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Freebie: Professional Business Infographic Template

hongkiat.com - vr, 22/07/2016 - 17:01

Looking for a freebie? We have here, in collaboration our friends at Freepik, an exclusive release for HKDC readers. You’re looking at a business-themed statistical infographic template which is packed with elements that are great for data visualization purposes, for annual report presentations or for making an awesome-looking infographic.

Included in this pack are different types of bar charts/graphs (stacked, vertical, horizontal), pie charts, histograms, world maps, graphical timelines, line charts and more, in multiple variants. Each design is available in a three-color scheme. Check out the preview before you download the files.

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Why Facebook Matters for First Time Parents

hongkiat.com - vr, 22/07/2016 - 15:01

Since you were crazy enough to become a parent, here are some avenues on Facebook to help you cope. With the advent of my son’s first birthday, I’ve been reflecting on the inaugural year of my parenthood and have come to realise that Facebook has played a big part in it.

Well, as it is with everything in life, there was both good and bad that came out of it. Here’s a little glimpse of how it influenced my journey into parenthood and how it can enhance yours too. If you’re a new parent or will soon become one, this post is most certainly for you.

33 Reasons Work From Home Parents Are Tougher Than You Think

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33 Reasons Work From Home Parents Are Tougher Than You Think

I work from home along with my husband. He's a programmer and me, an organic web editor. We…

Read more Preloved goods

There’s an extensive online community for the buying, selling and trading of "preloved goods" (read: second hand items) in Facebook nowadays. This includes children’s products.

Be it toys, clothes, safety gates or strollers, if there’s an item you’ve been eyeing for your child but can’t afford to buy it for them brand new, you might be able to find a preloved version that’s within a more affordable price range.

Not only that, if you find yourself wanting to do a little housekeeping and to clear out some of your children’s stuff which are no longer in use (eg clothes the baby has outgrown), you could also put them up for sale on a preloved goods group (assuming it’s in respectable condition, of course).

I sold off an old ring sling of mine this way. It was a rather smooth process. Once I had a confirmed buyer, I received payment and posted the item out within the same day. On other occasions, I made new friends or managed to learn new things about baby products while befriending sellers on such groups.

Be Careful

However, I should issue a little word of advice: Please exercise a reasonable level of caution. There are plenty of fraudsters out there.

Even those who aren’t out to deceive may still end up going back on their word. I dealt with a potential buyer once who was so keen on a Cash On Delivery sale, but went eternally silent on me on the day we were to supposed to meet.

So do background checks if you must, don’t be too gullible and trust your gut feelings.

Most preloved groups have their own accountability system. One of the groups I am part of requires each seller to set up a feedback link whereby past buyers can drop comments about their experiences with that seller. Hence, you can easily see how reliable that seller is through their feedback link.

Peer support

Becoming a parent opens up a whole new realm of friendship. In fact, with social media, it is even more so as it makes it easier for you to find others who are also new parents and who are facing similar experiences as you are (eg: breastfeeding problems, teething woes, weaning tricks).

I’ve found it surprisingly easy to bond with total strangers on Facebook through conversations about our children. In fact, I’ve met a fellow breastfeeding mother who suffers from eczema like I do; another delivered her baby in the same hospital that I had (we joke about bumping into each other there someday).

There is a wealth of knowledge that people who you haven’t met in real life can share with you. But while it is wonderful to meet and greet other parents online, you’d still need to be careful how much personal information you share about yourself and your family.

Stick to talking about common experiences, for example, teaching a child to read, and leave out details such as where you live, where your child goes to school and the like.

Entertainment

After the arrival of my baby, I decided to quit my full time job and become a freelance writer who works from home. While this has been a decision I have never regretted, it is sometimes dull to be marooned indoors day after day with limited adult interaction. You will need a bit of comic relief every so often.

Social media is a great resource when it comes to these sort of things. Many other parents, particularly new ones, have taken to producing comic strips and various other forms of entertainment to depict the crazy realities of parenting.

What makes it especially amusing to me is the discovery of how common certain experiences, emotions and thoughts are to every parent, regardless of where they’re from, and how so many of us use humor to cope.

Take, for example, the Best Case Scenario photos captured by photographer, Danielle Guenther or Fowl Language Comics which will probably bring on some heartfelt laughter due to the uncanny similarities you’ve found in comparison to your own life.

IMAGE: Fown Language Comics

Exploding Unicorn has the right outlook in life especially when he is surrounded by 4 kids. Bad Parenting Moments teaches you about the importance of having wine stocked away in the house.

Be prepared for some judging

While there’s lots of positivity out there on Facebook about parenting, there’s also plenty of trolls and insensitive folks too. Sometimes, when a discussion gets too heated, things do get ugly. Or abusive. Or really personal.

Some examples of polarising topics include child immunisation programs, to breastfeed or not, to be a stay-at-home mom or go out to work, to homeschool or not, the type of school to send to, etc.

Knowing when to chime in

Whichever view that you subscribe to in these topics, what’s important is to remember that it’s every parent’s prerogative to decide what’s best for their own children. It’s best if we leave that to their judgment rather than trying to impose our views on others.

And while we may not be able to curb the behaviour of others on Facebook, we can be vigilant about our own responses. Before typing out a reply or posting some new content, it’s wise to consider why we are doing so and whether it is more of a help or hindrance.

For me, that means sometimes choosing not posting something right away, but rather, letting the idea sit in my head for awhile before putting words to it. There are times where, having waited it out a bit, I realise that what I had originally wanted to say really isn’t that important after all and I decided to just let it go.

But even when I do decide to go ahead and join the conversation online, I usually find that there far fewer disadvantages to having chimed in late as compared to voicing out first only to regret it later.

Paranoia and unrealistic comparisons

It’s common for users to share articles they have read and found to be enlightening but many people absorb the content of articles without first verifying whether the source of that information is trustworthy.

There’s a lot of fear mongering and falsehood that goes on around the Web. Take, for example, this article about how a baby was blinded by camera flash, which turns out to be completely untrue. It’s easy to get caught in the vicious cycle without realising it.

Another one of the dangers of Facebook is the unhealthy way that it makes us compare our own parenting skills to the skills of others.

For example, someone shares an update about their 6-month-old baby being able to pull himself up to a standing position while your little one isn’t showing any signs of even wanting to stand.

Then, you start to worry: Is my child experiencing a developmental delay? Is my child abnormal? Should I go to the doctor’s?

Another example is when you have that friend whose feed is full of photos of their daily scrumptious home-cooked, gourmet-styled meals (that’s the one), while you have to settle with takeaway or yesterday’s leftovers.

It doesn’t make you a failure but being on Facebook may make you entertain the thought that perhaps you were.

Share the struggles too

Well, the cause of your woes is oversharenting. It’s when some parents do the humblebrag but overdo it to the point where it affects their children, their parenting friends, and sometimes themselves.

When this happens on a "social network", you can’t stop your friends from posting (or boasting) endlessly about their children, but you can curb your own impulses to do so.

If you really need to post about something, try being honest about both your success stories and your struggles, instead of glossing over the difficulties and dampening the realities of being a parent.

15 Creative Parents and Children Photos That Truly Inspire

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15 Creative Parents and Children Photos That Truly Inspire

Children grow into adults in just a matter of years. That's why some parents are so dedicated to…

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When you are honest, it opens the door for other parents to be honest as well. And at the end of the day, even though each family – and each child – is unique, we still have to change the same smelly diapers and avoid projectile vomiting like the next parent.

Conclusion

Parenting is one crazy roller coaster ride, but it’s a journey worth taking. And things like Facebook really do help ease the tension every so often. It’s the place you can pop in and out of whenever you can for a healthy dose of ideas or inspiration.

Just have your own method of dealing with the negative side of things whenever it rears its ugly head. But on the whole, it’s really loads of fun, so I hope to meet you through some parenting group out there some time.

Multitasking: Why It’s Bad & Why This Madness Has to Stop

hongkiat.com - do, 21/07/2016 - 15:01

Multitasking has been getting a bad rap and if you do multitask and seem to forget things a lot, then that means that multitasking is starting to take its toll on you. I have been joking around saying that my short-term memory loss is due to having kids but after a while people start mentioning conversations that I do not have any memory of, and overdue tasks that I still keep forgetting to do or update.

After a short, well-deserved break recently, I got back to work with a new appreciation for slowing down (don’t we all?) and discovered that the pre-break me has been losing her grip on the state of things for quite some time. So this is my warning to you, that multitasking is really doing a number on your brain, in more ways than you know.

It’s not good for you

If you are a multitasker, due to the nature of your job or what people say about your generation, good for you. But I mentioned that multitasking is causing you to forget things, and it’s not just me saying this. Science is.

Now I have a beef with Science, who seems to keep telling me how I am living my life wrong e.g. cook spaghetti this way, pack your suitcase that way, don’t poop this way, drink coffee that way… but this time around, I concede.

Scientific studies have shown that multitasking is bad for your brain and a failing memory is part of the symptoms of the damage caused. I didn’t have to read the journal to know this. I’m a walking example.

To stop multitasking would mean I have to slow down at my job, which may seem like I will lose out in the productivity race, but in fact it is supposed to be better for my health. And like you right about now, I had problems accepting that I needed to slow down.

Confessions Of A Web Editor – An Inside Look

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Confessions Of A Web Editor – An Inside Look

I've had many people ask me what I do for a living, and it's quite difficult to explain.…

Read more Take a break

It wasn’t until I took a 5-day break from work to basically "reboot" before I notice a change in how clear things became to me. It was like a fog had lifted and I can see everything and every mistake I’ve made, clearly. Being cut off from emails, messaging apps, and my regular duties allowed me to take a step back and put things into perspective.

The importance of taking vacations is not something new (check out this post where we compared the leave policies of 30 countries). School teachers in Germany were tracked by researchers, who found out that teachers who went on vacation are more engaged at work and will burn out slower. It is also reported that you are at a 30% higher risk of suffering a heart-related problem if you put off vacations a few years in a row.

And of course, there is the sudden spike in creativity you will enjoy once you return from a break.

Even if you cannot go far, killing off notifications during the weekend or when you are out of the office can provide that change in pace that can be very good for rebooting your work productivity.

Cut down on the tabs

So back to work and with a renewed vow to finally stop multitasking, the first order of the day was to get rid of my tabbing disorder. This happens with people who are on the Internet a lot, either because of work or because they have no willpower.

The tabs I open are in the category of "way too many" and my reluctance to close these tabs are because of that tiny voice inside my head that said something or someone in one of these tabs still need my attention.

Facebook, Gmail, some social media site, plenty of articles you should have watched later, videos you cannot stop watching – things like that.

These can take out a lot of your work time, not to mention dissipating your focus. If you are like me, maybe you should try this: cut down your opened tabs to just 5 (later on to just 3) in one go.

Once you have the maximum number of tabs opened (that’s 5), you cannot open a new tab until you have closed down any one of the 5 tabs left opened.

At any moment you are online, you have only these 5 tabs to play around with. Basically, once you have run your checks through your emails or social media, it’s time to shut that baby down and move on to something else.

Paper and pen for short term goals

One of the most important things I had learned about planning is not to do too much of it. Oh, you still have to plan, but the important thing to remember is not to spend the bulk of the time in the planning stage.

Same goes to paper. If you have to fill in too many forms to move on to the next stage in the work process, then something is wrong. When something that is supposed to be a productivity catalyst starts eating into your productive time, then it should be eliminated.

But in this case, instead of forms, we are going to use paper, the kind that has one side used up (we will be chucking them into the trashcan anyways), plus a pen or pencil. That’s it.

Productivity vs. Productivity Tools: Do The Latter Really Work?

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Productivity vs. Productivity Tools: Do The Latter Really Work?

When I was studying, all I needed was a notepad and a pen to keep track of all…

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Once you need to do something, write it down: who to call or email about what information when. Once it is done, cross it out like it is a victory, because it is. Once a large portion of the paper has been filled up and crossed out, tear out that section and chuck it out. Or bury it. Or burn it. Whichever floats your CSS.

Of meat and poison

From here on, you’re on your own. That’s cause this is the part where things get very different from one individual to the next: one man’s meat, the other’s poison.

You will need to identify the things that leave you tired at the end of a day’s work – work automatically gets disqualified because you have to do it – and decide whether or not your work productivity is better without it.

Like, for instance, listening to music. I tried listening to music while I work, specifically choosing a "Focus/Concentration" genre of music to work to. For some reason, it left me more tired than if I was not listening to music while I work (sorry Snow White, whistling while you work may not be such a good idea).

You will need to identify your own kryptonite and figure out what to do about it.

You might be special

I think that it’s also important to note that it is possible you could be a super multi-tasker, kind of like a hero who has multitasking abilities as a superpower. But know that this is a very rare group of people – this study found only 19 such people in a sample of 700. These super multi-taskers work well while multitasking, committing little to no mistakes.

Apart from this, there may also be instances when you can find yourself multitasking better than how you normally do. For instance in highly pressurised situations like when you are in the midst of your finals, have to take care of 50% of the family who is sick, and planning for your little girl’s first birthday party.

