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Project Management for Bloggers

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Photo credit: ti lapin tom under CC license

Bloggers need to accomplish projects from time to time. The problem is most of us just dive in with little thought to the process and an unclear understanding of what we’ll be doing. A project is a series of tasks that has a start date, an end date, and which produces a unique output. I’ve taught project management for several years, now. Although much of project management is overkill for a small blog, we can borrow quite a bit from it to help us tackle some of the bigger objectives we need to accomplish. Writing posts and responding to comments isn’t a project, it’s everyday work on a blog. But starting a new blog or designing a new WordPress theme is a project. Switching from Blogger to WordPress is a project.

The Stages of a Project

Projects are generally divided into four phases or stages:

  1. Initiation
  2. Planning
  3. Implementation
  4. Close-out

Let’s describe each stage briefly and what happens in it.

Stage One: Initiation

The initiation stage is the conceptual stage. This is where we figure out the most basic, important aspects of our project, such as its purpose and objectives. For a blogger wanting to start a blog or take an existing blog to the next level, the initiation phase might consist of the following:

  • Defining the problem the project will solve
  • Defining the purpose of the project
  • Defining the major objectives that need to be accomplished for the project to complete
  • Setting a finish date and time frame for completing the project planning and work
  • Defining the scope of the project (what will be included and not included to help you stay on track)

For a blogger, it’s usually enough to just sit down and write these things out in a word processor or Google Docs.

Stage Two: Planning

Planning your project consists of figuring out:

  • What has to be done (tasks)
  • How much money has to be spent (budget)
  • What people and tools you have to accomplish your work (resources)

In large projects involving hundreds of people and tasks over several months, we use fancy-schmancy project management software that uses Gantt charts and which tracks task dependencies and the critical path. But for blog projects, we need to operate at a smaller scale. Personally, I use Remember the Milk. It has just enough features without being bloated for managing task lists. One thing I like about it in particular is that it works with Google Calendar. There are plenty of similar task management tools on the web or in desktop software.

For tracking costs and spending, if necessary (usually it’s not), I use Google Docs and make a spreadsheet to list costs. I make a list of my resources in Google Docs, dividing them between what I have and what I need to get. I need to make sure I acquire the correct resources before they’re needed during the project. For blog projects, resources can be anything from a designer you’re hiring to software and plugins or domains and hosting.

Stage Three: Implementation

Once our plan has been made, then we execute on it. We complete the tasks and check them off the list. For blog projects, we don’t need to keep track of much, but some things you want to note are:

  • Where you under- or overestimated dates, times, and costs
  • Whether you thought of everything and if not, what you missed
  • What you have accomplished, and what you still have yet to do
  • Any problems that crop up and seem to throw off your plan

If other people are involved in your blog project, you need to keep communications open, frequent, transparent, and non-accusatory (tempers can rise under stress so stay cool).

Stage Four: Close-Out

The fourth stage is about wrapping everything up and making sure you haven’t forgotten anything. For blog projects, this often involves testing things to make sure they’re going to work. It could also include getting involved with other people in a pre-launch marketing effort. Other blog project close-out possibilities might include:

  • Testing plugins
  • Testing every possible type of content in a theme or template
  • Subscribing to feeds to make sure they work correctly
  • Testing the search functionality
  • Testing 404 pages
  • Testing comments when you’re not logged in
  • Combing through the archives to make sure imported blog posts are there
  • Combing through posts to make sure image links still work after a migration or permalink change
  • Making sure all blog authors can access the blog and perform their duties
  • Testing any other software integrated into the blog, such as forums or AdSense revenue-sharing plugins
  • Pizza and beer! You have to celebrate! 😀

One thing you want to do after every project is jot down some notes for yourself about lessons learned so you can do better next time you’re trying to accomplish something similar.

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Michael Martine has been involved in web design and internet marketing since the late 90's. He is a blog coach and consultant at Remarkablogger. He lives in beautiful Vermont, U.S.A., with his wife, step-daughter, and grandchild.

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Design & Coding

4 Uncommon Design Tricks That Improve User Experience 100%

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Everyone’s concerned about improving conversion rates. The general consensus is that user experience is the place to start.

There are several ways to improve user experience on your blog. Most strategies center on tweaking the design of your website, but sometimes it’s how you organize your navigation. You’ve probably made basic changes like switching to WordPress or alphabetizing your drop-down menu’s items.

