Design Brief Worksheet Template

Using a properly thought out Design Spec can help you find better clients, clients with more money to spend and better, more interesting projects.

Prompted by a regular stream of Reverb Studios clients over the years who weren’t quite sure what they wanted in a new website or other design project and in response to me asking them for more guidance just pointed to a competitors website, or worst still a very long list of totally different competitor websites, and expected me to take it from there, I recently decided to do some research on how best to extract the maximum amount of detailed information from a client before starting any new design project.

The benefits to this are as follows as I see it:

  • You can avoid that initial, face-to-face, time (and money) sapping meeting with a client where no one is really prepared or knows what they want or what needs doing.
  • You get to see if a client is a good fit for you and your services and vice versa, whether the client can actually be served by you at all.
  • You get an idea of how serious and defined a client is about their business and their business goals. Asking them to sit down and think about their business and goals is something of value to them if they havn’t done it before.
  • By asking them for their budget, you separate the kind of clients who want something for nothing or everything in the world for very little investment from those who are prepared to put their money where their mouths are and get something of real value in return.
  • You get to come across as a professional who is serious and detailed about how they do things.
  • It gives much needed focus to a project that both sides can greatly benefit from.

Following my research across several articles, some marketing and design classes I’ve completed in recent years, my recent design degree and drawing from my now 15 years in a design related business, I drafted and built the following Design Brief Worksheet and put it in digital form:

Reverb Studios Design Brief Worksheet

Please use the form to think about your own business’s current performance, goals, use it to hire my own services or adapt it for your own use.

Leon

Advertisements

7 Great Cloud Apps for Businesses and Teams

I recently started a part time, fully online/remote degree in Digital Design & Technology after working in a similar field, unqualified, for nearly 15 years. I thought I knew it all and knew the best tools of the trade. I was wrong.

The fact that my course is 100% online forced the usage of the apps/websites I’m about to detail but I’ll be using these for my own business, collaborative and personal use from here on in. All of the following apps are cloud based and available from any device with internet access. All (Except Coggle) have native app versions for mobile devices too which give a streamlined, better user interface if you’re not at your main desktop or laptop.

You may notice a slight Google bias here! Most are free for personal/lite usage.

1 Gmail

Gmail

Nothing new or groundbreaking here of course but you can’t beat gmail for reliable, cloud based email communication. Filtering, Labels & Folders and email search are dead handy as is syncing between different device versions.

Standout Feature: Multiple accounts.

https://www.google.com/gmail/

2 Google Drive

Google Drive

A file repository and storage system but with document sharing, commenting and integration with Google Docs, Sheets etc.. I love the live editing mode where you can actually see other people typing/editing on screen and commenting within documents is handy too.

Standout Feature: File & Folder access/sharing.

https://www.google.com/drive/

3 Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Excellent call conferencing and instant messaging system with good integration with Google Calendar, ie – click the link in a calendar event to join a call.

Standout Feature: Screen sharing to a group.

https://hangouts.google.com/

4 Google Calendar

Google Calendar

Event/task reminder system with event invites and reminder notifications. I can’t live without this in my life. I might forget to breathe without it. Automatic email notifications of event changes to event attendees is handy.

Standout Feature: Add other people to events/Indicate attendance.

https://www.google.com/calendar/

5 Google Apps (Docs, Sheets & Slides)

Google Apps

A cloud based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite of office apps. Apps are slightly less functional than the Microsoft versions but all are very capable still. I love that documents are automatically backed up and available across devices.

Standout Feature: Live simultaneous document editing by multiple people.

https://gsuite.google.com/

6 Coggle

Coggle

Simple collaborative mind mapping and idea generation tool. Initiate an idea in the centre and drag “idea” branches and sub branches out from it. Notifications of changes to branches are emailed to members automatically.

Standout Feature: Mind map exporting.

https://coggle.it/

7 Trello

Trello

I’ve saved the best until last. My OCD loves this one! Trello is a collaborative project management tool with “Cards” for each task and To Do, Doing and Done columns. It’s great for an Agile/Scrum environment as task cards can have deadlines etc.. You can organise everything from a major project to your whole life with Trello.

Standout Feature: Board notifications and integration with Google calendar.

https://trello.com/

3 MiFi Connection Authentication Error

We’d been having weird, intermittent WiFi problems in the house for months and I kinda stumbled on the solution over the weekend. Basically, the various devices on WiFi in the house were struggling to connect to the network, particularly our smart phones. While the home network could be seen, it wouldn’t connect automatically as set and manual connections just failed with the error “Connection Authentication Error”. It was annoying not least because my MiFi router is located in the attic for best house coverage and I had to keep climbing up there to restart it in the hope of it sorting itself out. I also had a booster in the attic to help spread the signal to the furthest reaches of the house so I was sure the MiFi unit itself or this booster were at fault and was ready to replace them until I realised that multiple devices where having the same error, including my wife’s brand new phone and in various different rooms all over the house.

