Cranking Marketing up to 11

Cranking Marketing up to 11

MarketingDesk.io

If you’re in the marketing business, you surely are familiar with what the marketing landscape looks like online: it’s packed with tools, tips, articles, software, and “pros” offering advice and products to help you learn more about, boost and help you and companies with all types of marketing. Sounds great, right?

Problem is, there are a lot of different types of marketing. Inbound, content, SEO, SEM, digital, automation, branding, product, email, affiliate, and over a hundred more at least.  And then subcategories of those. It gets to be messy fast, and marketers being marketers, many of them are in it to make a buck or two. Or a lot more. And the range of knowledge and experience and authenticity of those marketers that want to help you is all over the place. People with no marketing experience at all, who’ve gotten their “skills” from reading other people’s articles, to marketing professors who are into academic marketing, to legitimate digital marketers, to hobbyists, to…. You get the point. A lot of what you see online is about affiliate marketing, which personally I’d put near the bottom of the list of legitimacy, to more academic and B2B marketing/digital that incorporates a bundle of skills which includes SEO, content, SEM, display, and a pretty big marketing mix. That may or may not include developing one or more sales funnels that rely on inbound marketing using platforms like HubSpot and Salesforce. I’d place that somewhere near the top, alongside “academic” marketing, although academia is woefully outdated and out of touch with the realities of practical marketing in the modern world. It’s where much research and marketing studies are generated, alongside consulting firms that release complex case studies like McKinsey.

What you tend to learn in school is purely theoretical, with possibly a few case studies and maybe some real-world experience comprised of teamwork, working on an actual marketing problem that a business is willing to let students work on for free/experience. That’s typically found in graduate-level work at the better schools, and even then, it doesn’t teach you much of anything about real digital marketing whatsoever and what the skills and tools are you need to know to get a job doing it. You have to teach yourself or learn on the job, which is more and more unlikely that you’ll find an employer willing to pay to train you in 2017 when there are a lot of people that already are trained. My tenured professor wife knows nothing about business itself and wouldn’t know what she was even looking at if you showed her a Google Analytics or Infusionsoft dashboard, or anything about SEO at all, for example. It’s the same with law school; it doesn’t teach you lawyering or how to practice law, just the dry research and academic aspects. It’s also why we’re seeing people like Steve Wozniak and organizations/companies like Google funding and setting up schools and other training programs that simply leapfrog underperforming, overpriced colleges that aren’t preparing students for actual work whatsoever.

There’s also a wide range of quality when it comes to marketing programs in Universities as well. Top-tier schools, of course, will offer that in spades, but 80% of marketing degrees come from schools most people have never heard of, in accelerated 1-year programs that aren’t really worth much all.  And even if they do offer a respectable opportunity to learn marketing, that’s not to say the students will take advantage of it. I cite my own experience of teaching marketing management at a local University to 35 students as an adjunct professor. The top students were motivated and walked out with some good tools and knowledge. The bottom never bothered to even learn the definition of marketing, even though I told them repeatedly if they only learned one thing in that class, the definition of marketing should be it. And the last question on my final exam was: “What is the definition of marketing?” Guess what? People still got it totally wrong.

So the point is, it’s like wading through an ocean of misinformation and an overabundance of barely-relevant information and tools and advice, much of which contradicts or is poorly-communicated to the point of being utterly confusing. I know this because I’ve spent the past 6+ years online plowing through it all on almost a daily basis. I also have an MBA with a concentration in marketing strategy. I’ve also taught marketing management at the University level, as I mentioned And if that wasn’t enough immersion, I’ve been married to a marketing professor who I traveled alongside with through her Ph.D. program and all which that life entailed. Marketing has been the world I’ve inhabited for nearly a decade. And I’m presently on the hunt for a digital marketing job now myself and am preparing myself for such a role so when I get one, which hopefully is soon, I can hit the ground running in every way.

What I’ve decided to do is create a website that will be the headquarters for a digital marketing hub, with a Facebook page and a Facebook group to supplement it, and grow a community around it for relevant discussion and ideas. It’ll take time to grow organically which I realize — I don’t plan on advertising to grow it or worry about monetizing it or anything, and I’ve built some decent sized communities online before for various concerns like web development and design, so I know what it takes and what to expect. And that’s fine; what that strategy eventually yields is high-quality and manageable, which are among the most important criteria.

Plus I think it’ll not only be fun but will serve as a great resource for my new digital marketing job. If I get the one that I really want and think I have a great shot at, it’ll be perfect. And it’ll be something rewarding I can share and work on as a highly productive side project as well.

So if you’re into digital marketing or any type of “legitimate” marketing, come take a look, join and participate! And let me know what you think; criticism and ideas are the driving force behind its growth and quality standards. There will be tools, tips, strategy, discussion and marketing resources galore.

marketing desk

One of Those Rare Days

One of Those Rare Days

I don’t post much personal stuff on this blog, ironically, because there are better places to record those types of things, and I know no one cares about it anyway. “Ask not what you can do for the internet, but what the internet can do for you” is most people’s attitude, so I’d rather provide informational posts of value rather than useless personal blather. I’ve managed a personal blog since 2010, so I’ve learned what sells and what doesn’t. Which is a good lead-in to this post.

Today was one of those days that I’ll remember for a long time, for two reasons.

When I first moved to Louisville back in 2011/2012 – I can’t even remember off the top of my head anymore because I don’t generally spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror, I set out to find who the movers and shakers are in the tech and business scene here. Louisville isn’t a massive city, so it wasn’t too hard to pinpoint a few dozen names who were making things happen here. Who’s been having successful exits, who’s in the 40 under 40, etc… And one of those people kept popping up, all the time on my radar. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and even work with quite a few of those impressive people, but never that one guy who really impressed me among the top few. But I’ve followed his work this whole time, in a professional-stalker manner (I’m intentionally not mentioning his name because that doesn’t seem polite or appropriate).

