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May

20

2017

7 Design Podcasts That'll Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Published by in category Daily, Design | Comments are closed

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If you’ve worked among designers, or are one yourself, there’s something that’s quickly observed: Designers, it seems, are often working with their headphones on.

Much of the time, that’s the result of creative work presenting an opportunity to plug in, and tune out distractions. Whether it helps you focus, or you’re signaling to colleagues that you don’t want to be bothered, or you just think headphones look cool, many creative professionals appreciate a little welcomed background noise.

But what’s everyone listening to? And could that auditory activity serve as a learning opportunity? 

While listening to music on the job has been known to improve workplace performance, podcasts serve as a great way for graphic designers — and many other creative professionals — to both learn something new and get inspired as they work. But there are dozens of podcasts out there, even on design alone. So to save you some of the trouble of previewing every show, we’ve collected a list of 10 interesting design podcasts that you can start listening to, right now.

7 of the Best Podcasts for Graphic Designers

1) Design Matters With Debbie Millman

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

Design Matters with Debbie Millman

Design Matters was, according to Debbie Millman’s website, the “world’s first podcast” dedicated to design. With 281 episodes available at the time of writing this post, there’s no shortage of inspiring insights to be extracted from interviews with artists from every point on the creative spectrum.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You usually listen to music while you’re working, but want to learn something from a podcast instead.
  • You’re curious about the intersection of design and business.

2) 99% Invisible

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

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Serving as a “weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture,” podcast episodes from 99% Invisible don’t just scratch the surface of a dozen topics in a limited time frame. Instead, host Roman Mars uses each installation as an opportunity to dive head-first into one, single unconventional topic. Think: how the design of electricity grids, nature documentaries, and shipping containers work.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You’re the type of person who observes design everywhere — whether it’s during your commute or while staring at a row of condiments.
  • You want to know how every corner of design — including architecture and engineering — influence marketing aesthetics.

3) Adventures in Design

iTunes | libsyn | SoundCloud

adventures in design

“As a department of one,” writes one iTunes reviewer of Adventures in Design, “it’s nice to hear others ‘talk shop’ and not censor themselves.” 

Launched in 2013, this podcast is one that focuses on the projects, process, and inspirational ramblings of its talented guests — from logo design, to the struggles of finding and working with clients. And those guests? Well, they’ve ranged from hockey legends to the global creative director of an international athletic apparel brand.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You feel a bit isolated in your design work, and want insights from the folks who get you.
  • You work with a variety of clients and want to gain inspiration from a number of industries.

4) The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

iTunes

Deeply Graphic DesignCast

When it comes to tangible, immediately applicable advice, the Deeply Graphic DesignCast is a go-to resource for many creative professionals. Hosted by no less than six design professionals, the content comes with a diverse set of insights from each one’s real-world experience. That makes sense — it’s the product of web consulting agency The Deep End. Judging from the broad array of episode topics, from working with subcontractors to designing a mood board, these folks have seen it all … and, they’re sharing it with the world.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You could stand to hear some expertise from client-facing designers.
  • You work in an agency setting and want to hear from like-minded professionals.

5) The Accidental Creative

iTunes | Stitcher

Accidental Creative

One of the coolest things about The Accidental Creative is that it seems to have come about, well, by accident. It’s the product of (and hosted by) author Todd Henry — an expert, speaker, and consultant on design, architecture, and other applications of creative work in business. That content is reflected in the podcast itself, with subject matter ranging from productivity tips for creative professionals, to explaining your job to non-designers.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You could use the help of a creative consultant, but can’t quite pay for it yet.
  • You’re great at what you do, but want to know how to be even better.

6) Typeradio

iTunes | Stitcher

Accidental Creative

It’s a bit difficult to classify exactly what Typeradio is about, and it seems that its creators wish to keep it that way. The website and production alike are no-frills, and it appears to be recorded all over the place: Moscow, Amsterdam, and via Skype, to name a few.

Each episode seems to explore different issues experienced by designers around the world, from their work, to their interpersonal relationships at work and at home — the September 2016 episode with graphic and type designer Ilya Ruderman explores everything between his “first typographic memory,” and how his relationship with his wife influences both his routine and creative work.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You want to listen to something that, as one iTunes reviewer put it, “Often revelatory. Sometimes silly and irreverent. Usually very entertaining.”
  • You’re looking for audible design content that’s profoundly unpretentious.

7) Design Story

iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

Design Story

Does it sometimes seem like B2C designers get to have all the fun? It doesn’t have to be that way — we know that B2B design can be just as exciting, and that both categories can draw ideas from each other.

That’s why we love Design Story — the monthly podcast from Fulcrum, an agency that helps clients align their business policies and creative goals. And that’s what each episode does, by exploring and sharing the stories behind the point where design intersects with things that we traditionally see as leaving little room for creativity: science and leadership, for example.

Listen to this podcast if:

  • You’re a creative designer who also wants to succeed in business — or a manager who wants to better leverage and embrace creativity.
  • You love both data and good stories, and love it when they’re combined.

Tune In

Got those headphones ready? Good. It’s time to start listening.

One common thread that surfaces among all of these podcasts is their shared relatability. Each one explores the trials and tribulations of people with heavy exposure to design at work and at home, and who want to share how those experiences can benefit other creative professionals.

So, what do you say? Let’s turn up the volume.

What are your favorite design podcasts? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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May

6

2017

20 of the Best Website Homepage Design Examples

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Design | Comments are closed

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression — that’s why your homepage is undoubtedly one of the most important web pages on your website.

For any given company, the homepage is its virtual front door. If a new visitor doesn’t like what they see, their knee-jerk reaction is to hit the “back” button.

That’s right — unfortunately, a lot of people still judge a book by its cover.

What makes a website’s homepage design brilliant instead of blah? Well, it takes more than looks alone — it also has to work well. That’s why the most brilliant homepages on this list don’t just score high in beauty, but also in brains.New Call-to-action

But before we dive into the examples, let’s dissect some of the best practices of homepage design.

What Makes a Good Website Homepage Design

All of the homepage designs shown here utilize a combination of the following elements. Not every page is perfect, but the best homepage designs get many of these right:

1) The design clearly answers “Who I am,” “What I do,” and/or “What can you (the visitor) do here.”

If you’re a well-known brand or company (i.e., Coca-Cola) you may be able to get away with not having to describe who you are and what you do; but the reality is, most businesses still need to answer these questions so that each visitor knows they are in the “right place.”

Steven Krugg sums it up best in his best-selling book, Don’t Make Me Think: If visitors can’t identify what it is you do within seconds, they won’t stick around long.

2) The design resonates with the target audience.

A homepage needs to be narrowly focused — speaking to the right people in their language. The best homepages avoid “corporate gobbledygook,” and eliminate the fluff.

3) The design communicates a compelling value proposition.

When a visitor arrives on your homepage, it needs to compel them to stick around. The homepage is the best place to nail your value proposition so that prospects choose to stay on your website and not navigate to your competitors’.

4) The design is optimized for multiple devices.

All the homepages listed here are highly usable, meaning they are easy to navigate and there aren’t “flashy” objects that get in the way of browsing, such as flash banners, animations, pop-ups, or overly-complicated and unnecessary elements. Many are also mobile-optimized, which is an incredibly important must-have in today’s mobile world.

5) The design includes calls-to-action (CTAs).

Every homepage listed here effectively uses primary and secondary calls-to-action to direct visitors to the next logical step. Examples include “Free Trial,” “Schedule a Demo,” “Buy Now,” or “Learn More.”

Remember, the goal of the homepage is to compel visitors to dig deeper into your website and move them further down the funnel. CTAs tell them what to do next so they don’t get overwhelmed or lost. More importantly, CTAs turn your homepage into a sales or lead-generation engine, and not just brochure-wear.

6) The design is always changing.

The best homepages aren’t always static. Some of them are constantly changing to reflect the needs, problems, and questions of their visitors. Some homepages also change from A/B testing or dynamic content.

7) The design is effective.

A well-designed page is important to building trust, communicating value, and navigating visitors to the next step. As such, these homepages effectively use layout, CTA placement, whitespace, colors, fonts, and other supporting elements.

Now, get ready to learn about excellent homepage design through the following 16 real-life examples.

Website Design Inspiration: 20 of the Best Homepage Designs

1) FreshBooks

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • It’s easy to consume. There is much debate on whether short or long homepages work better. If you choose to do the latter, you need to make it easy to scroll and read — and that’s exactly what this site does. It almost acts like a story.
  • There’s great use of contrast and positioning with the primary calls-to-action — it’s clear what the company wants you to convert on when you arrive.
  • The copy used in the calls-to-action “Get Started for Free” is very compelling.
  • FreshBooks uses customer testimonials on the homepage to tell real-world stories of why to use the product.
  • The sub-headline is also great: “Join over 10 million small business owners using FreshBooks.” FreshBooks expertly employs social proof — 10 million is a big number — to compel its target audience to join their peers and try the tool.

2) Airbnb

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • It includes the destination and date search form that most visitors come looking for, right up front, guiding visitors to the logical next step.
  • The search form is “smart,” meaning it’ll auto-fill the user’s last search if they’re logged in.
  • The primary call-to-action (“Search”) contrasts with the background and stands out; but the secondary call-to-action for hosts is visible above the fold, too.
  • It offers suggestions for excursions and getaways Airbnb users can book on the same site as their lodgings to get visitors more excited about booking their trip on the site. It also shows which of these offerings are most popular among other users.

3) Mint

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • It’s a super simple design with a strong, no-jargon headline and sub-headline.
  • The homepage gives off a secure but easy-going vibe, which is important for a product that handles financial information.
  • It also contains simple, direct, and compelling call-to-action copy: “Sign up free.” The CTA design is also brilliant — the secured lock icon hits home the safety message once again.

4) Dropbox (Business)

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • Dropbox carries over its simple design and branding. It includes only what is important: A large, relevant image with supporting copy, and a “Try free for 30 days” call-to-action button
  • Dropbox’s homepage and website is the ultimate example of simplicity. It limits its use of copy and visuals and embraces whitespace.
  • Its sub-headline is simple, yet powerful: “The secure file sharing and storage solution that employees and IT admins trust.” No need to decode jargon to figure out what Dropbox really does.

5) 4 Rivers Smokehouse

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • Drool. That’s what I think when I arrive at the website for 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Combined with great photography, the headline “Brisket. 18 years to master. Yours to savor.” sounds like an experience worth trying.
  • The parallax scrolling guides you on a tour through the services, menu, and people having a great time — a great use of this popular design trend.
  • The only negative? I don’t live close enough to this place. Boo.

6) Cobb Pediatric Therapy Services

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • The headline and sub-headline appeal to the visitors’ emotional side: “Work With a Company That Gets It”; “Trust us. We’ve been there too! We’ll find jobs where you can thrive.” That value proposition is unique and compelling.
  • It’s hard to tell from the screenshot above, but the headline is on a rotating carousel that caters to specific personas, from job applicants to people searching for a therapist for their schools.
  • There are several pathways visitors can take when they arrive on the page, but the calls-to-action are positioned well, worded simply, and contrast with the rest of the page.

7) Jill Konrath

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • It’s simple and gets straight to the point. From the headline and sub-headline, it’s clear exactly what Jill Konrath does (and how she can help your business).
  • It also gives easy access to Jill’s thought leadership materials, which is important to establishing her credibility as a keynote speaker.
  • It’s easy to subscribe to the newsletter and get in touch — two of her primary calls-to-action.
  • The pop-up subscription CTA uses social proof to get you to join her thousands of other fans.
  • It includes news outlet logos and testimonials as social proof.

8) Evernote

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • Over the years, Evernote has turned from a simple note-saving app into a suite of business products. This isn’t always easy to convey on a homepage, but Evernote does a nice job packaging many potential messages into a few key benefits.
  • This homepage uses a combination of rich, muted colors in the video and its signature bright green and white highlights to make conversion paths stand out.
  • Following a simple headline (“Remember Everything”), the eye path then leads you to its call-to-action, “Sign Up For Free.”
  • Evernote also offers a one-click signup process through Google to help visitors save even more time.

9) Telerik by Progress

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • “Stuffy enterprise” isn’t the feeling you get when you arrive at Telerik’s website. For a company that offers many technology products, its bold colors, fun designs, and videography give off a Google-like vibe. Just one important aspect to making visitors feel welcome and letting them know they’re dealing with real people.
  • I love the simple, high-level overview of its six product offers. It’s very clear way of communicating what the company does and how people can learn more.
  • The copy is lightweight and easy to read. It speaks the language of its customers.

10) eWedding

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • For those love birds planning their big day, eWedding is a great destination to building a custom wedding website. The homepage isn’t cluttered and only includes the necessary elements to get people to starting building their websites.
  • The sub-headline “Over 800,000 wedding websites built!” is great social proof.
  • It’s included excellent product visuals, a great headline, and a call-to-action that reduces friction with the copy, “Start website.”

11) Basecamp

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • For a long time, Basecamp has had brilliant homepages, and here you can see why. It often features awesome headlines and clever cartoons.
  • The call-to-action is bold and above the fold.
  • In this example, the company chose a more blog-like homepage (or single page site approach), which provides much more information on the product.
  • The customer quote is a bold and emphatic testimonial speaking to the benefits and results of using the product.

12) charity: water

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • This isn’t your typical non-profit website. Lots of visuals, creative copy, and use of interactive web design make this stand out.
  • The animated header image is a great way to capture attention.
  • It employs great uses of video and photography, particularly in capturing emotion that causes action.

12) TechValidate

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • This homepage is beautifully designed. I particularly love the use of whitespace, contrasting colors, and customer-centric design.
  • The headline is clear and compelling, as are the calls-to-action.
  • There’s also a great information hierarchy, making it easy to scan and understand the page quickly.

13) Chipotle

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • The homepage is a great example of agility and constant change. Chipotle’s current homepage is all about the forthcoming holiday, which it uses as a unique value proposition to get you to start clicking through your site. When I think Chipotle, I don’t necessarily think about catering, but the site is a great reminder to consider different uses for the burritos you already know and love.
  • The food photography is detailed and beautiful, and it actually makes me hungry looking at it. Now that’s an effective use of visuals.

14) Medium

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • This is perhaps one of the best uses of whitespace I’ve seen. It allows Medium’s app tagline and photo to take center stage while still drawing your eye to the darker section titles on the site.
  • Medium makes it easy to sign up — on the site, or with a simple text message to your mobile phone. I’m much more responsive to a text than an email, so this is a great strategy to keep people engaged in the signup process.
  • The homepage uses social proof to get visitors to start clicking around: The “Popular on Medium” and “Staff Picks” sections let me know where to find high-quality content.

15) Digiday

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • Unlike other online news publications that inundate homepages with as many headlines and images as possible, Digiday’s first section showcases just one article. Its featured image (in this case, a scary one) is eye-catching, and the headline is just asking to be clicked now that the visitor has an idea of what they’re going to read.
  • The top of the homepage, where websites normally showcase a ton of different sections and options to click through, only has one icon to click — which leads you to a subscription page.

16) KIND Snacks

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • The bold colors produce contrast, making the words and images stand out on the page.
  • The CTA — “Shop KIND” — is clever. It urges the visitor to click to learn more while making a play on the word “kind” — implying that it’s a good choice to shop there.
  • KIND Snacks’ tagline is straight up brilliant — when I read it, the message immediately resonated and made me want to read the snack bar’s label.

17) Ahrefs

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • The color contrast between the blue, white, and orange colors is eye-catching and makes the headline and CTA pop.
  • The sub-headline and CTA are a compelling pair: To be able to start tracking and outranking competitors for free is a great offer.
  • The homepage presents a multitude of options for the visitor, but it isn’t cluttered thanks to the solid background and simple typography.

18) A24 Films

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • The film company’s homepage is made up of only trailers for its new films. We know video content is format audiences want to see more of, and this is a great strategy to showcase A24’s work in a highly engaging way.
  • At the top of the homepage, A24 immediately offers a myriad of ways to get in touch via social media and email — something I appreciate as a visitor when so many other sites bury contact information at the bottom of the page.

19) Ellevest

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant

  • “Invest Like a Woman: Because money is power.” These headlines are powerful and make me want to learn more about the product — both as a woman, and as someone interested in making smart financial choices.
  • The images show, rather than tell, one of the company’s value propositions: a desktop site and mobile app that move with you.
  • “Get Started” is a great CTA — in fact, we use it ourselves here at HubSpot. When clicked, it takes visitors through a few simple steps to set up a profile and start investing.

20) HubSpot

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VIEW ENTIRE HOMEPAGE

Why It’s Brilliant (If We Do Say So Ourselves)

  • The LEGO characters catch your attention (because they’re cute), then they cleverly illustrate and reinforce the messaging in the headline and sub-headline.
  • It bears another eye-catching “Get Started” CTA — with bonus microcopy detailing our free versions users can choose to upgrade in the future.
  • Throughout the homepage, our bright blue and orange color themes keep returning to draw your eye to links and CTAs.

