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.

Did you miss our previous article…

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.
Example from Can we have custom media queries, please?

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.
Example from Accordion UI design

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.

Did you miss our previous article…

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.

Did you miss our previous article…