7 Quick Ways To Step Up Your Email Design Today

How many emails do you receive a day? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? Now, how many of those emails do you quickly skim and immediately delete? In today’s on-the-go, instant gratification world, we want to get the information quickly and make sure it serves a purpose in our lives. We tend to fill more and more of our time connected to our devices, and we want to make sure that our time is being used wisely.

This means that the likelihood of your email being read from start to finish by readers may be slim to none. Don’t be disheartened; email marketing is still one of the most valuable, not to mention free, resources at your disposal. Before the email you are getting ready to send ends up in the junk folder, make sure your email design has been carefully crafted.

Make sure your message is clear. You may only get one shot to connect with a potential customer, influencer, or colleague before they’re already on to the next message in their inbox. Once you have their attention, you need to make sure your email is designed to convert and engage.

You don’t have to be a graphic designer or an expert to put together an email with a high open and click-through rate, but you should put enough energy behind your campaigns to ensure their success. Rework your current email design by taking the following ideas and applying them to your brand and messaging.

Break Up Blocks of Text With Imagery

No one wants to wade through large blocks of text, especially in an email. The majority of people will be reading your email on their mobile device and will quickly lose interest if there is not something eye-catching. It can also be difficult to read long drawn-out paragraphs on your phone so breaking things up into digestible blocks of text can work wonder on your user’s experience.

Go Mobile Friendly

With about 50 percent of emails read on smart phones you can really miss the mark when you ignore users on mobile devices. While we love to see the rise in responsive email design, it is important to remember that not all mail apps, namely the Gmail app, support it and this can result in a pretty sloppy looking email. Instead of going full-on responsive designers can use mobile-friendly design elements such as easy to read text, appropriately designed buttons, and minimal layouts into their email design.

Have a Clear Call to Action

Nothing is more frustrating than sending out an awesome email, seeing that a good amount of people opened it but few people click through to your site. Often, we have a tendency to squeeze everything into one email making it hard for readers to sort through all the information at hand. Instead, lay everything out nice and clean making it nearly impossible for them to miss the mark. Think of each email as a landing page and pay attention to the flow of the design being careful not to oversaturate the user with content.

Select a Good Typography

If you are already have a specific font that you use for your branding, keep with the theme and use as part of all your email campaigns. However, if you haven’t chosen one, select a font that is reflective of your brand, but is also easily readable. Also, if you add banners and or call-to-action boxes in different colors, make sure that the text is legible. Less is typically more when it comes to email when things get too busy readers tend to lose interest. Remember that most readers are on a mobile device so a font that is hard to read when scaled down to size is a clear red flag.

Choose an Appealing Layout

Email marketing services, such as MailChimp, create easy step-by-step tutorials for setting up email templates. Scroll through their templates and examples when you’re in need of a little email design inspiration. Then, take the time to create a few to use whenever you are sending a new campaign.

When the time comes to send an email, it’s easier to build when you only have to swap out content and images and an email design from the ground up. You can use a newsletter format for weekly or monthly emails with snippets of information in different sections or you can use a more basic template for when you want to blast out a brief announcement. Think about the kind of content you’re creating and what makes the most sense for your brand.

Send a Test Email

Just as you would proofread any professional email before you send it, run your email campaign through a QA across all browsers and mail applications before hitting the send to all button. Email a formatted test, so you can see how it appears in your browsers. Did the text become skewed? Is the image populating correctly? Did it grab your attention? To avoid looking like spam, make sure all features of your email are functioning and the spacing is aligned.

Let the Numbers do the Talking

The key to any successful email campaign is to continue to iterate and run tests to see which subject line, content, design, etc. is resonating best with your users. Don’t just go with your gut, run some clear split tests that play around with different layouts and designs to see which one is truly generating the most engagement.

A good design aesthetic immediately captures the user’s attention and lays out your message in an appealing way. Gauge your analytics to determine what kind of emails your subscriber list tends to open most. Switch up your design, even if they are small changes, according to the audience feedback you are receiving. It can seem like trial and error for a while before you find the right formula. As long as you keep your audience in mind, you’ll have success in connecting with them and increasing engagement with your brand.

5 Fool Proof Tips for Building a Strong Web Developer Portfolio

The demand for web developers is growing quickly. But even with this rapidly expanding demand, if you’re looking for a permanent or freelance assignment, landing the right work can feel daunting. The competition can be intense, and trying to stand out can be exhausting.