And today I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to him for an hour or so about working with him, just sort of randomly. I’m in the job market now, looking for digital marketing work, and it just so happens he’s in the market for a digital marketer. He’s the Managing Director and was a co-founder of the business, which has been on the Inc. 5000 six times and has won many awards and is simply a great tech firm with some of the biggest brains in Louisville, with operations overseas that employ around 1,200. But that I was in that room telling him how I could help him was a strange experience, after following his body of impressive work for so long. Which brings me to the second reason.

I realized I know a lot more about digital marketing and marketing in general than I thought I did after that meeting. Sort of like reverse-imposter syndrome. While I thought the meeting might be a humbling experience(the man has been described to me as a “genius” by others), it proved the opposite and was more encouraging than intimidating. I’m sure that has a lot to do with his obvious humility and character. But it shouldn’t be such a surprise, since I have an MBA in marketing strategy, have taught marketing management, and for years now have lived and breathed the exact work they’re having pain points and problems with, if not decades when talking about writing compelling copy and following bleeding-edge tech. And it’s not exactly a crackerjack operation. So the same strange meeting also yielded the realization I’ve been selling myself pretty short. Which is a nice sensation-don’t get me wrong.

My little business operates at a $95/hour rate, which I haven’t had a problem getting, once qualified clients are located. That’s the hardest part, which is the same issue many businesses have, including the one I was exploring today. But it may be time to reevaluate some avenues I’ve been feeling out because I think my capabilities and skills are above where I’ve been punching. Which is a great epiphany to have, but makes your mind spin with new opportunities. It’s exciting to think about what the future may hold. We’ll see what doors today open.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

FOLLOW UP:

SO. Here’s what happened. This is my email to the Managing Director of the firm. 

Dear XXXXXX

For professional reasons I just wanted to document what transpired regarding my consulting engagement offer with GlowTouch Technologies, so hopefully, the situation doesn’t reoccur, to record it for my reference, and make sure the event doesn’t just vanish into the ether.

On October 17 you verbally extended an offer for a three-month engagement after interviewing and gathering information with you and Paul Kuamoo to identify areas for optimization via data collection, analysis, and marketing strategy implementation and techniques for your customer support division, including writing SEO optimized blog posts. I was to increase conversion rates for your sales department by identifying and executing marketing methods and was allowed three months before reviewing the measurable results and effects of my efforts. For my work, we agreed compensation would be $5000 per month, and I was to begin on October 23 at 1:00 pm to provide time for you to prepare your marketing team for my complementary insertion and due to the fact I had prior commitments before that date and time. After the three month engagement, we would review the outcome and situation to see if my continued efforts would be of utility in a full-time capacity or not.

On October 20, after I appropriated some necessary software and developed preliminary strategies to hit the ground running with as little friction as possible on October 23, and declined two other procured but scarce consulting offers to focus intently on the quarterly GlowTouch Technology engagement, we discussed the agreement once again. You informed me you had alerted GlowTouch Technology’s marketing team that I would be helping them in a consulting capacity, and their reaction to your presentation was revolt. Your solution was to immediately remove me from the verbally agreed upon engagement and put your staff on a type of notice, with the mention that my services may or may not be needed at some undefined point in the future.  

I’m still currently available and willing to assist GlowTouch Technologies with marketing issues. However, my experience causes me to suspect the misalignment within your marketing department may be a result of using an agile methodology which tends to separate duties over time within operational sectors, resulting in inefficiencies. There may also be managerial issues at play, but I have no way of pinpointing them without assigning myself to research and inspecting where the business problems may lie.  

In any case, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts and pursuits and hope you find the solutions and results you’re seeking. It was a pleasure to finally meet you, and I truly hope our paths cross again.

Best,

Michael

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Great Uses for Siri + Bonus Tip

11 Practical Uses for Siri

Siri has been a tool that has been out for a long time, relatively, and in the beginning was little more than a buggy gimmick. Which is why I never really bothered to use it and subsequently trained myself to ignore it. But during that time, Apple has improved it immensely, and there are a ton of very good practical use-cases that are worth training oneself to use, whether for productivity, ease of life, organization or even to save a life. I’ve been using apps to perform several of these tricks, but Siri can easily replace them with a better system, and she works with other apps, appliances, and your iPhone or Mac to become a powerful assistant, which most people have on them at all times.

So, in no particular order, here are

11 great and practical uses for Siri:

  • 1. Do basic math. Tips at restaurants, splitting tabs, double-checking receipts, and other quick mathematical questions can be asked, and immediately answered.

 

  • 2. Estimate your time of arrival. If you use Apple Maps, which I sometimes do but must admit I’m loyal to Google Maps, you can simply ask Siri “What is my ETA?” and she will tell you your approximate time. Pretty handy.

 

  • 3. Tell Siri to call you a nickname. This one is more for fun, but if you ask Siri a question, she’ll answer with your nickname. In my case that would be The Big Daddy. But be careful because this new name will show up in your contact card, so if you share your contact card with a job prospect, for example, they may start calling you by your cute nickname. Just a warning.

 

  • 4. Open your apps. If your apps are a mess or you’re lazy, you can just say to Siri “Siri, launch ___” and it will open automatically. Pretty handy, especially if you’re like me and have hundreds and hundreds of apps, even if you only use a fraction of them at any time. It stinks when you’re trying to find an app quickly and fumbling around with screens.

