How to Find Great Stock Photos

How to Find Great Stock Photos

How to Find Great Stock Photo Resources

Images can make or break a website. Not all businesses have great photos of Idaho yak farms to use throughout their website like our friends at 4 Peaks Yaks. The prominent use of photography is one of the popular trends sweeping through web design in 2015 which experts say is sure to stick around. It is a no brainer that images are effective in building confidence and winning customers, so how do we go about finding and using great stock photos?

There is an art to choosing great photos. The first step though, is knowing where to look. I prefer to choose stock images for my clients’ websites, so I usually include the cost of images in a website design package or make an arrangement to add the cost to their invoice.

I view it as one of the creative services that I provide. It makes sense to have your designer choose the images for your site so that they are optimized for use and tell a cohesive story alongside one another.

Some of my clients have later asked where I found their stock photos so that they can purchase more similar images. I use different services depending on the type of image I am trying to find. Here is a summary of my recommendations as well as some tips for finding, selecting, and presenting images to others for their review. I hope it is helpful for you!

 

Stock Photo Resources For Blog Posts and General Images

 

Pexels

 

Pexels

This website catalogues free stock images. Some can be useful, but others may have a color filter or other details that don’t work for your site. I found the camera image featured on this blog post on Pexels.

 

Dollar Photo Club

 

dollar photo club stock images

This is the service I use for my own personal blog images and for general images on popular topics. I often search here first to see if I can save my clients money one some of their images. You “apply” for a membership for $10 a month and are allowed 10 downloads a month. This service is particularly great for bloggers who need 10+ images each month or for web designers or social media marketers who will use it for their clients.

 

Stock Photo Resources for Specialized Industries (medical, educational, military, etc.)

 

Shutterstock

 

shutterstock
Shutterstock provides high quality and specialty images for the across the board price of $15 dollars an image. In my experience, these are generally about the quality of iStock essentials collection, although has different options and some great finds.

Beware the automatic subscription add-on while checking out on this site. If you change any of the terms on the check-out page it will add your choice to sign up for a subscription again.

 

iStock

 

iStock Photos

With iStock Photos by Getty Images you will pay either (approximately) $30 or $10 per photo depending on whether you are looking at an image from the “signature” or an “essentials” collection. You are required to buy a pack of “credits” to purchase the image, so the price per photo will vary based on the number of credits that you purchase. Understandably, the “signature” images are really high quality and the essentials are more basic. I try to use a mix, highlighting the signature images on large sliders and reservign the essentials for smaller uses.

 

Tips for selecting and presenting stock images to clients:

-Make a list of images that you are looking for based on your website design (3 slider images, 4 blurb images, 1 vector icon, 2 staff page images, etc.)
-Consider format (horizontal or vertical, empty space for text), color, tone, and other essential qualities before you start looking
-Use the lightboxes initially, but don’t view this as a collection of options to share with your client unless they have asked for it
-Use the “related image” search to find variations of an image that you like
-Download low-quality, watermarked versions of stock images and insert them into the website to create a demo
-Take the time to edit the low-quality, watermarked versions with whatever gradient overlays, filters, and text effects you may need to find out if they don’t work before you purchase them
-Don’t overwhelm your client with too many choices. Instead, ask for a final decision between two images if you need their field expertise to understand what the image will convey to their niche audience. Make it your goal to show them a website with stock photos inserted so that they can see the “full picture” of the design

Do you have a different stock image service or resource that you recommend? Any additional tips for web designers in selecting and presenting stock images to clients? Let me know in the comments!

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

Top Free Web Design Resources for Freelancers

As I type my twitter feed is endlessly filling up with links to cheap and free web design resources.

Don’t get me wrong, I love free icons and stock photos as much as the next girl and, yes, will join any email newsletter list with a compelling free e-book attached. However, time is money and I am paid to create quality websites, not to sift through the endless noise on the internet.