Some people function better under pressure and excel in multitasking. Having to juggle so many things, all of equal importance will however take the life out of you, but because they are important to you, and you cannot fail those who depend on you, your body find ways to make it work – or die trying.

Would you die trying to protect your productivity levels? If you said yes, please tell us why and what your secret is.

Best 5 Free Twitter Clients for Android

hongkiat.com - wo, 20/07/2016 - 17:01

Although Twitter’s official app has a lot of features, it misses some innovative ones like scheduling tweets, muting tweets or users, multiple color themes, etc. This is where unofficial Twitter clients come in to fill in the gaps.

In this post, we’re going to showcase 9 free, feature-packed Twitter clients for the Android platform. These Twitter’s mobile clients will allow you to enjoy your favorite social networking platform on the go.

80 Twitter Tools for Almost Everything

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80 Twitter Tools for Almost Everything

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These clients offer more features than the Twitter’s official client for Android and enhances your Twitter experience on small screens. But first, let’s take a look at what the other Twitter clients are up against: the official Twitter app itself.

Best 5 Twitter Clients Twitter

Twitter, the official mobile client of Twitter, brings the very same features as offered by its web application. With the official client, you can stay updated with the global news and tweets from your friends and followings.

The app also tells what’s trending around and allows you to share images & videos, emojis, GIFs and Vines with your followers. Moreover, you can send direct messages, reply to tweets, retweet and follow lists of your interest.

What’s hot

  • Lets you share various types of media.
  • Allows sharing tweets using other apps.
  • Guarantees better privacy than any third-party clients.

What’s not

Twiiter, in spite of being the official client, lacks on various features offered by other Twitter’s mobile clients. For example, it doesn’t offer scheduling tweets, muting unwanted tweets or user accounts, multiple skins and many more.

TweetCaster

TweetCaster consists of an intuitive interface, making Twitter easier to use on mobile. Heavily praised for its advanced functionality, this app lets you receive background notifications for new tweets, mentions and direct messages.

You can also add cool filters and effects to your photos before posting them on Twitter. TweetCaster also provides daily statistics on your Twitter account.

What’s hot

  • Offers scheduling tweets.
  • Lets you mute tweets and user accounts.
  • Allows management of multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Support for widgets on home or lock screens.

What’s not

TweetCaster lacks a few usability features. For example, the app doesn’t have day and night color modes, or a media view for all Twitter feeds.

Echofon

Echofon is a super-fast Twitter client with a clean and simple interface. The app syncs all your tweets efficiently across all your Android devices and sends instant notifications for mentions & direct messages.

The app offers a full-featured dashboard widget that displays your timeline of tweets. It allows you sending/reading direct messages, mentions, tweets & retweets, lists and favorites, and even (inline) images as well.

What’s hot

  • Light and dark color themes.
  • Support for almost every Twitter task/activity.
  • Mute unwanted tweets and user accounts.
  • Quick-switch between multiple Twitter accounts.

What’s not

Echofon doesn’t allows scheduling tweets and doesn’t offer a very modern (and material) user interface as offered by few of its competitors.

Plume

Plume is a customizable Twitter client that offers a timeline with multi-colored choices. The app includes scrollable widgets, allowing you to add your Twitter timeline to your home or lock screen. Plume adds an inline image preview in your timeline like Echofon.

This client also supports auto-completion of usernames and hashtags for quicker searches. Along with profiles, replies and direct messages, it also lets you view trends, lists and favorites.

What’s hot

  • An almost complete client.
  • Lets you geotag your Twitter friends.
  • Supports managing multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Allows muting tweets from users or applications.

What’s not

Plume, though a very useful client, misses few advanced features and doesn’t have a very fluid user interface. For example, tracking your tweets’ performance analytics, scheduling tweets in future, dual skins for day and night modes, etc.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a powerful Twitter app, allowing you to publish, watch, and monitor tweets and even track their analytics. The app lets you publish a status to Twitter and other social networks at once like Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. from a single app.

You can carry out everything you need to do on Twitter: tweet, reply, send direct messages, list and favorite tweets. A useful social network management tool to improve your social productivity.

What’s hot

  • Allows managing multiple social networks.
  • Supports scheduling posts and status updates.
  • Offers support for almost all the Twitter tasks/activities.
  • Lets you manage & switch between multiple Twitter accounts.

What’s not

HootSuite, although very near to being perfect, misses some features required by various users. For instance, multiple skins for day and night, homescreen & lockscreen widgets for easy access to tweets, muting/blocking tweets or accounts, etc.

Honorable Mentions Twidere

Twidere brings a clean, material design interface with multiple theme colors. You can view own timeline, direct messages, your lists, any user’s profile, followers as well as followings. Its tabs are fully customizable and present direct messages in conversational style.

The app lets you preview images directly in your timeline like Echofon or Plume, and even allows browsing geolocations using its built-in map viewer.

What’s hot

  • Offers dual color modes for day and night.
  • Allows muting unwanted tweets and users.
  • Supports switching between multiple accounts.
  • Offers a media grid view for seeing all your media.

What’s not

Twidere, same as few other top competitors, lacks few advanced features such as option to schedule tweets, tweets’ performance statistics and useful widgets.

Tinfoil for Twitter

Tinfoil for Twitter is a Twitter mobile site replica that brings the complete Twitter packed inside an app. The app has got a minimal interface that’s heavily inspired from Twitter. It lets you view your tweets, mentions, lists, direct messages and Twitter timeline, of course.

Tinfoil shows instant notifications for replies, direct messages and new followers as well. The app also lets you search for users and discovering hashtags and trends.

What’s hot

  • It’s a complete Twitter client.
  • Supports geotags and geolocations.
  • Brings the known & friendly Twitter interface.

What’s not

Tinfoil for Twitter is just an application wrapper around the Twitter’s mobile website, hence it’s not as resource-efficient as other native clients like Echofon or HootSuite. This app also lacks advanced features like scheduling tweets, multiple skins, etc.

UberSocial

UberSocial is a popular Twitter client that lets you follow tweets, users and hashtags on your favorite social network. It lets you customize the menus and view tweets in a conversational style, making things much easier and natural.

The app allows viewing & posting tweets, images and videos, and even lets you send tweets of more than 140 characters using TMI.me. It previews images directly and offers multiple color schemes to enhance the experience.

What’s hot

  • Supports multiple Twitter accounts.
  • Offers forming ‘Inner Circle‘ of your BFFs.
  • Allows muting unwanted hashtags and annoying users.
  • Lets you post update status directly on Facebook.

What’s not

UberSocial, in spite of all its great features, is not enough for social enthusiasts. The app lacks features such as scheduling tweets, sharing tweets with other apps, day and night modes for the interface, etc.

Robird

Robird is a user-friendly and powerful Twitter client that offers an interactive interface with support for both smartphones and tablets. Robird has a blazing-fast timeline and supports uploading & previewing multiple images.

It also supports background auto-refresh and real-time streaming of timelines and direct messages. It also allows posting more than 140 character tweets using the TwitLonger service like UberSocial.

What’s hot

  • Allows muting tweets, hashtags and users.
  • Offers home screen widget for viewing tweets.
  • Supports showing notifications on Pebble smartwatch.

What’s not

Robird, in spite of all the sweet features, does lack at some places. For example, the app doesn’t allow you to schedule messages, switch skin with multiple color schemes, login using multiple Twitter accounts and many more.

That’s all folks about the best free Twitter clients for Android. Do you know some other Twitter client worth mentioning here? Don’t forget to tell us using the comments section below.

How to Create 3D Button Flip Animations With CSS

hongkiat.com - wo, 20/07/2016 - 15:01

Flip animations are popular CSS effects that show both the front and the back of an HTML element by turning them from the top to the bottom, or from left to the right (and vice versa). They are rad in 2 dimensions, but they are even cooler when performed in 3D.

15 Beautiful Text Effects Created with CSS

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15 Beautiful Text Effects Created with CSS

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In this post, I’ll show you how to create simple 3D buttons, and add flip animations to them.

You can see the result on the demo below, if you click on the buttons, they’ll perform the labeled flip animation.

1. Creating the HTML for the 3D button

To create a 3D button (with Top → Bottom flip), first we stack three <div>s on each other, two for the front and back faces of the button, and a third one for filling the depth in the middle. We put the three button faces into the .flipBtn container that will function as the 3D button, and we place the 3D button into the .flipBtnWrapper wrapper.

<div class="flipBtnWrapper"> <div class="flipBtn"> <div class="flipBtn_face flipBtn_back"></div> <div class="flipBtn_face flipBtn_mid"></div> <div class="flipBtn_face flipBtn_front"></div> </div> </div> 2. Adding basic styles with CSS

We set the width and height properties of the wrapper, the button, and the button faces, and position them using the relative/absolute positioning technique.

.flipBtnWrapper { width: 200px; height: 200px; position: relative; } .flipBtn, .flipBtn_face { width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute; } 3. Style the 3 button faces

We add background-images to the front and back button faces, and set a cool linear-gradient behind the images for both. The trick here is that in CSS, you can set multiple images as background image for the same element, and you can also declare gradients as background images.

The middle face, .flipBtn_mid, is given a height of 20px, and a same space of 20px is created between the front and back faces. We achieve the latter by using the translateZ() CSS function that moves an element along the z-axis. We push the back face back by 10px, and bring the front face forward by 10px.

.flipBtn_front { background-image: url("image/css-3d-flip-button-animation-play.png"), linear-gradient(#FF6366 50%, #FEA56E); backface-visibility: hidden; transform: translateZ( 10px ); } .flipBtn_back { background-image: url("image/css-3d-flip-button-animation-pause.png"), linear-gradient(#FF6366 50%, #FEA56E); background-color: blue; transform: translateZ( -10px ); } .flipBtn_mid { height: 20px; background-color: #d5485a; transform: rotateX(90deg); top: -10px; }

To cover the space between the front & back faces with the middle one, we lay the middle face flat across the x-plane of the 3D space using the transform: rotateX(90deg); rule that makes it perpendicular to both the front and back button faces on the y-plane.

Since the middle face was laid flat across the x-plane, its top point on the y-axis goes 10px (half of its height) down from original. So, to pull it back up and align its top with the two other button faces, I added the top: -10px rule as well.

I used the backface-visibility CSS property for the front face, so when we flip the button, the back of the front face will not be visible.

So far, you will only see the front face on the screen, as the x-plane is hidden from view, and on the y-plane (screen) the last face laid down was the front. By rotating the button you will be able to see the other faces as well.

The button 4. Rotating the button

The transform-style CSS property determines whether the child elements of an HTML element are displayed flat, or positioned in the 3D space. In the code snippet below, the transform-style: preserve-3d; rule gives 3D volume to our button, while the transform: rotatexX() property rotates it around the x-axis.

.flipBtn { transform-style: preserve-3d; transform: rotateX( -120deg); }

Note that I used -120deg solely for demonstration purposes, as this way it’s easier to illustrate how the button rotation works.

Button rotated by -120°

However in the next step we will change it to -180deg to make the button completely flip around.

5. Animating the button

At this point, our 3D button is still not animated. We can do this by using the transition property. We use the transform property for the first value, as this is the property we want to apply the transition effect for. The second value, is the duration, 2s.

Let’s make the button only rotate on hover, so instead of the .flipBtn selector, let’s use .flipBtnWrapper:hover .flipBtn. As mentioned earlier, also change the value of rotateX() to -180deg to make the button flip around.

.flipBtn { transition: transform 2s; transform-style: preserve-3d; } .flipBtnWrapper:hover .flipBtn { transform: rotateX( -180deg); } Check out the demo

You can have a look at the final code in our Github repo, or you can also check out the demo site online.

Note that in the Github repo, I added a checkbox to each button in order to fire the animation on :checked rather than on :hover, this way it behaves more like a real button. I also included four different buttons with four flip directions (Top → Bottom, Bottom → Top, Right → Left and Left → Right ), so that you can easily use whichever you want.

Getting Started with Fullstack Web Development

hongkiat.com - di, 19/07/2016 - 15:01

These days, modern full stack development is very popular in both small agencies and larger companies with a dedicated technical team. Full stack web engineers work on an entire web stack of technologies including frontend, backend, and server management.

Many people argue that full stack only leads to being a "jack of all trades, master of none". From a certain point of view this may be true, however skillset is only as important as what can be accomplished with it. Many full stack devs offer value because they can take an idea from conception to launch, and fully comprehend every step of the process.

If you’re thinking of going the the full stack route, then this article is for you. I will explain the general requirements of a full stack developer, what the role entails, and how the skillset can be useful for freelancers/contractors who want to work directly either for clients or in their own projects.

Full Stack Fundamentals

Modern full stack development has come a long way, as web technology has changed a lot. Full stack requirements should be used as guidelines to consider following. Generally speaking a "stack" represents the technologies running in unison to make a website work. This means frontend code, backend code, a database system, and a web server platform + OS for the server.