Many employers will look at your education and work history, but what they’re interested in most is your web developer portfolio. What have you done in the past, and more importantly, does your work fit their needs? Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will differentiate you from other web developers, and make landing your next position or assignment more effortless.

You likely have an online portfolio, but what do prospects think when they view it? After spending time on your site, do they feel like you’re a natural fit for their projects? Or are they left with unanswered questions? Here are some tips for refreshing your web designer portfolio when it’s not getting the job done.

Develop a specialty. It may be tempting to highlight a broad range of experiences so you will “fit” whatever the visitor is looking for, but this can be a mistake. Instead, focus on highlighting expertise for the projects that you most want to pursue. Or even better, focus on specific niches and industries. When you get specific about project expertise, the right employers will be attracted to your work, and will perceive you as a “better fit” than the majority of competitors.

Develop points of differentiation. Many designers are available for work, which can make these professionals seem like a commodity, especially in the freelance market. So what makes you different? Maybe it’s your expertise in a specific niche, or perhaps it’s the way you approach projects. Don’t be afraid to weave your points of differentiation into every aspect of your site.

Don’t showcase everything, only your “greatest hits.” Think about your web design portfolio like a greatest hits album. Many projects could be included in your body of work, but there are some projects that are stellar. Cherry-pick the projects, and displaying only a select few, rather than everything.

Highlight your skills and abilities through testimonials. Prospective employers and clients want to know “If I hire you, what will working together look like?” Will you improve their overall work dynamic and deliver excellent outcomes, or will they have regrets?

Ask previous co-workers, clients and others who can speak to the quality of your work to write testimonials. Request testimonials on LinkedIn if possible, and then leverage that content onto your portfolio site, doubling the impact.

Develop a clear call to action on every page. Oftentimes, a developer will create a fantastic portfolio, but there is no clear call to action. What should your visitor do next? Maybe it’s a “Hire Me” button for freelance projects or “Request a Quote.” Or perhaps it’s a softer call to action, such as “View My Recent Work.” Whatever it is, don’t leave your potential customer at the end of the page without a clear next step or a good idea of how they can contact you.

Portfolio Building Blocks: Finding the Missing Pieces

You’ve figured out how to make your portfolio stronger, differentiate your positioning and showcase your best work, but what are the basic elements that your portfolio should have? More importantly, are you missing anything? Here are some basics that every great portfolio should include.

Name and picture. Your site and work might be compelling, but nothing adds a personal connection like a photo of you. If you prefer not to include a photo, and it fits with your personal brand, consider including a logo that reflects your individual brand infuse additional personality into your site.

Who you are. This can be a basic “About Me” page that details your background, relevant education and anything else that demonstrates your expertise as a web developer.

Contact details. This information should be on every single page. Once you sell a potential employer or prospect, it shouldn’t be hard for them to get in touch with you. Make the experience fast and easy.

Recent work. A carefully selected sampling of your greatest work.

Social icons and networks. Encourage visitors to connect with you on social networks, whether it’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or other media.

Building a Portfolio With Limited Samples

Developing a great portfolio may appear simple for the seasoned pro with many samples to choose from. But what if you’re a relatively new developer, and you don’t have many work samples? Even if you don’t have a large body of work, you can still create an excellent portfolio.

First of all, if you don’t have a few samples to showcase, get some quickly. This isn’t as difficult as many people think. The easiest way is to handpick a few companies in the niches where you’d like to work, and offer to do a pro bono assignment for them. In return, ask the client for a strong testimonial, assuming they are happy with the work. If all goes well, hopefully they’ll hire you in the future, or at least provide a solid referral to another prospect.

Potential clients and employers won’t know the sample was completed at no cost. And more importantly, once you’ve completed a few work samples, you can upload them to your portfolio and have a starting point. A few strong projects are enough to start. Once you’re established and have more samples, you can swap out older samples and focus on displaying the most impressive work.

The Next Steps

Depending on the current state of your portfolio, there may be lots of work to do. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Select a small task to complete each day. By taking a single step daily, you will build the required momentum to create an excellent portfolio.

A web developer’s portfolio will always be a “work in progress,” but by continually tweaking it and making it better, you will become an established developer in your niches, and land your next assignments with greater ease.

What Are the Best Project Management Software and Tools?