Here are some strategies you may not have tried:

1 – Color-code your menus with matching page color schemes

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably created a workable color scheme for your site and called it a day. If you want to improve user experience, that’s not enough. Consider coordinating the colors between your main menu links and each of your pages.

In an article describing why color-coded, hand-written notes improve efficiency of thought, blogger Kevin Purdy reveals that “color improves recall time for graphs and charts, and can be a very effective performance factor if not overdone.” The article also summarizes the work of Michael Tipper, a speaker and consultant on mind mapping and organizational software. Tipper says that color-coding the branches of a mind map stimulates the creative side of your brain, and visually separates distinct themes (which improves recall).

This same idea can be applied to your website for optimal results. Improve user experience by color-coding your main menu with a matching color scheme for each page you link. For instance, Pioneer Seeds implements color coordination extremely well. From one side to the other, all mega menu drop-downs have a unique background color that matches the color scheme of the pages listed within that particular section. There are no complicated color schemes. Each page presents one solid color.

The continuity of matching colors feels good, it’s easy on the eyes, and it helps people keep track of what section they’re viewing.

2 – Hire a design agency to create a custom design from scratch

The era of templates is here to stay, but not without consequence. Templates are easy and cheap (sometimes free), but they lack the flexibility you need to create an impactful and smooth user experience.

For example, most templates feature a gigantic header that encourages you to create an enormous header you don’t need. The most popular templates today force users to scroll endlessly through horizontal sections containing nothing but large icons with a few words underneath. You can change a template, but not without effort and the frustration of having to settle for “good enough.” This is especially useful for anyone trying to making their mobile site look similar to their desktop experience. This is best accomplished when having a fully responsive theme in place for all platforms.

A design agency can give you exactly what you want from the beginning. When your website design is created from scratch, you don’t have to spend hours tweaking a template only to find out your final tweak – the one that matters most – isn’t going to work.

Men With Pens is a well-known design agency that has created custom WordPress themes for years. They specialize in design, and know exactly how to create a better user experience. Their website embodies their expertise in user experience.

Check out their tips for bloggers and see if you notice anything unique about the page design. The design fills the entire page, and the graphics extend outside the lines and boxes. When you land on the page, you’re engaged right away. Capturing a visitor’s attention is your first priority to improve user experience. If you don’t have a user’s attention, they won’t have an experience at all.

3 – Simplicity

Simplicity never goes out of style. Simplicity in design embraces the approach that “less is more.” It’s a cliché, but it’s true.

Nobody knows simplicity better than Steve Pavlina. He’s been publishing articles on his personal blog for over a decade, and until recently, his site was as plain as plain can be. He recently switched to WordPress, but managed to maintain the simplicity responsible for his success.

Simple designs are easier to read, navigate, and interact with. Less menu items, less distractions on the home page, and minimal or no sidebars is what simplicity is all about. A simple design draws attention to what’s important.

4 – Create a unique design for mobile

Don’t just optimize your website for mobile users. Create a custom design for mobile users based on your original design. When you optimize your existing design for mobile, you often sacrifice important aspects of your desktop design. Using code, you can program your site to display a different design based on a user’s device.

Statistics show that 83% of people say a seamless experience across all devices is important. By creating a custom mobile theme based on your existing theme, you give mobile users that seamless experience. It’s the best of both worlds. Just be sure to include all of your navigation links. Some people suggest limiting selections for mobile users, but that will crush the seamless experience.

How to Best Prepare Your Site for Design Success!

User experience can be improved not just by tweaking your design, but by applying principles of color, navigation, and organization. Instead of chasing the latest revelation in conversion gimmicks, invest your time and money in fact-based strategies that improve user experience. Shift your focus away from the minutia of testing every tiny design element, and toward creating a psychologically-sound foundation for your users.

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Design & Coding

Fotor Photo Editor – The Perfect Graphic Design Tool for Bloggers

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As bloggers and content creators, it’s important to always have visual content built within our best articles and site designs. Infographics, clip art, stock photos and more… but customized and original images will always grab the most attention.

When it comes to actually creating such visuals, you will have many different options to choose from. Whether you are looking for a free application, one that is browser-based, or even if it’s a premium software you need to download and pay for — it’s important to know what’s out there.