The basic tenet of full stack development is to understand all aspects of constructing a website. This does not mean knowledge of design or UI/UX work, although that can greatly improve your viability and work quality.

  • The fundamentals of frontend include HTML/CSS and JavaScript, most likely with a framework, such as Angular or React.
  • For a backend language you’ll want to pick something that can be coupled with a database system. PHP/MySQL is the most common and easiest to learn because it powers many CMS engines like WordPress. Also the LAMP stack is undeniably the most popular web stack today.
  • Server knowledge could be as simple or as detailed as you like. The absolute basics would be knowledge of a server program like Apache coupled with a database like MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • You might go even further to include knowledge of installing mail servers, or performance tools, such as memcached or Varnish.

A full stack dev should dabble in all three areas with enough knowledge to launch a website independently, and without much help from anyone else.

Technical Depth of Knowledge

A big question about full stack development is how deep to go into each area. Is a full stack engineer really ever a master of anything? Some argue that it’s possible, but that may not be the purpose of going full stack.

Most companies want to hire full stack engineers who have a bit of knowledge everywhere. These engineers may specialize in one area, but they’re able to fill any role when needed.

Devs who are just starting down this path should toy around in all areas learning "just enough" to solve problems as they arise. This gives a real world interpretation to the technologies to see how different problems apply to real projects.

The largest benefit of full stack coding is the ability to build your own applications without working for anyone else.

If you learn every stage of the development process then you can do everything yourself. You don’t need to be a master of PHP to build a custom Laravel app. And you don’t need to be a JavaScript guru to create a flexible dropdown navigation especially now that we have so much open source code available on the web.

So how deep should you go into any of these areas? This is entirely up to you, and your answer will probably change over time.

But when first getting started, just go deep enough to implement what you’ve learned into a real project. When you bump into something you don’t understand, use it as an opportunity to go deeper, and learn more about that particular subject.

Choosing Languages

It’s a bit of a conundrum for the new developer to choose which technologies to learn. Getting the necessities out of the way, HTML and CSS are absolutely required. JavaScript is also a necessity, but you don’t need to consider yourself a JS master. You should however be interested to learn more than just plain JavaScript.

Most devs learn jQuery as well, but frameworks like React, Ember, Angular, Vue, or Backbone all offer a simpler process for building full-scale web applications.

It’s possible to dive even deeper learning fancy JavaScript effects, such as animations, but they’re totally optional. A full stack developer should know just enough to get the job done, and move on from there.

Backend language choice is less about technical advantage, and more about comfort. Most programmers realize that Python is a more versatile language than PHP, however the majority of websites run on PHP servers. This makes PHP a valuable language to more companies.

Pick whatever language suits your needs, or offers you the greatest prospects. Also keep in mind that you’re not stuck with one backend language forever. If you start with Ruby but switch to Python you don’t lose anything in the process.

However I do recommend that once you find a backend language you like, delve deeper with that language, and pick up a related framework. PHP has Laravel, Ruby has Rails, and Python has Django — among many other options. These frameworks will expedite your development process, and help you properly structure your applications.

Databases & Servers

Choosing a database engine comes down to project requirements and server stack. PHP often works with MySQL, so that’s the most preferred choice. The two biggest web stacks today are LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) and MEAN (MongoDB-ExpressJS-AngularJS-Node.js).

Most hosting companies offer LAMP from the start with no setup required. But custom solutions like Digital Ocean allow you to run almost anything with a little elbow grease. You can find more web stacks on this list, or by searching around online.

Your database of choice will often be tied to your backend language. Python comes with SQLite support by default, and RoR devs can typically work with anything. And honestly, any language can usually work with any database.

But you want to pick something that’s common enough to use in the majority of web projects. SQL is a general language, and it uses mostly the same syntax across all database engines. You will find differences in table setup & administration, but these are typically minor.

Beyond databases, here are some technical server-side topics you might want to learn about.

  • CDNs and content hosting
  • Server software installation & updates
  • Best server configs for traffic spikes & load times
  • Caching solutions for both database queries and file system storage
  • Automated backups of databases and flat files, or disk imaging backups
  • HTTPS setup with domain management (DNS servers, CNAME records, etc.)
  • More detailed subjects, such as email, microservices, and load balancing

One of the best ways to learn is tinkering with servers as you build projects. Grab a basic VPS account, and try setting up your own stacks. These VPSs are complete virtual server environments where you have full control to configure (or destroy) everything. Also, the list above isn’t a required roadmap for all full stack developers.

The only knowledge you really need is whatever is required to create a blank server environment, and install the software needed to run a website. From there, anything else is just improved knowledge. If you ever have questions or want to learn from professionals check out Reddit’s /r/SysAdmin community.

The Road Ahead

If you really want to learn full stack development, make a list of all the technologies you want to learn. From there, you can tackle them one-by-one making up your own practice projects to test what you learn.

Web development is an ever-changing industry, so you should always be willing to learn more. Test various stacks and languages until you find what you like. But always be willing to go deeper and get better!

How Do You Want to Learn Web Design?

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How Do You Want to Learn Web Design?

Are you interested in learning web design but not sure which path to take? Well, generally there are…

Read more

Is full stack development worth the effort? That’s for you to decide. But here are some related posts that might help you figure that out.

Intro to ITCSS for Web Developers

hongkiat.com - ma, 18/07/2016 - 15:01

There’s a handful of great methods for structuring CSS code, and they all work in different ways. The most popular ones are OOCSS and SMACSS, but there’s also a lesser known method called ITCSS (Inverted Triangle CSS) created by Harry Roberts.

It’s not a library or a framework, but a methodology of writing code that’s scalable and easy to manipulate. The benefits of ITCSS range from simple code organization to smaller file sizes, and a greater understanding of CSS architecture.

ITCSS is not for everyone, but it provides a professional way to look at stylesheets with clarity during the coding process. Let’s delve into the concepts behind ITCSS, and see how they can be applied to web projects.

What is ITCSS?

Modern ways of organizing CSS often fall back to modularization or CSS objects to construct abstract ideas.

The new idea of Inverted Triangle CSS is a layered way of splitting CSS properties based on their level of specificity and importance. It’s a less known method compared to SMACSS and OOCSS – although both can be combined with ITCSS.

Since ITCSS is mostly proprietary, no detailed rule book exists about its usage. Only a set of specific principles is at our disposal. The author speaks about them in the video below.

By default, ITCSS uses the same principles as OOCSS but with greater separation based on specificity. So if you’re already familiar with OOCSS, consider this a unique alternate CSS architecture to try.

Here are some of the greatest benefits of using ITCSS:

  • Page objects can be split into their own CSS/SCSS files for reusability. It’s simple to copy/paste and extend every object into other projects.
  • Depth of specificity is up to you.
  • There’s no set folder structure, and no required use of preprocessing tools.
  • You can merge concepts from other methodologies such as CSS modules to create your own hybrid workflow.
The ITCSS System

Let’s take a look at how the Inverted Triangle Model works using the following illustration from Lubos Kmetko’s post.

IMAGE: XFive.com

A directional flow from the flat top of the inverted triangle down to the tip at the bottom symbolizes an increase in specificity. This focus on less specificity makes it easier to reuse classes across a site multiple times.

Each subsection of the triangle may be considered a separate file or group of files, although you don’t need to write code in that way. It makes more sense for Sass/Less users because of the import feature. Just think of each subsection as a methodology for splitting up and organizing reusable CSS code.

Let’s take a quick look at each section of the inverted triangle moving from the top down to the tip.

  • Settings – Preprocessor variables and methods (no actual CSS output)
  • Tools – Mixins and functions (no actual CSS output)
  • Generic – CSS resets which might include Eric Meyer’s reset, Normalize.css, or your own batch of code
  • Elements – Single HTML element selectors without classes
  • Objects – Classes for page structure typically following the OOCSS methodology
  • Components – Aesthetic classes for styling any & all page elements (often combined with the structure of object classes)
  • Trumps – The most specific styles for overriding anything else in the triangle

Each layer of the inverted triangle can be adjusted to suit your needs. So if you don’t use a CSS preprocessor then you won’t need the Settings or Tools layers.

You should feel free to interpret each subsection as you see fit. For example, Jordan Koschei explains how he combined structure and aesthetics together into object classes, leaving very little in the Components section.

ITCSS has no hard-and-fast rules that you must follow. There is no ITCSS compliance checker, and nobody will scream at you for slightly altering this model.

Although ITCSS’ creator Harry Roberts was interested to keep his methods proprietary for internal use, you can find an open source example of ITCSS in this GitHub repo. It’s hosted by the CSS Wizardry account which is Harry Roberts’ personal website.

BEM + IT = BEMIT Naming

One of the most popular CSS naming schemes is BEM. This stands for Block-Element-Modifier and follows a very particular syntax.

Each element in BEM describes a naming convention for CSS classes:

  • Blocks are classes for individual elements which can be replicated and stand alone.
  • Elements are always part of a block
  • Modifiers always modify a block or element to slightly change its appearance (on/off, active/inactive, fixed, static, highlight/neutral).

BEMIT is the naming convention adopted by ITCSS, which borrows ideas from BEM while implementing new ideas with ITCSS.

BEM syntax dictates very specific rules. Below is a sample from the BEM website:

.form { } .form--theme-xmas { } .form--simple { } .form__input { } .form__submit { } .form__submit--disabled { }

Blocks have names with either no separation, or names separated by one dash or one underscore. Elements use two underscores and they describe internal elements consistent with that particular block. Modifiers work the same way but use two dashes for identification.

Harry delves deeper into BEMIT in this blog post. His description is very concise and it shows that the true nature of ITCSS is to play friendly with other CSS methodologies.

Harry defines namespaces for objects appearing as prefixes for each major class name. They break down as o- for objects, c- for components, and u- for utilities (like clearfix or text centering).

Here are some sample code representing typical BEMIT naming conventions.

<div class="o-media c-user c-user--premium"> <img src="" alt="" class="o-media__img c-user__photo c-avatar" /> <p class="o-media__body c-user__bio">...</p> </div>

He also recommends using the @ suffix for classes based on media styles. So the .o-media class might change to .o-media@lg for large screens, and .o-media@md for mid-sized screens.

Personally, I think the additional suffixes are too convoluted for basic web projects. I think most developers would rather use common media queries, and rewrite the classes at different breakpoints. But I can’t say either method is right or wrong, and anyone can individually decide if they want to use BEMIT or not.

I highly recommend reading this intro BEMIT article to learn more about why ITCSS extended BEM, and how you might want to name your CSS classes.

ITCSS can be summarized as an organizational method for writing reusable and scalable CSS. BEM is the preferred naming syntax, and BEMIT extends this to work with namespaces for more specific and recognizable code.

There’s a lot to learn, and if you’re new to CSS this will be a tough concept to break. But if you’re willing to learn, I guarantee you’ll be surprised with the sleek nature of ITCSS code.

Wrapping Up

Front-end developers are always looking to optimize their workflow. ITCSS is just another method that can contribute to an improved method of structuring complex websites.

The difficulty is learning how it works in real project work. If you have the temerity, and drive to learn then ITCSS may be something worth adding to your toolkit. Even though I haven’t found any official documentation, there are still a lot of resources online to learn about ITCSS.

(Cover photo via speakerdeck.com)

20 Free Multipurpose WordPress Themes

hongkiat.com - vr, 15/07/2016 - 15:01

When it comes to WordPress themes, the choices out there are a dime a dozen, we have WordPress starter themes suited for advanced developers. We also have beautiful premium WordPress themes that you can afford for an affordable price. And of course we have WordPress Themes that are easy to customize – perfect for those who do not like to touch code – and free.

If you are in the third category, you’ll love this compilation. Here are 20 multipurpose WordPress themes that are packed with modern features, elegance and yet are still free for download and use.

Free Multipurpose WordPress Themes

Aglee Lite – There are websites that beg for a simple, basic and clean theme. Aglee Lite fits the description to a T with its elegant responsive design. Admittedly, as a Lite version, there are features which have been stripped off, but these omissions are of less-used features.

Features include:

  • A fully responsive theme, cross-browser compatible, SEO friendly
  • bbPress-compatible and works with most WP plugins
  • Translation ready, and has right-to-left (RTL) writing support
  • Full width and boxed layout, featured slider, posts & layouts for services, features, projects, testimonial, and blog
  • Social media integration
  • Free customer support via chat, and email.

Demo | Download

Anaglyph Lite – A lite version of the a powerful Premium WordPress theme, Anaglyph Lite is an easy to use multi-purpose theme which works as a blogging platform or as a full-scale e-Commerce CMS. Anaglyph Lite uses a Bootstrap 3 grid which is 1170 pixels wide. Although it rides on bootstrap, it also has redux framework theme options. It is also available on Github.

Features include:

  • Responsive & Retina-ready
  • Compatibility with Contact Form 7 & WooCommerce
  • Visual Composer support
  • Ability to add your logo, display options, styling options, flex slider options, header options, menu options, fonts options, and social media link

Demo | Download

Arise – Describing itself as the best free responsive and business WordPress theme, Arise was designed to be used for professional looking websites. It has support for WooCommerce but can pass off as a a multipurpose theme due to plenty of its other features.