What do you think of these homepages? Which are your favorites? Share with us in the comments below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

19

2017

How to Use Canva: An 8-Step Guide to Creating Visual Content

Published by in category Daily, Design, Tactical | Comments are closed

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Back in 2014, Peg Fitzpatrick and Guy Kawasaki penned a post for the HubSpot Marketing Blog that approached the topic of visual marketing as the “next big thing.” But since then, it’s gone to “here to stay.” After all, articles with an image once every 75-100 words tend to get 2X social shares than articles with fewer images.

But in the previous article, Kawasaki — chief evangelist for Canva, a remarkably simple online platform for graphic design — stressed the importance of including shareable images in blog posts, and regularly creating custom, relevant visual content for Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts. Admittedly, following that advice is easier said than done. It’s time-consuming and requires multiple tools. That is, without Canva.

It might seem like you need myriad resources to create just one custom graphic: Photoshop to edit an image, InDesign to lay it out, VSCO for filters, and a multitude of stock photo sites. But Canva combines all these editing and publishing tools — plus a comprehensive image library — in one online design platform. Even better, it comes equipped with a collection of templates that can be applied to a number of different industries. New Call-to-action

But whether you’re creating a Facebook banner for your retail store, or an infographic for your law firm, you might wonder where you should begin with Canva. That’s why we put together this walkthrough of how visual marketers — at any knowledge level — can use Canva. Using an animal shelter’s promotion of its weekend adoption fair as an example, we’ll guide you through the eight steps of creating visual content with these tools and templates.

8 Steps for Creating Visual Content With Canva

1) Begin with a content marketing strategy.

While we don’t think you have to go through the whole process of creating Gantt charts and editorial calendars — though they can keep you organized — it’s important to identify your content goals, and the platforms that will best suit them.

For the animal shelter’s weekend adoption event, the primary purpose is to let people — like social media followers — know about the event, and make them want to share it on social media. In this instance, we want to create a post to share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, and a visual that would work as a poster to print and display locally.

2) Browse the templates library to find and create the right content.

Canva has a collection of specific, professional templates for a wide variety of content. The templates page is arranged into categories — types of content — and subcategories for themes or topics. For example, you can choose between templates for posters and or presentations, based on the content marketing strategy your formulated in the previous step. Plus, each one is already optimized in the right dimensions for things like banners, headers, and cover photos for specific sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

image00-16.png

Keep in mind that these templates are meant to be your springboard to start designing. For many creative professionals, from writers to designers, starting with a blank canvas can be one of the biggest challenges. With these templates, you don’t have to create your content from scratch, or hire a professional designer just to create your day-to-day graphics.

For our animal shelter example, we’ll start with this social media graphic template:

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In the next steps, we’ll show you how to edit this template using Canva’s drag and drop design tools.

3) Find the right visuals to go with your post using Canva’s built-in photo library.

Visual content is 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. And since we want our pet adoption fair to get a lot of engagement on social media, like comments and shares, we have to include the right kind of visuals in its promotion. Using Canva’s built-in media library, we’ll look for a picture of a cute kitten to catch people’s attention — and hearts.

To start, type a keyword or two into the search bar, and choose from any of the photos or illustrations — that means no more Google image searches. The extensive photo library hosts a wide variety of subjects and themes, like abstract images, textures, landscapes, people, and animals. Once you’ve found the perfect image, just drag it over to your design, and drop it where it needs to go.

Canva Image Library

Canva also allows you to upload your own images and use them on your design, which is perfect for adding your logo and other branded visuals to content. (You’ll notice the text has changed in the image below — we’ll get to that in our next step.)

Add logo

4) Marry image and text through typography.

Now that we’ve got a cute kitten image to draw attention, we need to give our audience some details about the adoption fair. And since we’re already working with a template, we can just edit the placeholder text and add in the right details.

Custom text

The best social media content is a marriage of visuals and text — remember the statistic we cited earlier about the shareability of copy that includes the right amount of imagery. However, making sure your font complements the rest of the visual content can be tricky. While some professionals have years of experience to help them pair fonts, Canva provides a shortcut: The font pairing tool.

First, pick your starter font. Then, this handy tool shows you the best font combinations for your chosen typeface, as well as real-life examples from the web.

CanvaFontPairing

5) Enhance your image with a filter.

Filters are a great tool for easily changing the tone of an image. Plus, applying a custom filter across your various posts can help to create a theme and tie your campaign together, boosting consistency and recognizability.

To add a filter, select your image, click on the filter button, then choose from any of the 14 custom filters available in Canva. Use the slider to control the intensity of the filter. There are also advanced options that allow you to play with different settings like brightness, contrast, and saturation, or to add effects like a vignette.

Canva filters

6) Resize your whole design to fit various platforms.

We’re done creating our visual. That was quick, right? Now, we have to post share it across various social media networks, and print our poster. That also means we might have to resize for those various outlets — but rather than going back and re-designing the entire visual according to the dimensions required by each one, we can use Canva’s Magic Resize tool.

The Magic Resize tool is available for Canva for Work users — a paid plan starting at $12.95 per month. But if you’re using the free tools, fear not, as we’ve included some alternative resizing directions below.

That said, Magic Resize is quite a time-saving feature that lets you copy and resize one design into formats for various channels. Just click on “File,” navigate to “Magic Resize,” then choose the different formats you want to use to adapt your visual. Then, click the “resize” button, and you’re done.

Magic resize

Users of Canva’s free tools can still resize their designs by creating a copy of the original visual. Click “File,” “Change Dimensions,” and select the format to which you’d like to resize the design.

Canva Change Dimensions

7) Collaborate with a team, or post the visual to social media.

Canva allows you to collaborate with your team or design partners on a visual, within the same platform. Simply click on “Share”, navigate to “Link,” and choose the “can edit” option to generate a link that allows others to edit your design. Alternatively, you may choose the “can view” option to allow someone to see your design, without the ability to edit it.

Otherwise, you can post your final design directly to Facebook or Twitter. There’s also an embed option, which generates the code to embed your design into your blog or website.

Share Design

For other channels, or if you want an offline copy of your design, you can download an image file in a JPG, PNG, or print-ready PDF format. For our animal shelter visual, we’ll download the flyer version of the design as a high-quality PDF file, to enhance its printed appearance.

Download canva PDF

8) Learn to create better designs with Canva’s free, interactive courses.

Nice work — you’ve made a great design, with amazingly simple tools. But maybe you want to learn more about design — and Canva’s Design School is just the place to do it.

The Design School is a resource hub for learning the basics of design — everything from essential design tools, to typography, to photo editing, to consistent branding. Some of the most popular offerings are Canva’s 30 “Design Essentials” tutorials, covering fonts, layouts, and images. Plus, you can track and share your progress as you make your way through the different lessons.

Canva Tutorials

Starting with the following tutorials can help you hone your skills in some of the visual content design steps we’ve covered today:

  1. Marrying Text and Images
  2. Brilliant Backgrounds
  3. Choosing the Right Font
  4. Enhancing Images
  5. Fantastic Photo Filters

It might also be worthwhile to check out the daily Design School blog, which takes a more in-depth look into specific subjects, like designing for social media, creating better email headers, design principles, and even design psychology.

Canva design blog

Draw Inspiration

Despite the options we’ve covered here, there are actually many more designs and tools to explore in Canva. In addition to promotional visuals like the animal shelter example we used, you can create presentations, infographics, brochures — and a lot more.

One of Canva’s most differentiating factors, however, is that the above steps are pretty much the same across these different types of documents, thanks in large part to the ready-made templates. So don’t let visual content design intimidate you. It’s more than achievable — and we can’t wait to see what you come up with.

What are some of your favorite visual content creation tools? Let us know in the comments.

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Apr

18

2017

An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Create Compelling Charts & Graphs [Ebook]

Published by in category analytics, Daily, Design, Leadership | Comments are closed

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Your data is only as good as your ability to understand and communicate it. Effective marketers aren’t only able to understand and analyze the numbers, but also to effecticely communicate the story behind those numbers.

The best way to tell a story with your data is by visualizing it using a chart or graph. Visualizing your data helps you uncover patterns, correlations, and outliers, communicate insights to your boss, your team, or your company, and make smart, data-backed decisions.

Designing charts and graphs may seem intimidating — especially to folks who aren’t designers by trade. But the good news is, you don’t need a PhD in statistics to crack the data visualization code. We’ve created a new guide to help you: An Introduction to Data Visualization: How to Design Compelling Charts & Graphs That Are Easy to Understand.

This guide will walk through:

  • What data visualization is and why it’s important;
  • When to use the different data types, data relationships, and chart types;
  • How to visualize your data effectively;
  • The best data visualization tools.

Ready to learn how to analyze, visualize, and communicate your data better? Download our free introductory ebook on data visualization and use what you learned to run better experiments, create better presentations, and make better business decisions.

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Apr

18

2017

How to Pick the Perfect Font Pairings for Your Website: 7 Free Tools

Published by in category Daily, Design, marketing agency | Comments are closed

With so many custom fonts readily available for download, selecting a combination of typefaces to feature on your next project can be an unexpected time sink. There are seemingly endless pairing possibilities — how can you be expected to choose?

Whether you’re diving into a major website redesign or a creating a simple infographic, you need a font combination that looks professional, polished, and doesn’t distract from your content. And you need it fast. 

These designers have heard your cries for help, and developed free tools to help you make better typeface pairings faster and more efficiently. Pairing fonts doesn’t have to be a lengthy guess-and-check process when you have the right tools at your fingertips. 

7 Free Tools for Selecting Font Pairings

1) Google Fonts

You’ve probably used Google Fonts at some point to select fonts for a web project, but did you know they also offer suggested font combinations?

From the list of available fonts, hover over a typeface. In the bottom left of the typeface preview area, click See Specimen.

This will open up a font preview page where you can enter preview text, adjust the background color of the page (using the paint bucket icon in the upper right corner of the page), and view information about the typeface’s history and usage. Towards the bottom of the page, you’ll see a section called “Popular Pairings with X.”

In this section, you can preview a selection of popular font combinations featuring your selected typeface. You can add complementary fonts directly to your Google Font library by clicking the “+” symbol beside each recommended pair. When a pairing is selected, you can use the up/down arrows beside the font names to change which typeface is used in the preview as the headline and which is used for body copy. 

2) Typ.io

This expertly curated database allows you to view trendy font combinations used on real websites, and take a peek at the CSS designers used to style and format them. Spend some time browsing through Typ.io’s impressive archives or categorized lists, and when you find a site that catches your eye, simply click “Get Under the Hood.”

This will let you view the exact fonts used on the website, see where the fonts are available for free download or purchase online, and scope out how the designer plugs them in on the back-end of things. Even if CSS isn’t really your area of expertise, Typ.io is still a useful tool for viewing professional typography combinations in action.

Typ.io also offers a useful search feature, enabling you to filter websites by primary font, desired font type, and font availability. You can even see which font combinations are popular on different types of websites (e.g., blogs, portfolios, etc).

3) Web Font Blender

Web Font Blender is a quick, intuitive way to test font combinations in a minimal environment. Set up like most text editing programs, this tool lets you mix and match different web font combos, edit the body, subheading, and headline copy, and adjust the styling of the preview text to your liking.

Choose from a wide selection of popular web fonts and play around with the settings to find a group of fonts that work well together. Once you have a combo you’re happy with, you can even grab the CSS for your creation under the “Grab Code” tab. 

4) Fonts In Use

Fonts In Use is an independent archive devoted to showcasing creative typography from designers around the world. Whether it’s a website, a print campaign, a package design, or something else entirely, the curation team at Fonts In Use is committed to uncovering interesting font combinations wherever they appear.

Scan through their archives for seemingly endless pages of inspiration, or check out examples of popular typography in your specific industry using the “Industries” option from the top drop-down menu. If you have a font in mind you want to use, but aren’t sure what font to pair with it, you can also filter results by typefaces.

5) Canva Font Combinations

This simple tool from Canva lets you select a font and instantly discover complementary typefaces and examples of your chosen font in action. Just pick a starting font from the main drop-down menu, and the tool will automatically produce some aesthetically pleasing combos for you to peruse.

Once you get a perfect match, you can edit the preview text to see how the fonts will look with your content.

6) Font Combinator

Font Combinator is a sleek typography tool developed by Typotheque, a type foundry and design studio based in The Hague, Netherlands. If you’re looking for a way to preview font combinations with lots of customization options, look no further.

Use the drop-down menu in the upper left to select a pre-made font selection designed by the Typotheque team, or use the settings to build and test custom font combinations of your own. You can adjust the size of any text group using the sliding bar above each section. Not loving the current combo? You can introduce a new font to the mix by dragging and dropping from the typeface list on the left.

7) Font Pair

Hayden Mills, a design student at Indiana University, developed this tool to help designers quickly and painlessly find proven font combinations using Google Fonts.

Organized by typeface categories, each of the combos featured on Font Pair are curated by Mills himself or suggested via a Google form available on the site. Want to plug in your own copy? You can click directly into any of the font pairing examples and edit the preview text anywhere on the site.

What are your current favorite font combinations?

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Apr

15

2017

Easter Eggs: 10 of the Internet's Best Hidden Gems

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Design | Comments are closed

Internet-Easter-Eggs-compressor.jpg

Sometimes, it seems like the internet is full of tedium — waiting for a page to load, juggling different passwords, and trying to find the perfect GIF image to describe your mood. But luckily, it’s also full of really cool nuggets, thanks to the clever developers who make it their mission to put the curiosity and fun back into our daily routines. What’s another name for those? Easter eggs.

Easter eggs are hidden gems, features, or moments of surprise buried within software and throughout the internet. They’re designed to catch you off guard and make you smile — if you can find them.

But why would you hide these fun, delightful gems? And since Easter eggs typically don’t add much functionally to the software or site, why bother taking the time to code them in? A few years ago, HubSpot’s VP of Marketing, Meghan Anderson, asked a few of our colleagues for their opinions on the matter. And while she found that you’ll get a different answer from every person you ask, most answers boil down to the same motive: “for the fun of it.”

Mike Champion, Tech Lead at HubSpot

Follow @graysky

AjhWxSlN_400x400.jpeg“Adding an Easter egg can be a fun diversion when writing challenging code … and it’ll hopefully amuse some people, too.”

 

Eric Peters, Senior Growth Marketing Manager at HubSpot Academy

Follow @EricPeters0

OuQkiyWe.jpg“Easter eggs are fun to build and fun to find, because they reward users that care enough to find and get excited about them. They create this feeling of being an insider with the application or company, which can be incredibly valuable in terms of brand loyalty and engagement.”

Laura Fitton, Inbound Marketing Evangelist at HubSpot

Follow @pistachio

PistachioHS.jpg“I feel like Easter eggs are part of the ‘developer’ personality. These are very smart people who love solving puzzles, and the intricacies of their work isn’t ever fully appreciated by most of the customers using their product. So by hiding an Easter egg, they can reward the customers who do take that extra initiative to really dig in and appreciate the software — and what goes into making it.”

Go No Further if You Like Surprises

Sharing these gems feels a bit like revealing the secret to a magic trick. After all, half the fun surrounding Easter eggs comes from the hunt for them. So, if you like to be caught off guard, it’s completely okay to stop reading now. Instead, you might want to watch this video of three dogs playing. After all, we don’t want to leave you empty-handed.

10 of the Internet’s Best Easter Eggs

Easter egg hunting is a little easier if you’ve got a map. With some help from co-workers, Reddit, Little Big Details, Quora, and other sites, I’ve compiled a starter map for you, complete with some of the best hidden features out there.

1) BuzzFeed

Truth be told, I actually enjoy the occasional quiz that determines, say, which generation I belong to based on my favorite pizza toppings. It’s the type of content for which BuzzFeed has earned a reputation, though it does also feature some legitimate news items and narrative journalism.

But scrolling through BuzzFeed’s home page sometimes feels like falling through a bottomless well — except, there is an end. And if you make it there, you’re in for a little treat:

It’s the music video for the 1991 hit single “End of the Road,” by Boyz II Men. It’s linguistically fitting — after all, you have reached the end of the proverbial BuzzFeed road by making it all the way to the bottom of the homepage. Plus, it’s a particularly fun surprise for those of us with an affinity for 90s music.

2) Google

It’s been a long time since Google was “just” a search engine. But for those who want to have a bit of fun with its search feature, you’re in luck — Google’s developers have a sense of humor.

To start, look at what happens when you enter the query, ““:

The word “blink” actually blinks in all of the search results. It’s a sneaky, cheap thrill for those of us who are easily amused.

3) Google Maps

Google’s antics hardly end there. And while it didn’t take long for this easter egg to become discovered (and widely talked about), it’s still a pretty cool online treat. For April Fool’s Day 2017, Google Maps allowed users to turn its maps platform into a game of Ms. PAC-MAN:

While the feature may have been intended as an April Fool’s joke, as of the following Monday, it was still present on Google Maps — and the top search results for “Google Maps Ms. PAC-MAN” mostly covered ways to remove it. Full disclosure: This marketer, personally, quite loves the feature, and plans to waste plenty of her free time on it.