Today we are going to be looking at Fotor photo editor which is a free and powerful tool that lets anyone get started with their own graphic design in just a few short minutes.

This tool allows anyone to start using it through a web browser or even with their mobile application. Whether you need to edit a photo, make a collage, or create a custom and original design, it can all be done through the power of Fotor.

The most popular features of this tool are it’s one click filters and fixes that allowed anyone to make their images pop and stand out like never before.

Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits to using Fotor photo editor for your website, blog, or just everyday life.

With most people looking to customize their mobile screenshots on photos with a few simple click of a button, and this is exactly what fotor photo editor will allow you to do. It will also allow you to create custom YouTube banners that can be used to liven up your channel as well.

You can see a few of these examples in the screenshot below.

When comparing Fotor to other graphic design applications like Photoshop, you are going to find many similarities, but it’s also important to note that premium applications like Photoshop are much more advanced, but also more costly in the process. The software is free to use, you can upgrade to Fotor Pro and find even more upgrade and options available.

What makes this design application and tool great for site owners and bloggers, is that it has a unique set of design tools and features — which are what most content creators are looking. In short, it provides users with what they need, while not overwhelming them in the process.

Fotor also offers a nice selection of design templates to choose from, which makes the process of creating new and original content even easier. These template designs scale across the many different design themes, sizes, and concepts on the site.

In addition to everything else mentioned, there is also a nice collection of resources, guides, and tutorials that can be found on their site blog. Such resources will provide users what the information and walk-through processes to get the most out of Fotor.

If you are currently looking for a new design editor to improve the look and feel of visual content on your site, be sure to give Fotor a try.

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4 Essential Elements of Web Design (No.3 Will Shock You!)

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If you’re a small business owner take note of these four elements of web design. They’re essential for boosting your online presence. Click here for more info!

Have you ever wondered why most business websites tend to look the same? It’s like you’ve seen one and you’ve seen them all.

The truth is a lot of business owners prefer the easy route. That means going for a website builder, which offers templated designs.

If you want something different, you’ll have to go custom. But that takes a lot of time. Plus, you’ll have to look for a skilled designer/developer.

Whatever route you choose, you need to understand the elements of web design. After all, it’s your website. If you choose to hire a pro, you need to know what to ask for.

And if you opt to DIY it, then you can steer clear of cringe-worthy web design. That said, here are 4 web design elements that will help boost your online presence.

1. User Journey

You can scroll through countless website design guides and you’ll never see one that says, “ignore what users think.”

Consider mobile apps. Would you download something that’s hard to use and has a lot of annoying ads?

When you design your website, put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Is your website hard to navigate? Does it load fast?

But how do you know if your user interface is good? Aside from consistency, it has to be simple, intuitive, responsive, and flexible.

This is why it’s good to test different designs first before committing to one. It saves time and eliminates the need for major changes later on.

2. Content

Designing for the web doesn’t stop when you have a “pretty” website. Sure, your target customers will appreciate nifty graphics and all. But if your content doesn’t offer value, users will leave your website.

Now, this doesn’t mean huge blocks of text that will drown your visitors with information. Opt for conciseness. Give your target audience content that’s easy to digest so they can process it better.

Depending on what CMS you are using, content creation is usually the easy part. This is especially the case when using platforms like Weebly, WordPress or Wix. Since most of these platforms are drag and drop, it’s simply a matter of getting familiar with each platform, and knowing how to create great content. There are no programming or design skills required.

3. Accessibility

Did you just check the title again? If yes, you may be wondering why this would be shocking. Shouldn’t this be part of any website designing guide?

The thing is there are plenty of websites that use low contrast for text because it’s trendy. But you have to take into account users who have vision problems.

There has to be enough contrast between text and background. And you also need to choose your colors well. You don’t want to alienate color-blind and blind users who use assistive technologies.

4. SEO

Some people approach website design as a separate entity from search engine optimization. But there’s a way to be strategic about the process so that design elements improve the SEO of your site.

The easiest way would be to outsource to an all-in-one design company such as https://www.databerry.com/. When they build your site, they also take care of the backend coding stuff. This ensures your title tags, meta tags, etc work for better search ranking.

Want to Know More About the Elements of Web Design?

Knowing the elements of web design is your first step to a website that looks and functions well. But getting them all right takes a bit of trial and error.

For more web design tips, don’t forget to check out our other blog posts.

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