Features include:

  • Responsive & Retina-ready
  • Easily customizable with lots of theme options using Customizer
  • Contact us template, gallery template, widgets and sidebar
  • Translation to French
  • Supports popular WordPress plugins like Breadcrumb NavXT, WP-PageNavi, Contact Form 7, Jetpack by WordPress.com, Polylang, Newsletter, bbPress.

Demo | Download

Doctors – There are a few specialized WordPress Themes which are worth mentioning, but Doctors is a specialized theme for the medical profession. It is modern, and clean, and is great for hospitals, medical centres, small clinics, dentists, doctors, general practitioners, veterinarians, family medicine, health care, ambulance and EMT, health and beauty, spa centres, and derma care.

Features include:

  • Free and responsive
  • Flat and minimal design which loads fast and renders quickly.
  • RTL support
  • SEO Friendly
  • Complete implementation

Demo | Download

Freesia EmpireFreesia Empire is a multipurpose theme which supports theme customization with Customizer. It comes with proven cross-browser & WooCommerce compatibility as well as ready-templates for pages like Contact, Gallery, Corporate etc.

Features include:

  • Widgets and sidebar
  • SEO friendly
  • Integrated with social media
  • Customizable with support from major plugins including, Breadcrumb NavXT, WP-PageNavi, Contact Form 7, Jetpack by WordPress.com, Polylang, Newsletter & bbPress

Demo | Download

Gaga Lite – Another easy-to-setup theme is Gaga Lite. This is a multi-purpose responsive theme which allows the user to create and customize a WordPress blog or any website in a very short time. The theme has multiple layouts for header, team, services, skills, portfolio (photography or otherwise), client, testimonial, blog, footer, and others.

Features include:

  • Also has pricing tables, a call to action, and full screen slider.
  • Built-in customizer
  • Can change theme colors, typography (fonts used), layout components.
  • Responsive
  • Translation ready
  • Parallax
  • SEO friendly

Demo | Download

GossipGossip is a free multi-purpose WordPress theme. It has a flat, and simple design, is responsive and can be used as an ecommerce site with woocommerce support. Bootstrap, one of the most popular front-end framework for WordPress Themes, is also the basis for Gossip. Needless to say, it is a powerful theme option.

Features include:

  • Easy to change logo, banner, header text color, footer text, social networking links etc
  • Supports of major plugins
  • Flexibility from Bootstrap
  • Social media component is built into the theme

Demo | Download

NovelLite – For those who want a simple single-page design for a website, NovelLite for WordPress is a good and beautiful choice. Entrepreneurs, startups, small- and medium-enterprises would like this theme for its ability to showcase the company or business via featured images. Alternatively, it can be a good fit for a photography or an album site, or any website which uses or posts lots of images.

Features include:

  • Can change logos, intro texts, graphics and background via Options Panel.
  • Supports 6 widget-capable areas with featured images.
  • Customization is easy to do with a drag-and-drop section scrolling
  • Compatibility with WooCommerce

Demo | Download

Responsive TabsResponsive Tabs is well suited for websites with strong content, like magazines, photography, and news, as well as hard-pitching sales websites. It has a front page complete will all sorts of widgets, and is capable of infinite scroll for posts and comments. The elegance of Responsive Tabs allows the use of text for a low page weight look, although it still enables images to be placed in the various front page widget areas.

Features include:

  • Includes a set of custom exclusive Front Page widgets
  • Support for up to 16 tabbed content folders
  • The custom widgets can be configured for full-width or tiled layout for a newspaper look.
  • Allow the user their own choice of colors and fonts.

Demo | Download

OrenOren at first glance looks like a graphics heavy platform for creative endeavours. Fortunately, that is not entirely true. It is a simple, minimal theme for portfolios and pictures which are easy to use, manage, revise and edit. Most of the changes which are allowed under this theme are accessible under WordPress Customizer. Users can upload their own logos, change multiple options, all without touching code.

Demo | Download

EightStore Lite – If you want to quickly build an responsive ecommerce site, you should check out EightStore Lite. It is a WooCommerce site which can help you build an online store in no time. This WooCommerce rich theme includes the following features: custom background, custom header, featured images, left side bar, one column, responsive layout, right sidebar, theme options, threaded comments, three column capability, and two columns capable.

Demo | Download

Setmore SpaSalonSetmore SpaSalon was designed for small businesses such as for beauty salons and spas. It allows the creation of a stunning website for the small business owner and makes it fully and easily customizable. The professional look and feel, exclusive sections that describe the business, services and staff, allows for a booking page area of the business.

Demo | Download

ProtoPressProtoPress was designed utilizing all the most recent advancements and solely for the freshest renditions of WordPress. It is one clean WordPress Theme for news sites and magazines. It comes with two menus, one on the right just after the logo area and another on top. It utilizes WordPress Customizer fully to design, set up and alter the subject. Furthermore, it offers high quality animation throughout the subject.

Demo | Download

OmegaOmega is not only a responsive WordPress topic system, but also serves as hearty WordPress Parent Theme. It has a semantic establishment of the finest SEO practices due to its ability to back HTML5 and schema.org code. Its structure permits theme designers to construct child themes rapidly without the need for coding multi-faceted functionality. Furthermore, it handles all the style, markup, and scripts while the system handles the rationale.

Demo | Download

DW MinionDW Minion is an excellent WordPress theme which has a three segment designs which will resize as indicated by your program or gadget screen. DW Minion is suitable for individuals who need to publish and distribute their content in an attractive way. It is an awesome theme that enables you to blog at any place or whenever you need.

Demo | Download

TracksTracks is a robust, responsive, and attractive WordPress theme. It is ideal for personal online blogs, journals, and photography sites. It incorporates a logo uploader, online networking symbols, and remarks display controls, search bar, and premium designs. Its design is appropriate for both photographers and graphic designers due to its great looking central focus that incorporates both image and description.

Demo | Download

WeddingsWeddings is a responsive, stylish WordPress theme intended for wedding sites. It includes various pages, a gallery support, and a landing page slider. It utilizes some extraordinary pages to convey the tale of the bridegroom and the bride. It uses unique pages to develop online wedding invitations. Furthermore, it has an editable layout, style, and color scheme that can be utilized by wedding picture takers.

Demo | Download

CustomizrCustomizr is a flexible and easy-to-customize WordPress theme. It instantly gives an expert look to your online presence. It permits anyone to develop an appealing and mobile cordial site that is compatible with all gadgets and browsers. It works well with the principal WordPress modules such as bbPress, JetPack, and WooCommerce, just to mention a few. Furthermore, it’s a reliable and safe design choice for publishing content.

Demo | Download

AccelerateAccelerate is a versatile, simple WordPress theme designed to allow for ease of use. It employs a bit of craftsmanship that will give your site a superior feel and look. It has three menu areas: primary menu, footer menu, and header menu – fitting for all blog designs. It can be utilized for a business blog, portfolio, corporate, business service and any other types of sites.

Demo | Download

HarmonUX CoreHarmonUX Core is WordPress theme configured following the idea of present SEO and UX optimization. It has a theme customizer that allows you to alter a variety of aspects of your subject so as to adapt it to your requirements. Furthermore, it enables you to change colors, update the logo, adjust all settings, and see your preview in real-time prior to saving it.

Demo | Download

Editor’s note: This is written for Hongkiat.com by K Bharath who blogs at HDBloggers. Bharath is a design inspired freak and avid learner of web design.

20 Best Freebies for Aspiring UX Motion Designers

hongkiat.com - do, 14/07/2016 - 17:01

Interface designers are taking a greater interest in UX design with animated mockups that emulate user actions. These UX mockups rely on motion with animated effects to define how an interface should respond to user input.

Most UX designers learn to use software to create these animations. The two most popular choices are Adobe After Effects and Principle (OS X only). You can design interface mockups in a program like Photoshop, and move the UIs into these programs for animation.

If you’re interested to learn UX animation, then freebies will be a tremendous asset. You can study the work of others, and play with their designs to see how it all works.

Below you’ll find the best freebies for Principle and AE users just getting into UX motion design. They will surely help you understand how UX animation works, and how to construct your own.

1. Delete Action

Swiping is a very common action in mobile apps for various purposes. The default iOS swipe action is used to display alternate options for editing/deleting items, and that’s exactly what you get in this freebie created by Ramil Derogongun.

You can download the free AEP file for After Effects, and try it out yourself. The UI follows a very basic wireframe scheme with user input displayed as a blue dot. These types of user behaviors are the best to be shown through animation because it gives developers a chance to see how the interface should work.

2. Widget Swipe

Here’s another swipe animated mockup that focuses on cart items in a slideshow. Designed by Leon Wu, this free swipe animation comes with a PRD file which is made for Principle.

The animation is extremely simple, and demonstrates how items should move on the screen when pressure is applied. You also get a feel for the easing effect whenever the swipe action is released.

3. Dualshock UI

Here’s an incredibly dynamic UX animation effect shared by Alexander Boychenko. This mockup is based on the PlayStation Controller for a mobile app UI. It includes a Sketch and Principle file you can download for free.

This freebie shows how to create transitions that swipe between screens. But you also get to see how page elements animate around the screen in various directions.

4. Hamburger Menu Animation

Hamburger icons are still all the rage in mobile interfaces. This menu icon freebie demonstrates how to animate the three-bar icon into an "X" icon.

It’s a repeating animation, so the "X" also animates back into a hamburger menu icon. This is a great freebie to learn about vector manipulation for UI elements.

5. Snapster

This free mockup is for a mobile app called Snapster. It focuses on the welcome/onboarding screen where users can see demos of the app, and learn how it actually functions.

It’s a PRD file, and unfortunately this doesn’t play nice with After Effects, so only Principle users can benefit from this one.

6. Loading Spinners

Here’s an AEP After Effects freebie for mobile loading spinners. These types of animated GIFs became very popular when Ajax made its way into mainstream web development.

Now these mobile loaders are a dime a dozen, and they can even be heavily customized to fit certain interfaces. This freebie comes with an AEP file and a Sketch file to edit the vectors if you want to modify them.

7. Play/Pause Transition

Transition effects often seem very simple but actually require a good amount of work. This play/pause animation created by Alex Pronsky is a great example.

With this freebie you can examine how to animate various thin line icons into shapes and symbols. Once you learn the program, it becomes a lot easier to do this type of stuff, so it helps to have freebies at your disposal for research.

8. iPhone Mockup

While this freebie doesn’t directly contain animation, it’s meant to be used for production work on iPhone applications. It’s a free iPhone 5S AEP file for use in After Effects as an iPhone template.

Simply import your interface mockup, and create the animations in After Effects. Then you can plug it into this iPhone mockup to share with your team.

9. iPhone Template

This is another custom After Effects template with a more modern iPhone design. The freebie is available from this page at UX in Motion.

Everything in the template is super easy to customize. On the download page, you’ll also find a section labeled "Video Instructions" where you can learn how to animate the app.

10. Micro Animation

Even the smallest app animations can make a big impact on user experience. This freebie displays a "Like" micro animation whenever a user "likes" a post.

The heart icon has its own animation with the user’s profile photo added to the stack of likes. This freebie is only for Principle and you also have a .mov file to download if you wish.

11. Wallet App

Digital wallets are becoming much more popular, and this freebie makes it easier to design one. You get a Sketch file with all the raw vector elements, plus a free PRD file for Principle animation.

This freebie was designed by Sergey Bykov as a fun little side project. But it can be very educational if you take it apart, and work with the animation step-by-step.

12. iOS Switch

With Apple’s iOS 7, the world got a freshly designed switch for on/off labels. This led to many different effects including a free animation which mimics the native on/off switch.

In this file, you get a very simple animation effect with a basic easing. The switch moves over, and the background turns green, then reverts back when the switch is turned off.

13. Ritter App

Here’s another great freebie released by Sergey Bykov for what he calls the Ritter App. This includes a free Sketch file for the vector interface, along with a free PRD file for the Principle animation.

You’ll get a lot of different animations in this freebie, so I think it would be more useful to an intermediate-to-advanced designer. Beginners can learn a lot from it as well, but may have a steep learning curve.

14. Invite Friends

We all know and love the plus icon flyout menu of Google. Well, Jardson Almeida created a Friends Invite menu based on a simple Material Design concept.

Everything was designed in Sketch, and imported to Principle for animation. You get both files as freebies to download and toy around with.

15. Card Swipe

Here’s another general swiping freebie made only for Principle users. This is a card swipe interface created for general purpose slideshows or native app UIs.

I think this is the perfect freebie for a beginner who’s just getting into Principle. It’s not so complicated that you’ll feel lost, yet it’s not so simple that you’ll feel trivialized.

16. Chat on Map

Many designers still use Photoshop for interfaces, and it’s also true of this map chat freebie. You can download a PSD file for the interface, and a PRD file for the Principle animation.

It’s a surprisingly tame animation for the style, but it still looks great and functions exactly as you’d expect in a simple maps/geolocation app.

