Responsive web design was first introduced to us by Ethan Marcotte in a 2010 post published on A List Apart entitled (as you might expect) Responsive Web Design.
In the very same year – in fact, just a few weeks earlier – the iPad became the first of the current wave of mobile tablet devices to be released to the public, changing the way we surf the web and communicate with each other forever.
Since then, responsive design has slowly become more widespread. But for the vast majority of people using the web, the term means nothing. They just want websites to render properly on their device. They don’t want to click on tiny hyperlinks that may or may not take them to the page they wanted, and they certainly don’t want to wait while a page rammed with resource-heavy code and imagery takes way too long to download.
They want zippy, fast-loading pages that are easy to use, which is what you should get from responsive design.
And that, in a nutshell, is why you’re reading this. In this post we’re going to help you turn the should into will.
Mobile Responsiveness is Now a Ranking Factor
What’s brought everything to a head is Google’s announcement several months ago that the user-friendliness of sites on mobile devices will become a ranking factor.
Google made the announcement in February:
Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
Despite this, April 21 came and went, and nothing much really happened. At least not yet. But you can guarantee that it’s only a matter of time.
The update is dubbed Mobilegeddon in SEO and online marketing circles. It’s also a big deal for businesses; in fact, it’s such an important update that it made the news in the US and the UK.
In today’s post I want to look at ways you can test your site – or your clients’ – to see if they’re effectively mobile responsive or not. And if they’re not, we’ll cover what you can do about it.
What Is Good Responsive Design?
Responsive design adapts fluidly to all screen sizes and resolutions. Quite simply, the goal of responsive design is to provide every user, no matter what device they’re using, with a consistently usable browsing experience.
In more specific terms, this means that all functions should work and behave the same way on each device. On your typical blog this could be everything from social sharing buttons, to mailing list sign-up forms, to navigation menus. Furthermore, content should be easily digestible, no matter what device the end user is browsing on.
Typically, there are four screen types:
- tablet, and
The exact dimensions for each varies wildly across manufacturers. Your site should look the same on each variant. Figuring that out sounds like fun, right?
Do You Need a Responsive Website?
Quick answer: You certainly will do in the future. There’s no doubt at that. But do you need one now? Another quick answer: Almost certainly.
If you don’t spend much time looking at the data in Google Analytics, it’s a good time to remedy that – especially with regards to people visiting your site on a mobile device. From the data you can find out how many people visit your site using a mobile device. You can also discover how long they stick around and what kind of experience they’re having.
Depending upon how you’ve setup Analytics, you can also discover how many people using a mobile device convert to customers, join your mailing list or sign up for a free trial of your service or software.
To view the data, login to your Google Analytics account, select the site you want to review and navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview.
Here you will see analytics for desktops, mobiles and tablets.
If your site is non-responsive, check out the data relating to how people interact with your site:
- Bounce Rate
- Avg Session Duration
- Goal Conversion Rate
If the numbers are significantly lower than the desktop stats, you have a serious issue on your hands. The data is telling you the people on mobiles and tablets are not having a good experience when they visit your site.
Which means that it’s time to do something.
Testing Your Site for Mobile Responsiveness
If you’re not that your site is mobile responsive, the first thing you must do is run a few tests. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools online that can help you to assess how a site looks and works on mobile devices.
We’ll come to some of those in a few seconds. But for now though, let’s perform the simplest tests of all.
If you’re on a desktop machine, go to the site you want to test, let it load, then make your browser screen narrower. As you do this, if the site has a responsive design, the elements from the web page will collapse down on top of each other, but you will still be able to see the whole page by virtue of scrolling.
If you’re using a mobile device, simply visit the site you want to test and see how it renders on your machine. If it looks like exactly the same as the desktop version but shrunk down, your site is not responsive.
How to Test Multiple Devices Using Online Emulators
It’s all very well running these two simple tests, but what about the plethora of machines out there? From iPads to Google Nexus’ to Samsung Galaxy smartphones? How does your site look on these?
Luckily, you don’t have to go out and spend a small fortune on every device on the market. Instead, use one of the emulator sites available to run your tests.
Let’s take a look at some of them.
This one tests your site across six popular mobile device emulators, including the iPhone 5, HTC ONE and Google Nexus.
To test a site, click on the device you’re interested in and enter the URL of the site/page you want to test. Within a few seconds the emulator retrieves the page on the device. Not only that, the page links and other data remains active, so you can browse the site via the emulator.
A nifty emulator that mostly focuses mainly on Apple devices, but also includes a couple of Android machines. Instead of having to test each device in turn, like the MobileTest.me, you just enter the test URL and scroll down the page.