4) Google Chrome

Does this dinosaur look familiar?

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 9.22.38 AM.png

Chrome browser users might recognize him from a lack of internet connection. But now, there’s actually reason to rejoice when Chrome can’t connect. Even if you’re offline, when you land on that screen, watch what happens when you press the spacebar:

Well, I know what I’m doing next time the in-flight Wi-Fi isn’t working. And, good news for those who need more reason to procrastinate: Someone took the liberty to create the T-Rex Runner game page, so you can play any time. Plus, Android users can download the game here.

5) Spotify

There are some pieces of pop culture that, it seems, will never fade away. Many of them fall into the realm of science fiction films, like the Star Wars franchise. These days, whenever a new film in the series is released, it seems like everyone wants to be a part of it.

That includes the music streaming app Spotify. Watch what happens to the play bar at the bottom when The Force Awakens soundtrack begins playing:

It turns into a famed lightsaber — the laser sword used by many Star Wars characters. May the force be with you, indeed.

6) Facebook

Here’s a good one for those of us who are nostalgic for the earliest days of internet chat. In your Facebook language settings, there’s a bevy of options — everything from English to Svenska. And at first glance, it looks like Facebook seems to have done away with such non-sequiturs as “upside-down” and “pirate.” But those options are actually just masked as alternative “English” variations. Have a look:

And what’s not shown here is the search bar, which when set to “pirate” displays the text, “Scour fer scallywags ports ‘n’ various sundries.”

Also mixed into the global options is Leet, which is defined by Google as “an informal language or code used on the Internet, in which standard letters are often replaced by numerals or special characters.” 4w350m3 — that’s Leet for, “Awesome.”

7) Google (Again)

If you’re familiar with the Muppets, chances are you’ve at least heard of the Swedish Chef character, who’s known to end his intro song with the words, “Bork, bork, bork!” Google has taken that phenomenon and incorporated it into its own language settings. Yes — “Bork, bork, bork!” is a language option. Here’s what Google’s homepage looks like after selecting that as your preferred language:

Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 10.50.36 AM.png

Feloong loocky? Excellent. Try your hand at Google’s other language options, which — like Facebook — include Pirate and Klingon.

8) Black Acre Brewing

Are you the type of person who loves the randomness of the internet more than anything else? If that’s the case, visit Black Acre Brewing’s website, and click “I am under 21.”

Um. Okay. If you’re not old enough to drink, you are old enough to watch He-Man sing the 1992 4 Non Blondes hit single “What’s Up?”

9) HEMA

To some of us, there are fewer things more fun than online shopping. The only thing that might make it more entertaining might be watching the catalogue items come to life and interact with each other. In fact, the folks behind Dutch retail site HEMA had the same thought, and created a trick product page for that very purpose. Bump the mug, and watch the catastrophe that ensues:

Oops.

10) Google (Last Time, We Promise)

I’ll admit it — I’ve never quite bothered with Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button below the search bar because, well, I always seem to forget that it’s there. But it seems that I’ve been missing out on a little trick. If you hover your mouse over the button — without typing anything into the search box first — the text will spin like a slot machine into other options, like “I’m Feeling Hungry,” or “I’m Feeling Stellar.” Clicking on one will bring you to a topic-specific page:

Happy Hunting

For the sake of my productivity — and your own — I’ll stop there. But that’s hardly a comprehensive list of the internet’s Easter eggs. There are countless more out there to find, so we’ll leave the rest of the hunt up to you. Let the search begin.

What are some of the best internet Easter eggs you’ve found? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Apr

13

2017

Clip Art Through the Years: A Nostalgic Look Back

Published by in category Canonical, Daily, Design | Comments are closed

Clipart-through-the-years-compressor.jpg

When I was growing up, it was a pretty big deal to have a computer with an operating system other than DOS. If you had an Apple, or even a computer with Windows, your house was the place to be. Not only were you likely to have the coolest games, but also, you probably had access to clip art libraries, which made for hours of entertainment — for me, at least.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a world where you can’t procure an image just by searching for it online. When I was in school, the only way to include a picture in a book report, for example, was with enough luck to find what I was looking for in a magazine. Clip art opened up a whole new world of visuals for academic assignments — not to mention, the newsletters that my childhood, future-writer self liked to put together for fun.

But today, clip art has become a bit of a thing of the past, at least since Microsoft retired its version in 2014. That’s an important distinction — clip art isn’t limited to Microsoft, and actually had several predecessors before it found its way into the likes of Word and PowerPoint. New Call-to-action

And maybe its retirement was for the best — when I think back to some of its more popular images, they would look positively antiquated today. But where did clip art come from, anyway? Today, we’re honoring its legacy with a trip through time.

The History of Clip Art

The 1980s

Toong-Figure-7.jpgSource: Computer History Museum

It all began with the idea to create a digital library of images. That was made possible by a program called VCN ExecuVision, a presentation program created in 1983 for IBM personal computers. Think of it as a primitive version of PowerPoint. But the $400 software didn’t come with these image libraries — instead, they were available on separate floppy disks that had to be purchased for $90 each.

But despite this seemingly trailblazing effort on behalf of IBM, it was really Apple who may have emerged as a leader in the digital image space, at least around the early-to-mid 1980s. That’s partially due to the 1984 development of MacPaint, which was released alongside Apple’s word processing program, MacWrite. As the story goes, they were the only two applications pre-installed on this historic Macintosh 128K.

But what made MacPaint so important was its role as the first program that allowed users to manipulate bitmap images: The “simple line art,” according to The Atlantic, that comprised “early electronic clip art.”

brochure4b.jpgSource: DigiBarn

Not long after that, however, the T/Maker Company collaborated with Apple to develop another word processing program, WriteNow. While it’s not clear if that particular program came equipped with its own image library, the same company began producing and selling groups of bitmap images under a new name: ClickArt.

CLickArt download.pngSource: Vetusware

The 1990s

clip-art-gallery.pngSource: MakeUseOf

By the mid-1990s, T/Maker was the largest distributor of unlicensed images, with a library of roughly half a million in 1995. Microsoft took note of ClickArt’s success, and thought to eliminate the extra step of having to install additional software to access artwork. So in 1996, Microsoft Word 6.0 came equipped with 82 clip art images — a miniscule amount compared to the 120,515 files available on openclipart.org today.

And yet, Microsoft became the brand most strongly identified with the idea of clip art, despite its predecessors having laid much of the groundwork. That could be because its in-app nature — across the entire Microsoft Office Suite — made adding art to documents and presentations a groundbreakingly seamless process.

The Early 2000s

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 1.06.29 PM.pngSource: Wayback Machine

By August 2000, at least 41% of U.S. households had computers with internet access, indicating that people were using it more and more for consuming information and media. And like so many other things — books, for one — clip art was becoming available for purchase online via sites like clipart.com, which is still in existence, but today looks a bit different than its 1996 counterpart above.

clipartcom2017.png

And while clip art isn’t exactly one of those things that we think of as having suffered “death by download” — like books, music, and movies — the ability to procure images online made something like Microsoft’s in-app feature obsolete.

Clip Art’s (Semi) Retirement

In December 2014, Microsoft announced that it would be doing away with any in-app art libraries.

“The Office.com Clip Art and image library has closed shop,” the statement read.

Instead, users would now have to use either images from their own devices, or those found through Bing Image Search, where they’re now automatically sent when searching for art within Microsoft apps — step-by-step directions can be found here.

The announcement, for many, read as the end of an era. What would become of cartoonish images of urban landscapes, or out-of-date business travelers with flip phones? As it turns out, if that’s what you’re looking for, you might be in luck.

Clip Art in 2017 and Beyond

For those who need a fix of this kind of old-school imagery, not all hope is lost. There are still plenty of resources out there to find these pictures, including the aforementioned sites openclipart.org and clipart.com. Plus, as The Atlantic so astutely points out, if you search Bing images for “clip art,” you might find some of those fittingly nostalgic results:

Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 1.10.05 PM.png

And perhaps this version of clip art isn’t really gone for good — after all, NPR once noted Microsoft’s penchant for revitalizing its older pieces of technology, like Clippy.

In any case, clip art has certainly taken many forms over the years — and we’re curious to see what shape, if any, it takes in the future.

Which clip art images make you the most nostalgic? Let us know in the comments.

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Mar

31

2017

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet of Social Media Photo & Image Sizes [Infographic]

Published by in category Daily, Design, IGSS, Social Media | Comments are closed

SocialImageSizes-compressor.jpg

When you’re selecting cover photos, shared images, and other social media assets, knowing the basic image dimensions might not cut it. What if you want to make sure a certain part of your cover photo isn’t obstructed by your profile photo? And what’s the difference between shared link thumbnails, or in-stream photos — are the dimensions different for those?

As it turns out, sizing images correctly for social media is no simple task. Even just among your Facebook marketing, photo dimensions vary according to where and how it’s shared — from cover photos, to timeline images, to profile pictures.Download our pre-sized Facebook cover photo template for free here to create  and optimize your Facebook cover image.  

But if you’re looking for a detailed guide on social media image sizes, you’re in luck — this infographic from Spredfast has you covered. It’s a valuable resource to keep on-hand for the next time you’re designing or selecting visual content for your social channels. And for quicker reference, scroll down to seea written list of essential social media image dimensions.

So, without further ado — let’s get visual.



hubspot-social-image-size-guide.jpg

Quick References

All dimensions below are in pixels, width x height.

Facebook

  • Cover image: 828 x 315
  • Profile image: ≥180 x 180
  • Shared image: 1200 x 900
  • Shared link preview image: 1200 x 628

Twitter

  • Header image: 1500 x 500
  • Profile image: 400 x 400
  • Timeline image: 506 x 253

Google+

  • Profile image: 250 x 250
  • Cover image: 1080 x 608
  • Shared image: 506 pixels wide
  • Shared video: ≥506 x 284
  • Shared link image thumbnail: 150 x 150

Instagram

  • Profile image: 110 x 110
  • Image thumbnail: 161 x 161
  • Shared images: 1080 x 1080
  • Shared videos: 1080 pixels wide

Pinterest Image Sizes

  • Profile image: 180 x 180
  • Board cover image: 214 x 100
  • Pin preview: 238 pixels wide

LinkedIn

  • Banner image: 1850 x 200
  • Profile image: 400 x 400
  • Cover image: 1536 x 768
  • Shared image: 350 pixels wide
  • Shared link preview: 180 x 110
  • Logo image: 400 x 400

YouTube

  • Channel cover images: Varies by viewing platform
  • Channel icon: 800 x 800
  • Video thumbnail: 1280 x 720

Tumblr

  • Profile image: 128 x 128
  • Image post: 500 x 750 | 1280 x 1920 maximum

Snapchat

  • Geofilter: 1080 x 1920

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Mar

8

2017

How to Design a Website: 50 Brilliant Homepage Designs to Get You Started [Free Ebook]

Published by in category Design | Comments are closed
Homepage Design Examples

Before you jump into a website redesign project, start with a little inspiration.

Here at HubSpot, we’ve created several resources that can assist you during the website design or redesign process (like this Excel workbook, and this SEO guide). But we also recognize that even if you’re seriously considering a website redesign, you might not be ready to get into the nitty gritty of the process right away.

Maybe you’ve identified some issues with your site’s current design, but are still contemplating how you should correct those issues.

Or maybe your intern has finally convinced you that your company’s 2005-era website looks a bit outdated, but now you’re at a loss as to what direction you should take the site stylistically.

Or, you know, maybe you’re not considering a website redesign, but want to kill some time looking at a bunch of beautiful homepages. That’s okay too!

Whatever the case, this is the resource for you: How to Design a Website: 5 Brilliant Homepage Designs to Get You Started. In this free lookbook, you can explore homepage designs from businesses all over the world in several different industries, including: 

  • Agency & Studio
  • Entertainment
  • Food & Drink
  • Nonprofit
  • Software & Tech
  • Ecommerce & Retail

Here are a few examples:

homepage-example-1.png

homepage-example-2.png

homepage-example-3.png 

So go on, download this free ebook and get inspired.

Of course, we couldn’t collect every brilliant homepage design out there, so if you have other examples you’d like to share, let us know in the comments section below! 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.

Feature image credit: Fieldwork

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Dec

1

2016

15 Cheerful Examples of Holiday Homepage Designs

Cheerful Example of Holiday Homepage Designs.png

A lot of eyes are going to be on your website in the upcoming weeks. A National Retail Foundation survey found that more than 56% of holiday shoppers will purchase gifts online. What’s more, almost 80% of shoppers are heading to the internet to research gifts, even if they end up actually purchasing the item in-store.

Those numbers are only going up. The smartest marketers will prepare for this not only by prepping their website for higher-than-normal traffic and optimizing it for mobile devices, but also by giving their website design a dose of holiday cheer. Download more holiday resources to help your business succeed this season from  HubSpot's #HolidayHub

It all starts with the homepage: The first page many people will see when they come to your website. How have other companies redesigned their homepages for the holidays? Let’s take a look.

Note: Businesses change their homepages on a regular basis. The examples below may not be current.

15 Holiday Homepage Designs to Get You in the Spirit

1) Free People

When your business has a loud personality like American bohemian retail company Free People does, making a big first impression on your homepage can be a great thing. Free People’s redesign is all-encompassing, starting with a large, high-definition image of models wearing some of its latest festive holiday apparel.

We especially love the whimsical, fun font it used in the headline, “The Gift Shop 2016.” For certain brands, decorative fonts like these can be a great seasonal touch to the style of your homepage. (Get tips for using fonts in your web design in our free do-it-yourself design guide.)

FreePeople_holiday.png

2) PayPal

Who ever said online money transfer websites can’t have fun at the holidays?

PayPal’s holiday homepage works because it still looks like PayPal — just a little more festive. It’s still easy to navigate but adds seasonal flair with a clever spin on a lyric from “Jingle Bells” as its holiday slogan. The whitespace encourages visitors to focus on the happy models in the image, putting human faces to an industry that’s businesslike and technical.

paypal holiday.png

3) Sephora

Like PayPal, Sephora didn’t make many changes to the overall look and feel of its website. What it did do was feature a holiday edition of its highest-rated products and editors’ picks, specially curated for different gift recipients, price ranges, categories, and so on.

By putting editors’ picks front and center, Sephora is reminding customers how much the company values customers’ success. Plus, we love the sprinklings of gemstones throughout the page — it’s a cute, festive way to separate modules on the page.

Sephora holiday homepage.png

4) Baudville

While seasonal website redesign is often dominated by B2C companies, a few B2B businesses have been known to dress up websites a bit too. Baudville, an employee recognition solution, is one.

While some web designers like to add a ton of new elements to their holiday designs, Baudville shows you don’t have to. Something as simple as adding a holiday gift shop slide to your homepage photo banner can be enough to warmly welcome users to your site during this time of year.

baudville_holiday.png

5) La Colombe

La Colombe’s holiday homepage design features soft, wintry hues and festive lighting. Visitors are greeted with high-definition photography of people enjoying La Colombe coffee products around a shared table. This webpage is another example of a business staying true-to-brand with an added holiday touch.

La Colombe _ Holiday.png

6) L.L. Bean

For a U.S. outdoor retail company like L.L. Bean, the holidays mean winter … which means cold. (For most of us, unfortunately.) It keeps the holidays out of the seasonal redesign completely: The featured photo on the homepage is a model wearing apparel in front of pine trees covered in show, which is in keeping with the brand’s outdoorsy theme.

L.L. Bean shares a list of holiday gift ideas featuring some of its most popular and beloved products. The seasonal homepage slogan — “Gifts That Last Beyond the Present” — reminds visitors of L.L. Bean’s amazing satisfaction guarantee.

If you’re more attracted to a winter-themed seasonal redesign, consider using winter-themed stock photos for your homepage. You might also consider cooling down the color scheme of your whole site for the holiday season. This means using cooler tones like blues, purples, and greens to give it a more “wintry” feel. (You can read more about cool color schemes in this blog post about color theory.)

llbean holiday.png

7) The Container Store

This homepage is a fantastic move for the holidays because it is chock-full of goodies for visitors. Every module on this homepage has something helpful to offer customers — stocking stuffers, gift ideas, luggage for holiday travel, party favors, and DIY projects.

The various CTAs on the homepage are clear and tell visitors everything they need to know about what’s on the rest of the site. The geometric shapes organize all of the content cleanly, so despite the fact that the homepage has several different offers on it, it’s not cluttered.

Container Store_holiday.png

8) Xfinity

Between sporting events, holiday movies, and making your family binge-watch your new favorite TV series, with holidays comes lots of screen time. This homepage reminds visitors to be prepared for fun with their families.

The primary CTA isn’t just “Deals to save you money!” or “Deals to get you to buy from our website!” Instead, this homepage advertises its “Ready for the Holidays Sale” alongside images of families having fun spending time together, some with screens.