 

  • 5. Location-based reminders. This is a good one for when you’re on the move and can’t write down a note or reminder, like when you’re driving. For example, if you’re cruising along and suddenly remember that you left a load of wet clothes in the washer, you can tell Siri “Siri, remind me when I get home to change the laundry.” And via GPS and detecting your home network, she will pop up a message reminding you to do so. Or, if you need to get gas the next time you leave home or wherever, just say “Siri, when I leave here, remind me to get gas.” Just be sure to clear these reminders, or she will nag you about it every time.

 

  • 6. Set and delete Alarms. Many people use Siri to set an alarm, but you can also use her to delete all your alarms, which are automatically saved when you create one. They aren’t all active, of course. But in addition to telling Siri “Siri, set an alarm for 30 minutes from now,” you can also tell Siri “Siri, delete all my alarms,” which will erase the endless list of alarms you’ve accumulated for all those naps.

 

  • 7. Call Emergency Services. This is good for the infirmed, elderly, or klutzes who might find themselves trapped under something heavy. But here’s an important part you have to remember. This works with iPhone 6 and above which can activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri.” Tha’s one part. But if your phone is across the room and you’ve been immobilized, learn to say “Hey Siri, call 911 ON SPEAKER.” You have to say “On Speaker” or else you won’t be able to use it. Very important!

 

  • 8. Email, text, and voicemail. I have shied away from using voice-to-text because it hasn’t been successful for my accent in the past. But after living away from the South for a while and Apple improving voice recognition, this isn’t an issue any longer, so it’s something I intend to use more often. Typing long messages on a tiny keyboard is, frankly, a frustrating pain.  And texting and driving is a death wish. For texts, you can simply say “send a text message to Hank and tell him I want to eat lunch with him later.” and Siri will do it. Of course, you can also use Siri to place calls, place calls using the speakerphone, make emails and all that.

 

  • 9. Weather Updates. The weather here in Louisville isn’t as unpredictable as it is in other places I’ve lived in coastal areas, but this can still be helpful when needed. All you say is “Siri, what’s the weather going to be like this weekend?” or whenever you’re interested in, and she’ll tell you.

 

  • 10. Create and manage lists. I love lists, and use them a ton for my poor memory/crazy life. Organization is important to efficiency, which is important to saving time, and time=life. And often money as well. I use Notebook a ton, which is a great integrated app, which now works with Siri. Just say “Siri, add ___ to Notebook.” You have to be sure to say “To Notebook.”But for Apple’s Reminders app you’ll need to go into the Reminders App that Apple provides, and create a list, such a “To Do” or “Groceries.” Then you simply say “Siri, add “potatoes to my Groceries list” or “Siri, add pay my cable bill to my To-Do list.” And boom- she does it. There are a lot of creative ways to use this feature, in conjunction with lists eve. If you enter the address of your hardware store, you can use geofencing to tell Siri, ” Siri, when I go to the hardware store, remind me to buy a hammer,” and she’ll add it to your list. And you can keep adding items, and when you arrive at the hardware store next time, you’ll get a ping with your list of reminders.

 

  • 11. Home Automation. You can buy smart lightbulbs now that connect to your iPhone. Philips Hue and LIFX are the big dogs in this space, but the LIFX bulbs have been deemed brighter and have more features than the Philips Hue. And you don’t need a hub to use them like the Philips Hue; you only use your HomeKit app. And like everything on this list, you can control them using nothing more than Siri.Here are some other appliances you can use with Siri around the house:Thermostats: Nest: http://amzn.to/2ps9WTu ; Ecobee2: http://amzn.to/2q2YiAA ; Honeywell (least expensive) http://amzn.to/2qnBChrWall outlets: KooGeek (works with Homekit as well) http://amzn.to/2ps2Xdp. WeMo also will do this but you need to be using Amazon’s Alexa/Echo for that. These allow you to plug in any kind of appliance and then be able to control it remotely. Make sure to set the device into the “on” position so that it can be controlled via the smart plug.
  • BONUS TIP! A TON of people uses PayPal these days to transfer money. And you can use Siri to make it even easier. Simply say “Siri, send $20 to mom using PayPal,” and confirm your payment with Touch ID or log in to the app with username and password and voila! Mom is $20 richer.Plus much more can now be controlled by using nothing more than your voice with Siri. It’s very cool, easy and affordable if not free. Why wouldn’t you?awesome uses for siri 
How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Easily & Safely Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

How to Delete All Emails From Your Gmail Inbox

You may have a lot of unnecessary emails in your Gmail inbox, or have an old Gmail account that’s been idle for some time accruing emails that are now just old junk like I just had. I hate setting up new email accounts if I don’t need them because I already have more to my name than necessary. And I also hate to have a bunch of old junk taking up memory and creating visual clutter.

Repurposing the Gmail accounts seems like a better idea since generally, you already have them customized and set up to your liking and can remember the address and login better since you’ve already used them at some point, plus the available names you’d probably want to even use with a new Gmail address are long-taken. And even if you do set up a new Gmail account, Google hounds you to create a new Google+ persona, and on and on. Not worth it, usually.

Problem is, when you go to your inbox and check the box to highlight all the emails in your inbox for deletion, it only checks 50 of them at a time–the ones that are on the screen before you. That can be adjusted to a degree by going into settings and expanding that number, but if you have thousands and thousands like you probably do, that’s inefficient plus an unnecessary waste of time and energy.

So, what’s the solution? It’s surprisingly simple.

In the mail search bar above everything, type “before:_____” with the space representing the date you want to delete all your email prior to, in this format: YYYY/MM/DD. Most likely that would be today’s date. Then hit the Search icon/magnifying glass, or hit Enter.

select date

This will bring up all emails before that date. Click the box above all the selection boxes to select all:

select all mail

An almost unnoticeable message will appear above your inbox asking if you want to select all messages that meet that criteria. Yes, you do:

select all conversations

Then simply click the delete/trash can icon:

delete emails

Depending on how many emails you’re deleting, this may take a while. There will be a small “loading” message at the top indicating that it’s at work:

loading

You may need to refresh your page or inbox, but all your emails will now be deleted from your Gmail inbox. Clean and ready to use anew:

ta-daAnd that’s it!