As you do, you’ll see how it looks on popular devices in both portrait and landscape mode.
Am I Responsive
Same process here: enter the test URL to get the results. This time, you don’t scroll; you’ll see the results at the top of the screen for generic devices. If you click inside the screen of each one, you can scroll and use the site as normal.
Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
There’s one more worth mentioning: Google’s own tool.
By this time you have an understanding of the importance of responsive design and know what your site looks like across multiple devices. But do you need to take action?
If your site works across all devices, you don’t need to do anything; just keep on working on improving your site for your current and future visitors.
If your site doesn’t work, you have three options:
- Convert the current design to responsive. This could well be more trouble than its worth.
- Use a mobile theme. This defeats the key responsive design principles of consistency and usability.
- Adopt a fresh mobile-responsive theme or design. While not the cheapest option, starting from scratch is arguably the only option that doesn’t represent a compromise of some kind.
Incidentally, it would be remiss of me not to mention that we make beautiful responsive themes, with no less than 21 to choose from.
Once you have the new theme installed, it’s time to test it. Here are three key considerations to bear in mind:
- Is it easy for users to navigate your site?
- Is the content easy to read?
- Is it easy for users to follow your Calls to Action?
Go through every part of your site as if you’re a user and fix any problems you find. If you’re using one of our themes and have come across an issue, just get in touch; we’d be happy to help.
I think the move by Google to ‘force’ people to adopt mobile responsive designs is long overdue.
For too, long large sites and big businesses have dragged their heels when it comes to switching. This potential loss in traffic and sales is a surefire signal for them to take action.
For freelance web designers and theme builders, you could be entering the busiest time of your career as the rush to comply gathers pace. How many clients do you have who are still using non-responsive designs? How many non-responsive sites are out there waiting for an update? I shudder to think! But one thing’s for sure: there’s plenty of business to be had, especially if you can clearly communicate just how important responsive design is.
If you need to ram the point home to your clients about the importance of responsive design and how their site looks compared to their competitors, the online emulators are great tools to use, and they should make selling your services a lot easier!
I hope that you found this post useful. I’d love to read your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Adobe is making it easier for photographers to edit their photos from within Lightroom. The update to the photo management app comes with performance enhancements and new tools for editing and organizing images.
The latest version of the desktop software includes an option that makes it a cinch to stitch multiple shots together. Meanwhile, the new panorama feature streamlines the process of merging of several images into a customizable high resolution panorama.
An HDR merging feature provides a similar tool for merging RAW images into a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image. HDR is the practice of taking multiple photos of the same scene — taken at different exposures — and combining them into a single image that has a wider range of light levels that is more representative of the the lighting when the photo was taken. In this way, an image with really dark shadows, for example, can be combined with one with overexposed highlights to create a more balanced picture.
Like the Panorama merge feature, Lightroom’s new HDR merge feature simplifies the HDR process by allowing users to quickly combine multiple photos into a single RAW image — a feature that was previously only offered in Photoshop.
Adobe Lightroom’s new HDR merge feature.
Lightroom is also making it easier to organize portraits and photos of people with a new facial recognition feature. The app detects faces within images and allows you to tag individual photos or groups of images with the same person. Adobe says the more you use this feature, the better it will get and it will eventually be able to recognize faces before you tag them.
Finally, the update improved the software’s slideshow capabilities with animations features, the ability to add multiple audio tracks and music syncing, which automatically times slideshows to the beat of your music. The updated version of Lightroom is available now to those with an existing subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud Photography plan, Creative Cloud Complete plan or those with a perpetual license for Lightroom 6.
Time is one of those commodities that we tend to take for granted. When you’re a kid, it feels like time is so slow and then one day you’re a grown up and time flies past you faster than you can keep up with.
When you stop to think that the seconds and minutes that tick by every day is time that you can never get back and that there are bills to pay and mouths to feed (even if it is just your own), time suddenly becomes precious. Especially is that the case for the entrepreneurial Web Designer.
When you’re working for yourself or even if you’re freelancing with a team on a project, every minute you spend on said project is less money in your pocket one way or another. Even if you’re not being paid by an hourly rate, tracking and managing your time is still important if you are ever going to get anywhere with your business.
Why Tracking Your Time Is Important
There are a few reasons why you should track your time. Even if you’re not billing a client by the hour, tracking where you’re spending your time on a project can be eye opening.
Perhaps what you thought was only taking you a couple of hours is actually taking you more time than you would like to see. When you start to see discrepancies in your workflow, you can then start to tweak what is working and what isn’t in order to increase your profit.
