Our Tools of the Trade

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2016 has been a really exciting year with many industrious people creating great new tools for web designers and digital marketers. We thought we would pay tribute to some of our favourites. These are the tools we simply couldn’t live without and use every day to create content, design websites and manage digital marketing projects.

Do you have any suggestions which we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section. 

Photoshop – The Dominant Force of the Graphic Design World

Most people have heard of Photoshop but very few people know of its full capabilities.

Many assume that photoshop is simply to edit and touch-up existing photos to get them magazine ready. Designers use Photoshop for so much more than editing existing images. Designers will use Photoshop to create banners, flyers, websites, logos, graphics and more. The powerful tools allow designers to edit, retouch and create graphics and photos using a huge set of powerful tools. Photoshop allows designers to go from a blank page to a completed, stunning website design, logo or graphic design.

We find ourselves using the same tools in Photoshop over, and over, and over again. The crop function and re-size is the best way to adjust image sizes for the web. Images that are too big will slow down a website and could mean the webmaster runs the risk or a search ranking penalty. We use Photoshop to resize images to make sure they are optimised for the web. Designers also use tools like the Magnetic Wand tool which automatically detects ‘edges’ in an image, like the edge of a person in front of a tree, to allow them to isolate an element within an image and extract or edit it. We can even crop out backgrounds or other elements using the Magnetic Wand tool coupled with the Background Remover tool.Photoshop is indispensable for our agency, but there is a new kid on the block that is giving it a run for its money.

Canva – The Exciting Graphic Design Newcomer

Canva is an Australian, cloud-based graphic design platform built to make it easier for designers and design novices to create engaging graphic content from scratch or using premade templates. The platform is super simple (the opposite of Photoshop) and designers can use the pre-made templates to make awesome engaging content that gets shared.

Canva is part of a new wave of platforms coming to the market that requires no tech or design skills to create awesome content. Canva offers great templates for anyone with any skillset to design great social media content, headers, logos, presentations, invitations, infographics, ads and much, much more. If you want to create your own content, you can use their pre-sized templates to make sure the content is perfectly sized for your application.

The platform is drag and drop and allows us to quickly and easily create great content on the fly for our clients. Some clients are now doing it themselves, and we can set up their Canva to have all their branding information ready for their creations. You can set up your brand colours, typography and logo to make sure your look is consistent and on-brand.

While it may not be the complete package that Photoshop is, Canva is great for us to quickly and easily create engaging content and deploy that content quickly. We wouldn’t be without Canva at Brothers Digital.

Google Fonts – For Typography

Google Fonts is an interactive directory of free web fonts. It showcases over 800 different fonts in many different styles and makes it easy for web designers to implement them for a project.

Google Fonts aim to make the web more beautiful, fast and open through great typography. Their goal is to make it easy for designers and clients to find open-source designer web fonts that are beautiful and suit their brand, beyond the standard Verdana, Tahoma and Ariel. By using Google Web Fonts, we can integrate almost any style of font into almost project depending on the needs of the client.

Google Fonts also helps the web run faster by using a clever cross-site caching system. This means a web user only needs to load a font once, on any site, and from that point, they will use that cached font for any website which uses that Google font.

Typography is a design tool that should not be underestimated. Just like colours, typography can invoke feelings in the reader. There is such a thing as angry, happy and silly fonts and they can prompt different emotions in the site’s user. There is a common saying in design that ‘fonts speak louder than words.’ Google Fonts helps ensure your fonts are saying exactly what you want them to say.

WordPress – For Content Management

Where would we be without WordPress, more importantly, where would the internet be without WordPress.

WordPress was the world’s most popular blogging software for many years running and decided in 2003 to branch out into the new world of online content management. As of April 2016, WordPress accounts for 26.4% of the top 10 million websites. Recent numbers estimate some 60 million websites use WordPress to manage, edit and create content.

WordPress allows webmasters almost infinite control over their websites. With WordPress, you can add, amend and remove whole website themes, manage content, create blog articles and change the look and feel of your website. WordPress uses a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor like Microsoft Word and Gmail to allow users with zero coding knowledge to completely manage their website’s content.

WordPress runs almost 90% of the websites we build. Because of the huge amount of plugins and extensions available, with many quality ones available for free, we can customise WordPress to suit almost any application. There are almost 29,000 plugins available for WordPress so there is definitely a way to make WordPress suit your application.

For eCommerce, WordPress can be partnered with WooCommerce, our eCommerce software of choice for small businesses with simple requirements for their online store.

WooCommerce – For Online Shopping

WooCommerce is an open source eCommerce plugin for WordPress. It is designed for all types of online merchants, from small to large eCommerce operations, to businesses wanting an online quote and invoicing system. WooCommerce was launched in 2011 and quickly became popular because of its simplicity and power.