17. App Loading

Mobile apps often use loading screens to tell visitors that something’s happening in the backend. One of my favorite freebies in this collection is this loading animation created by Roman Wagner.

It loads individual elements one after another once the loading screen has finished. This animation is very smooth, and completely credible in the realm of mobile app design.

18. Onboarding Cards

User onboarding is a crucial step for every new mobile application. It’s always nice to include some animations at this stage, that’s why these onboarding card animations can be very helpful to app designers.

This was created by Austin Baird, and released for free to be used on any UI/UX project.

19. Principle Demos

As you delve further into Principle, you’ll learn a lot of advanced workflow techniques. One of the best freebies to go further is this one created for the Yalantis creative team.

This is a completely free resource for Principle users to download and play with. It covers a few tricks showing how to become a pro at Principle animation.

20. Dropdown Menus

Menu dropdowns often employ crazy animations to capture our attention. This After Effects freebie uses a dropdown stairs animation on the menu for individual elements to make them drop like stairs.

This may not be useful for everyone but it’s certainly a great way to learn about After Effects interface animation.

Final Words

All of these resources are completely free to download and toy with in your own projects. If you’re brand new to UX animation I guarantee you’ll learn a lot by studying these freebies. If you know any other great resources feel free to drop links in the comments.

20 Gadgets to Help You Fight Stress

hongkiat.com - do, 14/07/2016 - 15:01

Modern living can be busy, demanding and always switched on. While we are not able to control the external stress-inducing factors from our surroundings, we can better manage how we react to them.

Sometimes it is as simple as clearing your head and taking full, slow breaths while collecting yourself. Other times, you need to detach yourself from the issue by doing something easy, low-maintenance and repetitive like doodling or coloring. Then, there are stress relief gadgets like the 20 collected here.

Buckyballs

Bucky cubes consists many cubes which are super strong and can attract objects that are bigger many time in size. Bucky cubes are perfect building blocks that allow you to create amazing patterns and relieve stress along the go. [$24.99]

AquaFarm

Keeping fish in nice aquariums have been known for their ability to calm and relieve stress. What we don’t like is having to clean the tank once in a while. Well, this is a self-cleaning fish tank that also grows organic food. See the plant keeps the tank clean, and gets its nutrients from the fish waste. Perfect for work or home. Plants and fish not included. [$59.99]

Chalkboard Organizer

If too many things are bogging you down, you are going to implode from the stress. Relaxing doesn’t help remove all that backlog, but organizing yourself might. Here is a magnetic weekly planner that you can mount to a wall, allowing you to literally take a step back and look at your work. Stick important notes or write on it with chalk. [$24]

Giant Stress Ball

Do you remember those puny stress balls we can hold in one hand? This stretchy and squishy stress ball trumps that with its XXL size. It is filled with thousands of small gel balls that squish and dart around when squeezed. It’s a super tool to relief super-sized stress. Available in blue and pink. [€17]

Hypnocube

Mentally tired? Take a load off your brain with this hynocube. Made up of 64 RGB LEDs which can bedazzle with with more than 4000 color combinations, this hynocube also has transition effects that give you unique and stunning displays. [$100]

Jerk Balloon Stress Balls

Life is full of people you don’t like. If you can’t beat them and don’t want to join them, then this stress ball is pretty much the thing that can keep you out of trouble. Take out your anger on these colorful balloon stress balls with "nice" wordings like "Shut up", "Nobody cares", "Die already" and "I hate you". Maybe we should feel sorry for the people who designed this. [$10]

Money Wad Stress Toy

A stress toy that looks like a wad of $100 bills? What’s not to love? The product description ‘advises’ you to give this stress toy a go right before you ask your boss for a raise or right before you go seal a big business deal. A must have for high-performance jobs that need you to keep a check on your stress levels at all times. [$3.09]

Executive Sandbox

This is your personal piece of a beach on your desktop. The executive sandbox is perfect to stash sand and bring it to you to your place of work, to remind you of why you are doing all this – to get some time at the beach. The beautiful box is made with solid walnut and with a polished finish. [$30]

Solar System paperweight

Sometimes Science can be of help to reduce stress, something like this. In this beautiful paperweight is a small scale version of our solar system. It gives you a reminder that sometimes what you think is a big problem, isn’t actually that big. And that there is more out there than what happens at your desk or in your office. [$38]

Svet Light Bulb

In some cases, your stress might be caused by high exposure to artificial lighting. This may vary from one individual to another but if you think this is a cause to your stress build-up, check out Svet, a high-end technology light bulb which mimics natural light. It can finetune your current surroundings to keep you energized or relaxed, and it’s safe for your eyes.

QuietOn Noise Cancelling Earplugs

Stress can also come from being in an unfamiliar surrounding, or a noisy one, especially when you cannot grab enough sleep. Drown out the environment noise with these awesome earbuds. They feature sophisticated technology to silence disruptive noise. You can even wear it while sleeping. [from $160 on Indiegogo]

Desktop Foosball

Fancy a game off foosball, inside the office? Get a colleague to play and release stress together. This miniature foosball table measures 1.25" x 4" x 8" and is also available in a green-field design. [$55]

Desktop Punching Ball

Tired of being the punching bag in the office? Transfer some of that frustration to an actual punching ball like this stress buster. Put it on your desk and let the heavy spring bring the ball back after every punch, ready for more. A pump is included to keep the thing balanced. [~$16]

Desktop Rugby

Play rugby at your desk. The set comes with a rugby ball, the kicking tee and the poles you see in the shot below. This probably works only for rugby or football fans. Don’t stress out, play ball! [$7]

Shiatsu Heated Foot Massager

Using this foot massager you’ll be able to stimulate reflexology zones of the soles of your feet and get an excellent massage. It also has a heat feature to make your feet even more relaxed and receptive to massages Ideal for those who have to stand on their feet all day long. [$250]

Body Massage Mat

All that stress can cause stiffness in certain parts of your body, particularly the neck and shoulders. This massage mat can hep with that, as well as with the physical stress from sitting in front of the computer for long periods of time. Say bye bye to the pain. [$129.95]

Breo iSee360 Eye Massager

Have a headache or tired eyes but can’t find the time to catch a quick nap? Slip into a brief reprieve with this eye massager. It is held in place with a strap. There are three massaging modes and a built-in music player. Great for those who do not rest enough or get migraines caused by stress. [$119.99]

Sona Smart Bracelet

What sets Sona Smart bracelet apart from the smart bracelet crowd is its high-end heartrate monitoring technology. The bracelet app guides you through meditation exercises meant to even out your breathing, which ideally strengthen your body’s automatic response to stress, and gives you personalized advice about your habits. Available in Rose Gold, Gold and Gunmetal. [$149]

The Pip

The pip is an innovative gadget which helps you see your stress levels. It helps you realize when you have reached critical levels of stress and thus will be more readily receptive of the idea of slowing down or taking a break. The Pip is portable and you can take it with you wherever you go. It works with an app. [€179]

People I want to Punch Notebook

Heard of Death Note? No, this is doesn’t work like that magic book. But you get to write down the names of people who deserve to be in a book that is titled accurately. Just don’t leave it lying around where those jerks work. [$15]

Let us know of your favorite stress-busting gadgets, methods and techniques in the comments below.

E-Commerce Icons: 50 Free Payment Methods & Credit card Iconsets

hongkiat.com - wo, 13/07/2016 - 17:01

Icons are essential elements of any e-Commerce website, especially when it comes to payments. The icons allow the website to stay minimalistic, but informative and functional at the same time. These tiny stamps of payment and credit card images can also make your website look more trustworthy, especially when it is up to date with all the latest and alternate payment methods.

In this showcase we have put together 50 free e-Commerce icon sets for payment method & credit card to enhance your financial projects. Feel free to go to the primary source and download the icon set you like. Just make sure to check the usage license.

E-Commerce Icons

Format: AI, EPS, SVG, PDF [Download]

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Format: AI, EPS, SVG, Sketch, PSD, PNG [Download]

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Credit Card Icons

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Bonus: More e-Commerce Icons

Format: PNG, PSD, AI, EPS [Download]

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How to Reduce Cart Abandonment Rates on your e-Commerce Site

hongkiat.com - wo, 13/07/2016 - 15:01

Cart abandonment is a standard problem each e-commerce site encounters sooner or later. According to the Baymard Research Institute, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is as much as 68.63%, a value that’s calculated based on 33 different studies.

Paying attention to checkout UX, and designing for the specific needs of your target audience can decrease the number of customers who abandon their shopping at the last crucial moment, in midst of the checkout process.

In this post, we’ll have a look at the reasons why cart abandonment happens, what designers can do about it, and how some notable e-commerce websites deal with the problem.

Reasons for Cart Abandonment

It can be a frustrating task to figure out why your customers abandon your site during the checkout process. While e-commerce stores can specialize on many different niche markets and product types, there are some universal rules that can be applied for most online shopping environments.

Visual Website Optimizer‘s latest Cart Abandonment Report finds that – based on the responses of more than 1000 online customers between the age of 18-65 – there are 7 main reasons for cart abandonment (from the most to least frequent):

  1. Unexpected shipping cost
  2. Having to create a new user account
  3. Was conducting research to buy later
  4. Concerns about payment security
  5. Long and confusing checkout
  6. Couldn’t find a coupon code
  7. No express shipping available

While #3 can be deemed as a normal customer behaviour, the rest implies existing user experience problems.

IMAGE: VWO Cart Abandonment Report 2016 Understand Customer Psychology

To set up a successful checkout process with low cart abandonment rates, it’s important to understand how your audience "works", as in the psychology behind their behavior. Stanford University’s Persuasive Tech Lab recommends a specific behaviour model that makes it possible to design core processes – such as the checkout process – in a way that increases conversions.

The Fogg Behavior Model claims that user behavior depends on 3 key elements: motivation, ability, and trigger. When a desired behavior doesn’t happen, it’s because at least one of these elements is missing.

IMAGE: Behaviormodel.org

To solve these pain points of your customers, it is a good strategy to figure out which psychological element is lacking. For instance, when your users don’t understand how their shipping cost is calculated, they lose their motivation but you can gain that back by increasing their ability to get quick information about shipping costs.

Of course, in real life the analysis is way more complicated, but it’s always useful to approach user experience issues, such as cart abandonment, from a psychological aspect.

Reduce Interaction Cost

In order to keep your customers motivated, one of the most important things you need to do is to reduce the interaction cost, which is defined by the Nielsen Norman Group like so.

In terms of checkout UX, this means you need to simplify the checkout process as much as it’s possible, such as keeping fields to the minimum, letting customers pay easily, and making the checkout sequence simpler.

This way you can increase focus and reduce hassle, therefore giving the necessary ability to your customers to do their shopping.

For instance, take a look at Ebay‘s checkout process. They only ask for the necessary data, and pre-fill many fields based on the registration data. As such, customers need to give their personal data, such as their shipping address, only once, then in each shopping instance they just need to fill in the fields that may differ in each purchase: payment, postage, coupon code, and charity donation.

Give Visual Feedback

Customers may get lost in the checkout process easily, therefore giving them the right visual feedback at the right time can be a huge factor in checkout optimization. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer gives a comprehensive visual feedback at every part of the checkout process.

Amazon uses a separate UI for the checkout process, that is easily distinguishable from other parts of the site, and doesn’t contain distractions – not just the sidebar but the top navigation is also cleared off the screen.

Checkout steps are visualized on top of each checkout screen, which gives an easy-to-understand visual feedback to customers about their current stance in the checkout process.

Different kinds of information use different colors as well, and the Continue button appears at both the top and bottom of the screen, making it clear for customers what the next task is.

Give Customers Control

Making customers feel they have a say in their purchase process can increase their motivation for sure. However it’s not always easy to decide when it’s better to let them have a choice, and when it’s better to anticipate their needs.

When speaking about e-Commerce, one of the biggest customer deterrent is forcing them to register, "Having to create a new user account" has been the second most frequent reason for cart abandonment in the aforementioned report.

It’s such a crucial question that Nielsen Norman Group also dedicated a separate post to discussing the concept of guest checkout from the aspect of usability. They summarize their research in the following way:

Apple‘s online stores makes a good job in providing customers with a guest checkout, they display the two options, "Returning Customers" and "Guest Checkout" right next to each other, on the same level of visual hierarchy.

They also assure customers that they will still able to create an Apple ID at the end of the process if they choose the guest checkout.

Guest checkout is only one example of giving customers control in the form of clearly explained options, there can be many different things to consider based on the type of your store, such as shipping options, payment options, sending the product as a gift, coupons, etc.

Gain Customer Trust

Lack of customer trust is the reason for "concerns about security payment", one of the biggest customer pain points that can cause cart abandonment.

Baymard Institute’s survey results show that perceived security is more important for most customers than actual security, as most of them don’t understand technical terms, such as TLS/SSL encryption.

This is why trust badges and labels can work well in gaining customer trust. For instance, Ebay uses both a "Money back guarantee" label and a Norton Security badge, and Apple also assures users about security by using the "Secure Checkout" label on the top left of their Checkout Login screen – they calm customer worries before the checkout process begins (see both examples on above screenshots).