Thanks to this positioning, the message feels less like a way to make money, and more like an nod to holiday family time that includes a lot of togetherness, and probably some TV in between.

xfinity holiday.png

9) J. Crew

J. Crew’s holiday homepage goes above and beyond expectations for a clothing store. The whitespace on the page is simple and lets the clothing and accessories stand out on the page to prospective shoppers while keeping the website true to brand.

Its homepage advertises “Present-Topia,” a Gift Guide that breaks down J. Crew products by age, gender, and price for ease of shopping. The black callout box advertises a sale it’s running that includes seasonal clothing. J. Crew also published curated looks that visitors can browse or directly shop from to make the shopping experience easier and more visual. This homepage redesign prioritizes the user experience while still keeping the site beautiful and on-brand.

jcrew holiday.png

10) Microsoft

We like Microsoft’s minimalist holiday homepage because it stays true to brand and uses whitespace to showcase the new products it’s promoting this season. The simple red banner draws attention to their holiday shopping CTA and reminds people to think about products their friends and families might want. Then, there’s another CTA reading “Shop Now” that drives home the need to click around and start shopping.

microsoft holiday.png

11) Fitbit

The dark background of Fitbit’s homepage lets the festive gold color scheme and the products shine. The photography styling positions Fitbits as a gift similar to jewelry in beautiful boxes, rather than a piece of sporting equipment, to make Fitbit products appeal to a wider variety of shoppers and not just athletes.

fitbit holiday final.png

The primary CTA is to “Shop The Gift Guide,” which leads visitors through all of the products with descriptions that suggest who they might purchase it for, making it easy for shoppers to imagine their family and friends using the product.

Additionally, the site has a neat feature where visitors can hint to someone that they themselves want to get a Fitbit as a gift.

fitbit gift guide.png

12) John Lewis

British retailer John Lewis didn’t give its homepage a holiday makeover, but by tailoring each module to the season, it makes it hard for site visitors to navigate away before looking at the brand’s products and projects ideas.

The main module above the fold features festive holiday decorations with a suggestion to look into the kitchen and home goods to prepare for big family meals. Just below, John Lewis features helpful information about delivery dates for ordering holiday gifts and the bonus that it offers free shipping.

We also love the “Be Inspired” section featuring travel and style ideas that don’t advertise John Lewis products outright but instead, provide helpful content in the true inbound marketing way.

johnlewisholiday.png

13) HP

We can’t guarantee that HP’s holiday homepage video won’t make you cry, but we can say that it’s a unique and heartfelt spin on traditional holiday marketing. HP’s homepage is another example of a site keeping the page minimally decorated with only their featured video, “Reinvent Giving,” above the fold.

The touching video features a brother using HP technology to come up with the perfect gift for his brother, who is hard of hearing — a guitar set that displays flashing lights when played so his brother can see himself playing music, even if he can’t hear it. Emotion in advertising is effective, especially around the holiday season — everyone has a friend or family member they want to find the perfect gift for.

hp holiday.png

14) Madewell

The image and header on Madewell’s homepage are very much in line with the company’s typical branding: a model wearing a gorgeous dress in front of a neutral background, accompanied by a holiday spin on their name in festive, embellished font.

This is both attractive to first-time visitors who are greeted with simple imagery and user experience, as well as returning users, who expect a design like this but still appreciate the added holiday touches. The #giftwell hashtag prompts visitors to start a conversation about their shopping experiences on social media, which fosters a sense of brand loyalty.

Madewell_Holiday.png

15) Warby Parker

Warby Parker stuck to the basics of beautifully simple design in its seasonal homepage redesign. “Winter 2016” is the simple headline, which showcases a man dressed in winter apparel, set with a whole lot of negative space to draw attention to the details of his outfit — and namely, his glasses.

While the primary CTA is still its usual “Shop Now,” you’ll notice a secondary CTA as you scroll that introduces “We Like It, We Love It: Warby Parker Editions.” This social proof compels visitors to click, leading them to a curated list of fun holiday gift ideas, such as dog toys and books, including one the brand published called “50 Ways to Lose Your Glasses.” This section is unique because Warby Parker is selling items different from what it usually sells to help valued customers fulfill their holiday shopping lists, which is a neat way to foster brand loyalty.

warbyholidayhomepagefinal.png

Finally, Warby Parker’s responsive design gives mobile users a pleasant holiday shopping experience. According to Google, 53% of people who shopped online in 2014 used smartphones or tablets, and mobile searches about products while shoppers are still in the store have increased 30%.

The numbers are expected to rise this year, especially now that more people are searching Google on their smartphones than on desktop, so be sure your website is mobile-friendly in time for the holidays.

warbyparker-1.png

(To see more examples of ways ecommerce businesses have redesigned their websites for the holidays, check out this library of examples on Crayon.co.)

Oh, and one more thing: As you plan your own website design strategy for the holidays, be sure to plan and prepare your site for higher-than-normal traffic. The last thing you want is for your site to go down during a time when you hope to be doing great business.

What great homepage redesigns have you see this holiday season? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Visit the holiday resource hub for all your holiday marketing needs.

Nov

16

2016

The Ultimate Collection of Free Content Marketing Templates

content-marketing-templates.jpg

Does any aspect of your job intimidate you?

For content creators, sometimes the most stressful part of the role can be opening a completely blank document to start a new project.

Whether it’s writing a blog post, designing an infographic, or creating an ebook, it’s challenging to start creating a new piece of content from scratch, especially if you’ve never done it before. Download the full collection of free content marketing templates here. 

Here in the HubSpot content shop, we want to take the work out of it for you. Instead of trying to master how to create every type of content in existence, cut down on the stress and inefficiency and read about our collection of nearly 400 free, customizable content creation templates

We’ve broken this list down into types of content marketing, so jump ahead if you specifically want: Content Planning Templates, Written Content Templates, Visual Content Templates, or Email Templates.

Content Planning Templates

A Content Planning/Goal-Setting Template

(Download the content planning template here.)

HubSpot teamed up with Smart Insights to create a content planning template that will help you put together an effective content marketing plan for either your business or those of your clients. These templates will help you complete a SWOT analysis on your content marketing efforts (and develop a plan to improve them), define the right objectives and KPIs for that plan, brainstorm content ideas and map these across your funnel, and create a timeline for your content plans.

download free content planning template

A Content Mapping Template

(Download the content mapping template here)

You know you need a content marketing strategy in place to support the success of your inbound marketing and sales organizations. But how do you get started? We’ve created a content mapping template so you can walk through your target audience’s buyer’s journey. The template helps you identify buyer personas, their challenges and needs, and to brainstorm content that provides solutions. You’ll come away from the template with tons of targeted blog post ideas to attract your audience to your site and convert them into leads.

download content mapping templates

A Buyer Persona Template

(Download the buyer persona template here.)

Marketing with buyer personas means marketing smarter. This buyer persona template will help you easily organize your research to create your very own buyer personas. Use it to create beautiful, well-formatted buyer personas that you can share with your entire company, while learning best practices for persona research along the way.

get the free buyer persona template

3 Blog Editorial Calendar Templates

(Download the blog editorial calendar templates here.)

Having an editorial calendar for your marketing content will save you a whole lot of time — not to mention sanity — as you plan your content release timeline. We realize there isn’t a one-size-fits all solution, so we’ve created three editorial calendar templates to use at your leisure: one for Google Calendar, one for Excel, and one for Google Sheets. (Read this blog post for a step-by-step guide for using the Google Calendar template.)

download the free blog editorial calendar template

2 Social Media Content Calendar Templates (for 6 Social Networks)

(Download the social media content calendar templates here.)

With so many different social networks to manage, a social media manager’s life becomes a lot easier when they can plan which content to share on each account — and when. This easy-to-use social media content calendar for Microsoft Excel lets you organize your social media activities far in advance. Use it to plan your updates and learn how to properly format your content for the six most popular social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.

get the free social media contet calendar template

Written Content Templates 

5 Blog Post Templates

(Download the blog post templates here.)

Here’s the thing with blogging: There isn’t one, easy template you can fill in to produce a quality content offering. You need to spend some time brainstorming a title, outlining core content, and so on. While our templates are by no means a fill-in-the-blank type of deal, they’ll walk you through the critical steps for creating the following five blog post types:

  • How-To Post
  • List-Based Post
  • Curated Collection Post
  • SlideShare Presentation Post
  • Newsjacking Post

We’ve seen these formats crush it on our blogs, and we would love for you to use them to hit your own goals.

get free blog post templates

5 Ebook Templates

(Download the ebook templates here.)

Year after year, marketers cite lead generation as one of their top content marketing goals for the year. If you want to succeed at lead gen, then you need content offers — like ebooks — to help you get there. Our internal creative design team went to work building five, beautiful ebook templates — in both PowerPoint and InDesign — for you to download, customize, and use. 

get free ebook templates

A Press Release Template

(Download the press release template here.)

While public relations has adapted to be more lovable and less spammy, press releases can be effective when used correctly. Our press release template takes this into consideration and provides an inbound-optimized version. This means the template can help you script press releases and do so in a format optimized for sharing on your company blog. It’s built in Microsoft Word, so you can easily adapt and customize as needed for your PR needs.

download free press release template

50 Call-to-Action Templates

(Download the call-to-action templates here.)

Redesigning your call-to-action buttons can improve clickthrough rates by 1,300% or more. That means visitors will spend more time on your website, and it’ll encourage them to become leads. To help you design clickable calls-to-action, we’ve built 50 pre-designed CTAs for you. These CTAs are super easy to customize, so you don’t need to know any fancy design programs — just PowerPoint.

Bonus: There’s also a handy free tool in there that lets you track your CTA clicks in real time so you can see the exact number of clicks that your designs are reeling in.

download free call-to-action templates

Visual Content Templates 

195+ Visual Marketing Templates

(Download the visual marketing templates here.)

Not a designer? Not a problem. We partnered with graphic design software company Canva to create over 195 visual marketing templates that are easy-to-use, work for any industry (finance, dentistry, agriculture, law — we’ve got ’em all), and are completely free. Best of all, they’re ready to edit in Canva’s online design tool, which is included for free with this set of templates. The templates include…

  • Infographics templates
  • Facebook ad templates
  • Facebook post templates
  • Twitter post templates
  • Email header templates
  • Blog title templates
  • Facebook cover photo templates
  • Twitter header templates
  • LinkedIn cover photos templates

download free Canva design templates

15 Infographic Templates

(Download the infographic templates here.)

We’ve created fifteen, pre-designed infographic templates right in PowerPoint (+ five bonus illustrator templates). That way, marketers can skip the frustrations and start creating the graphics right away. Within each template, we even provide guides to teach you how to use the templates effectively. 

download free infographic templates

100 Social Media Graphics Templates

(Download the social media graphics templates here.)

Visual content is 40 times more likely to be shared on social media than any other type of content. But we know well that creating visual content takes more time and resources — which why we’ve created these 100 customizable templates for you. These templates are in PowerPoint, so they’re very easy to edit — no Photoshop skills required. Simply customize the text on an image, save it, and post it to social media.

download free social media graphics templates

5 Social Media Cover Photo Templates

(Download the social media cover photo templates here.)

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have trouble keeping straight the different size dimension requirements on different social media networks. To take the guesswork out of it and to avoid frustrating re-designs, we’ve created five templates in PowerPoint that are pre-sized for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. You can customize them for your social networks without researching design specifications — don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.

download social media cover photo templates

3 PowerPoint Templates

(Download the PowerPoint templates here.)

PowerPoint can be a powerful tool for lead generation, brand building, and thought leadership. Don’t let boring slides stand in the way. You don’t have to be a designer to create beautiful slides. To help you get started, we’ve created three, eye-catching PowerPoint templates so you don’t have to start from scratch or rely on standard, old-school styles.

Bonus: We’ve also included four video tutorials on PowerPoint tricks in there so you can learn how to enhance images, clean up your text, install premium fonts, and so on — right in PowerPoint.

download free powerpoint templates

5 SlideShare Templates

(Download the SlideShare templates here.)

Creating a SlideShare presentation in PowerPoint doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right and tools at your disposal, you can easily create an engaging, visual presentation — all without fancy design programs, huge budgets, or hiring contractors.

To help you make a SlideShare of your own, we’ve created some free PowerPoint presentation templates for making awesome SlideShares — so your presentations will look great and be a breeze to put together. (Read this blog post for tip on how you can update and edit the templates to suit your specific needs.)

download free slideshare templates

Email Templates

15 Email Templates for Marketing and Sales

(Download the email templates for marketing and sales here.)

Did you know that workers spend almost one third of their time at work reading and replying to emails? There are many ways you can streamline your inbox to save time, but you ultimately will still have to create and send emails. That’s where these templates come in. We’ve written the copy for 15 emails marketers and sales reps are likely to send over and over again to save you time and get you results.

download email templates

There you have it, content marketers: over 386 templates to help you start creating content easily and quickly and further your inbound success.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free content creation templates

 
                                   
 
free content creation templates

Nov

11

2016

The Anatomy of a Lead-Generating Website

lead-generation-website-anatomy.jpeg

Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers.

There are plenty of ways to increase the number of people visiting your site, but unless you convert these visitors into leads, you won’t be able to ultimately get new customers. As a result, your business won’t be able to grow at a healthy rate.

That’s why it’s so important to design your website with lead generation top-of-mind. Download the beginner's guide to converting website visitors into leads for  your business here.

Think about what your website looks like in its current state. Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or does they leave them wondering what to do next? Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database? Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run? Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

If you’re starting to think hard about the opportunities you have to increase conversion on your site, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we’ll cover the most critical components of a website optimized for lead generation. You’ll find useful tips in here whether you’re coming from a startup generating leads from scratch, or from a well-established business looking to tighten up your website to increase conversions.

The Anatomy of a Lead-Generating Website

1) Lead generation forms

Forms are the crux of any business’ lead generation efforts. Without them, you won’t be able to get contact information that your site visitors actually opt in to give you. The opting in part is important: When people voluntarily hand over their information by filling out a form, they’re actively showing interest in your business, your products, or your content. These leads are valuable because they’re more likely to turn into customers down the road.

Embedding lead generation forms directly on your website makes it easy for visitors to convert into leads. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can create forms right in HubSpot and either add them to your webpages or embed them elsewhere. Non-HubSpot customers can turn to form-embedding tools like Contact Form 7, JetPack, or Google Forms.

Although landing pages are the most popular places to put lead generation forms, you can embed them anywhere you’d like on your site. Here are a few examples of forms from different businesses that have with different goals, starting with OfficeVibe’s homepage:

officevibe-homepage-form-1.png

On AdmitHub’s homepage, they’ve embedded a form for a demo request:

admithub-form.png

The folks at American Songwriter embedded a subscribe form in the footer of their website:

american-songwriter-form.png

Below is the form on ChoiceScreening’s “Contact Us” page. You’ll notice it’s relatively long, but for a business that runs background checks of all kinds, the form fields are likely necessary to help organize inquiries.

choice-screening-form.png

When you’re thinking about how long your forms should be, consider whether you’d rather have more inquiries coming in, or higher quality inquiries coming in. As long as you have other, easier avenues for folks to contact you, a longer form can be okay for some businesses.

2) A form scraping tool

Once you’ve created and embedded your forms, how are you going to collect and track submissions? You’ll need a tool that scrapes your forms, meaning it automatically captures the form submissions on your website and puts them into your contact database.

By consolidating your leads in one place, it’ll be much easier for you to follow up with those leads — whether it’s by sending them lead nurturing emails, tracking their future behavior on your website, or some other action.

We recommend using our free Collected Forms tool, part of HubSpot Marketing Free. Collected Forms enables you to detect form submissions on your website as they come in — even if the forms are not built with HubSpot. Then, it’ll put those submissions right into your contacts database.

collected-forms-screenshot.png

collected-forms-leads.png

3) Primary and secondary calls-to-action on every page

When people go to a website, they’re usually trying to take some action. Sometimes, they know what that action is — like when you’re looking for a coffee grinder to buy for your spouse’s birthday and you plan to make a purchase as soon as you find one that’s good enough. Other times, visitors simply don’t know what they want to do on a website and they’re just there to browse or research.

It’s your job to guide these people forward in their research and/or buying process through calls-to-action (CTAs). Remember, your website exists to compel visitors to dig deeper into your business and offerings and move them further down the funnel. CTAs tell them what to do next so they don’t feel lost or overwhelmed. In this way, CTAs turn your homepage into a lead-generating machine.

You’ll want to create multiple CTAs for your site that speak to different parts of the buying funnel. But it’s important to have a primary CTA — one that exists above the fold of your site pages, sticks out from the others, and leads people to do the #1 thing you want them to do on each page.

What that CTA leads to will depend on your end goal. What do you want your site visitors to do most — do you want them to sign up? Create an account? Request a demo? Defining what a “lead” means to you will make your analytics goals much clearer and will help you build a more intuitive funnel.