WooCommerce powers a huge number of eCommerce websites. In August 2014, WooCommerce powered 17.7% of all eCommerce website on the net, that equals approximately 381,187 websites.

We use WooCommerce for the vast majority of our eCommerce stores because of its simplicity for store owners. The interface makes it simple for our clients to manage their customers, orders, payments, warehousing and products. WooCommerce has tonnes of powerful marketing features like email marketing, promo codes and gift vouchers.

We love WooCommerce because we can customise it to suit almost any need. We’ve built WooCommerce websites for electricians, advertising agencies and florists, as well as pure-play online retailers. Because there are so many plugins available, WooCommerce is often significantly cheaper to develop than the other major eCommerce software options.

eWay – For Taking Payments

eWay is an Australian business providing a payment processing system for over 25,000 Australian businesses. We like eWay because they made it super simple to setup, but love eWay because of how easy it is to manage.

We’ve set up many eCommerce websites with eWay. The main driving factor for these was to have an onsite payment processing facility and their lower fees than many of their competitors. eWay does as it says, it processes payments, and allows customers to be able to process an entire transaction without being directed away from the website they are buying from.

We use eWay for more than just eCommerce payments. We’ve used it to set up a bill payment system for tradespeople to give their customer an easy way to pay using credit and we also use it to process our own transactions. Recently, we set up a site with a recurring payment system and eWay to pay for subscriptions.

Envato Marketplace – For Templates, Plugins, and Resources

Envato is a business that operates a series of digital marketplaces selling resources for marketers and web designers. It’s largest marketplace ThemeForest, is the 204th most visited website in the world according to Alexa.

Envato sells digital assets. If we need a plugin, a pre-built theme or design element, we will first check the Envato websites; ThemeForest, GraphicRiver, VideoHive, AudioJungle, CodeCanyon, PhotoDune, or 3dOcean.

The assets sold by Envato are produced by a community of some 6 million designers, coders and marketers. Using pre-built assets helps keep costs down and the calibre of the themes, designs and plugins on Envato mean the quality of the project is never jeopardised.

Trello – For Collaboration and Project Management

Trello is our software of choice to make sure all our people are on the same page. Trello is a web-based project management platform which uses the kanban paradigm for managing projects, a system originally popularised by Toyota.

Trello allows us to track projects, tasks and cards. A card is assigned to a task and tasks are assigned to a project. All the collaborators for a project, including the client, have access to the project board and can add, edit, or mark as complete tasks and cards to make sure we are all working as best we can.

Google Analytics – For Tracking and Success Monitoring

If you have a website and are not familiar with Google Analytics, we need to have a stern chat. Everyone should know about the World’s most popular Web Analytics service.

Google Analytics allows marketers and website owners to track user data for up to 100 monitored websites. A website must be verified by the user so someone can’t just track any website. The information presented by Google Analytics gives insights for the casual user, and more in-depth data further if required.

Google Analytics can help website owners identify poorly performing pages with techniques such as funnel visualisation, where visitors came from (referrers), how long they stayed and their geographical position. It also provides more advanced features, including custom visitor segmentation.

SEMRush – For SEO Project Tracking

SEMRush is a premium service for monitoring internet marketing campaigns and we wouldn’t be able to function without it. SEMRush gives us detailed reports about things like keyword rankings, site audits, social media influence and can also provide us with SEO ideas to help boost a website’s ranking.

SEMRush is focused more towards organic campaigns but can be used equally for paid search campaigns. We can assess a website’s visibility and determine where the best opportunities lay for improving a website’s organic search performance. SEMRush also gives us powerful website audits that can help identify problems with content, coding or uptime.

The thing we love most about SEMRush is that it tells us more than just how well a website ranks. Most SEO tools give you your site’s rank for a keyword but SEMRush uses Google data to determine the visibility of the site across all keywords rather than just the number down the list it is.

MaxCDN – For Website Sppppeeeeedddddd

MaxCDN is a content delivery network (CDN) provider that aims to speed up the internet. Content and some website files like CSS and Javascript are kept in multiple locations around the world to reduce server load-speed and latency.

MaxCDN is perfect for websites with a large amount of content or complex design features. Speeding up sites, especially eCommerce websites can lead to a significant increase in conversion rates and a reduction in the website’s bounce rate. We use a CDN on Brothers Digital and it has decreased our website load time by 4 seconds. That is an eternity in internet terms.

ColorHexa – For Colour Research

ColorHexa is an encyclopaedia for colour. It is a fantastic online tool for finding and researching colours, colour associations and palettes. The great thing about ColorHexa is that it gives you all the information you might want about the colour to apply to your design and can help you create an entire design palette using complementary, analogous, triadic and monochromatic colours.

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