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

Image Optimization Tips for the Web

 

Before Getting Started, Some Things to Know:

Why is image optimization SO important?

It’s very common for images to be the biggest weight for websites when they’re loading. They slow down page speed dramatically if not prepared for the browser correctly. Fortunately, it isn’t hard to optimize your images before uploading and posting them, but it does require some diligence and discipline. It’s important enough that it’s worth making a habit to practice each and every time, however.

Image optimization comes down to 2 criteria:

  1. Optimizing the # of bytes to encode each image pixel
  2. Optimizing the total # of pixels

The filesize is simply the total # of pixels multiplied by the # bytes used to encode each pixel. Therefore, posting images with no more pixels than needed to display the asset at its intended size in the browser is optimal. Don’t make the browser rescale them because it uses CPU resources and displays at a lower resolution.

SEO – Google and other search engine providers take page load speed into account in their ranking algorithms. If you want to be competitive and rank highly consistently, then making your site as light as possible must be a priority. That means, you guessed it, optimizing your images.

User experience – Your users expect your page to load as fast as possible. As in under a second. If it doesn’t, it causes them anxiety and they may very well leave your site. Obviously that’s something you don’t want. There have been studies showing how much revenue large retailers lose due to sites being fractionally slower, and while that may not be the nature of your site, it’s illustrative of the impatience users have these days.

The Basics of Imagery on the Web

There are several ways to display graphics online, for our concerns. And there are several formats we typically use these days. Some are more well-known and common, like .jpeg/.jpg and .pngs. But .gifs are making a comeback and the best way to really handle many graphics is none of these, but .svg, or scalable vector graphics, which is just code. As is CSS which, if you’re good enough, you can create animated graphics with as well pretty easily. But CSS3 can also be easily used to produce gradients and shadows that not only generate a lighter footprint, they’re easier to change on the fly if needed as well. Buttons and such UI elements are easy to make via CSS and much lighter, look better, perform better and can be edited more easily than using linked or embedded images. Web fonts are also a good choice to improve usability and performance.

Vector and Raster Images

Vector images are created with a series of points and lines, code really, that are ideal when dealing with geometric shapes because they’re zoom and resolution-independent, and look sharp and crisp at any size on any screen. They also can be a considerably smaller file size than a raster counterpart.

Raster images are created by encoding the values of each pixel within a grid, and at small or large sizes can look very choppy and jagged. Pixelated, in fact. They take the formats of jpeg, png, gif, tiff and jpeg-xr and WebP, which are newer.

Generally, vectors are great for logos, text, icons, etc… and raster is better for intricate images like a photo of a landscape, for example. Often, you’ll need to save several versions of raster images at different resolutions to deliver the best user experience.

Note: When we double the resolution of the physical screen the total number of pixels increases by a factor of four (double the # of horizontal pixels times double the # of vertical pixels) So a “2x” screen doesn’t just double, but quadruples the number of needed pixels.

Screen Resolution Total Pixels Uncompressed file size (4 bytes/pixel)
1x 100 x 100 = 10,000 40,000 bytes
2x 100 x 100 x 4 = 40,000 160,000 bytes
3x 100 x 100 x 9 = 90,000 360,000 bytes

Optimizing Vector Images

This is something that I, as your designer/developer will handle and worry about more than you but it’s good to be knowledgeable about what’s going on, and the usage of svg is becoming more widespread, so you’re more likely to cross its path than in the past. So I won’t go into major depth here, because it’s a large, complex subject, but you should at least be able to recognize it when you see it in the wild.

SVG is an XML-based image format. They should be minified to keep their size as small as possible, and they should be compressed with GZIP. All modern browsers support svg files, and they’re created using vector software like Adobe Illustrator, or you could code it up by hand if you wanted in a text editor. Illustrator is easier. There’s a lot of unnecessary metadata that’s created however, that can be cleaned up by running it through a tool like SVGO. There’s a plugin for Illustrator as well that I personally use.

Optimizing Raster Images

A raster image is a grid of pixels, and each pixel encodes color and transparency info in RGBA form (red, green, blue and alpha, which is transparency).

You’ll see “Lossless” and “Lossy” used a lot when trying to decide how to optimize raster images, but what do they mean? They look made up (and probably were, like “performant” and “canonicalization” and other words developers just dream up).

  • Lossless – describes an image that’s processed with a filter that compresses the pixel data.
  • Lossy – Processing an image with a filter that eliminates pixel data.

Any image can go through a Lossy compression process to reduce its file size. But there is no “optimal” configuration for all images. It depends on the contents of the unique image and your own criteria.

You’ll usually see lossy methods being applied with jpeg images in Photoshop, for example, when you’re saving the image for the web, and are given the option to customize the “quality” setting with a slider or set of numbers. The best way to determine this is really to just experiment and see what looks best with the largest file size savings, which in Photoshop may be seen in the bottom left corner of the screen.

This is as good a place as any to mention that when you upload an image in WordPress, it automatically is saved at 80% quality and at various sizes, which can be controlled in the admin panel. Out of the box, WordPress saves three other versions for you at a thumbnail size (150×150), Medium (300×300), and a large (1024×1024). But that can be changed to be anything and number you like of course, as can the 80% quality setting. Image file size is but one easy way to speed up your WordPress site. If you’re looking for other ways, here’s a very good pdf guide on ways to speed up your WP site:

Optimize WordPress Speed eBook

 Here’s another good article I came across that helps explain best image optimization practices for the web.