Here are two examples of webpages that effectively use primary CTAs to direct visitors to the next logical step. The first is Mint’s homepage, where you’ll notice the free sign-up CTA immediately draws your eye:

mint-homepage-headline-example.png

Here’s another example from FreshBooks’ homepage:

freshbooks-homepage.png

Common CTA examples include “Free Trial,” “Schedule a Demo,” “Buy Now,” or “Learn More.” (Here are 30 examples of great CTAs for more inspiration.)

4) Gated offers on landing pages

We already went over the importance of embedding forms on your website in a more general sense, but landing pages deserve a section of their own. Landing pages are the hub of your lead generation efforts — which is why every marketing campaign you run and every offer you create should be tied to a custom landing page.

The more landing pages you have, the more opportunities you have to convert site visitors into leads. There’s also a huge SEO benefit to having more landing pages, which can have an impact even before visitors land on your site.

There are many elements that a top-notch landing page needs, from design to form length to navigation, share buttons, social proof, and so on. If you’re looking for detailed information on building well-designed landing pages that are optimized for lead conversion, here are a few helpful resources:

Below is a great example of a landing page from WebDAM. While it’s a solid example overall, the form might be the best part — especially the little icons in front of the text that refer to the information needed to complete it.

webdam-landing-page-example-1.png

If you’re looking for ideas for valuable content to put behind those landing pages, read this list of 23 lead generation content ideas to start you off.

5) Pop-up forms

I know, I know. “Pop-ups” can sound like a dirty word nowadays. Inbound marketers everywhere are asking themselves whether they should be using pop-up forms — and the short answer is yes, as long as you use them in an inbound-y way.

To do that, you’ll want to make sure you’re:

  • Offering something valuable and relevant so they add to your website visitors’ experience, rather than interrupting it;
  • Timing their appearance so they’re triggered by certain actions or time spent on a page in a way that feels natural and not interruptive;
  • Using language that’s actionable and human;
  • Not ruining the mobile experience.

In addition to embedded forms and traditional call-to-action buttons, you’ll also want to pick and choose pages on your website where you can place pop-up forms, which we call lead flows here at HubSpot. There are a few different types of lead flows you can choose from: welcome mats, overlay modals (which is what most people think of when they hear the term “pop-up”), banners, and slide-in boxes:

Popup-Types-801.png

Here’s an example of a banner on Basecamp’s homepage, which appears when you scroll a certain percentage of the way down the page:

basecamp-dropdown-banner-1.gif

This overlay modal from Aquaspresso’s blog offers blog readers an avenue toward their paid products in a way that’s helpful (providing a discount):

aquaspresso-blog-pop-up.png

If you’re looking for a good free tool to get started with pop-up forms, we’d recommend you try HubSpot Marketing Free. We built the Lead Flows feature within this free tool to help marketers generate more leads across their entire website without sacrificing the user experience.

6) Intuitive design and thoughtful CTA placement

The point of your website is to guide site visitors toward the actions you want them to take. Your conversion efforts will be far more compelling when assets are easy to find and are built with a reader-centric mindset. Think about how you can use layout, CTA placement, whitespace, colors, fonts, and other supporting elements to clearly communicate your value proposition, help visitors find specific information easily, and build trust.

Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure your webpages — especially your most popular ones, like your homepage — are designed beautifully, intuitively, and with lead generation in mind. In other words, you’ll want to direct your visitors’ attention to the areas of the page that will convert them into leads.

For example, according to an eye tracking study, a website reader’s natural eye path starts in the upper left-hand corner of a website and moves on from there in an F-pattern. To take advantage of this pattern, you may want to place your most important calls-to-action somewhere within that F-pattern. (Read this blog post to learn more about designing webpages for lead generation.)

In the example below, the business’ name is in the top left, followed by the horizontal navigation bar placed on the top, and a primary call-to-action (by #4) in the second row.

f-pattern-with-content-1.jpg

Image Credit: Envato Studio

7) A blog with lead-generating CTAs

If you don’t have a business blog or aren’t using it consistently, then you’re missing out on a huge traffic- and lead-driving engine. There are many business benefits to blogging, which not only include helping drive traffic to your website, but also converting traffic into leads for your business. Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. And thanks to the compounding value of blog posts over time, every post you write will drive value for you in the form of traffic and leads not just when you first publish it, but for years to come.

Here at HubSpot, our blog is responsible for a significant percentage of our marketing team’s incoming leads — and 76% of our monthly blog views come from posts published prior to the current month.

But in order to generate leads from your blog, you can’t just write, hit “publish,” and call it a day. You’ll need to add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post that points to free content gated behind a landing page (see #4). To help you create these long-form offers more easily without worrying about the design component, try downloading these 386+ free content creation templates for ebooks, infographics, and other offers.

Once you create lead-generating offers, promote them by blogging about subject matters related to them, and then put CTAs that lead to the asset’s landing page on every one of those blog posts.

8) Social proof and other trust-builders

In order for a site visitor to turn into a lead, they need to hand over some personal information — their name, their email address, and maybe even their phone number or company name. Why would they give that information to you unless they felt some sort of trust in your brand and what you’re offering them?

That’s where establishing credibility comes in. If you want to earn people’s trust enough to compel them to opt in to your emails or otherwise put their personal information into your database, you’re going to need to prove yourself somehow — especially to people who don’t know who you are quite yet. The most meaningful form of advertising is recommendations from others, and it can have a big impact on conversion rates.

There are many ways to establish credibility on your website. One effective way to show trustworthiness is by adding social proof — like customer testimonials, case studies, and prominent client logos — as well as trust seals to your site.

  • Customer testimonials are quotes from real customers you can place on landing pages, your homepage, and anywhere else on your website. Place these quotes below forms, and be sure to include a photo, name, company, and job title. Here’s a great example from Codecademy’s homepage:

codecademy-homepage.png

  • Case studies are full-fledged customer stories, either written or in video. They’re longer and more detailed than customer testimonials, and often include success metrics and positive results. You can learn more on how to create compelling case studies here.
  • Prominent client logos are when a business places the logos of some of their more well-known clients on their homepage or elsewhere on their website to show them off. According to ConversionXL, logos from prominent clients tend to be memorable to site visitors.
  • Trust seals are symbols that reassure site visitors that their sensitive information is secure with the company they’re giving it to. (Read this post to learn more about adding trust seals to your website.)

trust-seals-1.png

There you have it. Now, these are by no means the only components of a website that can or should be optimized for lead generation. But this guide will help you get started with the fundamental components you’ll need to generate more and higher quality leads.

And although we’ve gone over some overarching best practices, remember that you’ll need to continuously test and tweak your site to optimize it for leads based on your own, unique audience. If you aren’t doing that already or want to learn more about optimization, read this post to learn about A/B testing your website in more detail.

What else makes up a lead-generating website? Share with us in the comments.

Intro to Lead Gen

Nov

11

2016

The Anatomy of a Lead-Generating Website

lead-generation-website-anatomy.jpeg

Your website is the most important tool you have for turning prospects into customers.

There are plenty of ways to increase the number of people visiting your site, but unless you convert these visitors into leads, you won’t be able to ultimately get new customers. As a result, your business won’t be able to grow at a healthy rate.

That’s why it’s so important to design your website with lead generation top-of-mind. Download the beginner's guide to converting website visitors into leads for  your business here.

Think about what your website looks like in its current state. Do each of your webpages clearly guide visitors to take action, or does they leave them wondering what to do next? Do you use a tool that automatically pulls the submissions from your forms and puts them into your contact database? Are you creating custom landing pages for every single campaign that you run? Do you have lead generation CTAs on each of your blog posts? (Do you have a blog at all?)

If you’re starting to think hard about the opportunities you have to increase conversion on your site, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we’ll cover the most critical components of a website optimized for lead generation. You’ll find useful tips in here whether you’re coming from a startup generating leads from scratch, or from a well-established business looking to tighten up your website to increase conversions.

The Anatomy of a Lead-Generating Website

1) Lead generation forms

Forms are the crux of any business’ lead generation efforts. Without them, you won’t be able to get contact information that your site visitors actually opt in to give you. The opting in part is important: When people voluntarily hand over their information by filling out a form, they’re actively showing interest in your business, your products, or your content. These leads are valuable because they’re more likely to turn into customers down the road.

Embedding lead generation forms directly on your website makes it easy for visitors to convert into leads. If you’re a HubSpot customer, you can create forms right in HubSpot and either add them to your webpages or embed them elsewhere. Non-HubSpot customers can turn to form-embedding tools like Contact Form 7, JetPack, or Google Forms.

Although landing pages are the most popular places to put lead generation forms, you can embed them anywhere you’d like on your site. Here are a few examples of forms from different businesses that have with different goals, starting with OfficeVibe’s homepage:

officevibe-homepage-form-1.png

On AdmitHub’s homepage, they’ve embedded a form for a demo request:

admithub-form.png

The folks at American Songwriter embedded a subscribe form in the footer of their website:

american-songwriter-form.png

Below is the form on ChoiceScreening’s “Contact Us” page. You’ll notice it’s relatively long, but for a business that runs background checks of all kinds, the form fields are likely necessary to help organize inquiries.

choice-screening-form.png

When you’re thinking about how long your forms should be, consider whether you’d rather have more inquiries coming in, or higher quality inquiries coming in. As long as you have other, easier avenues for folks to contact you, a longer form can be okay for some businesses.

2) A form scraping tool

Once you’ve created and embedded your forms, how are you going to collect and track submissions? You’ll need a tool that scrapes your forms, meaning it automatically captures the form submissions on your website and puts them into your contact database.

By consolidating your leads in one place, it’ll be much easier for you to follow up with those leads — whether it’s by sending them lead nurturing emails, tracking their future behavior on your website, or some other action.

We recommend using our free Collected Forms tool, part of HubSpot Marketing Free. Collected Forms enables you to detect form submissions on your website as they come in — even if the forms are not built with HubSpot. Then, it’ll put those submissions right into your contacts database.

collected-forms-screenshot.png

collected-forms-leads.png

3) Primary and secondary calls-to-action on every page

When people go to a website, they’re usually trying to take some action. Sometimes, they know what that action is — like when you’re looking for a coffee grinder to buy for your spouse’s birthday and you plan to make a purchase as soon as you find one that’s good enough. Other times, visitors simply don’t know what they want to do on a website and they’re just there to browse or research.

It’s your job to guide these people forward in their research and/or buying process through calls-to-action (CTAs). Remember, your website exists to compel visitors to dig deeper into your business and offerings and move them further down the funnel. CTAs tell them what to do next so they don’t feel lost or overwhelmed. In this way, CTAs turn your homepage into a lead-generating machine.

You’ll want to create multiple CTAs for your site that speak to different parts of the buying funnel. But it’s important to have a primary CTA — one that exists above the fold of your site pages, sticks out from the others, and leads people to do the #1 thing you want them to do on each page.

What that CTA leads to will depend on your end goal. What do you want your site visitors to do most — do you want them to sign up? Create an account? Request a demo? Defining what a “lead” means to you will make your analytics goals much clearer and will help you build a more intuitive funnel.

Here are two examples of webpages that effectively use primary CTAs to direct visitors to the next logical step. The first is Mint’s homepage, where you’ll notice the free sign-up CTA immediately draws your eye:

mint-homepage-headline-example.png

Here’s another example from FreshBooks’ homepage:

freshbooks-homepage.png

Common CTA examples include “Free Trial,” “Schedule a Demo,” “Buy Now,” or “Learn More.” (Here are 30 examples of great CTAs for more inspiration.)

4) Gated offers on landing pages

We already went over the importance of embedding forms on your website in a more general sense, but landing pages deserve a section of their own. Landing pages are the hub of your lead generation efforts — which is why every marketing campaign you run and every offer you create should be tied to a custom landing page.

The more landing pages you have, the more opportunities you have to convert site visitors into leads. There’s also a huge SEO benefit to having more landing pages, which can have an impact even before visitors land on your site.

There are many elements that a top-notch landing page needs, from design to form length to navigation, share buttons, social proof, and so on. If you’re looking for detailed information on building well-designed landing pages that are optimized for lead conversion, here are a few helpful resources:

Below is a great example of a landing page from WebDAM. While it’s a solid example overall, the form might be the best part — especially the little icons in front of the text that refer to the information needed to complete it.

webdam-landing-page-example-1.png

If you’re looking for ideas for valuable content to put behind those landing pages, read this list of 23 lead generation content ideas to start you off.

5) Pop-up forms

I know, I know. “Pop-ups” can sound like a dirty word nowadays. Inbound marketers everywhere are asking themselves whether they should be using pop-up forms — and the short answer is yes, as long as you use them in an inbound-y way.

To do that, you’ll want to make sure you’re:

  • Offering something valuable and relevant so they add to your website visitors’ experience, rather than interrupting it;
  • Timing their appearance so they’re triggered by certain actions or time spent on a page in a way that feels natural and not interruptive;
  • Using language that’s actionable and human;
  • Not ruining the mobile experience.

In addition to embedded forms and traditional call-to-action buttons, you’ll also want to pick and choose pages on your website where you can place pop-up forms, which we call lead flows here at HubSpot. There are a few different types of lead flows you can choose from: welcome mats, overlay modals (which is what most people think of when they hear the term “pop-up”), banners, and slide-in boxes:

Popup-Types-801.png

Here’s an example of a banner on Basecamp’s homepage, which appears when you scroll a certain percentage of the way down the page:

basecamp-dropdown-banner-1.gif

This overlay modal from Aquaspresso’s blog offers blog readers an avenue toward their paid products in a way that’s helpful (providing a discount):

aquaspresso-blog-pop-up.png

If you’re looking for a good free tool to get started with pop-up forms, we’d recommend you try HubSpot Marketing Free. We built the Lead Flows feature within this free tool to help marketers generate more leads across their entire website without sacrificing the user experience.

6) Intuitive design and thoughtful CTA placement

The point of your website is to guide site visitors toward the actions you want them to take. Your conversion efforts will be far more compelling when assets are easy to find and are built with a reader-centric mindset. Think about how you can use layout, CTA placement, whitespace, colors, fonts, and other supporting elements to clearly communicate your value proposition, help visitors find specific information easily, and build trust.

Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure your webpages — especially your most popular ones, like your homepage — are designed beautifully, intuitively, and with lead generation in mind. In other words, you’ll want to direct your visitors’ attention to the areas of the page that will convert them into leads.

For example, according to an eye tracking study, a website reader’s natural eye path starts in the upper left-hand corner of a website and moves on from there in an F-pattern. To take advantage of this pattern, you may want to place your most important calls-to-action somewhere within that F-pattern. (Read this blog post to learn more about designing webpages for lead generation.)

In the example below, the business’ name is in the top left, followed by the horizontal navigation bar placed on the top, and a primary call-to-action (by #4) in the second row.

f-pattern-with-content-1.jpg

Image Credit: Envato Studio

7) A blog with lead-generating CTAs

If you don’t have a business blog or aren’t using it consistently, then you’re missing out on a huge traffic- and lead-driving engine. There are many business benefits to blogging, which not only include helping drive traffic to your website, but also converting traffic into leads for your business. Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. And thanks to the compounding value of blog posts over time, every post you write will drive value for you in the form of traffic and leads not just when you first publish it, but for years to come.

Here at HubSpot, our blog is responsible for a significant percentage of our marketing team’s incoming leads — and 76% of our monthly blog views come from posts published prior to the current month.

But in order to generate leads from your blog, you can’t just write, hit “publish,” and call it a day. You’ll need to add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post that points to free content gated behind a landing page (see #4). To help you create these long-form offers more easily without worrying about the design component, try downloading these 386+ free content creation templates for ebooks, infographics, and other offers.

Once you create lead-generating offers, promote them by blogging about subject matters related to them, and then put CTAs that lead to the asset’s landing page on every one of those blog posts.

8) Social proof and other trust-builders

In order for a site visitor to turn into a lead, they need to hand over some personal information — their name, their email address, and maybe even their phone number or company name. Why would they give that information to you unless they felt some sort of trust in your brand and what you’re offering them?

That’s where establishing credibility comes in. If you want to earn people’s trust enough to compel them to opt in to your emails or otherwise put their personal information into your database, you’re going to need to prove yourself somehow — especially to people who don’t know who you are quite yet. The most meaningful form of advertising is recommendations from others, and it can have a big impact on conversion rates.

There are many ways to establish credibility on your website. One effective way to show trustworthiness is by adding social proof — like customer testimonials, case studies, and prominent client logos — as well as trust seals to your site.