Here are the resources that I have found to be most helpful. These are the ones that I truly would miss. I hope that this list saves you some time and better equips or inspires you in new ways.
 

 

1. Google Chrome and Extensions for Web Designers

Best Google Extensions for Web Designers and Developers

I love, love, love Google Chrome as a browser and my mind was blown when I learned about all of the extensions available for designers, from color pickers to window resizer for testing different screen resolutions. The best part is that it integrates amazing free web design tools, like window resizing (I previously used screenfly for this) and Builtwith.com’s technology profiler, into your browser, saving you time (yes, .. now I can do it from the comfort of my browser. Yay!).

My favorites extensions are all free and are added as icons in my browser:

  • BuiltWith Technology Profiler: I check most websites that I love on builtwith.com to figure out how to get their effects and if I can’t figure it out that way I use…
  • Web Developer: lots of tools for inspecting and editing CSS elements
  • StayFocused: set a timer limit to the amount of time you want to spend on Facebook or other time sucking websites. When your time is up it will say “Shouldn’t you be working?” Very helpful.
  • Simple Time Track: keep track of your billable time on various projects and even set goals for how long you want to work on things.

Some time I should write a blog post about my love-hate relationship with Google. When it comes to free resources though, it’s all love!
 

 

2. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools

google analytics

These items really deserve a post for themselves (to be continued!), but if you aren’t using them, get your website verified today and get started.

Or, if you don’t want to verify your website yet, start doing keyword research here:

 

 

3. Jonathan Wold’s “Four Weeks to Your First Client” Course

jonathanwold

Jonathan’s free Course is the first great resource that I found when considering embarking into the new world of freelance Web Design. It helps you think big picture about starting off as a freelancer and also provides all the nitty-gritty practical details for getting started. For free? Yes. You won’t regret it. Also, I really appreciate that Jonathan is open about his faith and loved hearing that he works on self-discipline by memorizing scripture.

 

Crossingthechasm

*Also, there is very newly released follow up course that I am currently taking which was sent out by Jonathan and his friend Arlen called “Crossing the Chasm“. Also very helpful and timed perfectly for me– it helps you consider in broader terms what your goals, to identify the dream behind your dream, and press on to make it happen.

 

 

4. Code Academy

codeacademy

Take online courses/tutorials and explore new skill sets in web design. Includes tutorials and intro courses in CSS, PHP, Javascript, and more.
 

 

5. Hootsuite (or another social media scheduling system of your choice)

hootsuite

Because when time is money and social media is free advertising, you can’t NOT use it but you don’t have time. Multiple your time by sitting down and scheduling posts for the upcoming week (or month!) on Hootsuite. I use the free version to manage Twitter and Facebook and currently mainly share via Twitter right now.

If you use Google Chrome install the free Hootlet extension to get a button in your browser for even easier sharing as you surf the web.
 

 

6. Asana or another Project Scheduling System

asana

I used Asana and like its functionality. Honestly, this kind of digital organizing really doesn’t help me that much (I like to make checklists on paper when working on my own), but I think I’m in the minority. I do think Asana is very helpful to share to-do lists with clients who have their own tasks to complete to make sure your project is launched on time. Make online to-do lists and get email reminders for different project tasks that need attention. Helps with juggling multiple projects and you can share lists with collaborators.
 

 

7. YouTube (kind of broad, I know, but worth mentioning)

Matt Cutts Youtube Channel

Watch Matt Cutts and hear SEO answers straight from Google’s mouth, search for tutorials to help with your coding and plugin debacles, and while you are there, start your own YouTube channel, upload videos and embed them on your website to help with your own SEO! (I’m in the process of doing this right now). Use YouTube for all it’s worth! Often it’s easier to find answers on YouTube than sifting through pages of troubleshooting on random forums.