So what else could it be? Something I read online started me wondering if there was a limit to the number of devices you can normally have connected to a typical broadband router and because the MiFi router wasn’t a typical one, maybe it had an extra low limit or something? I wondered if the limit could be raised so I logged into my MiFi control panel and seen a screen that showed the max number of connected clients allowed, which was 5 so I tried changing it to 10 and saving but it returned an error stating that 5 was the max! So the standard MiFi router that 3 Ireland use is the Huawei E5220 seen below and it’s only capable of handling a max of 5 connected devices at once! Not much use with a laptop, 3/4 smart phones, a Sky box, a Chromecast, a Nest Thermostat, WiFi light bulb and regular visitors with smart phones! Basically all our devices were vying for a coveted spot on the network and sometimes one got it over another etc which explained the intermittent part of it all perfectly.

E5220
E5220

So what’s the solution?

I googled around looking for a way of raising the limit but it seems you have to mess around with the devices firmware etc. Not into that! I also thought about reverting to my old 3G Broadband UMR router but couldn’t find my old 3 dongle. Then I realised that just like your phone account/contract, your mobile broadband account is also upgradable, ie – you can qualify for an upgrade to a new device after your contract runs out. So I went on the 3 site and logged in than hit the “Am I eligible for an upgrade” link and I was luckily. Also, 3 currently have a couple of new devices that have a connection limit of 10 devices, double the MiFi’s so I went for the smaller one which was completely covered by the upgrade for free. It’s the NetGear AC762S seen below. It’s also 4G which is handy if that ever comes to Leitrim but I’m not holding my breath. 10 devices should sort us out for a little while longer at least!

AC762S
AC762S

E-Commerce Web Design & Online Shops

I’ve had a few clients recently who sell physical products in their business and I presumed they would want to sell them online when they came to me looking for a website. When they said they’d rather not I was a little confused. One or two admitted they didn’t think they’d have the capacity or resources to deal with setting up payments, shipping stuff, etc but not much other info was forthcoming.

Not wanting to pry into the reasons too much I can only guess that businesses feel overwhelmed by either the costs they think might be involved or the amount of setup required to sell products online. Online sales are massive these days with more and more people getting comfortable with the notion of buying online. It seems odd to me that businesses would not want to tap into this potentially massive online market when it’s really not that hard to do so.

Here’s some factors to think about:

Costs

I suppose one of the main things that might put someone off selling online is the cost. Most people realise nowadays that you can get a basic brochure website fairly cheaply but maybe they think an online shop is a lot dearer. It can be of course if you’ve a ton of products and require some very advanced functionality but with the popularity of freely available (Open Source) Content Management Systems and E-Commerce systems, a basic online shop doesn’t have to cost the earth. My prices for new websites with an online shop module start at under €1,000 and if you’ve an existing website and just want to add shop functionality, it can cost much less. Tell me your budget and I’ll see what I can do if that’s still too dear for you.

Setup

There’s more work involved in building a website with an online shop of course but once it’s built, there’s no real effort involved in adding products and managing the whole thing. It’s no harder than adding blog/news posts to your site. The content management system will allow for easy addition of products and easy management of sales etc. The only other thing you might need to do is setup a Paypal account but that’s free and can be done in a matter or minutes. As your products sell, both you and your customer will be notified by email and the shop system will tell you who bought what, where they live for shipping and whether the payment has been received successfully or not.

What can you sell online?

You can sell a lot more than simple physical products online. My favourite thing to sell is “Digital” products where you don’t have to worry about tedious stuff like packaging and shipping. The customer checks out, pays and gets redirected to download a file! You can also sell things like Services, Rooms, Courses and almost anything else you can imagine. If you are a service based company like mine you can take simple digital payments via a form like the one I have on my own site ReverbStudios.ie/Payments/

Get in touch if you’d like help selling online.

Leon

Chrome Extensions for Web Designers

I stalled on using the Google Chrome browser for quite a while because of my dependency on Firefox plugins despite me hearing how great and how quick it was over other browsers. I’m happy to report now that there’s quite a lot of extensions for Chrome these days, especially for web designers and developers. Here’s a few I can’t live without:

 

BuiltWith Technology Profiler

Shows a list of technologies and frameworks used in the website you’re on, ie php, css, etc..

 

Web Developer

Enables all sorts of overlays and functions helpful while building a site or analyzing an existing one’s structure.

 

Pendule

Similar to Web Developer above but a bit simpler and more pared down.

 

Firebug Lite

A Lite version of the popular Firefox website inspection tool.

 

Analytics Helper

Detects via the address bar if Google Analytics is installed on a web page and provides the “UA” ID on hover.