  • Customer testimonials are quotes from real customers you can place on landing pages, your homepage, and anywhere else on your website. Place these quotes below forms, and be sure to include a photo, name, company, and job title. Here’s a great example from Codecademy’s homepage:

codecademy-homepage.png

  • Case studies are full-fledged customer stories, either written or in video. They’re longer and more detailed than customer testimonials, and often include success metrics and positive results. You can learn more on how to create compelling case studies here.
  • Prominent client logos are when a business places the logos of some of their more well-known clients on their homepage or elsewhere on their website to show them off. According to ConversionXL, logos from prominent clients tend to be memorable to site visitors.
  • Trust seals are symbols that reassure site visitors that their sensitive information is secure with the company they’re giving it to. (Read this post to learn more about adding trust seals to your website.)

trust-seals-1.png

There you have it. Now, these are by no means the only components of a website that can or should be optimized for lead generation. But this guide will help you get started with the fundamental components you’ll need to generate more and higher quality leads.

And although we’ve gone over some overarching best practices, remember that you’ll need to continuously test and tweak your site to optimize it for leads based on your own, unique audience. If you aren’t doing that already or want to learn more about optimization, read this post to learn about A/B testing your website in more detail.

What else makes up a lead-generating website? Share with us in the comments.

Intro to Lead Gen

Nov

10

2016

The Free Growth Tools I Recommend For Modern Businesses to Grow & Scale

growth-tools.jpg

If you’re growing a company, chances are you’re challenged with choosing the right tools to help you grow.

Both at HubSpot and at other businesses I’ve helped advise, I’ve seen marketing and sales teams experiment with all sorts of different tools they’ve hoped would drive growth. Some of these tools did help the team grow. Others slowed growth down or blocked it altogether. At HubSpot, we’ve seen opportunities to build new growth tools for marketing and sales teams and we’ve worked hard to fill those gaps.

One of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from growing businesses is that most growth problems come not from ideas, but from execution. You might have a growth-driven team, a great vision, and the dedication to achieve your lofty goals. But having those things isn’t enough to actually grow.

To execute on your strategy, you’re going to need a powerful set of tools that leverage every stage of the customer experience, from the first point of contact, through the sales and marketing process, and over the lifetime of the customer.

The foundation of a strong growth stack starts with the following:

  • A CRM system that serves as the foundation for all the other growth tools you’re using, which is where all of your customer data is stored.
  • A marketing platform to attract the right people, convert them as leads, and communicate with them through the purchase process and once they’re a customer.
  • A sales platform that helps your sales team identify the right people, connect with them, and close them as customers.

Some companies are in the position to implement a growth stack right off the bat and then enhance and customize it with the right collection of integrated tools. Others need to start with free tools and build to a full growth stack over time. (Note: There is a free version of the HubSpot Growth Stack.)

For those companies just getting started, here is my shortlist of the best free growth tools for modern businesses. The list comprises a blend of free HubSpot tools and those from other companies that we’ve used and recommend.

The 11 Free Growth Tools I Recommend

A Free CRM

1) HubSpot CRM

You can’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) is just that — it acts as the base layer of growth where all your business functions’ information is organized and can be easily analyzed. In all honesty, it’s impossible to grow and scale your business without a CRM.

Your CRM is the software that sits at the core of your digital system. It tracks every interaction your sales team has, stores all your marketing leads and customer data, and improves communication across your organization. The more you grow, the more important this becomes.

The problem is, most traditional CRM systems are hard to implement and use — especially for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with limited time and resources. Sales teams have trouble adopting them internally, and you can bet that doesn’t help your business grow whatsoever. If you’re looking for a clean and intuitive CRM that’ll make your sales reps more efficient — regardless of their experience levels — I’m very proud of the free CRM our team at HubSpot has built.

hubspot-crm-screenshot.png

Free Growth Tools for Marketing

2) Trello

I’m a big fan of visualizing progress. Growth teams tend to have a lot of ideas, a lot of projects, and a lot of experiments going on at the same time. We’ve found Trello to be the best tool for tracking that progress. Each idea, project, and experiment can live on its own card, which teams can use to take notes, assign tasks, set due dates, and so on.

Here’s a real example: Our VP of Marketing Kieran Flanagan uses it to track, from start to finish, all the experiments his growth team runs. What’s especially remarkable is that his team members are located in various parts of the US and Europe, but with Trello they’re able to stay organized and effective, and make a big impact on business growth.

trello-sample-promo-board.png

The folks at Trello put together their own list of business growth apps, inspired by ours. Check it out here.

3) Hotjar Heat Maps & Visitor Recordings

Data beats intuition. You can’t really know what your audience wants without getting inside the heads of the people who already regularly visit your site to find out why they visit your site, and Hotjar’s tools are perfect for just that.

These guys are on the cutting edge of helping people figure out what drives people to different parts of their website. They’re making it possible for people to build and grow their website in a way that actually resonates with people. We actually just launched an integration with Hotjar that shows Hotjar poll responses in HubSpot users’ contact timelines.

The Heat Maps and Visitor Recordings are my favorite parts of the tool, though, and here’s why: They visualize what people are doing when they get to your site by showing clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior. This is so important for a business because each of these actions shows what people do and care about on your site. It’ll also help you find the biggest opportunities for improvement and testing. (And you should always be testing.)

hotjar-heatmaps.jpg

Image Credit: Hotjar

4) Google Keyword Planner

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to growing traffic, which is a big driver of business growth in the online age. Simply put, you need to do it, and you need to do it well. If you want more people to find you on Google, you’ll need a keyword tool to help you prioritize which keywords to focus on.

There are a few good keyword tools out there, but Google Keyword Planner is a great starting point for narrowing down the right keywords, gauging competition around each one, and learning how many people are searching for them.

google-keywords-planner-1.png

5) GrowthBot

Bots are pretty freaking cool, and there’s business value to them too — they can make simple processes more efficient, giving your team time back in your day and helping you intelligently answer questions around your business. I could not be more excited about bots. That’s why I spent a lot of time this year building a chatbot for growth professionals called GrowthBot. I originally started building it because I wanted it myself, but others have told me they find it helpful, too.

So how does it work? By connecting to a variety of marketing systems (like HubSpot, Google Analytics, and more), GrowthBot is able to give you more convenient access to information you already otherwise have, and give you access to information you didn’t know you had. In the first case, you could ask it the question, “How was organic traffic last month?” and it’ll tell you. In the second case, you might ask it, “Which public SaaS companies are using HubSpot?” or “Which PPC keywords is uber.com buying?” and it’ll spit back the answer in just a few seconds.

growthbot-examples.png

6) HubSpot Marketing Free’s Lead Flows

A big mistake I see growing marketing teams making is spending all their time driving traffic to their website, but not turning that traffic into leads. Problem is, if you’re not learning about the people who are showing interest in your business, you’re leaving critical lead and sales numbers on the table.

To help you take a page that gets a good amount of traffic and turn that traffic into leads, some really smart folks created a feature within HubSpot’s new free marketing tool called Lead Flows. Lead Flows are unobtrusive widgets — pop-ups, dropdown banners, slide-ins — that you can add to any of your website pages. Best part is that they involve no technical setup or coding whatsoever, so you can set them up in minutes (seriously, minutes) without having to make changes to your existing site. Let us know what you think of Lead Flows on Product Hunt.

hubspot-marketing-free.gif

7) Buffer

There’s a lot you can do with social without spending any money. Social media is an amplifier. It takes time, but if you build a following, it is a great way to take that awesome content you’re producing and spreading it further and wider.

For social media marketing on all the major networks, Buffer is a great place to start. It connects your business’ Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ accounts in a single platform and lets you share text, links, photos, and videos, either immediately or to schedule for later.

buffer-schedule-posts.png

Image Credit: Buffer

8) Canva

Tools that make creating visual content easier are important for growth, especially for a business with limited design resources. Being able to create great images in a short amount of time will help make your website, your emails, your social media posts, and every other marketing asset more engaging and attractive to your audience. Simply put, better visuals = more engagement = more traffic = business growth.

Canva makes it easy and fast for people who aren’t designers by trade (like me, as my team knows well) to create visual content quickly.

canva-example-1.png

Image Credit: Entrepreneur’s Organization

Free Growth Tools for Sales

9) join.me Free Conference Calls & Screen Sharing

The easier you make it for your sales team to interact with leads and prospects, the better they’ll be at closing customers, which you most definitely need if you want to grow your business. join.me isn’t software — all your reps have to do to start a call is open up the desktop or mobile app or log in online.

There are a lot of meetings tools out there, but this one is one of the fastest, most reliable, most intuitive, and easiest to use. And if you use HubSpot’s free CRM, you can start a join.me meeting directly from your contact timeline.

hubspot-join-me-integration.png

Image Credit: join.me

10) HubSpot Sales Templates

Your sales reps are probably wasting a lot of time writing the same emails over, and over, and over again. There’s a lot of value in streamlining the emailing process while still making sure sales reps are sending high-quality emails. If your sales reps can get their hands on personalized email templates, that’ll save hundreds of hours over the long term. Templates, a feature of HubSpot Sales, lets you access personalized email templates for free from within your inbox.

What makes this tool particularly powerful for sales teams is that you can build a shared library of templates everyone can use. You can also aggregate data on how often emails with certain templates get opened or clicked, which helps you hone in on the approaches worth sharing.

HubSpot-Sales-Email-Templates.png

11) HubSpot Sales Email Open Tracking & Notifications

This is one of my favorite email tools, not just for sales teams, but for personal use. It sends instant desktop notifications when the emails you send get opened. You’ll see who opened the email, at what time, on which device, and where they were located when they opened it. If you want to look at all your notifications, or all your notifications on a specific email, then you can view the full history in a stream.

hubspot-email-activity-stream.jpg

This list of free tools is a starting point for those looking to grow from startup into sustainable. Down the road, you’ll want to integrate your growth tools together into a true growth stack. For those looking to take the next step, we’ve mapped out our version of a complete growth stack over on Product Hunt. Take a look and let our engineers know what you think.

hubspot-growth-stack

Nov

10

2016

The Free Growth Tools I Recommend For Modern Businesses to Grow & Scale

growth-tools.jpg

If you’re growing a company, chances are you’re challenged with choosing the right tools to help you grow.

Both at HubSpot and at other businesses I’ve helped advise, I’ve seen marketing and sales teams experiment with all sorts of different tools they’ve hoped would drive growth. Some of these tools did help the team grow. Others slowed growth down or blocked it altogether. At HubSpot, we’ve seen opportunities to build new growth tools for marketing and sales teams and we’ve worked hard to fill those gaps.

One of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from growing businesses is that most growth problems come not from ideas, but from execution. You might have a growth-driven team, a great vision, and the dedication to achieve your lofty goals. But having those things isn’t enough to actually grow.

To execute on your strategy, you’re going to need a powerful set of tools that leverage every stage of the customer experience, from the first point of contact, through the sales and marketing process, and over the lifetime of the customer.

The foundation of a strong growth stack starts with the following:

  • A CRM system that serves as the foundation for all the other growth tools you’re using, which is where all of your customer data is stored.
  • A marketing platform to attract the right people, convert them as leads, and communicate with them through the purchase process and once they’re a customer.
  • A sales platform that helps your sales team identify the right people, connect with them, and close them as customers.

Some companies are in the position to implement a growth stack right off the bat and then enhance and customize it with the right collection of integrated tools. Others need to start with free tools and build to a full growth stack over time. (Note: There is a free version of the HubSpot Growth Stack.)

For those companies just getting started, here is my shortlist of the best free growth tools for modern businesses. The list comprises a blend of free HubSpot tools and those from other companies that we’ve used and recommend.

The 11 Free Growth Tools I Recommend

A Free CRM

1) HubSpot CRM

You can’t build a skyscraper without a solid foundation. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) is just that — it acts as the base layer of growth where all your business functions’ information is organized and can be easily analyzed. In all honesty, it’s impossible to grow and scale your business without a CRM.

Your CRM is the software that sits at the core of your digital system. It tracks every interaction your sales team has, stores all your marketing leads and customer data, and improves communication across your organization. The more you grow, the more important this becomes.

The problem is, most traditional CRM systems are hard to implement and use — especially for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with limited time and resources. Sales teams have trouble adopting them internally, and you can bet that doesn’t help your business grow whatsoever. If you’re looking for a clean and intuitive CRM that’ll make your sales reps more efficient — regardless of their experience levels — I’m very proud of the free CRM our team at HubSpot has built.

hubspot-crm-screenshot.png

Free Growth Tools for Marketing

2) Trello

I’m a big fan of visualizing progress. Growth teams tend to have a lot of ideas, a lot of projects, and a lot of experiments going on at the same time. We’ve found Trello to be the best tool for tracking that progress. Each idea, project, and experiment can live on its own card, which teams can use to take notes, assign tasks, set due dates, and so on.

Here’s a real example: Our VP of Marketing Kieran Flanagan uses it to track, from start to finish, all the experiments his growth team runs. What’s especially remarkable is that his team members are located in various parts of the US and Europe, but with Trello they’re able to stay organized and effective, and make a big impact on business growth.

trello-sample-promo-board.png

3) Hotjar Heat Maps & Visitor Recordings

Data beats intuition. You can’t really know what your audience wants without getting inside the heads of the people who already regularly visit your site to find out why they visit your site, and Hotjar’s tools are perfect for just that.

These guys are on the cutting edge of helping people figure out what drives people to different parts of their website. They’re making it possible for people to build and grow their website in a way that actually resonates with people. We actually just launched an integration with Hotjar that shows Hotjar poll responses in HubSpot users’ contact timelines.

The Heat Maps and Visitor Recordings are my favorite parts of the tool, though, and here’s why: They visualize what people are doing when they get to your site by showing clicks, taps, and scrolling behavior. This is so important for a business because each of these actions shows what people do and care about on your site. It’ll also help you find the biggest opportunities for improvement and testing. (And you should always be testing.)

hotjar-heatmaps.jpg

Image Credit: Hotjar

4) Google Keyword Planner

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to growing traffic, which is a big driver of business growth in the online age. Simply put, you need to do it, and you need to do it well. If you want more people to find you on Google, you’ll need a keyword tool to help you prioritize which keywords to focus on.

There are a few good keyword tools out there, but Google Keyword Planner is a great starting point for narrowing down the right keywords, gauging competition around each one, and learning how many people are searching for them.

google-keywords-planner-1.png

5) GrowthBot

Bots are pretty freaking cool, and there’s business value to them too — they can make simple processes more efficient, giving your team time back in your day and helping you intelligently answer questions around your business. I could not be more excited about bots. That’s why I spent a lot of time this year building a chatbot for growth professionals called GrowthBot. I originally started building it because I wanted it myself, but others have told me they find it helpful, too.

So how does it work? By connecting to a variety of marketing systems (like HubSpot, Google Analytics, and more), GrowthBot is able to give you more convenient access to information you already otherwise have, and give you access to information you didn’t know you had. In the first case, you could ask it the question, “How was organic traffic last month?” and it’ll tell you. In the second case, you might ask it, “Which public SaaS companies are using HubSpot?” or “Which PPC keywords is uber.com buying?” and it’ll spit back the answer in just a few seconds.

growthbot-examples.png

6) HubSpot Marketing Free’s Lead Flows

A big mistake I see growing marketing teams making is spending all their time driving traffic to their website, but not turning that traffic into leads. Problem is, if you’re not learning about the people who are showing interest in your business, you’re leaving critical lead and sales numbers on the table.

To help you take a page that gets a good amount of traffic and turn that traffic into leads, some really smart folks created a feature within HubSpot’s new free marketing tool called Lead Flows. Lead Flows are unobtrusive widgets — pop-ups, dropdown banners, slide-ins — that you can add to any of your website pages. Best part is that they involve no technical setup or coding whatsoever, so you can set them up in minutes (seriously, minutes) without having to make changes to your existing site. Let us know what you think of Lead Flows on Product Hunt.

hubspot-marketing-free.gif

7) Buffer

There’s a lot you can do with social without spending any money. Social media is an amplifier. It takes time, but if you build a following, it is a great way to take that awesome content you’re producing and spreading it further and wider.

For social media marketing on all the major networks, Buffer is a great place to start. It connects your business’ Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+ accounts in a single platform and lets you share text, links, photos, and videos, either immediately or to schedule for later.

buffer-schedule-posts.png

Image Credit: Buffer

8) Canva

Tools that make creating visual content easier are important for growth, especially for a business with limited design resources. Being able to create great images in a short amount of time will help make your website, your emails, your social media posts, and every other marketing asset more engaging and attractive to your audience. Simply put, better visuals = more engagement = more traffic = business growth.

Canva makes it easy and fast for people who aren’t designers by trade (like me, as my team knows well) to create visual content quickly.

canva-example-1.png

Image Credit: Entrepreneur’s Organization

Free Growth Tools for Sales

9) join.me Free Conference Calls & Screen Sharing

The easier you make it for your sales team to interact with leads and prospects, the better they’ll be at closing customers, which you most definitely need if you want to grow your business. join.me isn’t software — all your reps have to do to start a call is open up the desktop or mobile app or log in online.