Just don’t get sidetracked by videos of sloths crossing the road or other cute animals 🙂
 

 

For Wordpress Freelancers:

 

Elegant Themes Blog

Elegant Themes Blog for WordPress Developers

If you are a WordPress designer, I would recommend following the Elegant Themes blog whether you use Elegant Themes or not. The content is incredible and varied, but always on point.
 

 

For Freelancing Moms:

 

Brilliant Business Moms

Brilliant Business Moms Podcast and Resources

The Brilliant Business Moms host an informative Podcast, free 52 week course, and online support community for moms who run their own small businesses. I’ve learned a lot about social media, the legal side of running a small business, and the blogging world through their great resources. Really, can’t say enough good things about these ladies and their site.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt about it: the internet is overflowing with resources that can help us manage our time, develop new skills, and keep up on trends and news in our field.

The tricky part is navigating the waters without drowning in the massive quantities of resources available to us.

I hope this was helpful! What did I miss? What are the resources that you have found most helpful? Share them in the comments below!

5 Crucial Steps to Improve Your Website’s Google Search Ranking

5 Crucial Steps to Improve Your Website’s Google Search Ranking

5 seo steps

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a huge topic of interest and updated information that all web designers and business owners are constantly looking to better understand. It is changing as fast as Google can redesign their algorithms and web crawlers can find your site. Nevertheless, there are some tips that can help your business get an edge over your competitor and therefore bump yourself up in the rankings.

1. Focus on Good, Quality Content (Text, Images, Video)

Google doesn’t care about metatags anymore. Instead it is looking at your H1-6 headings, bold text, and text body for keywords that are naturally integrated into quality content. If you don’t have a blog, consider launching one in order to boost your ranking. If your blog posts are only images, consider adding captions that naturally include keywords or a 200 word summary at the bottom of the post. If you are using infographics, be sure to include the text underneath the image so that Google can read it.

2. Secure Quality BackLinks to your Site

Ask your business partners to link to your site. Write free press releases about your business’s accomplishments. I use www.prlog.org to publish press releases about website launches, including a link to my site and my client’s.

3. Utilize Social Media That is Relevant to Your Industry and Link from Your Site

What Social Media platforms are most relevant to your industry? If you are in the snowboarding industry, you will want to promote your business on Instagram. Floral Designers will use Pinterest. Everyone should use Facebook and Google+… since Google controls the rankings it makes sense to utilize their social media network.

If you own a small, small business like I do, you don’t have a staffmember dedicated to solely working on your Social Media management. Sign up for the free version of Hootsuite to automate some of your social media posting and become more efficient in posting and responding to social media inquiries.

4. If Your Website is WordPress, install WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast

The plugin will allow you to check your use of keywords on each page and edit your meta description, the snippet which appears on Google. It also helps you control the image that appears for each page on social media sites when you share a link, along with a number of other SEO features, like optimizing your sitemaps and more.

*Tip: You have to purchase the premium version of Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to access their 17 video tutorials. If you would to view a free video summary check this out or for a thorough text tutorial go to Online Media Master’s version by Tom Dupuis.

5. Purchase a Google Adwords Express Ad while you are establishing your website

If you have verified your small business through Google+ then you can purchase a Google Adwords Ad very quickly. Set up a price range that is appropriate for your budget– you can set a maximum daily amount. This will increase your visibility as your establish your website’s ranking.

 

If you need help implementing these steps and further customized optimization for your website, contact us today.

 

Using a Video Slideshow to Show off Your Services on YouTube

Using a Video Slideshow to Show off Your Services on YouTube

Creative Botanicals Floral Design Studio (http://www.creativebotanicals.com) is a family business that has been providing outstanding floral design services for weddings and special events in the Tetons since 1993. Jan Kew, the Owner and Designer of Creative Botanicals, was ready for a new website that would help generate more traffic and compel more potential clients to contact her about their upcoming events. Unsurprisingly, this floral designer had some great ideas for how to reach her audience, it was just a matter of making them a reality on the web.