Whether you are a one-person show or running a large startup with multiple teams, project management is important. Good project management can ultimately mean the difference between joining the 10% of startups that succeed or the 90% that fail. There is no right or wrong tool when it comes to project management, but rather a right or wrong fit for your business and its needs. In this post, we’ll look at eight online project management tools you can use to increase your team’s productivity and communication.

Things to Consider

Before we jump into the tools themselves, there are a few things you need to consider before you choose a project management tool. These are the things you’ll want to keep in mind when you are reading through the upcoming list.

  • Scalability. Sure, you may only have just yourself or a few employees to manage now. But what about a year from now? Five years from now? If you choose a tool that only works well with five people, and you need to manage 50 down the road, you’ll end up having to migrate all of your data to a new platform.
  • Ease of Use. You can’t manage your projects productively if you spend most of your time just trying to manage the project management software itself. If you and your team don’t like using something, it will never be useful to your business.
  • Accessibility. Are you only using this tool for yourself? Will your employees need access to it? Will freelancers or contractors outside of your office need access to it? Will clients need access to it? Will people need access to it on their desktop? On mobile? These are all things to keep in mind when looking at a project management tool’s permissions, user pricing, and ap options.
  • Client Familiarity. For some businesses, a project management tool needs to be somewhat compatible with what their clients are used to. If a majority of your clients are using Basecamp, that might be a good choice to ensure ultimately efficiency. Or, if your clients use a variety of project management tools (Trello, Basecamp, Slack, etc.), you may want to choose one that has integration opportunities with multiple project management tools through third-party services like Zapier.

Before you commit to any tool, take advantage of free accounts or free trial periods to see if they are the best project management software for your business.

8 Popular Project Management Tools

With the above things in mind, here are some great project management tools with a variety of features to choose from.

Basecamp

Basecamp offers everything you need in terms of project management: to-do lists for task assignment and management, message boards, chat rooms, project check-ins, calendar-view scheduling, a place to upload documents and files, and the ability to toggle features on or off based on your specific needs.

Pricing for Basecamp is simple. You can start with a free account to play around with Basecamp’s features for one project.

From there, you can choose a $29 per month plan for businesses using Basecamp for their own internal projects or $79 per month for businesses using Basecamp for client project management. The $79 plan includes a client management feature that allows clients to see what you want them to, but nothing else. Neither have any additional per-user costs or fees.

There is also an enterprise level plan for $3,000 per year that includes 1TB of storage, a personal account manager, guaranteed uptime, and the ability to pay by check with NET 30 invoicing.

Zapier offers Basecamp integrations so that you can automate tasks between Basecamp and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. For users on the go, Basecamp has a mobile-optimized browser interface so users can login and get the information they need. They also have apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android users.

Freshbooks

If you are already using accounting software like FreshBooks and you just need project management in the form of time tracking, you will be happy to know that it is built in to their platform. FreshBooks allows you create projects and tasks. You can then have your employees, freelancers, or contractors login and enter their time for billing purposes. Your clients will also be able to view time entries if you allow them to.

To access the time tracking feature, you will need the $39.95 plan for up to 250 clients and 1 staff member or the $79.95 plan for unlimited clients and up to 5 staff members. So while this isn’t a very scalable solution, it can help for simple project time tracking for 1–5 employees.

Zapier offers FreshBooks integrations so that you can automate tasks between FreshBooks and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. FreshBooks has a mobile-optimized browser interface and apps for iOS and Android users that includes access to the time tracking feature.

Github

For software programmers and coding projects, there is GitHub. GitHub offers project management features specifically designed for collaboration with people who manage code. Their features include issue tracking, collaborative code review, team management with different levels of access (read, read-write, and admin), syntax highlighting, and access to their public repositories.

Pricing for GitHub is based on the number of private repositories you will need to manage with unlimited collaborators. You can start by trying out their features with a free account and unlimited public repositories, then choose personal plans starting from $7 per month for five private repositories to $50 per month for fifty private repositories.

For businesses that need team organization and permission administration, you can choose organizational plans starting from $25 per month for ten private repositories to $200 per month for 125 private repositories. For those who want a GitHub environment on your own server, you will need an enterprise plan that starts at $2,500 per year.

Zapier offers GitHub integrations so that you can automate tasks between GitHub and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. GitHub has a mobile-optimized browser interface so you can access repositories, issues, pull requests, blogs, and more without having to download an app.