Selecting the Correct Image Format

OK, this is what I believe what most people are intereested in. In addition to Lossy and Lossless considerations, different image formats support different features like transparency and animation, increasingly important things for the web. So the “right format” depends on the desired visual results and functionality.

Format Transparency Animation Browser
GIF Yes Yes All
PNG Yes No All
JPEG No No All
JPEG-XR Yes Yes IE
WebP Yes Yes Chrome, Opera, Android

TIFFs are very heavy files and very high-res. Unless you’re doing some professional work or have a one-off, very good reason, you’re not going to need to use a .TIFF file.

GIFs are very trendy right now for short clips of animation on the web. However, they are limited to a maximum 256 colors, and a PNG-8 delivers better compression for small color palettes. Only use GIFs when animation is required. For longer animations, consider using HTML5

WordPress Websites

There are a few things I do to WordPress websites to help lighten the load as far as images are concerned. Images account for so much weight on websites, every little bit/byte counts. But the web is a visual medium, and the use of graphics is crucial for so many reasons. A better user experience, SEO reasons, shareability, and images just make websites so much more dynamic.

For SEO and accessibility reasons ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be mindful of your ALT tags! Bots can’t see images, so they rely on what you tell them the image is of to decide what to do with it. Make sure you complete them.

WordPress plugins that help optimize load time by compressing, lazy loading and other tricks are widely available. I’ve settled on using WPMU’s Smush.it Pro to compress images, which is a premium plugin, and I put it on clients’ sites as a courtesy because it’s so good and what it does is so important. I have had some issues with it from time to time, but the headaches that arise are worth the savings in file size, to me. (The plugin is high quality from some reputable WP developers; what it does is just complex and it gets snagged sometimes. I can live with it.)

I’m currently installing RICG Responsive Images, Media Library Thumbnail Enhancer, Gzip Ninja Speed Compression, Comment Images by my buddy Tom McFarlin, and for lazy loading, A3 Lazy Load for clients on an as-needed basis, which are all image-related plugins. Not necessarily for strict optimization, but valuable plugins nonetheless.

OPTIMIZATION TIPS

  • Use vector formats when available and appropriate. They’re future-friendly, light, easy to manipulate and change and look awesome on retina screens.
  • Minify & compress your assets. SVGs, PNGs, JPGs and GIFs can easily be shrunk significantly and doing so should become part of your workflow.
  • Don’t be afraid to dial down the quality settings on raster images; the quality remains high but you reduce the number of bytes significantly. Human eyes just aren’t all that great, unfortunately. Even though our screens are getting to be insanely high-res.
  • Remove unnecessary metadata like geo information, camera information, etc… there are tools to do this which I’ll provide in a resources addendum.
  • Serve scaled images, and automate as much as you can. There are lots of great optimization tools around, many for free, and many built right into editing software, waiting to be used.

A guide to choosing which format:

RESOURCES

Compressr.io – A web app I use all the time to smush images before uploading. It works great.

Other optimizers and smushers:

jpegtran

OptiPNG

PNGOUT

TinyPNG

TinyJPG

PNGGauntlet

JPEGmini

OptimizePNG.com

PunyPNG

Yahoo! Smush.it

And other stuff:

Bulk Resize Photos

Retinize it – Photoshop actions for slicing retina graphics

We love icon fonts

Iconic – I own these so if you ever want to use them let me know.

Animaticons – These are just too cool not to mention.

 

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Sketch and Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is considered the standard tool for creating vector artwork, and although it’s been challenged a number of times over the years, it remains on the top of the heap. That’s for many reasons, but being the simplest to use certainly isn’t one of them. It’s easier than Photoshop to learn, but both represent a considerable investment in time and learning to use with any efficiency and skill. Years, in many cases.

I’ve used Illustrator (actually all the Adobe tools in the Creative Cloud suite, and that’s a LOT) for years, and am a huge fan. I’m the owner of a Google Plus Adobe Illustrator community that has around 6400 members and counting, in fact. It’s easy for me to use because I’ve used it so much for so long, as is the case with anyone with anything. So when someone has that much invested, it’s sort of uncommon for people to jump ship to another program for no good reason.

The biggest complaint I hear about Illustrator, Photoshop and the rest of the Adobe products is their pricing model, which is a subscription. And it’s not exactly cheap. They used to sell individual licenses up to CS6 like most other products, but switched when they added a Cloud feature to sell storage alongside the tools. The other complaint would probably be, besides intermittent bugs, the time and effort it takes to learn if you’re just beginning. That’s where competing products try to get their feet in the door. I’ve lost count of all the products out there that you can use for vector design, but Google Web Designer is one, Macaw is another that was hugely-hyped and originally cost more than Sketch(it’s now free, incidentally), and there are others. I’ve played around with many/most all of them, and they’re all basically the same: a knockoff of Illustrator, but far less powerful, and with a learning curve to boot.

Sketch came along, and took the best of Illustrator and kept it, and took the worst, and reworked it. And they made it lighweight and fast. And also very easy to install plugins, and even develop them yourself if you’re so inclined. There are some great plugins available for free that increase productivity and workflows. That’s probably the biggest feature that makes Sketch so popular: it’s fast and easy. And comparatively cheap. Sketch is only available for Mac, however. As someone who uses both Windows and Macs, that strikes me as strange, because they’re missing out on a HUGE market. Of course, that’s their (Bohemian Coding- the developers) decision.