There are a lot of meetings tools out there, but this one is one of the fastest, most reliable, most intuitive, and easiest to use. And if you use HubSpot’s free CRM, you can start a join.me meeting directly from your contact timeline.

hubspot-join-me-integration.png

Image Credit: join.me

10) HubSpot Sales Templates

Your sales reps are probably wasting a lot of time writing the same emails over, and over, and over again. There’s a lot of value in streamlining the emailing process while still making sure sales reps are sending high-quality emails. If your sales reps can get their hands on personalized email templates, that’ll save hundreds of hours over the long term. Templates, a feature of HubSpot Sales, lets you access personalized email templates for free from within your inbox.

What makes this tool particularly powerful for sales teams is that you can build a shared library of templates everyone can use. You can also aggregate data on how often emails with certain templates get opened or clicked, which helps you hone in on the approaches worth sharing.

HubSpot-Sales-Email-Templates.png

11) HubSpot Sales Email Open Tracking & Notifications

This is one of my favorite email tools, not just for sales teams, but for personal use. It sends instant desktop notifications when the emails you send get opened. You’ll see who opened the email, at what time, on which device, and where they were located when they opened it. If you want to look at all your notifications, or all your notifications on a specific email, then you can view the full history in a stream.

hubspot-email-activity-stream.jpg

This list of free tools is a starting point for those looking to grow from startup into sustainable. Down the road, you’ll want to integrate your growth tools together into a true growth stack. For those looking to take the next step, we’ve mapped out our version of a complete growth stack over on Product Hunt. Take a look and let our engineers know what you think.

hubspot-growth-stack

Nov

8

2016

9 Places to Find Quality Email Newsletter Templates

emailnewsletter.jpg'.jpg

If you had to guess, how many email newsletters do you think you’re subscribed to? Ten? Twenty? Fifty?

To be honest, I’ve lost count … and I know I’m not alone.

Email marketers have a lot to compete with in their subscribers’ inboxes. If done well, though, email newsletters can do wonders to help you build an engaged subscriber base, keep your business top-of-mind, and nurture leads that are already making their way down the funnel.

However, “done well” means more than just serving up great content. In fact, an often overlooked component of the newsletter creation process is the design. Download this free guide to learn how to write, design, optimize, and measure  a successful email newsletter. 

Don’t have time to build out a custom template from scratch? We’ve scoured the internet for the best resources for email newsletter templates and compiled them below. Once you find one you like, download the template and customize it to fit your needs.

9 Places to Find Email Newsletter Templates Online

1) Email on Acid 

Price: Free

Email on Acid offers a free template with a basic, fluid design that’s also responsive to mobile devices. In other words, the three different “layouts” you see below trigger based on the width of the recipient’s screen.

Although there’s only one template here, you can actually mix and match each section of the layout to fit your specific design needs. The layout supports one, two, or three columns, and recipients on mobile devices will see the version that converts to a one-column layout for easy reading.

Email on Acid Newsletter 

Image Credit: Email on Acid

2) ZURB Ink 

Price: Free

ZURB Studios has five responsive email templates available for free, including the newsletter one below. It has a great, fluid layout you can customize with your own colors, images, and wording. If you want to see how each template looks on different email clients, you can check out screenshots from each template’s email client tests, which are on available the site. These layouts are optimized for most email clients — except for Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013.

The template comes with a separate CSS stylesheet and HTML file to ease the editing process, and most clients put the CSS inline with the HTML itself after both are uploaded separately. If you’re going to add images to your newsletter, keep in mind you’ll have to create a separate folder and compress with the CSS stylesheet when uploaded. 

Zurb Studios Newsletter

Image Credit: ZURB Studios

3) 99designs

Price: Free

99designs is a growing online community and collaboration platform for designers and small businesses, and they have a great designer blog and business blog. To celebrate the launch of their Email Design category, the company ran a contest asking designers to create three email templates — a newsletter template, a promotional template, and a template for email notifications — using a set color scheme (green, blue, orange, and grey) for people to download. The folks at 99design then chose their 12 favorites and made them downloadable for free on their website. They’re compatible with all major email clients.

99Designs Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: 99designs

4) ThemeForest

Price: $6-23/template

ThemeForest is an awesome resource for email templates if you have some budget to spend. Their library has over 460 newsletter templates in all different colors, styles, and themes. They’re rated using a four-star system, and you can filter by rating, price, recency, and popularity.

There are a lot to choose from, but here are four of our favorites:

Market – Responsive Newsletter with Template Builder ($19)

This template has eight prebuilt layouts, 24 color variations, 24 full-layered PSD files, and more. Plus, it’s supported by all major email clients.

ThemeForest Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: ThemeForest

FreshMail, Responsive Email with Template Editor ($18)

Want a more minimalist look? This is a great template with minimalist design that’s also flexible and repeatable, so you can easily arrange the layout and use it to build your own unique template. Even better, it comes with helpful documentation and video tutorials to help you make the most of the design. It works for all major email clients and is responsive to mobile.

ThemeForest Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: ThemeForest

FancyMail – Responsive Email Template ($19)

If you’re looking for something more elegant and sophisticated, this might be the template for you. It comes in seven layout options and eight colors, along with six, fully-layered PSD files so you can customize as you wish. It works with all major email clients, is responsive to mobile devices, and includes helpful documentation so you can make the most of the template.

ThemeForest Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: ThemeForest

Rocket Mail – Clean & Modern Email Template ($16)

This template is great for marketers who are going for something that looks like your classic, basic newsletter design. It comes with 72 variations comprised of six color themes with six layouts each, and two backgrounds (light and dark) for each color. It has well commented HTML code to make it easier to follow along and customize. It works for all major email clients.

ThemeForest Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: ThemeForest

5) Antwort

Price: Free

Antwort offers three newsletter templates: one single-column, one two-column, and one three-column. They’re all responsive to mobile devices, so columns on desktop automatically condense on mobile devices. You’ll notice they’re pretty minimalist in design, which helps if you want to do a lot of customization work. They were also designed with dynamic content in mind.

On desktop, they work for major email clients like Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, and AOL. On mobile, they work for Mail on iOS and Email on Android.

Antwort Email Newsletter Templates

Image Credit: Julie Ng 

 

6) TemplateMonster

Price: $11-$19/template

TemplateMonster offers a variety of email newsletter templates, such as the cat-themed template pictured below, available for relatively low prices. Their templates are clean, customizeable, and easy-to-use, and they’re compatible with most major email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Additionally, the templates come with built-in responsive layouts for screen adaptability, such as on the mobile phone pictured below, and PSD sources for a litany of customization options.

cats.png

Image Credit: TemplateMonster

7) Themezy

Price: Free

Download sixteen free HTML, CSS, and PSD sources of customizable email templates on Themezy. You don’t have to submit an email address to get started, and there are various color schemes and layouts to meet your email list’s needs. Plus, they’re designed to be responsive across devices to ensure that your subscribers can read your newsletter.

themezy.jpg

Image Credit: Themezy

8) Litmus

Price: Free

Litmus offers a free email template collection — from newsletter templates to account management templates. The marketing-specific theme — referred to as “Pook” — is modern and sleek, while still being kind of fun. All of the templates have been tested with Litmus, and you can easily check out how the email will appear in different email clients here.

While you are required to create a Litmus account with your email address to access the templates, the templates themselves are free of charge.

pook.png

Image Credit: Litmus

9) HubSpot Template Marketplace

Price: Free & paid options available

For those of you who are HubSpot customers, HubSpot offers a great collection of email templates you can download or purchase from our template marketplace. Paid templates are available for as low as $1, and once you buy a template, you can start using it immediately right in HubSpot — no HTML or CSS required.

HubSpot Template Marketplace.png

Where else can you find email newsletter templates online? Share them with us in the comments.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to creating email newsletters

 
free guide to creating email newsletters

Nov

8

2016

16 Stats That Prove the Importance of Local SEO [Infographic]

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When you’re looking for a local business that’ll fix your favorite pair of shoes, sell you the book your friend recommended, or bake a spaceship-themed cake for your kid’s birthday — how do you find it?

You pull up your favorite search engine for a little online research, of course.

Your customers are no different. When they’re looking for a product or service similar to what your local business sells, they’re going online to find it. Download our free guide here to learn more about 301 redirects and common SEO  mistakes to avoid.

Did you know that 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day? Same with 34% of consumers who searched on a computer or tablet.

A strong local SEO strategy is key to driving more people to your store, whether you have one storefront or five hundred. Check out the infographic below from GO-Globe to learn more helpful local SEO statistics and trends. (And to learn which parts of your site to optimize for local searches, check out this post.) 

local-seo-stats-infographic.jpg 

Increase SEO Traffic

Nov

8

2016

16 Stats That Prove the Importance of Local SEO [Infographic]

local-seo-stats.jpg

When you’re looking for a local business that’ll fix your favorite pair of shoes, sell you the book your friend recommended, or bake a spaceship-themed cake for your kid’s birthday — how do you find it?

You pull up your favorite search engine for a little online research, of course.

Your customers are no different. When they’re looking for a product or service similar to what your local business sells, they’re going online to find it. Download our free guide here to learn more about 301 redirects and common SEO  mistakes to avoid.

Did you know that 50% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day? Same with 34% of consumers who searched on a computer or tablet.

A strong local SEO strategy is key to driving more people to your store, whether you have one storefront or five hundred. Check out the infographic below from GO-Globe to learn more helpful local SEO statistics and trends. (And to learn which parts of your site to optimize for local searches, check out this post.) 

local-seo-stats-infographic.jpg 

Increase SEO Traffic

Nov

3

2016

The Top 10 Conversion Lessons One Agency Learned After Critiquing 100+ Websites

Lessons from Website Critiques.jpg

When it comes to website design, creating a page that is visually appealing, aligned with your brand, and optimized for lead generation is no easy task. After all, there are a lot of mistakes you can make in the process.

That’s why — for almost two years now — my team here at IMPACT Branding & Design has been hosting a monthly live website critique called Website Throwdown. Our goal is to help people recognize and correct some of those mistakes, while educating other viewers in the process.

The best part? We critics happen to learn a thing or two about marketing, UX design, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) in the process, too. It’s a win-win. So in the spirit of education for all, I’ve recapped the top 10 CRO lessons IMPACT has learned after critiquing over 100+ websites below.

P.S. – Want your website critiqued in person at INBOUND 2016? We’re hosting a live throwdown in Club INBOUND with the help of special guest like HubSpot’s Luke Summerfield and The Sales Lion’s Marcus Sheridan and George B. Register for INBOUND and then reserve your throwdown slot here.

The Top 10 CRO Lessons One Agency Learned After Critiquing 100+ Websites

Lesson #1: Too many brands are hiding social proof.

So you’ve worked with some highly respected brands and they couldn’t love you more — why aren’t you screaming about it from the rooftops?

After critiquing over 100 websites, we found that a surprising majority of brands hide their social proof far down on their homepage or worse — isolate it to a never-seen page in their navigation.

Nothing speaks more highly of your work than word-of-mouth and by hiding this powerful information where visitors are unlikely to look, you can risk it going completely unnoticed.

To get the most out of social proof, incorporate elements of it into your homepage design where your visitor’s attention is at its highest. (A heatmap from Hotjar can help you determine where this is exactly.) Doing this will help you make a strong impression and immediately establish credibility in the eye of the reader.

Take a look at Contently, for example. On its homepage, the content company shows off who has used its platform before even asking you to watch a demo or learn more. Leading with this social proof builds trust and makes the visitor think, “if it worked for them, it’ll work for me.”

CRO-lessons-1-social-proof-contently.png

Elements of social proof you can consider incorporating into your homepage include:

  • Partner/Client logos
  • Testimonials
  • Awards
  • Certifications
  • Reviews
  • Affiliations
  • Social Followings

Lesson #2: Real photography is underappreciated.

“Stock photos of people should never be used to represent your customers or your employees. Lose them,” commented David Meerman Scott during one of our live critiques. (He’ll be critiquing websites with us live at INBOUND, too.)

Now, you’re probably saying, “but, but sometimes I need to use stock photos.” And I get that — especially when you don’t have the budget for a photographer, or you’re in a time crunch. But with so many organizations using generic stock photos prominently on their websites, investing in real photography or custom graphics is an easy way for your company to establish credibility and stand out.

Using authentic, real photos of your team or office can help frame your business in a more genuine, relatable light. This can make visitors feel like they actually know you, and in turn, make them more comfortable doing business with you. 

HubSpot does a great job with this, capitalizing on their real employees, rather than stock models on every page of their site.

Email Page HubSpot.png

CRO-lessons-hubspot2.png

Moral of the story? If you have to use stock photos, choose them wisely — avoid results on the first page, look for unique shots, and steer clear of anything overly cheesy. (If you need help, here’s a list of quality stock photo sites to get you started.)

Lesson #3: Bring differentiation to the forefront.

If people can’t identify your company’s unique value within a few seconds of being on your homepage, chances are you’ve already lost their business.

Attention spans today are low. When visitors first arrive on your site, you need to tell them exactly what makes you different and why they should stick around to learn more.

One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is with a well-thought out and prominently placed value proposition that explains:

  • What you do
  • Who you do it for
  • How you do it differently from your competition

In this article, I discussed how Slack nailed its value prop on its homepage. Just look at this breakdown:

  • What does it do? It’s a messaging app.
  • Who is it for? Teams.
  • How does it do it differently from the competition? It makes working lives “simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.” (Plus, the team behind the Mars Curiosity Rover uses it … and that’s just awesome.)

Slack Messaging App Value Prop.png

Lesson #4: Imagery and messaging need to align.

Your imagery and text should send the same message to — and elicit the same emotions from — your visitors. For example, if your value proposition positions your company as the ideal solution for metropolitan corporations, don’t use photos of small business owners or a local business plaza.

Using misaligned imagery like this can be confusing and send your visitors mixed messages — and nothing manages to cause conversion friction quite like confusion.

Tortuga Backpacks does a commendable job with this, showing a customer wearing its product in a colorful market. The image evokes thoughts of travel, while the copy addresses a common travel pain point: checking a bag.

CRO-lessons-alignment-tortuga.jpg

Lesson #5: Conversion paths must be clear and direct.

As obvious as it sounds, another lesson we learned on Website Throwdown is that one of the best ways to increase conversions is by making your path to conversion as clear and direct as possible.

Visitors can make the decision to convert or purchase at any time, and when they do, brands like yours need to make sure that the ability to do so is easily accessible.

One company that’s truly mastered this is Dropbox. With a “Try Dropbox Business” call-to-action in its sticky hello bar, the cloud storage company ensures that no matter how far you scroll down the homepage, you have a conversion point within reach when you need it.

CRO-lessons-5-conversion-dropbox.gif

Lesson #6: Avoid carousels and sliders.

If you’re considering a slide or website carousel, click here.

No but seriously, whether it’s HubSpot’s Austin Knight, CMO Kipp Bodnar, or Copyhackers Joanna Wiebe, the sentiments have been the same on Website Throwdown: carousels aka “sliders” have got to go.

Not only do these once-popular homepage features hide messages and take control away from the user, but they can also overwhelm the user, bombarding them with too many options at one time. 

When it comes to your website, each page should have one main message and one main goal for the visitor. And pulling them in different directions with multiple propositions and CTAs in a carousel will only lead to analysis paralysis — and ultimately even fewer conversions.

Lesson #7: Video is a huge advantage.

In Crayon’s 2015 State of Video report, the company found that video appears in 70% of the top 100 search results, while websites that incorporate it tend to see two more minutes of on-screen time than those that don’t.

Simply put, this means that video is powerful.

It grabs your visitor’s attention in a way that text alone cannot and adds more dimension to your brand. Video allows you to put a face and voice to your brand, making it more human. It also allows you to communicate more information about your product, brand, or culture in a shorter amount of time.

The quicker you engage and explain your value to website visitors, the more likely they are to stick around and take action. 

Need inspiration? Check out this roundup of fabulous explainer videos.

Lesson #8: Don’t force visitors to think.

Like I mentioned in lesson #6, giving your visitors too much information can lead to inaction — that’s because you’re forcing them to think.

As Hotjar’s Tara Robertson said on last month’s Website Throwdown, “the last thing you want someone to do when they land on your homepage is think.” People don’t like to think unnecessarily and quite frankly, it can only lead to over-thinking.

As a brand, you don’t want to burden people with the task of interpreting multiple messages or options to determine their next step. Rather, you want to focus on one action that you want taken and tell them exactly how to do it with clear copy and calls-to-action.

Streamlining your messaging and telling visitors what they should be doing next reduces confusion and friction, making it more likely that people will convert. 

Lesson #9: Clear goes further than clever.

Now, I love cheeky copy as much as the next girl, but when it comes to conversion rate optimization, clarity takes precedence.

Whether it’s in your headlines, navigation, or button text, always strive to be clear and concise with your copy to avoid misunderstandings and lost opportunities.

Any language you use on your website must resonate with and speak directly to your buyer persona in order to be effective and drive action. For instance, while labeling your product page “our masterpieces” may seem fun and quirky, if this is not a phrase that will be immediately understood by your persona and drive them to clickthrough, it shouldn’t be used.

Need help saying more with less? Try these six creative exercises for writing more concisely.

