need a full-on replica of a fancy layout – just a reasonable facsimile. Either way, this brings some level of comfort in knowing that you’re covering as many users as possible.

A sign that reads: "Trust".

Keep Moving Forward

Legacy software is still among us. Fortunately, apps that fail to support modern web technologies are increasingly dying out. As their usage numbers shrink, so do the reasons for holding back CSS Grid, WebP, and other goodies.

Even so, it’s still worth doing your homework with regards to any new technology that interests you. Think about the pros and cons of implementation and use analytics to determine the impact on users.

Fallbacks are also an effective way to mitigate any negative effects for users of outdated software. They’ll still be able to use your site. Meanwhile, everyone else gets the latest features.

The web has come a long way over the past few years. It’s time to start taking advantage of that progress.

The post Don’t Let Legacy Software Stop You from Adopting the Latest Web Technologies appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

Tips for Improving the Core Web Vitals of Your WordPress Website

Google has a way of creating a wave of panic among both web designers and website owners. When they make a change to their search algorithm, people start scrambling to catch up. It’s easy to understand why. No one wants their SEO rankings to suffer.

So, when the Core Web Vitals metrics were announced, the response was pretty predictable. As these changes are based on site performance, our attention has turned to ensuring load times are lightning-fast.

But it’s not always simple. Websites that run a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress can be especially challenging. There are a lot of factors at play. Therefore, improving performance requires a multi-pronged approach.

Where to start? Check out our guide to boosting the Core Web Vitals score of your WordPress website.

Implement Caching

One of the simplest ways to increase the speed of a WordPress website is to implement caching. In many cases, a previously sluggish site will become significantly faster with this single step. This holds true even on relatively cheap hosting.

By default, WordPress pages and posts must retrieve content and settings from the site’s database. This takes time. Cache, on the other hand, will serve up content as static HTML files – cutting out the need for a database call. With the middleman (i.e., database) out of the way, snappier load times will follow.

Some hosting packages, particularly managed WordPress hosting, will include server-based cache. This is often the best option, as it requires very little from web designers and performs quite well. It may need to be cleared out every so often. Otherwise, it’s a hands-off experience. And it can be effectively combined with a plugin to further enhance speed.

Even if your host doesn’t provide caching on the server level, you can still optimize performance via a plugin. Caching plugins vary in scope, complexity and pricing. But they do provide tangible results when it comes to improving load times. That, in turn, is a positive boost for Core Web Vitals as well.

Defer Loading of Render Blocking Scripts and Styles

When testing your website’s performance in Google PageSpeed Insights, the subject of render-blocking resources seems to come up a lot. These are the scripts and styles that aren’t considered “critical” – meaning they’re not required to render the “above-the-fold” page content.

These resources can get in the way of faster load times. Specifically, they impact the “Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)” score in Core Web Vitals. This is the time it takes for the main content area of a page to load. Reducing LCP is, well, vital.

One way to improve the situation is to delay (or defer) when various content elements (images, videos, block-level text) load. This ensures that only the needed scripts and styles load first, while everything else comes in afterward.

Along with minification, many WordPress caching/optimization plugins also happen to include this type of functionality. It can take a bit of experimentation, however, as deferring the wrong resource can be problematic.

Be sure to test out any changes you’ve made and check the browser console for errors. Once you find the right configuration, the number of render-blocking resources on your page should be significantly reduced.

A Yield sign on a street.

Optimize Images

The widespread use of large hero images and complex sliders only adds to the challenge of performance optimization. These assets may look nice, but can easily add up to megabytes worth of data. That’s not going to get you a passing grade for Core Web Vitals – particularly on mobile.

Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to lighten the load. First and foremost, get rid of any images you deem unnecessary. The removal of even one large image can make a difference.

The rest of your images can be optimized. This will reduce their file size and lessen the impact they have on load time.

How you go about image optimization is up to you. You could download a copy of your worst offenders and compress them using your favorite image editor, then upload them back onto your website. Or, you can automate the process with a helpful WordPress media plugin.