Google Drive

If project management means file management and collaboration on documents, spreadsheets, and slides, then Google Drive is the solution. Google Drive is cloud storage combined with cloud-based software that rivals Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Powerpoint. It also offers the ability to create Forms (surveys with answers stored in a Google Sheet) and Drawings (flow charts).

You can upload most file types for others to download or view, edit, or comment on documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings. Some businesses use Google Sheets for simple project management purposes, such as managing editorial calendars.

Pricing for Google Drive is based on the storage you use. You get 15 GB of free storage, then pricing starts from $1.99 per month for 100 GB to $299.99 per month for 30 TB. You can also explore Google Apps for Work, which adds in additional features for organizations using Gmail, Google Drive, and other Google tools for business starting at $5 per user per month.

Zapier offers Google Drive integrations so that you can automate tasks between Google Drive and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Google Drive has mobile apps for the Drive itself along with individual apps for Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.

Podio

Podio is a project management tool that describes itself as an open-plan online office. It allows you to keep your project content and conversations in one place with at-a-glance views and detailed drilldowns. You can have meetings via chat, audio, or video. And you can manage your projects with classic tasks, recurring tasks, and calendars.

Podio offers a free option for limited features for up to five employees that you can use to try their software. Then you can choose pricing plans that start from $9 per month per employee to $24 per month per employee, depending on the features you need. Unlimited storage, e-document signing, and priority support comes with the enterprise level pricing, which is unlisted on the site.

Zapier offers Podio integrations so that you can automate tasks between Podio and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. For users on the go, Podio has mobile apps so that you can always access your workspaces.

Redbooth

Redbooth is a project management and collaboration tool that allows teams to work together effectively internally and with clients. Their software includes task management, video conferencing, team business chat, the ability to turn chat messages into tasks, built-in accountability reporting, project view workspaces, and much more.

Pricing for Redbooth is $5 — $15 per user per month (billed annually), based on the features you need for your project management. You can try Redbooth for thirty days for free to see if it is a good fit for your business. A private cloud-based version of their software on your own servers for highly-regulated industries is also available for an unlisted price.

Zapier offers Redbooth integrations so that you can automate tasks between Redbooth and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Redbooth has mobile apps so that you can always access your projects, tasks, and team.

Slack

If you need less project management features, but more communication options, then check out Slack. This tool allows you to communicate with your team through the use of file sharing on private channels for your organization and direct messaging between individuals.

Small teams and those who want to give the tool a try can use it for free. Pricing for premium features, such as an unlimited searchable archive, usage statistics, guest access, and two-factor authentication is $8 per user per month. Premium support and uptime guarantees are included in plans for $15 per user per month. Enterprise level plans are expected to be introduced in 2016.

Zapier offers Slack integrations so that you can automate tasks between Slack and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Slack has mobile apps so that you can always access your projects, tasks, and team.

Trello

Trello is a project management tool that allows you to organize projects using lists and cards within boards. Cards can be moved from one list to the next to mark completion of specific processes, such as an editorial calendar where an article goes from draft submission to editorial review.

Within each card, you can create specific checklist items, add member assignments, set due dates, share files, and communicate with others working on the same task or project.

Trello is free for unlimited members, boards, cards, checklists, etc. Pricing for additional features, such as larger file attachments, priority support, and premium integrations is from $8.33 to $20.83 per user per month.

Zapier offers Trello integrations so that you can automate tasks between Trello and other project management tools, your CRM, and other business applications. Trello has mobile apps so that you can add and update cards, lists, and boards.

Honorable Mention: Knock Knock Pads
For those of you shaking your heads because you prefer to write things down and need less of a project management tool and more of a to-do list, Knock Knock pads should do. You can get the This Week Pad to write down your tasks for each day of the week, plus tasks you want to complete next week. Or you can get the Random Notes Pad that gives you pages with a blank space block, grid block, dots block, and lined block to outline your task or project notes as you see fit.

This should only be an option for those who work alone at a dedicated desk and rarely (if ever) need to refer back to previous project notes. You may also want to use a backup method of keeping track of things, such as taking a snapshot of each page of the notepad or using another of the above-mentioned project management tools.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of great project management tools that allow you to organize your work, your team, and your communications in a variety of ways at affordable prices. We’ve shared some of the best project management tools be sure to check out each one to see which one fits your business now and will scale with your business as it grows.