Debenhams, a popular British retailer uses a different design; they have integrated their trust label into a large orange Secure checkout button. This way they combine the ability and trigger elements of the aforementioned Fogg Behavior Model.

Other than trust badges and labels, it’s also crucial to highlight customer-focused benefits wherever it’s necessary, especially when you ask customers to make an extra effort. For instance, have a look at how Marks & Spencer recaps the advantages of registration from the point of view of the customer:

Summarizing the order before payment in an easy-to-understand manner, with all occurring costs detailed is also a feature without which customer trust can hardly be achieved, it’s not a coincidence that most big e-Commerce sites implement it.

3 Things You Don’t Know About JavaScript Arrays

hongkiat.com - di, 12/07/2016 - 15:01

Arrays are a widely-used feature of programming languages; they are special variables that can be used to store multiple values at the same time. However when it comes to JavaScript, as easy as it is to learn, there’s always more to explore.

In this post, we’ll have a look at three less well-known yet important features of JavaScript arrays you might not have known before.

1. Add Custom Properties to Arrays

If you were to scour the Internet looking for a thorough definition of JavaScript arrays, you will find that almost every source without fail will list array as what it really is, an object.

In fact, almost everything we deal with in JavaScript will turn out to be an object. There are two kinds of data types in JavaScript, primitives and objects, but primitives are always wrapped up inside objects.

Array, Function, Date, etc. are predefined JavaScript objects that have built-in methods, properties and their own standardized syntax.

JavaScript arrays can have three different types of properties:

  1. Indices of an array are also properties
  2. Built-in properties
  3. Custom properties you can add by yourself

The first two are more well-known, you may use them every day, but let’s see them quickly before jumping into how you can add your own custom property to an array.

Indices as Properties

JavaScript arrays use the square bracket syntax, such as var ary = ["orange","apple","lychee"];.

Indices of array elements are basically properties where the property names are always non-negative integers.

The index-element pair of an array is similar to the key-value pair of an object.

Indices are a unique feature of the Array object, and unlike its other built-in properties, they can be set with the brackets syntax alone, such as ary[3] = "peach";.

Built-in Properties

Arrays also have built-in properties, such as array.length. The length property carries an integer value that denotes the length of an array.

In general, built-in properties can be frequently found in predefined JavaScript objects like arrays. Along with the built-in methods, they help customize generic objects so that the objects are fit for different needs.

Built-in properties can be accessed with either the object.key or the object["key"] syntax. So you can also write ary["length"] to access the length of an array.

Create Custom Properties for the Array Object

Now, let’s talk about adding your own properties to arrays. Arrays are predefined objects that store different types of values at different indices.

There’s usually not much need to add custom properties to an array; this is one of the reasons beginners are usually not taught about this feature. In fact, if you want to treat an array like a normal object by adding key-value pairs to it, you might as well use a normal object for your purpose. But, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t special cases where you can make use of the fact that an array is an object, by adding one or more custom properties to it.

For example, you can add a custom property to an array that identifies the "kind" or the "class" of its elements, like you can see it in the example below.

var ary = ["orange","apple","lychee"]; ary.itemClass = "fruits"; console.log(ary + " are " + ary.itemClass); // "orange,apple,lychee are fruits"

Note that the custom property you add to an array is enumerable, which means it will be picked up by loops such as the for…in statement.

2. Loop through Array Elements

You probably say "I know that already", which is most likely true, you do already know how to go through array elements. But it is also true that saying "loop through array elements" is a bit abstract, as what we actually loop through are the indices of the array.

Since array indices are only made up of non-negative integers, we iterate an integer value typically starting from zero and ending at the full length of the array, then use that iterated value to access the array element at a given index.

However since ECMAScript6, there’s a way to directly loop through array values without bothering with indices, and that can be done by using the for…of loop.

In an array, the for...of loop will loop through the array elements in the order of indices, in other words it will take care of iterating over the indices and getting an existing array value at a given index. This loop is ideal if you just want to loop through all the array elements, and work with them.

var ary = ["orange","apple","lychee"]; for (let item of ary){ console.log(item); } // "orange", "apple", "lychee"

For comparison, with the regular for loop, we get the indices instead of the values as output.

var ary = ["orange","apple","lychee"]; for (var item = 0; item < ary.length; item++){ console.log(item); } // 0, 1, 2 3. The Number of Elements Is Not Its Length

Typically, when we speak about the length of an array, we think that it’s either the number of value an array holds, or the length we have given to the array manually. However in reality, the length of an array depends on the largest existing index inside of it.

Length is a very flexible property. Whether you’ve already fixed the length of an array beforehand or not, if you keep adding values to the array, its length keeps increasing accordingly.

var ary = []; ary.length = 3; console.log(ary.length); // 3 ary[5] = "abcd"; console.log(ary.length); // 6

In the example above, you can see that I gave the array only one value at index 5, and the length becomes 6. Now, if you think that by adding a value at index 5 , the array created the indices of 0 to 4 automatically, then your assumption is incorrect. There are really no existing indices from 0 to 4 in that array. You can check this using the in operator.

var ary = []; ary.length = 3; console.log(ary.length); // 3 ary[5] = "abcd"; console.log(ary.length); // 6 console.log(0 in ary); // false

The array ary is what we call a "sparse" array, an array where the indices aren’t created continuously, and have gaps. The opposite of a "sparse" array is the "dense" array where indices exist continuously in the array, and the number of elements are the same as the length.

The length property is also capable of truncating an array, making sure the highest index present in the array is always less than itself, as length is always numerically greater than the highest index by default.

In the example below, you can see how we lose the element at index 5 by decreasing the length of the ary array.

var ary = []; ary.length = 3; console.log(ary.length); // 3 ary[5] = "abcd"; console.log(ary.length); // 6 ary.length = 2; console.log(ary.length); // 2 console.log(ary[5]); // undefined Further Reading

Designing For Engagement: How To Improve User Engagement Metrics

hongkiat.com - ma, 11/07/2016 - 17:01

Every UI designer wants to engage their userbase. That’s the whole point of a website or mobile app: to provide something of value that gets visitors excited and interactive. But it’s almost impossible to gauge engagement unless you’re actually watching a user interact with your website. Thankfully, there are clues and metrics that can be used to infer user engagement.

This post will cover how these metrics work, and why they imply greater engagement from users. I’ll also share tips and strategies you can apply for testing improvements in these metrics over time.

Engagement Metrics

Analytics programs can help you track data from all users on your site. The difficulty is understanding these metrics, what causes them, and how to improve them.

Google looks at certain page metrics for engagement to see if users actually find what they’re looking for on your site. This is not only important for SEO, but also for creating a genuine user experience.

Many will argue that a page’s SERP click through rate and social shares are part of engagement tracking. This may be true, but they’re more about off-site concepts rather than on-page engagement.

The metrics you can improve by altering your design are the ones I’m focusing on. Here are some to keep in mind:

  • Time on page
  • Pages per visit
  • Bounce rate
  • Returning visitor percentage (how many repeat visitors?)
  • Returning visitor frequency (how often?)

All of these metrics indicate user engagement, meaning that if bounce rates are low and pages per visit hovers around 2+ then people are generally digging deeper into the site. However this example means very different engagement styles based on the type of the site.

Different User Strategies

Blogs engage their readers differently than YouTube channels, and both of them engage people differently than SaaS web apps. The first thing to remember is that each website has users that behave differently based on the content.

If you want to improve engagement for user signups, make it a simpler process. Try adding a signup form to the home page like Code Academy.

Alternatively, product creators might use free products to encourage potential customers with the quality of their freemium content. This technique is used on the home pages of Ctrl+Paint and Proko, both specializing in video tutorials for aspiring artists.

Engagement metrics for these sites might be the total number of monthly signups or purchases. But their site managers also might check the total number of page views on specific pages (like product preview pages or FAQ/info pages).

Think about what you want users to do before you attempt to improve the engagement process. This can give you a blueprint to follow when looking for greater interactivity.

Content Engagement on Blogs

The web was initially made as a medium for sharing and consuming content. This is still true today, and the amount of content online has never been greater. But how do you write content that encourages visitors to stay and consume? Here’s a great post talking about small strategies that do seem to pay off.

Shorter Paragraphs for Easier Content Consumption

One of the recommendations is to write shorter paragraphs so that readers feel like they’re accomplishing more with each sentence. Visitors must scroll to read more, and this offers a feeling of easier consumption compared to big blocks of text.

Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout blog uses this short paragraph method, and it works beautifully.

Related Stories for More Page Views

A method to increase page views is to offer related stories, popular stories, or recent stories in the sidebar & after each post.

This works the best with post thumbnails, as images capture attention quicker than words.

TechCrunch has mastered this technique with related posts in both sidebars, listed after the post content, and sometimes even within the post itself.

Brand Building for Better Visitor Retention

People who find content through Google usually bounce, because they were just looking for some information. Many people just browse blogs they randomly find in Google, but that doesn’t mean the content is bad.

So how do you increase visitor retention on a blog? The natural answer is to build a brand that people trust. Blogs eventually become authorities when they publish enough great content to keep people visiting every single day.

Two great examples of recent successes are Pinch of Yum and WP Beginner. These brands are incredibly popular in their respective niches, and the domains are seen as true authorities.

If you wish to reach this level of an authority blogger you need to just keep writing. A brand takes time to build, but great content and consistent publishing will expedite the process. When you notice a large amount of repeat visitors on your blog every month, you know you’re on the right track.

Customer Engagement on Product Websites

As mentioned in this blog post by Popcorn Metrics, one of the easiest metrics for product websites is the total number of active users. This is the total number of unique users who have logged into the site or performed an action (like updated their profile) in a set period of time.

Improving this metric can be tough without UX research and A/B testing. Here are some great engagement tips for product websites, such as in-app messages and feature announcements within the dashboard.

Ask Your Customers for Feedback

The best tip is to interact with users, and gauge their feedback along the way. What do they really want? Are there any current features that seem annoying, unnecessary, or overly convoluted? You can’t always reply these questions solely by studying metrics, so you may want to reach out to users for input.

Create a Cycle of Growth

Think about sites like Stack Overflow and Quora where the product isn’t only for members, but also for anonymous public visitors. A Quora user actually brings up this point in a related question stating that the purpose of a product will greatly define the nature of user engagement.

Products like Quora deal with a mixture of readers and members. The content is user-generated, so more engagement from both sides creates a cycle of growth.

Study the Sales Funnel

Products that rely on customers need to study the entire sales funnel. How many people are signing up for trials but not paying? Reach out to these customers and ask for personal feedback. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to share.

Pay Attention to Usability

Quality landing pages and signup funnels aren’t always enough though. Your actual product needs to be usable and serve a purpose, too.

For example, Feedly is a decent RSS reader in terms of features, but not in terms of user experience (in my opinion). I’ve always found the layout to be confusing and unintuitive. Adding a new feed is surprisingly difficult for a web app that’s dedicated to RSS feeds.

Conduct User Research

The only way to solve usability problems like Feedly’s would be to study user behaviors with custom feedback from each participant. User researches are very detailed, and don’t necessarily have to be expensive. However they will provide invaluable information for improving user engagement, and often pointing out the little details that you have never even considered.

Taking Steps Forward

Everything you need to know about engagement can be learned by studying your userbase. Think about what you want them to do, and how you want them to do it. From there, it becomes easier to alter page elements in order to change color, size, position, and web copy.

Metrics can help you see a part of the picture, and to gauge where you’re at right now. But moving forward you’ll want to understand how users behave and how you want them to behave. Customer feedback and A/B testing will provide the best results.

If you’re still not sure where to start, check out these posts for more ideas.

10 CSS Libraries for Better Image Hover Effects

hongkiat.com - ma, 11/07/2016 - 15:01

Letting users easily and clearly know which part of the webpage is clickable is an important part of UX design. The old but gold way of doing it was to change the text color and underline it. Nowadays, with CSS, there are plenty more ways to deliver hover effects, particularly to images.

Developers can now add transition effects or animation when a hover event is triggered. We are looking at directional slides, zooms at different speeds, fade-ins and fade-outs, hinge effects, spotlight reveals, wobbles, bounces and more.

In this compilation, there are more than 250 hover effects to inspire you. You can also pick up the code at the source.

Image Hover Effects (16 effects)

In this page you will find a nice collection of 16 hover images effects with captions. Grab the HTML and CSS code for each effect by hovering over the images, then clicking Show Code.

Image Caption Hover Animation (4 effects)

Here are 4 cool caption animations that run when one hovers over the image. The effects are built with pure CSS3 transitions and transform, and no JavaScript, to increase compability across browser.

iHover (35 effects)

iHover is a collection of hover effects powered by CSS3. There are 20 circle hover effects and 15 square hover effects. To use the effects, you will need to write some HTML markup and include the CSS files.