Responsive Images

For mobile users, WordPress includes the ability to serve up responsive images via srcset. In fact, it will automatically do the dirty work for you on images placed within your content. This is incredibly valuable, as it prevents massive desktop-sized media from slowing down the mobile user experience. For images outside of the main content area, you may need to do some custom work to implement this feature.

Modern Image Formats

It’s also worth looking at the file formats you’re using. For example, Google’s WebP format can often reduce file size while maintaining image quality. Note that some newfangled formats aren’t supported in legacy browsers (ahem, IE), so fallback versions may be necessary. Plugins can help with that as well.

A person uses photo editing software.

Lazy Load All the Things

Lazy load functionality only loads items once they are in the browser’s viewport. By delaying the loading of images, iframes, and other third-party content (such as social media widgets), you can focus resources on the elements users will see first.

WordPress already implements native, browser-based lazy loading to images. When you add an image to a page or post, the loading="lazy" attribute is placed within the <img> tag. That is, provided the image includes height and width attributes.

This is great – but what about other elements, such as videos or iframes? These items can also weigh down a page when loaded right from the get-go.

Iframes are now lazy-loaded by default – so no worries there. Some more complex elements may require custom code or a plugin to implement this functionality.

A dog rests on a bench.

Clear Out the Clutter

Over time, even a well-maintained WordPress site can become cluttered. A clogged database, unused plugins that are still active, a bloated theme with features you’re not using – it happens. And it can also drag down your Core Web Vitals.

That’s why it’s important to tidy up now and again. Your site’s database can be optimized manually or set to do so regularly. Unused plugins can be deactivated and trashed. Themes can be made leaner or replaced with something better.

Study up on what’s slowing down your website, find the culprits and deal with them. You might be surprised at how much of a difference this can make.

Letter tiles that spell out "KEEP THINGS SIMPLE".

Improve Your Website’s Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals complicates the already tricky process of optimizing WordPress website performance. Even a website that scores well in other performance metrics may still fall short in this area. This shines through in mobile testing most of all.

The good news is that there are plenty of little things designers can do to catch up. Implementing cache sets a great foundation and provides an immediate boost. From there, it’s a matter of reducing file sizes and loading up styles and scripts in order of importance.

Taking things even further, it also makes sense to adjust your site’s CSS with Core Web Vitals in mind. This can help with the dreaded Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) score and cut down on bloat.

In general, the things that are good for performance are also good for Core Web Vitals. Scores can improve rather quickly. Just know that it’s going to take some trial-and-error to sort out some of those individual shortcomings.

The overarching goal is to ensure that only the essentials are loaded when a user visits your website. Doing so will make both visitors and Google quite happy.

The post Tips for Improving the Core Web Vitals of Your WordPress Website appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

The 20 Best Free Personal Blog Themes for WordPress

A personal blog can go a long way towards establishing your thought leadership and authority in a certain niche. It can also be a great place to showcase your skills and promote your services.

However, you will need a personal blogging theme packed with the right features and attractive design that will help you stand out. Finding the right personal blogging theme can be time-consuming. That’s why we’ve done the research for you and compiled the best free personal blog themes for WordPress.

If you’re looking for free magazine-layout WordPress themes, take a look at this round-up.

Nuria Responsive Blogging Theme (Free)

The Nuria theme is suitable for a variety of personal blogs. It features a minimal design paired with gorgeous typography. It’s easy to customize and comes with built-in SEO optimization, loads fast, and several widget areas.

Ocean – Exquisite WordPress Blog (Envato Elements)

The Ocean is a elegant theme for personal blogs with a feminine design. The homepage features a grid layout that displays your blog posts and you can easily add an Instagram widget. The theme is fully responsive and translation-ready.

Ocean Exquisite wordpress theme personal blog blogger blogging

Bootstrap Blog Theme (Free)

The Bootstrap Blog theme is a lightweight, minimal, and free WordPress theme. You will find plenty of customization options, several layout options which include a slider layout as well as a standard blog layout, WooCommerce integration, and more.

