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Morgan Branding
Morgan Branding

branding + graphic design + web design

Two Cents

Pro-Tip: 4 Tools of the Trade for Efficiency and Organization

April 15, 2015

As the number of clients and projects grows, the need to stay organized and efficient is incredibly important. These tools will help you stay on top of timelines and due dates, improve the process for presenting comps, speed up your timesheet and invoice process, and make payroll a breeze. We use these tools on a daily basis, and couldn’t live without them.

  1. Todoist. Todoist is a great to-do list and task manager. In addition to having native mobile and desktop apps that allow you to access your tasks anywhere, it allows you to invite clients to specific projects speeding up collaboration and keeping everyone on the same page timeline-wise. You can also assign specific project-related tasks to specific people. For us, we assign due dates for feedback to clients, speeding up the overall process, and protecting us against a situation where feedback is a week late, but you still need to hit your deadline (we’ve all been there). To boot, it’s well designed in incredibly easy to use.
  2. InVision. Invision is an incredible prototyping, collaboration and workflow platform. Similarly to Todoist, you can easily invite your clients (or collaborators) to specific projects for collaboration. For example, we invite developers to web projects early in the process so that we can solve design-development issues prior to the clients seeing anything (and falling in love with that thing that will cost an extra 2K to develop). Invision allows you to collaborate in real time, and as of today, you can create guided tours through projects. We love you, Invision.
  3. Freshbooks. We’ve been using Freshbooks for more than 5 years. It makes keeping track of time, expenses, and invoicing clients a breeze! And when tax time rolls around, creating your year-end reports is a snap. Plus, you can keep an eye on your P&L throughout the year and make sure you’re staying in the green. Plus, you can assign projects time-estimates to see if your billables are in line with time spent on projects.
  4. Zen Payroll. We used to use Paychex…and paid out the nose for not a lot of service, a ton of paperwork, and an outdated, clunky web platform that required a special degree to understand. Zen Payroll is insanely efficient, much more cost-effective, and paperless (yay trees). With a couple clicks, you can run payroll, pay freelancers, update employee info, and run reports. Employees and contractors get emails when they’re paid, can update their own bank and account info, print out check stubs if they want–do everything on their own without requiring their employer (or Paychex) to be involved. It’s awesome-sauce.

Just Say “No” to Skill Graphs

April 2, 2015

SkillBars

 

A couple days ago we made a post on Facebook: “If anyone asks, we give ourselves 5 stars and/or 100% on all skill levels,” and how we thought this was a silly thing to do on resumes. One of our readers, rightfully so, wanted us to explain ourselves. So, let me break it down…

  1. My biggest beef with the skill graph, or skill dots, is that it’s an imaginary scale. There’s no basis for comparison; there aren’t any metrics to compare your skills against. If comparing financials from year to year, graphs make sense. But when there’s no baseline for comparison, your “master” skill set doesn’t really mean anything.
  2. By breaking yourself down into a set of graphs, you’ve whittled your true value into easily-attainable skill sets (and yes, anyone can attain the technical skills that you have). Your true value likes in your ability to develop great ideas and successfully execute them. If you’re not great at something, you can always learn.
  3. Similarly, show what you’re capable of, not how you do it. Think about a great painting. You probably care less about how it was painted, and more about the ideas and aesthetics being promoted. Think about your body of work and your value in the same way.
  4. Remember, you’re valuable—uniquely valuable. Figure out a way to showcase your body of work and strengths. If done properly, you’ll be invaluable to right employer.

TTFN

Chad

UX Lesson: Copy

October 20, 2014

Being a designer is a lot more about communication that most think. Without clear communication, you run the danger of creating what Brad Frost eloquently coined, “a beautiful piece of shit” (thanks, Brad). And this couldn’t ring more true than with the ever-quikening environment of UX. Users want to do what they want to do…and fast. Requiring them to read too much copy, or copy that doesn’t make sense, could cause them to turn their nose up at your beautifully designed POS, or worse, give you a bad review. Nobody wants that. So, here are some quick tips on writing good UX copy:

  1. Get to know your users. Make sure you’re writing for the right audience.
  2. Know your limitations. If you’re not a good copywriter, or you’re struggling, hire one.
  3. Write like a human. Speak to your users like you would in casual conversation. Don’t alienate them with machine talk.
  4. Use copy as a guide, not a crutch. If you find you need copy to explain your UX, revisit the UX.
  5. Lastly, keep it simple.

UXCopy

Users Don’t Read

September 15, 2014

reading2

In the spirit of the post I’ll keep this short.

Users don’t read, they scan. When reading email newsletters they read even less. There’s a full Nielsen article, but if you want the bullet points here they are:

  • 79% of users scan new pages they visit
  • 16% of users read word for word
  • When articles use concise headlines, short scannable paragraphs, and bullets, the usability skyrocketed by 124%
  • Promotional language causes users to tune out even quicker.

READ (or scan) THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

4 Simple Steps to Great Web Typography

September 5, 2014

Web typography has come a long way since the days of IE 1.0. Today, we have an abundant library of type faces to choose from that give us the opportunity to elevate the design of the web through the use of great typography.

First, I’d like to note that because the content of sites varies dramatically, it’s impossible for me to tell you what type faces are appropriate for your site. Therefore, I’d like to offer four simple guidelines to follow, regardless of the type face, that will up your web typography game.

 

Contrast

Maybe the most important thing to consider is contrast.  Although fluorescent pink on a dark blue background might look cool on the poster you’re designing, it’s not the most pleasant to read on the web. Stick to high contrast color choices, and when possible, avoid long blocks of reversed text.

contrast

 

Size

For the sake of your readers, make sure your type is large enough to be read easily and doesn’t hinder their experience. Remember that readers are different ages, reading content on different devices, and don’t sit with their nose pressed against the screen. And make sure you take mobile into consideration, too. As a general, rule, 14pt is a nice minimum to work from. What you’re reading right now, is 16pt. Click on the image below to see what 10pt and 12pt type looks like. Not great. Avoid.

typesize

 

Hierarchy

Varying type size is one of the easiest and best ways to differentiate your content. It’s the simplest way to provide structure for your readers, allowing them to find what they need quickly and effectively.

hierarchy

 

White Space

The negative space between elements on the page, although “invisible” is easily as important as the “stuff” on the page. By allowing your content to breathe, and not filling every inch of your page with more and more things, you place emphasis on the important elements/content.

This applies to the text on the page, too. Make sure you use your CSS line-height property on all of your copy. Most type books and resources call for a line-height (leading) of at least 140% of your type size. So, for a 20pt type, you’d want a 28pt line-height. Although headlines and more prominent elements can violate this rule, it’s a good place to start.

whitespace