Image Hover (44 effects)

This library contains 44 effects made with pure CSS. Some of the effects include fades, pushes, slides, hinges, reveals, zooms, blurs, flips, folds and shutters, in multiple directions. There is an extended version of 216 effects that can be bought for €14.

Hover Effect Ideas (30 effects)

This image hover demo made by Codrop, gives you inspiration when making smooth transitions between images and its captions. There are total 30 effects on two sets with tutorials and the source code.

Hover CSS (108 effects)

Hover CSS lets you add hover effects to any element, such as a button, link or image. The effects include 2D transitions, background transitions, border, Shadow and Glow transitions, and more. The library is available in CSS, Sass, and LESS.

Animatism (100+ effects)

There are more than 100 image hover animations to buttons, overlays, details, captions, images and social media buttons. All effects are powered by CSS3.

Caption Hover Effect (7 effects)

There are 7 various effects in this collection. All the transitions look really nice and smooth. Go to the tutorial section to learn how to apply these effects on your project.

CSS Image Hover Effects (15 effects)

A collection of simple hover effects such as zoom, slide, rotate, gray scale, blur, opacity and other basic effects. You can use these effects by adding the CSS class before your figure tag.

Direction-aware 3D hover effect

This is a super cool hover effect that will detect your last mouse movement. The image captions will open from the one of four directions based on your last cursor position.

Hover Animation

Here is a border hover animation inspired from UNIQLO. Upon a hover event, the border of the image will become animated.

Tiles with Animated Hover

One for tile designs, this one features slow zoom, slides, pop-ins, dimmed overlay among others.

SVG clip-Path Hover Effect

A super awesome x-ray spotlight image hover effect powered by SVG clip-path and CSS transitions. Works fine on Chrome, Opera and Safari.

Intuitive UI & How it Can Help Improve UX

hongkiat.com - vr, 08/07/2016 - 17:01

If you see two user experience designers talking to each other, the topic of discussion would most probably be revolving around "intuitive user interface". For any design project these days, the foremost criteria is probably on how to make it intuitive. In fact, intuitive has become the most common adjective of the user interface.

Given this, it is reasonable to ask what it means for a UI to be intuitive. Although every other designer uses this term, it’s hard to find a specific and meaningful explanation that defines intuitive UI properly.

In this post I will try to shed some light on the hidden facets of intuitive user interface.

What is an Intuitive UI?

A user interface can be called intuitive when users understand its behavior and effect without the use of reason, experimentation, assistance, or special training.

For example, if something looks like a button, we know that if we click on it, it will prompt some action. Similarly, if there is a link, we know that clicking it will result in either opening another web page or take to a different site.

However, if we come across a UI, which is not only difficult to navigate, but also contains triggers that sound unfamiliar to us, then that UI is possibly non-intuitive.

Imagine that you are looking to buy a luxury car. You head to a showroom. The salesperson takes you to the car, and you take a step forward to get in it while admiring its beauty. Just as you try to open the door handle, you realize that there is no door handle and instead of admiring the car, now your primary focus is figuring out how to get into the car.

A non-intuitive design is similar to this scenario in that it obstructs the focus of the user with an unfamiliar situation, with no obvious solution. When it comes to website design, the design is intuitive as long as the user is able to complete the task without any interruption. On the other hand, unintuitive design shifts the focus of users to elements that are not related to their task.

Now that we have a little understanding of what intuitive really means, let us go through the different aspects of creating a familiar and intuitive UI.

Creating a Familiar and Intuitive UI

It is a known fact that humans always correlate things in the virtual world to those of the physical world. When it comes to a web interface, they always look for patterns in order to understand how certain things work.

This is something that UX designers could leverage upon — the human tendency to seek patterns.

1. Don’t Reinvent Patterns

Usually, we do not like changes to common patterns. For example, a Windows user may find it awkward, after moving to OS X, that the Minimize, Maximize and Close buttons are on the left side, of the window. The same is true vice versa.

We are accustomed to certain patterns, and moving away from these patterns is just not user-friendly.

2. Be Consistent

One cannot focus enough on the aspect of consistency when it comes to creating an intuitive design. While designing a website, there is a need to have consistency between pages.

There is an expectation of how things on a website works, and if those things change from one page to another, it doesn’t only create confusion, but also frustration.

Flipping between using a top navigation bar for one page while using a sidebar with navigation links on another page is an example of how to cause needless distractions and frustration that will ultimately drive your visitors away.

Even a small decision like lacking the discipline to be consistent with the position of navigation bars is crucial in making your site design intutive.

3. Ensure Minimal Steps are Required for a Task

Nobody wants to spend a whole minute to create an account. This is why you need to streamline the signup process and ensure minimal steps. Simplification and the reduction of redundant steps are key to retaining and converting visitors.

4. Use Tooltips & Integrated Help Messages

This is one of the most critical aspects of an intuitive UI. The fact remains that it is difficult to create a universal UI. While for some users your UI might be intuitive, there might be others who would disagree.

To counteract the latter, you can incorporate tooltips or integrated help messages that would guide users how the website works.

It is a seamless way of offering help while someone is actually using your website. This doesn’t only saves them time, but also makes the entire user experience more pleasant, less confusing and more effective.

5. Make Sure the Website Loads Quickly

The way the adage goes is that if you give the customer time to think, they will most probably not buy. The same holds true when it comes to website design. If a page takes "too long" to load, then there is a huge possibility that the user will won’t wait it out and will just move to another website.

This is why, when it comes to heavy web pages, it is always advised to display a part of the content or a loading bar to keep users on the page.

Conclusion

In the end, the fact remains that a website that is difficult to figure out or has several distractions will never become intuitive. Other than keeping an eye out for usual design issues like picking the right color scheme, or the perfect content structure, you also need to ensure that your design is intuitive.

User experience is often mistaken as visual appeal; in fact that’s only one part of it. The other significant factor is how well your product gets adopted by users. If you fail to effectively offer an intuitive UI that is easy to understand and can help complete intended tasks, then your visitors will probably move to a competing product that does.

Editor’s note: This post is written by Manish Bhalla for Hongkiat.com. Manish is the founder and CEO of FATbit Technologies, a web agency that builds cutting-edge ecommerce solutions for startups. Manish counsels businesses on technology, online marketing tactics and help startups formulate the right strategy for their individual needs.

How to be a Gmail Power User [Infographic]

hongkiat.com - vr, 08/07/2016 - 15:01

The Internet has been trying to kill email for forever and so far, it’s not doing a good job. Why else would there be so many guides and articles out there teaching you how to achieve Zero Inbox or how to be a Gmail power user?

This infographic adds to the pile with plenty of doable tips that can help you work faster (use the keyboard shortcuts), more productively (canned responses, auto-archives), and be more organized (use filters, folders and labels) on Gmail.

My favorite of the lot has got to be the Undo Send feature which has saved me too many times than I’d like to admit. It’s also interesting to know that you can set the cancellation period for up to 30 seconds after you hit Send. Check out the infographic for more tips and hidden Gmail secrets a power user should know.

(H/T: NeoMam Studios)

Know of more Gmail tips? Drop us some in the comments.

How to Recognize & Manage UX Debt

hongkiat.com - do, 07/07/2016 - 17:30

User experience debt inevitably happens over time. It’s the sum of overdue design and usability tasks derived from things like quick business decisions, design shortcuts, missed opportunities, time constraints, and other factors.

User experience debt is called a debt as it’s similar to real-life debt; we get something in the present, but only pay for it in the future. Until the debt is paid off, interest rates arise as a permanent cost.

User experience debt – along with its close cousin, technical debt – is a design antipattern that reduces the quality of a project. As user experience debt is a less widely discussed topic, besides it’s not always easy to recognize it, in this article we are taking a closer look at it.

Technical Debt vs. UX Debt

There are different types of debts in web development. The most well-known is technical debt that’s defined by CSS Tricks as "the sum of compromises we make when writing code during the development process".

Later in our workflow, we will need to deal with the consequences of these compromises, which means extra work in the future.

IMAGE: FeatureFlags.io

Technical debt is not about outright bugs, but about the fact that even with the best coding practices it’s impossible to fully future-proof a code, however efficient code optimization can certainly help.

Using antipatterns, coding shortcuts, ineffective architecture, or hard-to-manage dependencies can all add to technical debt, but the point is that even in an optimal, hypothetical ideal scenario it’s impossible to avoid it – as future incompatibilities, needs, and issues are unpredictable. That’s why refactoring is recommended after a while.

User experience debt is similar to technical debt in the sense that it:

  • can’t be avoided (althought it can be reduced)
  • is hard to recognize
  • can jeopardize the success of a project.

User experience debt is a wider category than usability debt, as it’s not solely about how usable a website or application is, but also about the way users experience your product – whether they find it entertaining, helpful rewarding, or whatever feeling you want to invoke in your target audience.

User experience encompasses usability, as a hard-to-use site won’t make users feel comfortable, and the same way, UX debt encompassess usability debt as well.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many online resources on usability debt and user experience debt, but here are some I’ve found useful, and helped me form my views on the topic:

  • Catriona Cornett, the director of Product Design at SalesforceIQ on how to effectively address usability debt (read here)
  • TryMyUI’s blog on how to avoid UX debt crisis (read here)
  • User Experience Professionals Association on their approach on UX debt with a recommendation on how to calculate its volume (read here)
  • Andrew Wright’s explanation and classification of UX debt on nForm Blog (read here)

Among all the possible illustrations I could find on UX debt, this is pretty much the best choice as I think it concisely shows its gist.

IMAGE: Andrew Wright’s slideshow: User Experience Debt (slide 12)

User experience debt can be defined as the difference between the experience quality of your current, and optimal product.

UX debt is more subjective than technical debt, as it’s you (or your client) who decides the quality you want to achieve. For instance, you can target the "functional" level for a minimum viable product, but you can also set high (but usually costly) standards by targeting the "pleasurable" level for a premium product – it all depends on your goals.

Technical debt is different in the sense that in many cases poorly managed code simply stops working. With UX debt, there are no such drastic changes, yet this is not only a perk but also a threat as it makes this kind of debt easier to neglect.

How to Recognize UX Debt

To manage UX debt, at first we need to recognize it. There are two kinds of UX debt, intentional and unintentional.

  1. Intentional UX debt is the result of our conscious decisions when we lack money, time, training, or other resources, or when we are forced to follow outside rules. Good ideas we lose in midst of rushed work also contributes to intentional UX debt.
  2. It’s easy to see that intentional UX debt can occur at any time over the lifecycle of a product.
  3. Unintentional UX debt arises from false assumptions we make about our users. More often than not we tend to think we know what our users want, like, or are able to use, and we build our whole site (app, product, etc.) on this presumed knowledge.
  4. A good amount of unintentional UX debt arises at the beginning of the product life cycle, and it naturally increases over time. Unintentional UX debt is much harder to catch, as we need to get rid of our need to justify our assumptions.

So how does UX debt looks like in real life? When users can’t or don’t want to use our site because of poor user experience. They simply don’t get engaged; we can’t catch their attention and interest.

The manifestation of UX debt differs from site to site, but if we have a decreasing conversion rate or an increasing bounce rate in most cases we can suspect that we have accumulated a nice amount of UX debt.

How to Manage UX Debt

There’s no universal recipe to manage UX debt effectively, as many things depends on subjective characteristics, however it’s worth taking a look at how others deal with the issue in order to find our own way.

For instance, Catriona Cornett, the Product Design Director of SalesforceIQ shows the 5 step process they use to manage usability debt at SalesforceIQ.

Let’s see it briefly so that we can assess how well we can apply it to our own workflow.

  1. Define a shared language for discussing usability issues.
  2. Find and gather usability issues.
  3. Organize and classify the usability issues.
  4. Prioritize usability improvements.
  5. Measure the impact of improvements.

User experience is a wider area than usability, but I think the workflow above can effectively applied to it.

Andrew Wright comes with a slightly different management workflow in his UX Debt presentation, and he recommends a 4 step process to deal with UX debt.

  1. Determine if and where UX debt exists.
  2. Compare severity to importance.
  3. Make time to fix it.
  4. Socialize the concept.

Dealing with intentional and unintentional UX debt also require different techniques. Shortcuts we intentionally make, and good ideas that get lost during the process can be managed by note taking, task management, or issue tracking apps.

Unintentional UX debt can be more or less overcome by regularly running user tests, asking for customer feedback, or using advanced techniques like A/B testing to see the impact of different designs.

Applying principles of iterative design can also be useful; we can build our UX debt management steps into every iteration to prevent its accumulation.

IMAGE: Wikipedia – Iterative and incremental development

UX debt management needs to fit into our broader workflow, with the characteristics of our team, our goals, and the nature of our product, but there are some universal things that’s recommended to follow in all cases.

  1. We need to communicate across our team why we need to deal with UX debt, what are our goals, and how we want to accomplish them.
  2. We need to find tools to track intentional UX debt.
  3. We need to find ways to test our product and get feedback from our users to catch unintentional UX debt.
  4. We need to organize and prioritize our issues.
  5. We need to measure the results our work, as we always need to adjust UX debt management to our changing needs.
Final Words

To create quality products we don’t only need to be innovative, but also to pay attention to things that are not so obvious at first sight, one of these is recognizing and effectively managing UX debt. It’s probably not the most interesting task but it’s crucial, as over time UX debt can be a serious threat to the success of our work.