Bootstrap free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Norge – Responsive Blog WordPress Theme (Envato Elements)

The Norge theme combines minimalist design with clean typography which makes for a very pleasant reading experience on all devices. The theme with sidebar and full width layouts, numerous widgets, shortcodes and support for different post types.

Norge wordpress theme personal blog blogger blogging

Boxstyle Personal Blog Theme (Free)

If you’re looking for a personal blog theme that has a unique design, consider the Boxstyle theme. It features a unique boxed layout with social media icons in a colorful sidebar so it’s sure to make your blog stand out.

Boxstyle Personal free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Ezy Blog Theme (Free)

The Ezy blog theme is compatible with Elementor and Gutenberg which means you will have no problems creating a unique layout for your pages. On top of that, the theme includes features such as modern and creative design, SEO optimization, slider section, featured post columns, footer options, and plenty of customization options.

ezy free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Lightly Responsive WordPress Theme (Free)

The Lightly theme is a perfect choice if you want your blog to look like an online magazine. It has a grid based layout and bold typography that makes your content pop. The theme is also fully responsive and easy to customize.

Lightly free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Lovecraft – Two-Column WordPress Blog Theme (Free)

The Lovecraft theme comes with a stunning header image which allows you to easily give your readers an immediate glimpse into your personality. The theme has a standard two-column layout and allows you to customize the colors, upload your own logo, and more.

Lovecraft free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Good – Responsive Blog Magazine Theme (Free)

The Good theme has an interesting grid-based layout on the homepage. It allows you to upload your own logo and set your own brand colors. The theme is SEO-friendly and loadst fast.

Good free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Olsen Light Blogging Theme for WordPress (Free)

Try the Olsen Light theme if you’re planning on launching a fashion or a beauty blog. With an elegant and feminine design, paired with custom widgets, customization options, and SEO-friendly code, the Olsen theme has everything you need to create a captivating blog.

Olsen Light free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Versaille – Personal Blog WordPress Theme (Envato Elements)

This premium theme has a unique curvy design on the homepage and includes additional page layout for your portfolio. You can customize the theme using the built-in Live Customizer.

Versaille wordpress theme personal blog blogger blogging

Eighties Theme – One-Column WordPress Theme (Free)

Eighties is a bold, one-column theme that’s perfect for personal blogs. The theme supports various post formats and you will also find large featured images that make it easy to share your stories in a visual way.

Eighties One-Column free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Stylizer Blog Theme (Free)

The Stylizer theme is perfect for anyone looking for a unique design. The theme is responsive so it will look great on all devices and it also comes with features such as related posts and post navigation, dark and light color switch, and more.

Stylizer free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Beetle Go WordPress Theme (Free)

Consider the Beetle Go theme if you want a blog and the ability to showcase your portfolio and past projects. You can also use it as a resume theme. The theme comes with a plethora of customization options and elegant parallax scrolling.

Beetle Go free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Hoffman – Minimal WordPress Theme for Bloggers (Free)

The Hoffman theme is a beautiful minimal WordPress theme that’s best suited for personal bloggers or authors. The theme has a strong focus on typography and offers a responsive design and beautiful galleries.

Hoffman Minimal free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Curver – Personal Blog Theme (Free)

As the name suggests, the Curver is a personal blog theme with a unique colorful and curved look. The theme includes featured post slider, standard or list blog layout, and a unique author header profile.

Curver free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Arba WordPress Blog Theme (Free)

Arba is a free WordPress theme for personal blogs. It has a minimal design and simple layout. The theme is also fully responsive and uses gorgeous typography for a much better user experience across all devices.

Arba free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Risa – Personal Responsive Blog Theme (Free)

The Risa theme features a clean and classy look. It offers a number of different customization options and is SEO-friendly and translation-ready. On top of that, the theme includes support for different post formats: Standard, Aside, Image, Link, Gallery, and more.

Risa free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Signy – A Personal Blog WordPress Theme (Envato Elements)

Try the Signy theme if you’re a freelancer or creative professional that wants the ability to showcase your past projects on top of a blog. The theme comes with 4 different homepage layouts and 6 unique portfolio layouts.