Why use Video for Online Marketing?

There are a number of great reasons to use video, even simple slideshows like those that I created for Jan. Here are just a few:

 

1. It’s Inexpensive to Make and Free to Upload

 

Simple yet effective videos can be created using your webcam, slideshows of company’s portfolio images, and some basic movie editing software. YouTube will give you a business channel for free! You could spend a starting price of $1000 at a video marketing company in Jackson for a fancy video, but I can help you make something within your budget that’s effective and achieves the other benefits on this list.

 

2. It helps SEO and Google Search Ranking

 

Trying to figure out the details of Google’s algorithm used to determine search ranking (the order of pages which appear for a search) can be dizzying. But we do know this for sure– Google loves seeing videos embedded in our pages and blog posts! It translates as valuable content.

 

3. It Creates an Emotional Connection with Your Audience

 

It’s proven that videos connect with your audience and build a level of trust. Often reorganizing the content you already have on your page in video form helps them to envision you as the one they want to hire for their services.

 

4. It holds your visitor’s attention

 

Let’s be honest… we are lazy when it comes to reading blogs and websites these days. A short video may be more effective than asking your visitor to read your content, when they can watch and listen to it instead.

 

5. It translates well to Social Media

 

Videos are great for posting on your Facebook business page. If you don’t already have a Google+ and YouTube Business Page, considering launching with YouTube.. they will create a Google+ page automatically for you. These social media pages also help with SEO and could be a good match for your small business.

Here’s an example video:

Sneak Peek behind Website Navigation Design [Part 3 of a Small Business Redesign]

Sneak Peek behind Website Navigation Design [Part 3 of a Small Business Redesign]

sneakpeekatwebsitenavigationdesign

This is part three in a series entitled, Sneak Peek at a Small Business Redesign Process. Part One featured a Sneak Peek behind a Logo Redesign and Part Two was on a Sneak Peek behind Responsive Design, including an infographic on Responsive Design.

After redesigning the 2nd Look Boutique’s logo and moving towards a responsive design, the next step was to reorganize the website’s sitemap (list of all pages available to the visitor) and navigation (presentation of sitemap to the visitor which they use to navigate from page to page). The old website had 79 pages (!!), although not all were active… most were. Nevertheless, it was clear that some simplification and reorganization would be needed. Here are some questions that you could ask yourself as you assess your own website and whether you need to make some navigation changes…

1. Is it easy for the visitor to get to the information that they need?

Whether you post your sitemap (list of pages) on the site or not, your menu should be simple and your content should be easy to find. We simplified the 2nd Look’s menu by creating a drop-down hierarchy for some pages and by combining some pages (like contact, shop directions, and shop hours, which were combined on “Contact” and also included in the main page footer).

navigationdropdownmenu

2. Is the navigation consistent from page to page?

The menu should be available on every page and the visitor should be aware on what page they are on. We incorporated banners into the design as headers for different pages to fulfill this purpose and grab the visitor’s attention.

navigationbanner

3. Is the visitor compelled to explore the website or do they stop on the front page?

If you use WordPress jetpack stats for your website, you can see how often people visit different pages on your site.

pageclicks

We were pleased that half of the 105 visitors went farther to explore the About Us page. If a small percentage of your visitors are venturing past the main page, you may want to consider designing navigation icons like those that we used to help our audience visualize the content (images and graphics lead to higher click and conversion rates whether you are posting on social media or on your website!)… these days you can expect your audience to scan quickly and leave fast if there are not interesting images and buttons that funnel them deeper into your site.

navigationicons

Tip: If your small business’s website navigation needs some help, consider 1. creating a drop-down hierachy, 2. combining some pages, 3. incorporating header banners, and 4. using custom graphic icons (or even using generic, well-designed icons) to label each page in a grid display.

If you need help doing this or need someone to review your website and make suggestions that will help your audience engage longer with your website’s content, contact me for a free consultation.