I’ve had Sketch installed for maybe 2 years and have never bothered to use it, so recently I decided to see how fast I could pick it up. A lot of designers use it, and it’s popularity has been sustained unlike other vector programs such as previously mentioned so it seemed worth some time and trouble. I’ve tinkered around with the interface a few times, and it’s laid out a lot like Illustrator, so I wasn’t expecting too much trouble. The wheel hasn’t been reinvented or anything. And, as expected, I didn’t have much. A large reason for that is also the excellent instructions and support Sketch has available, plus it’s pretty intuitive. If you contrast that with Adobe Illustrator, I’ve never been impressed with Adobe’s support for their products. (For a long time, they simply relied on Lynda.com for instruction, which is how I learned, along with trial and error.) That’s not because there’s a lack of them. To the contrary; there are too many. I don’t find it user-friendly, and I don’t think I’m alone because there are a gazillion third-party tutorials and help articles and videos for their products. An over-abundance which adds to the confusion since some are good and some are awful, and some are totally outdated, going back to CS2. And if you try to use the help menu IN Adobe’s applications, they divert you to your browser and take you out of the program completely to Adobe’s community forum which I’ve never found to be a pleasant UX at all. Users can go to the web themselves and do a search. And even then, you usually don’t find the specific help you need. Sketch has a menu on the app’s site that walks you through it, and that’s plenty, I found. Of course there are YouTube videos for any topic you may have as well, but I found them unnecessary. But there are some good ones.

I’ve picked Sketch up quickly, and that makes my workfkow speedy already. When I add the plugins that are meant to boost productivity for the activities I need them for, it’s really a great product. I especially like how lightweight and fast it is compared to Adobe’s products, which weigh in at about 1GB each. That adds up fast if You’re doing some serious creating with Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Animator, and so on. Premiere Pro is a monster. However Adobe has addressed that the best way they know how I suppose, byt being able to install an uninstall the apps via the Creative Cloud interface.

I still feel like Illustrator is a more robust application, for some reason, although I can’t justify that feeling. I can do anything with Sketch I can with AI, and in fact possibly more if you look at the new symbol libraries and export options and some other features I’m sure I haven’t stumbled upon yet. Sketch iterates pretty often, especially compared to past AI competitors. Sketch also has cloud storage built into their pricing, plus a free iOS app for mirroring your workspace. And the plugin ecosystem takes it to an entirely different level. Illustrator has plugins as well, but they aren’t maintained and you definitely won’t find them being consistently actively developed on GitHub, as with Sketch.

To that end, I’m posting here some of the better resources I’ve found for Sketch so far for my personal reference and anyone interested. They’re all free, and Sketch itself is a relative bargain at $99, with the option of a generous student/educator discount available (Adobe offers a discount as well-most software companies do). And it’s just a one-time fee, as opposed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, which is an ongoing cost that’s also tiered. However, for that price you get quite a bit more. But whether those extra features, such as cloud storage and a TON of programs for creating anything you can possibly imagine is dependant upon the user, of course. So, am I switching to Sketch for good? Time will have to tell.

So, without any further ado, here are some awesome Sketch resources:

WordPress and Medium

WordPress and Medium

If you blog you’re familiar with WordPress and most likely Medium. WordPress has been around for over 10 years and is a mature platform. Medium is younger and was launched by Ev Williams of Twitter and has become a publishing platform for both amateur and professional writers. There are, of course, other platforms like Wix, Weebly, Blogger, Drupal, Squarespace, and Joomla, which are different variations of basically the same thing.

I’ve been using WordPress for over 7 years and follow its development closely. I use it nearly exclusively for client’s websites and consider myself an expert at it. “WordPress” as an entity is sort of a mess, in my opinion, which I’ve written about in depth before. I’ve also talked about how, back when Medium was a different product, is WordPress’ main competitor, and not Drupal and Joomla as most people believed a few years ago. With the unveiling of WordPress’ new editor Gutenberg, it’s now evident that Matt Mullenweg et al. agree.

Ev Williams keeps changing the interface of Medium, and most users seem to applaud his efforts. That’s a play on words since the latest Medium update includes “claps” to show love and appreciation for writers’ work instead of thumbs-ups and downs. Basic gamification strategy.

Matt and WordPress do things a little differently. They make huge changes despite what the core users and customers think, and those are two very different and large groups of people. In my opinion, he’s not only risking having people defect but start up competing CMS/blogging platforms(WP can’t decide what it is). There’s a HUGE market out there which WordPress is trying to fully dominate, despite not ever putting forth a material plan for doing so. Iterate and pray seem to be the daily plan, and let other developers work on it for free as open-source software is the long-term plan. The profitable markets that have spun off in the form of plugin and theme shops, WordPress developers, and other niche businesses are what keep it propped up more than anything, and is what Medium and other competitors are missing. Medium has a payout scheme for popular writers, but that’s a small market comparatively. WordPress’ model isn’t unlike Apple’s app store, which is responsible for Apple’s astounding rise to financial and market dominance.

I have a feeling someone soon will create a platform that will take a large chunk of market share from Medium and WordPress. Ghost had the potential and still does to an extent, but it needs to become much more user-friendly and be marketed much more aggressively. I’m a big fan of Ghost and hope John and Hannah, the founders, succeed. Bootstrap could even come to be in the CMS/blogging space one day, although I don’t think that’s what Mark Otto and the Bootstrap community are aiming for, or is it the core competency. Bootstrap as a development framework is awesome and has a really big, and growing, development base. It’s the biggest repo on Github and has been for a long time. I’ve even published a lengthy book on developing with it, back when it was “Twitter Bootstrap.”

WordPress enjoys being a first-mover, although they weren’t really the “first” to offer an open-source blogging platform. They just emerged as the most popular back in the days of blogging infancy and took some bloggers and newbie developers along for the ride to make them pretty wealthy along the way. That’s given WordPress/Automattic/Matt a lot of wiggle-room and revenue to make mistakes without getting crushed, which is a good thing considering the noticeable lack of leadership at the top. There may be a vision but it isn’t made very clear to anyone, and the heaviest users of WP like to know what the roadmap contains beyond the next update or two because they come fast. And WP needs to be backward-compatible and is legacy software.