If we slice UX debt into manageable chunks, and integrate the related tasks into our workflow, we don’t have to do too much at once, we can avoid unpleasant surprises, and maintain or improve the quality of a product in a comfortable way.

Writers: 10 Subreddits to Find Writing Tips You Need

hongkiat.com - do, 07/07/2016 - 16:41

As Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” I’m sure that everyone reading this has had plans of writing, be it a story of personal heroic exploits, amazing dreams or life experiences. However, most of us are held back by a lack of writing experience and a lack of a general idea of how writing actually works.

Apart from those two factors, there is a third essential one: lack of opportunity to practice. If you are looking for guidance and direction to help take your writing skills to the next level, look no further than Reddit. It is home to a wide range of communities and even more subscribers, each contributing, critiquing, and encouraging each other to be master of the word.

Here are 10 writing subreddits every writer should subscribe to.

1. /r/writing

The /r/writing subreddit is a general writing hub where the process of writing is discussed. It’s where suggestions, tips, and anything connected to writing are submitted by users and discussed by redditors. It’s the perfect place to get your "writing” gears running.

There is a weekly critique thread that is stickied at the top of the subreddit in case you want others to read your work. In short, /r/writing is a place for you to share tips, news articles, and anything related to writing for the community to read and enjoy.

2. /r/DestructiveReaders

This particular subreddit is dedicated to having your work deconstructed, mercilessly. The problem with most readers is that they hold back on giving critique – mostly because they think that they are not in a position to do so, since they aren’t writers themselves.

This makes it difficult for writers to develop themselves, since more often than not, they are being cushioned with fluffy commentary. This subreddit gives you an opportunity to have your work critiqued with all honesty and skepticism that a writer deserves.

3. /r/writingprompts

Writing Prompts is perhaps my most favorite writing subreddit. It is a breeding ground for creative prompts and short stories – and several times redditors found themselves writing full-length novels and getting published because of this community.

If you have a creative mind that you must set loose, go to this subreddit daily and try to write your own stories, or pitch your idea for a story for others to build up on. Who knows, a prompt here might just be the story you are looking for to write all along?

4. /r/CharacterDevelopment

Some of the most important parts of any literary piece are, without a doubt, the characters. A novelist can have a flawless writing style, but if the characters are flat and without any dimension, the piece will be about as memorable as a fly on a wall.

This subreddit focuses on developing your characters, providing a platform for exchanging critique and suggestions when it comes to building believable characters.

5. /r/WorldBuilding

This applies to fiction writers who prefer to build a world of their own instead of using real-life places, mostly for fantasy and science fiction writers. World building is an important aspect for these writers, it is the world in which their characters move around in.

IMAGE: Choobe

This subreddit is the perfect place to discuss such matters – from actual world building, which entails setting up rules of the newly conceived world down to the tiniest of details that may affect the entire plot of the story.

6. /r/WriterMotivation

Every writer, without an exception, will encounter a writer’s block, sooner or later. It is the most terrible thing that any writer can experience. Imagine overflowing with ideas, only to find that no matter what you write down, it just can’t seem to flow, or perhaps you simply don’t have the "juice” to keep on writing.

This subreddit is aimed towards motivating writers to keep on writing, find their mojo, and ultimately get through their writer’s block.

7. /r/Screenwriting

If you’re aspiring to be a writer for a television network or you simply want to write for a film, /r/Screenwriting is the place for you.

Here, you can discuss screenplays, techniques, share and find resources, and basically have a merry time talking about anything that is related to screenwriting.

8. /r/PlayWriting

Writing for the stage is an art itself. Playwrights can share their work for thoughts and critique, submit resources for others and interesting articles to discuss, and generally talk about anything that has to do with the magical world of stage plays.

9. /r/ReadMyScript

And after you’re done with the previous subreddits and have come up with your own script, feel free to post it here for honest discussion, suggestions, and critique. This is much like the /r/DestructiveReaders subreddit, only for scripts (but you can also cross-post your script on /r/DestructiveReaders for maximum exposure).

10. /r/SelfPublish

The dream of every writer is to have their work published. Back in the day, you had to rely on a publishing house for this to happen – and you had to brave many painful and bitter rejections before you would finally hold a masterpiece in your hands. Most writers didn’t even get that far.

However, nowadays, because of the internet, and mostly because of Amazon, independent writers can now unleash their stories out onto the world without the bureaucracy.

Bonus: Genre-Specific subreddits

Most writers have this specific niche that they feel most comfortable in – their true genre, so to speak. Agatha Christie had mystery and crime novels, Edgar Allan Poe was the father of horror, Christopher Moore has the knack for comedy – sooner or later every writer finds their own genre.

To help in developing with whichever genre you’re working on, there exist several subreddits that can cater to your needs.

As an additional tip, you can cross-post on other subreddits as long as you follow their rules. Generally, smaller subreddits like the ones mentioned above don’t get much attention unless you redirect readers to them. Cross posting is simply submitting the link of your original post to a different subreddit.

To End

Writing is the most beautiful way to lose yourself. It gives birth to new worlds, to haunting characters, and to stories so captivating you may lose sleep just thinking about it. Everyone who has a dream can write, all they need is a little fuel to keep the passion burning, support, practice, and the preserverance to rough it out through the publication process.

Now that you have a starting point for where to go for your writing needs, feel free to tell us in the comments about your own experiences and successes as a writer.

Resources & Tools for Digital Designers and Agencies

hongkiat.com - do, 07/07/2016 - 13:01

It’s always in the web designers’ and design agencies’ best interest to keep abreast of new technologies and the latest trends in web design. Resources for stock images, fonts, and other design elements are constantly being expanded and improved upon, design tools are continually upgraded, and new productivity-promoting tools appear on the market nearly every day.

Here is how you could benefit from selecting one or more of resources and tools in this list:

  • They can enhance your productivity.
  • They can help you improve your skills.
  • They free up more time for you by taking on tasks you might otherwise have to perform.
  • When resources or tools can be applied to improve the quality of your deliverables, you can charge more, or work less for the same amount of money.

Any or all of these reasons are worth giving some thought to as you go down this list. The products and design aids are affordable or free. Some are specialized, others are all-purpose. All are quality items, and all are among the best in their class. Opportunities await.

Ebooks

The UDX Book – If you are looking for a job in UX Design, or feel the need to give your career a boost, the UDX book is an invaluable source of practical information. You can read about real-world skills, not taught in the classroom, that you need to get ahead – including how to prepare a resume or a portfolio that prospective employers can’t resist.

Adaptive Web Design – Progressive enhancement could be summed up as the philosophy of giving users access to content without tying them down with technological restrictions – i.e., you are serving the user, not the browser. This book explains in detail how to incorporate this philosophy into your web design, and build a better website or app (from the user perspective) as a result.

Freebies

Design Freebies – If you’re in the market for UI design, Sketch or mockup tools, fonts or icons, Visual Hierarchy has assembled a collection of more than 200 of them, and they are all free. All of these design tools and elements are quality products, just waiting for someone to put them to good use. (visualhierarchy.co)

Line Icons – Here is a collection of 40 line icons on a black background. The icons are good for use in e-Commerce sites or mobile apps. The files are available in PSD format. For more e-Commerce icons, check out this post. (dribbble.com)

Prototyping Tools

Proto.io – If you’re looking for an all-in-one prototyping and project management tool, use Proto.io, to create rich, high-fidelity prototypes quickly and without coding. You can import your designs or work on the elements for iOS Android, and Windows that come with the package. The free trial lasts for 30 days.

PowerMockup – Power Mockup is an add-on that integrates a library containing more than 800 mockup and wireframe shapes and UI elements into PowerPoint’s window. With this tool, you can easily create and share web, mobile, and desktop screen prototypes right inside PowerPoint. Take it out for a spin duing the free trial before you decide.

Coding Services

PSDgator – The PSDgator development team will take your Photoshop, Sketch, or Illustrator design files, and convert them to HTML5/CSS3. They can also convert PSD to WordPress, or take an existing static website and convert it to WordPress as well as do reslicing and recoding of websites.

PSD2HTML – PSD2HTML is a top coding partner for design, digital and marketing agencies. It offers a full range of web dev services, including cutting-edge JS interaction, HTML/CSS markup and complete solutions for CMS & ecommerce platforms.

TheSiteSlinger – Ready to take the web dev world by storm? Then y’all need to pay TheSiteSlinger a visit. These results-driven experts will chop your incredible designs into prime code.

WordPress Themes

Be Theme – Be Theme is big on features, big in the size of its customer base, and biggest of all in terms of its selection of pre-built websites. With more than 210 of these pre-built websites to select from, you can quickly transform virtually any topic or theme for a website into reality. These professionally-designed layouts are super-modern in appearance and incorporate the latest design trends.

X Theme – Start with an idea for building the ultimate theme, add Cornerstone, the most innovative 100% front-end page builder ever, incorporate Stacks, an outstanding set of designs, send along 20 free, downloadable plugins with the finished package, and you get X Theme.

Commerce Themes

Merchandiser – Merchandiser is simple, fast, and reliable. That’s because it is a minimalist theme. This eCommerce WordPress theme is superfast in terms of performance, much more flexible than most themes, highly customizable, and user/developer-friendly. Merchandiser’s page builder is the popular Visual Composer, and you’ll love the way the Theme Customizer lets you preview your site’s appearance settings.

XStore – XStore is another eCommerce theme that features a minimalist approach. What users really love about this product is the special effects, including skins and hover. Everything is just right, including the ideas put forth for portfolio and blog options. Visit the website, view the demos, and see for yourself.

Web Builders

Webydo – Webydo is an all-in-one platform for website builders. It enables you to create responsive, pixel-perfect websites, it offers hosting capabilities, and project management capabilities as well. Webydo gives you total control of your projects from start to finish, and you can rely on their Customer Success team to help you along the way.

XPRS – XPRS is now IM Creator’s main product. It became number one by replacing the obsolescent drag and drop page builder with Polydoms building blocks. Check out the pre-built site templates, start out with a free license (students, artists, and non-profits), or subscribe to the white label package – unlimited licenses for your clients at $350/year.

WordPress Plugins

wpDataTables – You have ton of data to analyze, a deadline to meet, and the results need to be presented in easy to understand graphics or tables with key features highlighted. That’s what the wpDataTables WP plugin will do for you. More than 7000 companies have saved time and money by using this plugin to manage large volumes financial, statistical, and commercial data.

Jetpack – Jetpack is a free, open-source plugin that serves as a multipurpose WordPress site manager. With Jetpack, you can get visitor stats to help you get more traffic, protect your sites against unauthorized logins or intrusions, optimize and speed up image downloads, and more. It comes with a centralized dashboard (on WordPress.com) that will help you manage a large variety of tasks.

Stock Images

PhotoSpin – Photospin is an excellent resource for high-quality, royalty-free stock images. You can get high-resolution photos and graphics up to 17 inches long – the price depending on the size. There are plenty of vector files too. Everything is categorized for ease in searching.

If you subscribe now, you’ll save 20% on annual subscriptions. Just use the Promo Code BAW20.

Stockfresh – Stockfresh has served as a resource for stock photos, images, and vectors long enough to build a library of several million items. You can either download their affordable images one at a time, or save more by signing up for one of their flexible subscription plans. It costs you nothing to sign up and browse the Stockfresh inventory.

Collaboration and Task Management

InVision – InVision is an exceptional tool used by Fortune 500 companies (IBM, Apple, Walmart) and small digital design and development teams as well. InVision lets you prototype, refine, review, and test web and mobile products. Everything is kept under control, and no coding is necessary. Ask about a free Enterprise trial.

Azendoo – If your project workflow is subjected to fits and starts because of team communication shortcomings, give Azendoo a try. Azendoo offers the ideal solution for design and creative teams looking to better organize their tasks, track progress, share information, and collaborate in real time.

UX Tools

Loop11 – As a UX professional, you understand both the power and the necessity of testing your products with those who will be using them. Valuable insights can be collected, but only if you use a tool that gets the job done, and without placing an undue burden on you or the test participants. Loop11 is the tool you should check out.

Google Analytics Experiments – Google Analytics Experiments is a free analytics tool that can be used with prototypes or finished products to test their online performance. Three key features form the basis of this UX analysis tool: a list of experiments you can run, an experiment setup wizard, and a reporting function.

Other Tools

Fontea – Fontea is a plugin. It’s a part of Photoshop, and it contains 700 Google fonts for you to choose from. All you need to do is select a font and hit the download button and the font is ready for use.

Sketch Runner – Sketch Runner (Runner) is a productivity tool for Sketch users. All you have to do is download it and start using it. It has many other cool features which you can check out from their demo. Basically, expect an intuitive interface that allows you to bypass the Sketch menu and take shortcuts by issuing commands directly from your keyboard.

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