Another reason for keeping track of your time is because some clients will request it when they are billing you by the hour. Many people like to know just how your time is being spent on something that they are paying you for. When you are able to turn over an orderly timesheet, they are usually more than happy to keep coming back to you.
Keeping track of time can also keep you more productive. Not only does it help you stay focused, but it is also a great motivator when you start to see how much more efficient your time is spent when you’re mentally on track.
Below is a list of some of the best time tracking apps that you can use when working on your own and even when you need to collaborate to create something amazing.
Best Time Tracking Applications for Web Designers
One of the best tools I’ve personally come across and use from time to time is Toggl. Not only does it have some great features, but it is also free to use. The software offers a one-click time tracking option so that it’s simple to keep track of when you start and stop a project and helps you keep an accurate time sheet. However, the application is more intuitive that that.
Toggl has the following features:
- An easy to understand and intuitive dashboard
- Create an unlimited amount of project and clients
- Color-code your projects to help with your own personal organization method
- Add sub-projects
- Set billable rates
- Export your timesheet to Excel, CVS and PDF files
Toggl also has iPhone and Android apps, as well as desktop applications for Windows and Mac and has the feature of tracking your time when you’re offline so that you can literally keep tabs of your time no matter where you are. There is also a handy Google Chrome tab that you can use to track and sync your time when you’re working on something in your browser.
To add to that, it’s also expandable meaning that if you’re working with a team you can still use Toggl in a team setting and integrate into other management helpers like Trello or Asana.
For something that is free, it is seriously impressive and would be the first place I’d recommend when looking for a solid time tracking software.
TimeCamp is another promising application that works great for both the solo designer and large teams collaborating on a project. The software is full of features and integrations that you may not even know you needed but would be happy to find out was there.
TimeCamp has many similarities to what Toggl offers including apps for iOS and Android, desktops applications, Google Chrome extensions and the ability to work offline. However, as a premium service, TimeCamp offers quite a bit more than just that:
- TimeCamp integrates with other popular tools like Trello, Asana, Wunderlist, Zendesk and Insightly
- Create roles and permissions for people in your team
- Supports multi-currency
- Set Goals and Categories
- Measure productivity
- Custom tax integration
- Billing rates and invoice creation
- and more
The TimeCamp’s dashboard is clean and rather easy to use when you’re not trying to dive into deep. Learning the ins and outs of everything the application has to offer will take a bit of time to get the hang of and setup if you’re working with a larger team.
At that price and with so many features packed into a single app, TimeCamp may be better suited for you if you’re going to be expanding your projects into team collaborations.
If you’re looking for something with fewer bells and whistles, then CloudTimr may be more on track with what you’re looking for. The free cloud-based time tracking application can be accessed and easily used on your desktop or mobile device so that you can track your daily activated no matter where you are.
The dashboard is very simple and creating your tasks is also easy. You can create Groups using a hashtag, add things in the built in to-do list, and receive notifications. As I mentioned before, CloudTimr is free to use and is a simple, straightforward way to keep tabs on your time and activity.
This is another nice and intuitive time tracker that works well if you’re tracking time for yourself or if you’re working with a team. The dashboard has a zen meets tech feel to it and has some nice features:
- Easy Accessibility | Use in a browser tab, download the desktop application and use it there, or track your time while you’re on the go with the mobile app.
- Customized and Flexible Report Analysis | You can create reports based around the custom structure that you built and then save those reports into templates for you to quickly and easily access.
- Local and Server Backups | This is another great feature. Not only does Clockodo backup to its own servers, but you can also create a local backup of what you’re working on so that you don’t lose everything in glitch (you know they happen to everyone sooner or later.)
Pricing for Clockodo is set at $8 per month to unlock everything the application has to offer. If you’re going to be adding users/team members, then you’ll be looking to tack on an additional $5 per extra member you have on Clockodo. To use this just for yourself would make sense and would be rather affordable, but if you’re going to be working with more than a few people on a design project, it would make more sense to use another software that offered a bit more for less.
Personally, I really like the sleek design and feel of the GetChime tracking application. But all design aspects aside, this free app has some great features that make it easy to work with.
- Easy to use interface
- Track billable and unbillable hours
- Easily start and pause timer
- Built in messaging system so that you can stay in touch with teammates
- Reports and analytics to help you gauge which milestones are costing you the most money, to see how much you’ve earned and allow you to track the ongoing progress of a project
- Give permissions to who can view and edit time entires
GetChime also has a few other products in its family to help boost overall productivity and which also happen to be free. This app looks like it would be great to work with if you’re going solo and easy to work with when collaborating.
To wrap up our list of the best time tracking applications for web designers is Tick. Tick offers many of the same features of the other apps, but with one really cool add-on called Time Budgeting.