Gutenberg is all the WordPress world can talk about, which as I predicted years ago, is a response to Medium. Here’s a white paper by Human Made, and Medium is mentioned on the second page of the thing. It’s sort of a disingenuine piece. The author asks why did they decide to build Gutenberg, and then never answers the question. He calls it an “experiment” which of course it isn’t. It’s a strategy. You don’t experiment with something as crucial as the essence of the core product at this scale and Matt knows it. Ironically, the “blocks” direction which is the core concept of the new editor, keeps making me think of the Thesis theme, which very well may have just been ahead of its; time. The story of Thesis is rich. Not as Rich as Matt, unfortunately for Chris Pearson.

Human_Made_Gutenberg_Paper
How Is This Legal?

How Is This Legal?

Louisville, KY has scant options when it comes to ISPs, just as with most places in America. How this came to be is a long story (telecoms & politicians) but there’s just not much competition, so the service is government-grade.

Luckily, Google Fiber is coming to town soon, which Louisville is abuzz about. For good reason, mentioned above. They’ll be up and running fairly soon, and I’ve even sent them a resume to do some marketing for them. I’m switching first thing.

But in the meantime, I’m relegated to Spectrum. They used to Be Comcast. Who was Charter before that. Who was originally AOL/Time Warner. Who now owns Spectrum. I think another acquisition was in there somewhere as well. That was all just over the past 5 years or so I’ve been in Louisville.

Ever since Spectrum became the name on my bills I’ve had service problems with a few agonizing stories I won’t go into. This isn’t about how they stink like everyone else enjoys complaining about.

I had service set up last week and had a tech come out to install it, despite it already being installed. And Spectrum was nice enough to waive that fee. But while the tech was setting up the modem and checking signals, which weren’t there, we were able to talk. A lot.

Spectrum sells a few internet packages. One offers 60Mps d/l speed. Too slow for my needs, but he promises the 60MBps crowd gets every last meg. They also sell what they seem to think is a premium service which is 300MBps. Every time I mention I have that service, the rep or tech acts like I’m Elon Musk and no one has that installed.

But the tech told me they only guarantee up to 100MBps and are unable to even deliver much over that, on the best of days. Nowhere NEAR 300. Can’t even do it. So really what they’re selling is 100MBps at 300MBps rates. Is that legal? I don’t see how, but apparently so. I have a Mercedes I want to sell, but it’s really a Toyota. And I can legally hold you to pay Mercedes prices. Totally legit?

How to Speed up Your Computer

How to Speed up Your Computer

I’ve learned the hard way prevention is a better approach than allowing problems to appear on their own terms and reacting to them all under a code red emergency, usually. Always at the worst time, it seems. And I’ve managed a lot of websites and machines for others and tried a lot of the products out there over the years including the newer ones. Here’s what I use to keep my PC running fast and clean. I have a MacBook Pro too and use similar tools, like Clean My Mac instead of Clean my PC, but the same company: MacPaw. For Linux folks, you’re largely on your own here. You can run a bunch of line commands to clean things up, but that presumes you have access to your terminal. Like the Websites that tell you if your computer isn’t working, go to their website and download something, when you can’t even boot into safe mode. Uh…OK. How, exactly?

So, just not letting your machines get crazy is the best idea. And despite your best efforts to keep the bugs at bay, you will one day wish you had done this because something always goes wrong at some point. We’re dealing with some complicated machines. It takes a small amount of very well-spent time to initially set these tools up properly (an important step people like to skip) and run them, but after that, you can set them to run automatically if you have the paid versions, which I recommend in some cases. Also, if you’re buying any of these, you can usually find discounts online or by giving them your email.

These products’ free versions are fine and work well. But after using the free versions for a long time and being happy with them, I decided out of a feeling of charity more than anything, to upgrade. And for these products, I learned it’s, in fact, worth it. Not always the case with software. And you still have to be mindful of what exactly is being installed. Don’t just hit download and click your way through the install wizard screens without seeing what’s checked and reading the fine print on each screen. That’s how you get problems these tools are meant to fix in the first place and 15 browser toolbars.

Norton is infamous for their kidnapping of computers with their totally invasive and permanent software. Some people like it, for some reason. I hate it. I won’t even link to them here. But I’m not talking about that level of invasion. Updates, even, that will put another program on your computer that looks like part of what you came for. But it isn’t. And it uses memory, has to be maintained, is prone to viruses, and you never wanted it in the first place, period. I don’t understand why software companies are so deliberately sneaky with their installs – even Adobe does it. If it’s a good product then market it standing on its own feet, not slip it in under the guise of something else to boost installation numbers. It makes your users feel used and the company appear deceptive.

One of the products I recommend, CleanMyPC, has an uninstall feature I use a lot and over other uninstall tools like the ones with CCleaner. It is fast, which matters to me, and does a thorough job. Better than CCleaner and definitely better than the Windows uninstaller. It’s cleaned all sorts of software traces left behind by that, adding up to some significant memory. And speaking of which, going into the Clean my PC uninstall panel and seeing what you can get rid of is a great idea. You may be surprised what you can delete, adding up to many GB of memory. Click on the memory header to sort by largest programs to least, and start firing away. You can (usually) always install them again later if needed. Create a backup beforehand if you’re worried about what you’re doing. Don’t delete something if you don’t know what it is. Google it if you aren’t sure. Adobe products, for example, are huge. (They also use tons of RAM.) Same with browser extensions: clean them up judiciously. Only have what you need and you know works well. Extension conflicts cause all sorts of buggy behavior that’ll slow you down when browsing.