Lesson #10: Be human.

At the end of the day, even in a cold, cyber world, people want to interact with other human beings. They want to do business with those they can relate to — individuals who understand their pain points and concerns and will advocate for them.

In this effort, use your website to humanize your brand.

I can’t tell you how many companies we’ve encountered that talk about team members and collaboration on their websites, but never show a single face or name. This doesn’t do much for their credibility.

To avoid coming off cold, share real photos of your team members and show some personality. Include bios of your key team members, or even shoot a short video introducing them to your website visitors. Showing an authentic, personable side to your company can make visitors feel more comfortable doing business with you and yes, you guessed it, converting.

Is your website falling victim to any of the issues I pointed out above? Don’t forget to come meet the rest of the IMPACT crew at INBOUND 2016 for a live website critique. See you there!

free webinar: conversion rate optimization

Oct

31

2016

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Shareable Infographics Using PowerPoint or Keynote

Infographic Design.jpg

Want to learn how to plan, publish, and promote viral infographics?

You’re in the right place. But let’s start by making something clear: If you’re thinking, “I’m not a natural designer” or “I’ve never made an infographic before,” you’re not alone.

However, instead of making excuses, answer this: Have you ever made a presentation in PowerPoint or Keynote?

Great. Believe it or not, you’ve got the skills to make an infographic. And now that I know you can do this, I’m here to walk you through the seven steps that I take when creating infographics. Save countless hours using these free, pre-made templates to design your  infographics.

The plan is to cover each of those steps in detail so you know exactly how to create and launch infographics for your business as well. Let’s dive in.

How to Create Shareable Infographics Using PowerPoint or Keynote

create-an-infographic-final.png

Step #1: Choose topic and collect content.

If you’ve already got a blog and some content under your belt, the best place to find a topic is to look at your most popular content from the past.

Just head over to Google Analytics (or dig into your HubSpot software) and pull up your most popular pages (from the last 6-12 months) by going to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

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From there you’ll be able to see which topics your readers are already most interested in.

It’s a smart idea to match your infographics to the topic of your most popular blog posts because:

  • First, you’ll be able to content from those blog posts in your infographic to fast-track your project.
  • Second, you already know your audience is interested in those topics.

For example, one of the clients I work with owns an interior design firm and her blog has some great content on it. But the most popular blog post month after month was her article on “questions to ask when interviewing an interior designer.”

So we decided to use that content and create an infographic around that topic:

Because all of the content was already written, all we had to do was come up with the design.

Alright, so what if you don’t have a lot of content to work with?

I recommend that you head over to Google Trends, Google’s Keyword Planner, HubSpot’s Keywords App, and/or BuzzSumo to research what’s being searched for and shared most often.

If you’ve never used Google Trends, then you’re in for a treat. You can use this tool to see what topics are trending and most popular in real time. Plus, you can see how popular a topic was in the past and then compare that to other topics.

Check out the popularity of “infographics” vs. “magazine ads” from 2004 – 2016:

So how do you guarantee your topic will be a home run?

Use Google’s Keyword Planner (HubSpot customers: Try HubSpot’s Keyword App) to see the exact number of people who search for specific keywords and topics so you can instantly gauge the popularity of a topic. Since we’re talking about creating viral infographics in this post, don’t forget to also research your topic in BuzzSumo so you can find the most shared topics and content online to confirm people’s interest. 

Once you’ve got a topic, it’s time to do some research. One of the best parts about infographics is that you don’t have to write much copy by yourself — almost every single infographic online includes quotes, data, and resources from other people and brands.

To get started, you’ll want to open up an app like Evernote and write down everything you personally know about the topic you’re covering, plus every sub-topic you want to research.

After you’ve got your own notes down, head over to Google Search and start the research process. For example, type in phrases like: “best (my topic) articles,” “(my topic) statistics,” “(my topic) quotes,” “(my topic) blogs,” and “(my topic) infographics.”

This will give you dozens of great resources to pull ideas and data from that you can include in your infographic. Just don’t forget to save the website address (URL) for each resource you cite.

Lastly, it’s important that you remember this is an infographic — not a blog post. That means you should only collect the most important, focused data and resources. Ignore all the gritty details and “fluff.”

Action items for Step #1:

  • Choose and validate a topic for your infographic
  • Collect and cite important resources you’ll quote

Step #2: Create and re-size a blank presentation.

This step is super easy. All you need to do here is create a blank presentation deck in either PowerPoint or Keynote and resize it to the shape/size of an infographic.

Personally, I prefer Keynote. But rest assured that every single tool you need to make infographics are available in both PowerPoint and Keynote.

Let’s start with PowerPoint: Click “Design” then “Slide Size” to resize your deck.

(Note: 6.5 x 50 inches in the maximum size in PowerPoint.)

For Keynote: Go to the “Document” options, click “Slide Size” to resize your deck.

(Note: 900 x 6000 points in the maximum size in Keynote.)

Don’t agonize over getting the “perfect” height for your infographic, just give yourself enough space to work with. (You’ll learn how to crop and optimize your infographic in step #6.)

Action items for Step #2:

  • Create a blank presentation in PowerPoint or Keynote.
  • Resize the deck to an infographic-friendly size.

Step #3: Wireframe each section using shapes.

Both PowerPoint and Keynote have “Shape” tools which will allow you to create (you guessed it) shapes.

PowerPoint has more options for shapes than Keynote as you can see below:

In this step, our goal will be to use those shapes to create a “wireframe” and layout each section you’ll need for your infographic.

Here are the basic areas / sections that you’ll need to create:

  • Header / Title Area
  • Introduction
  • Body / Main Argument
  • Conclusion
  • “Brought to you by…” Section
  • Cited Resources

In most cases, each of these sections on every infographic will remain relatively the same. The only exception is the “Body / Main Argument” section, which will vary depending on your goal for the infographic.

For example, a comparison infographic would need to have a different “wireframe” and layout than a timeline infographic to effectively illustrate your point:

That’s why it’s smart (like with any creative project) to start with the end in mind. The creation process will be a lot easier if you can picture an outcome and work towards that. And I’ve seen too many infographics fail because they focus too much on fancy design instead of creating a solid wireframe and layout that compliments their topic.

Let’s be clear: The “design” is how your information looks, but the “layout” is how your information is organized and presented. The layout is far more important than any fancy design elements.

First, you’ll want to use rectangles and borders to define large areas of your infographic like in the example below:

Don’t worry about the colors just yet, we’ll get to those in the next step.

Next, using a combination of rectangles, squares, circles, triangles, and lines, create your subsections:

When creating your wireframe and layouts, there are two important design rules to consider:

  1. You need to make sure there is enough white space so your infographic is easy to read.
  2. You need to create hierarchy with your most important content and sections at the top.

If you’re still having an issue creating your layouts, add some wireframes to a blank presentation deck and use the “Shapes” tool to trace layouts until you get the hang of it. 

Last note: If you’re using Keynote, once you’re happy with your wireframe, I recommend that you “Lock” the shapes in place, that way when you’re adding in content later, you don’t accidentally screw up the layout. (You’ve been warned!)

Action items for Step #3:

  • Find layout inspiration on Pinterest.
  • Use the “Shapes” tool to create your wireframe.
  • Create infographic sub-sections using shapes.

Step #4: Choose a color and typography palette.

Now with your snazzy new wireframe, you’re ready to choose colors and fonts.

Let’s talk colors first: A color palette is one of the most subtle, yet crucial aspects of any creative project. Your color palette will set the tone for your infographic and tie visual elements together.

When designing an infographic, I like to choose two different color sets. The first color set is the background(s), where I typically use soft, subtle colors so I can draw attention to important elements with brighter colors.

Here are a few examples:

Of course the flip side of that is to use bold background colors. But even with white text, it can make the graphic difficult to read. 

The second set of colors you choose will serve as your primary palette. These can be brighter and more eye-catching –“flat” colors are very popular for infographics.

Here are a few examples:

Keep in mind that it’s a smart idea to choose a palette that compliments your brand’s style. You can use a tool like Adobe Color to build a pallet around any color you’d like.

If you don’t want to build your own palette, I recommend that you check out Colour Lovers for endless inspiration created by other people:

Make sure that you’re not choosing too many colors as that can create “disconnect” between important areas of your infographic and overwhelm readers. If all else fails, using different shades of same color is always a safe bet.

Once you’ve got a nice color palette, it’s time to choose a font combination. The first thing you should do is avoid fancy or intricate fonts. (Even if it compliments your brand.)

Why? After you resize the infographic to a “web-friendly” size, those types of text can be extremely difficult to read. Instead, stick with easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Open Sans, Courier and Verdana.

When choosing a typography combination, you can combine two fonts, or use variations of the same font.

Check out the two examples below:

Make sure that you’re not using any fonts below 16 pts as it becomes extremely difficult to read once you resize your infographic in step #6. There is one exception when it comes to the fonts however: You don’t have to match your header’s title with the rest of your typography — you can take a bit more creative liberty with that area of the infographic.

For example, check out these great headers that grab your attention immediately with eye-catching typography:

Want some incredible fonts for your title, sub-headers, and body text that you can download and use for free? Check out this article.

Action items for Step #4:

  • Choose a background color scheme.
  • Choose a primary color scheme.
  • Select an easy-to-read typography combo.

Step #5: Add in your content, charts, and visuals.

Now it’s time to take all the resources you collected in step #1 and extract the most focused, actionable content for your infographic.

Start by adding in your sub-headers and body text to the wireframe you created in step #3:

Make sure that your copy is short and to-the-point like the example above. You’ll also need to include links to every resource you cited at the bottom of the infographic:

Now, it’s time to bring your words to life. To do this, use strong visual elements that instantly get your point across by “showing” not “telling” your readers:

You could make every single visual by yourself, or you could use my best-kept infographic design hack: Purchase community-made visual assets from online marketplaces. Websites like Graphic River, Creative Market, and Flat Icon sell visual assets made by professional designers that you can purchase and use in your projects.

For example, check out this sleek icon set you could purchase and use on any of your infographics:

There are dozens of other icons sets, illustrations, header images, and more that you can use to give your infographic a more professional look and feel immediately.

However, if you’re like me, once in awhile you want to make your own visuals from scratch. For example, one day I couldn’t find a decent “flat style” image for a fire pit, so I decided to use the “Shapes” tool in Keynote to “build” my own firepit. Check out how I made it below:

 

Now I realize that I might upset some people when I say this, but too bad: Data is not a requirement of a viral infographic. Of course, data makes it incredibly easy to prove your point by using indisputable numbers — but I’ve also seen dozens of infographics go viral that don’t include a single graph or piece of data.

That being said, when you choose to include data in your infographic, there are some important things to consider.

The traditional way would be to use charts and graphs:

The second way to display your data is to use “data visualization”:

For example, you could use a set of 10 “smartphone” icons where seven are colored and three are greyed out to represent the fact that 70% of Americans own a smartphone.

Or you could use a unique illustration like a ship race to visualize your data.

Just remember: Regardless of what type of infographic you’re creating, make sure that you’re using highly-engaging visuals and data visualizations to bring your content and data to life.

Action items for Step #5:

  • Summarize and add in your copy.
  • Add strong supporting visuals to “show” not “tell.”
  • Use charts and visualizations to bring data to life.

Step #6: Export, optimize, and upload.

Once you’re happy with your infographic, it’s time to get it ready for the web. The first thing you need to do is export the “presentation deck” that you’re working on to a PDF.

In PowerPoint, just click on “File” then “Export” from your menu bar.

In Keynote, you do the same thing, except you choose “PDF…” from the menu bar.

Now that you have a PDF version of your infographic, you need to optimize the file size for fast loading online, without sacrificing quality or readability. Like I mentioned in step #2, there’s a good chance your infographic won’t fit perfectly into the resized PowerPoint or Keynote deck, so here’s a simple solution:

Open a photo editing tool (it doesn’t have to be PhotoShop) then crop and/or stitch together your PDF(s) to get the perfect height.

Next, resize your infographic to be between 700 and 900 pixels wide. Again, this will preserve the quality of the image while making the file’s size as small as possible.

Also, I recommend using a tool like Optimizilla to compress and optimize your infographic even further. Try to get the final file size to be less than 5 MB — and be sure to save the photo file as a PNG or JPG.

The next thing you need to do is create a home for your infographic on your website. To do this, create a new page or blog post with a unique URL that you’ll upload and add the infographic image to.

This is important because when the infographic is shared around the internet, you want to make sure all the links point back to you so you get more traffic and shares.

Action items for Step #6:

  • Export infographic to a PDF.
  • Crop and/or “stitch” together your PDF(s).
  • Resize to 700-900 pixels wide.
  • Upload to a new website page or blog post.

Step #7: Go viral with strategic promotion.

Real talk: Infographics don’t go viral by accident — even if you’ve got the best infographic in the world.

Instead, strategically promoting your infographic by identifying the right people and the right websites can get your infographic in front of thousands of people fast.

But before we do that, you’ll want to make sure to optimize your infographic for search engines. SEO won’t necessarily help your infographic go viral, but it’s extremely beneficial because it will help increase your search engine rankings (which means more free traffic to your website).

Check out this infographic by Backlinko to help guide you while you’re optimizing your infographic(s) for search engines:

After that’s done, here are the next three things you should do:

#1: Find websites and blogs that share similar infographics.

For example, if I had just published an infographic on email marketing, I would go to Google at type in: “Email marketing infographic.” What you’re looking for are websites and blogs that have published similar infographics made by other people.

After you’ve got a decent list of websites who you think will be willing to share your infographic, it’s time for some email outreach. First, start by identifying the authors from each of the websites who published similar infographics. You can usually find the author’s name in the article’s byline:

Once you’ve got a list of authors, use a tool like Viola Norbert or ContentMarketer.io to find email addresses so you can start sending personal emails.

If you want to learn how the pros do email outreach, check out this article my friend Emil Shour did with Brian Dean at BacklinkoPart of that case study highlights the “Pre-Outreach” and “Content Roadshow” strategies he used to generate buzz for his content.

For example, check out Emil’s 2-step approach to email outreach. Instead of doing what most people do and asking for a backlink or share right away (1-step approach) here’s what he did:

And because he wasn’t being pushy, he get’s responses like this from people asking to send his content over (2-step approach):

See the difference?

Now I’ll be the first to admit that email outreach is not the most exciting part about infographic marketing — but it’s crucial if you want to get more eyeballs on your work.

Plus, the long-term benefits from the relationships you’ll build with influencers and bloggers will become invaluable down the road.

#2: Identify influencers who share similar infographics.

The best tool to find these influencers is BuzzSumo. Just type in a topic or copy/paste a specific link to pull up content that is sorted by number of social media shares.

For example, if I were doing an infographic on gardening, I’d type in “gardening infographic” into BuzzSumo. Next, I would go through the results one by one and click “View Sharers” on any infographics that are similar to mine:

This will give you a list of the people who have shared that infographic, which is helpful because you can sort by number of followers to identify influencers with a large number of followers who have shared infographics that are similar to yours.

Like in the last step, find their email address and start reaching out one-by-one. Aside from Viola Norbert and ContentMarketer.io, another clever way to find someone’s email address is to subscribe to their blog — the welcome email and all future emails should come from an address that you can respond to.

As an alternative, if you can’t find someone’s email address, you can always use Twitter to reach out publically:

Sam Hurley has hundreds of thousands of followers but still responded and shared my content:

See how I used the same 2-step outreach approach like the email example from above?

  1. Ask if they want to see it.
  2. If they say yes, send the link.

Not being pushy is the key to getting responses and getting your content shared. You might also consider sending a friendly “thank you” note after an influencer shares your content to strengthen the relationship:

#3: Submit your infographic to infographic directories.

These directories are basically websites that curate infographics for other people to see. And they are the perfect place to get your infographic discovered by people who might want to share it on their website.

Trouble is, there are dozens of these directories out there, so instead of manually doing each one by yourself I recommend using Fivver to pay someone to do it for you. You don’t need to have someone submit your content to 50+ directories — just stick with the people who only add it to the top 10-30 infographic directories.

Once you’ve added you infographic to the right directories, share it through all of your marketing channels:

  • Share with your email lists
  • Schedule multiple social media posts
  • Paid ads / remarketing ads
  • Add links to infographic on relevant website pages
  • Share with industry partners
  • Send to influencers/bloggers who’ve shared your content in the past
  • Share with any brand or person you mentioned in your content

Action items for Step #7:

  • Optimize your infographic for search engines.
  • Share infographic with the right bloggers and influencers.
  • Promote through all your digital marketing channels.

Wrapping Up

Alright, so I know this was a long one … but be sure to bookmark this article so you can come back and refer to it at any time during the infographic creation and promotion process.

Need more help? I’ve put together a few bonuses to guide you along — including a 20-step infographic checklist (we only covered seven here), as well as a handy teardown video. Click here to grab those.

What other infographic creation questions do you have? Share them in the comments below.

15 free infographic templates in powerpoint


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