Signy wordpress theme personal blog blogger blogging

Invenio – Tumblog-Style WordPress Theme (Free)

The Invenio theme mimics the look of Tumblr blogs so it’s a great choice if you’re going for a more unique design. Invenio is also responsive and has support for multiple post formats.

Invenio Tumblog-Style free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Upright – Responsive Blog Magazine Theme (Free)

The Upright theme is a grid-like theme with a strong focus on bold imagery., It supports a variety of content. You can create galleries and showcase past projects, and allow your visitors to enjoy your content on all devices thanks to the responsive design.

Upright free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Hemingway – Two-Column Theme for Bloggers (Free)

The Hemingway theme features beautiful typography and a standard two-column layout. The theme is fully responsive and has a minimal and clean design. You can easily customize the colors and fonts.

Hemingway Two-Column free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Editor Theme – Personal Blogging Theme (Free)

The Editor theme is geared toward personal bloggers and photo bloggers. It includes big typography and images, plus a tab-based sidebar with a place for a social links menu, featured posts, and a site logo.

Editor free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Popster – Blogging Theme for Writers & Authors (Free)

The Popster theme has a elegant layout and design that’s focused on beautiful typography. The theme is SEO-friendly and optimized to load fast. It’s also responsive and translation-ready.

Popster free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Vito Blog Theme (Free)

The Vito theme is sure to grab the attention of your readers thanks to stunning animations and a minimal design that lets your posts stand out. The theme has a standard, two-column layout.

Vito free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

Justread Minimal WordPress Blog Theme (Free)

The Justread theme focuses on improved reading experience across all devices and fast loading times. It features an elegant blog layout and sticky sharing buttons so your readers can easily share your content.

Justread Minimal free wordpress theme wp responsive personal blog blogger blogging

The right personal blog theme will make it easy for your visitors to enjoy your content on any device. With features such as improved typography, responsive design, and stunning featured images, the themes on this list are a perfect starting point for your personal blog design.

The post The 20 Best Free Personal Blog Themes for WordPress appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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Weekly News for Designers № 620

330 React Interview Questions – Perhaps the most comprehensive collection of React JS interview questions you’ll ever find.
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The Power of Automating WordPress – A look at WordPress automation tools and basic examples of what they can do for you.
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Layout patterns – Check out this collection of CSS layouts for common UI elements.
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Parallax Powered by CSS Custom Properties – A step-by-step guide to creating some unique parallax effects.
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JOY.JS – This JavaScript library provides a fun GUI for creating your own tools.
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10 WordPress Plugins to Supercharge Advanced Custom Fields – Power up your usage of ACF with these companion plugins.
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Flip, Invert, and Reverse – Learn some handy SVG transformation techniques with this tutorial.
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Slideshow with Filter Reveal Effect – The steps behind building a slideshow page layout with a filter enhanced navigation effect.
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Stop Worrying About People Stealing Your Ideas – Why you don’t need to be paranoid about others taking your ideas.
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RegexLearn – This tool will help you learn RegEx with step-by-step instructions.
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A Guide To Modern CSS Colors With RGB, HSL, HWB, LAB And LCH – Some advice on the not-so-obvious things you have to keep in mind when handling colors in CSS today.
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25 Free Bootstrap Dashboard & Admin Templates – Find the perfect free Bootstrap template for your application’s dashboard.
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Using Position Sticky With CSS Grid – Learn how to make sticky elements play nicely with the modern CSS layout technique.
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Runno – Use this tool to create runnable code examples.
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How WordPress Full Site Editing Could Impact the Design Process – This new feature has the potential to change how we design for WordPress.
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Swiffy Slider – A slider and carousel script that takes advantage of modern browser technology.
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BubblesJS – A visualization framework that provides a variety of chart types, filters and KPIs that can be composed to create cross connected dashboards.
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The post Weekly News for Designers № 620 appeared first on Speckyboy Design Magazine.

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