  • CleanmyPC – This came out after the CleanmyMac product was such a hit, and was why I bought this. And it’s great. Maybe there’s a better one out there, but if so I haven’t ever seen it. Their Gemini II duplicate file finder works really well too, but is for Mac only.
  • CCleaner – Been around for a long time, and works great. The free version is fine, but the paid version is great too. If you have to pay for one cleaning service, make it CleanMyPC though. Note: these don’t clean deep filth off your hard drives. If you have some seriously persistent muck on your computer, you need to kick it up a notch. These tools are for prevention and light/medium cleaning and maintenance. Use them regularly and you won’t have big problems. And if you’re going to sites you know you shouldn’t, use a Tor browser at least.
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus – You really need to have an anti-virus program, and not some free job. Getting a virus will blow up your system and ruin your life. There was a time when you could skate without an anti-virus program. Not anymore.
  • Malwarebytes – Because it pays to get a second opinion. Use the free edition.
  • Webroot Toolkit – Most people probably don’t know what a Webroot is, but it’s something that should be looked after. This tool has some features that are worth the paid version as well, I found. I don’t use this one the most, but it is indispensable when needed.
  • Driver Booster 4 – Drivers are something else people don’t update on their own all that often I don’t think. But it’s not only important, it’s just a better experience when all your drivers are updated and working properly. And though Windows and OS’s can update them, I’ve found they don’t do a very good job. They’ll miss some, or skip updates, or something that disappoints. And there’s no reason to EVER pay for a driver updater. They basically just glom onto the updating system just mentioned and make it work properly. You can upgrade for some luxury features, but they aren’t necessary. The basic program does the job well. Just a little more clicking on the user’s part.
  • SUPER Anti-Spyware, free edition – I don’t use this much, but I would recommend it when you hit some bigger problems the others can’t fix. I know PC repair shops use it as well. That doesn’t mean it’s the killer app; just a good thing to run every now and then, especially if you think you may be infected.
  • Defraggler – Defragmenting is a drag. This takes care of it for you and does a great job. By the same folks at CCleaner. And free. Your OS, of course, has a basic defragger, but this is better. I’ll just leave it at that. It’s also faster.
  • IOBit Advanced System Care – This is a feature-rich piece of maintenance software and the free version is great. It’ll clean up your RAM and optimize your disks with one click. But has plenty of other options you can mess around with to help you keep your PC running fast. Some more helpful than others depending on your needs.

I realize there’s overlap in what these things check for. Hardly a worry. CleanmyPC will often find things CCleaner doesn’t and not the other way around I’ve found. They have different databases to compare against. Also I don’t use the browser protection because it slows me down and I don’t go to sites that worry me. Plus there are already other protections in place for that for me. If for some reason I have to visit some illicit site for a client, I’ll take appropriate measures, beginning with not using my own computer or at least an old fortified laptop on another IP address.

If you’re really having speed issues, you may want to evaluate your hard drive situation. If it’s getting full, it’s time to add memory, and the best way to do that is with an SSD. It isn’t the easiest which would be just plugging an external hard drive, into a USB port or the cheapest, which would be installing another HDD or an external drive. But SSDs are better for a few very good reasons. Speed, reliability, and silence being three of them. No moving parts so they don’t break down. But they have a more average limited life span which is the main downer. Even though the price is more, it isn’t significantly so.

Installing an SSD is if you have a normal computer and not one with an Apple logo on it, which are considerably more difficult and expensive to work on in every way imaginable. Put your OS on the new SSD and boot from that and use the Hard Drives for storage and you’re off to the races. SSDs are quiet, small and fast. and pretty inexpensive on NewEgg or Crucial Memory. Definitely shop around since for the most part memory is a commodity these days.

Adding more RAM would be my step 3 after cleaning and an SSD. It’s often more of a pain and sort of pricey. For example, my computer has 6 slots with 2 GB of RAM in each, expandable up to 24GB, with 4GB memory cards. So I can’t just buy 3 cards=12 more GB of RAM, in other words, to max it out. I have to buy the full 24, which is for diversity reasons I can understand, but the dividends still aren’t as great as with ROM. That would cost me about $180 at today’s prices for 24GB of RAM for my Dell XPS 9100 desktop. I’ve seriously gotten a computer to go from taking 42 minutes to boot to 42 seconds, fully loaded with programs, files and apps, with these tips.

Put your OS on the SSD and boot from that and use the Hard Drives for storage. They’re quiet, small and fast. and pretty inexpensive on NewEgg or Crucial Memory. Adding more RAM would be my step 3 after cleaning and an SSD. It’s often more of a pain and sort of pricey. For example, my computer has 6 slots with 2 GB of RAM in each, expandable up to 24GB. So I can’t just buy 12 more GB of RAM, in other words, to max it out. I have to buy the full 24, which is for reasons I can understand, but the dividends aren’t as great as with ROM. If you aren’t sure how to install an SSD and aren’t technical, just take it to a good shop. They shouldn’t charge much and it’s worth it to not have to deal with mishaps, which always happen. Moving all your files and OS around is the trickiest part I’ve found. Macrium is another good piece of software to be aware of if you do such things.

A lot of people don’t seem to know what they’re looking at when they look at computer specs. There are only a few things to be concerned with, on a basic level. The Ghz is what you’d pay attention to for speed capability. The higher the number, the faster the processor can go. It seems relatively marginal to me though and definitely pay more attention to RAM and ROM and how they’re configured(SSD vs HDD) and just try to get the fastest processor you can afford. If it isn’t the fastest, don’t worry; even if it’s a 500000GhZ Cray Supercomputer, it’ll still be limited by it’s RAM and ROM and a few other factors. But don’t buy the base model, for Pete’s sake. Of anything. Rarely worth it and you’ll be yearning for the better model the whole time. Unless it’s just a bunch of features that’ll never be used, but that should go without saying.

Run these things at least once a week or so and your computer should speed up dramatically.