This feature lets you set a time budget — the amount of time you allow yourself to work on a given task and/or project. The time tracker dashboard makes it easy to create projects and tasks and with the Chrome Extension, mobile app and desktop app you can track your time anytime, any place.
Tick also has the ability to generate reports that can be grouped and sorted together by client and then export them to programs like FreshBooks, QuickBooks, and Excel.
Price for Tick starts at $19 for 10 open projects and goes up from there depending on the amount of projects you have going on at once.
Wrapping It Up
Time tracking is a great way to help your be more productive and tighten up in areas where you’re spending too much time. If you’re working with a team on a project, then using one of these dashboard can help consolidate a lot of your work for you.
Weather you bill by the hour or the project, tracking your time could just be one of the best things you started doing for your business. Do you guys have any experience with tracking your time? Are there are applications that you use and want to share with the rest of the community? Let us know in your comments below.
Starting a business can be a daunting endeavor, especially if all you have is a cool product and not enough capital. In the tech world, or in any other niche for that matter, most startuppers fail not because they have bad products but because they are unable to generate enough consumer interest in their products.
Considering overheads and other back-office expenses, this scenario doesn’t come as a surprise. So if you’re still starting out and find yourself strapped for much needed funding to keep your startup afloat, the following free business productivity tools are worth checking out.
If you need a collaboration tool your staff are most likely to adopt with relative ease and minimum training, take the social intranet route.
# 1. Bitrix24.com
Bitrix24.com is the fastest growing social intranet that’s free for businesses with 12 employees or less. The application comes as a combination of several different work tools like CRM, project management, real-time streaming, activity planner, file sharing, to name just a few. As it is cloud-based, access can be anywhere, whether using your computer or smartphone. An upgrade to unlimited users starts at $99 per month.
# 2. GotFreeFax.com
In this era of e-mail and instant messaging, you’d think fax machines are no longer relevant. But if a LinkedIn survey as reported by Mashable is to be believed, fax machines are still in until 2017 steps in.
As you might have already guessed from the site’s name, GotFreeFax.com is an online service that allows you to send up to three pages of fax for free (maximum of two faxes per day) to any number in the United States or Canada. The site also offers premium pay-per-fax service should you need to send more.
# 3. RememberTheMilk.com
RememberTheMilk.com is an online productivity tool that assists in task and time management. Remember The Milk essentially functions as your all-in-one task manager, electronic calendar and to-do list. Aside from allowing you to share and split tasks with other people, the application can be integrated with GMail, too.
The pro account is priced at $25 for one year and comes with exclusive mobile app features and Microsoft Outlook integration.
# 4. Kolab.org
Kolab.org is an open-source group collaboration server that allows for sharing of notes, e-mail access, calendar organization, task management, address book maintenance, news aggregation, phone sync and journal integration. Kolab is secure, scalable, reliable, mobile and professional, ensuring productivity every step of the way. As a whole, the application requires some getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, the hassle can be all worth it.
# 5. WaveApps.com
Formerly WaveAccounting.com, WaveApps.com is an accounting software that’s fast, simple and easy to use, offering unlimited invoicing and expense tracking. 100% free for small businesses with nine employees or less, it’s accountant-approved and specifically designed for non-accountants. You can also securely connect your bank and PayPal accounts or other sources of data, and your transactions are automatically imported into the accounting software.
# 6. PRLog.org
To make your business presence known, one surefire route to take is through the distribution of press releases. PRLog.org is a site where you can dispense press releases for free. And if you feel you don’t have the necessary expertise to create a killer press release, the site provides instructions on how to write one, even how to embed videos where necessary.
# 7. Weebly.com
One cardinal business rule is that businesses should have their own websites to boost their market presence online. Weebly.com is a free website creator that doesn’t require website creation expertise. Until you’re ready to go for more complex and/or self-hosted sites that would require monthly or yearly payments, Weebly.com is a good alternative.
# 8. Join.me
For those meetings or web conferences on the fly, Join.me is a simple-to-use teleconferencing application that allows you to review documents and designs, train staff, do product demonstrations – basically to get everyone apprised of company updates. You can do transatlantic web conferences and presentations, too.
# 9. IFTTT.com
IFTTT.com, which is short for “if this, then that,” functions like a computer program repeatedly uttering if/then logic all day long. With IFTTT, you set up “recipes” to assist you with task automation. For a recipe to work, you have to have a channel, a trigger and an action. Examples of channels are Facebook, e-mail, Evernote, LinkedIn, just to mention a few.
What other free business productivity tools can you suggest? Please Comment Below.