 

PageRank Status

Provides info on Google PageRank, Site Location, IP address, Bing & Yahoo backlinks, etc..

 

META SEO Inspector

Shows META/SEO info on a site.

 

WhatFont

Identifies the Font used on a website or certain sections of a page.

 

Window Resizer

Show how a site looks in different window sizes and resolutions. Create you own sizes.

 

View Background Image

View the background image of a site or page element via the right-click content menu.

 

Site GEO IP Locator

Shows the location of a site’s hosting server.

 

Image Properties Context Menu

Adds an “Image Properties” entry to the right-click context menu which shows info about a website image such as dimensions, filesize etc.

 

Google Global

Runs a Google search through Google Ireland, UK, USA, Canada or Australia.

 

Chrome Sniffer

Shows used website technologies and frameworks in the address bar. Named on hover.

And some cool non-web design related extensions too:

 

Rapportive for Gmail

Finds a person’s social network profiles and other info about them based on their email address and lets you connect with them from within Gmail.

 

RSS Subscription

This adds an RSS identifier and subscription button to Chrome cause it still doesn’t have it’s own by default!

 

Screenleap for Gmail

Share your computer screen through Gmail.

 

Unsocialize

Right click links in Facebook etc and choose “Unsocialize” to avoid having to go through apps to see content.

You’re welcome.

Leon

My Online Affiliate Programs

Just a quick post on the affiliate partner schemes I’m on, influenced after attending a course recently on selling digital products and generating a passive income online. I’m with most of them a while now, some are useful, others almost pointless but you never know when they might kick off!

Google AdSense

The oldest of my affiliate schemes and not a great income anymore but still worthwhile if you have a website or 2 with decent traffic. The trick here is to add the AdSense code to highly trafficked blog posts, ie not your site’s front page but rather individual posts where the visitors are likely to be more relevant and more likely to click contextual ads.

Tribulant

These are a South African web development company who specialise in building some excellent commercial and free WordPress plugins, many of which I use myself on here and on other sites of mine. Their’s is my best performing affiliate system and pays a few online bills for me monthly. They offer a generous 30% payout and have a tiered affiliate system which means if someone signs up with them under my affiliate account, I make money on their sales too!

Themeforest

This is a directory of website templates and where I get most of my designs for client websites. I’ve found their designs to be the best around and they offer 30% payouts too.

Gravity Forms

An excellent forms plugin for wordpress that handles all kinds of functionality from basic contact forms to user registration, payments and post submission.

Bullguard

My computer protection software of choice. It effortlessly handles anti virus, firewall, spam, phishing, backup etc..and has only a small effect on pc performance. Everything’s automated too.

Template Monster

I’m not actively using this site any more for site designs because I think their templates have been well surpassed by others but it was always a decent affiliate scheme for me. You can buy items from your own affiliate account and get the discounts!

Eventbrite

Eventbrite is probably the leading online even management and ticket registration site. You can advertise your event and take credit card payments for bookings, issue tickets, put code widgets on your site to show event info and booking forms and more.

Please leave a comment if you use a decent affiliate scheme not mentioned here.

Leon

Not Who You Know or Who Knows You but Who Likes You!?

I think some new definitions and thinking are in order for continued successful business branding via Social Networking sites these days. I reckon it’s time to go back to basics.

Dead to me are the people who post the same kinda boring business stuff in a never ending, automated looking stream. 52 ways to do this, 25 tips for doing that..it’s presumed we all have the time to read through a pile of shite like that when all we need is the one best way! A lot of people who post in this way are one way only, ie – they don’t converse or reply half the time or at all and to me they violate the very definition of “Social Networking”, ie – to BE SOCIABLE & INTERACT.

Perhaps larger, corporate companies can be expected to post in this way, after all it would be kinda hard for them to become ‘friendly’ with you and people probably wouldn’t expect it but for small companies and sole traders in particular, I think they should be selling themselves and creating valuable relationships far more than pushing their products.

So how do you sell yourself? Ever tried making a friend online or off? That’s all you need to do really. The kind of stuff that most people think is utter drivel on Facebook or Twitter, ie – what you had for dinner, pics of your pets, etc..is precisely the kind of stuff that people SHOULD be posting I think. There’s a more limited audience for your business stuff but the larger populace can all identify with food, pets, kids, current affairs, topical stuff etc so why not post about the average everyday stuff people do and think about? I bet you’ll get more interaction from more people.

Which is more interesting and likely to create interaction & connection?

What's More Interesting?

 

I’ll use myself as a case study. From the start of my social media adventures I’ve always tried to be opinionated, funny, interesting, different. I didn’t have this grand plan at the start but I noticed as I went along that the allegedly mundane, non-business posts attracted much more feedback and commenting. For example, if I post up pictures of my kids being cute on Facebook you may ask, what the hell has that got to do with what I’m selling? Answer: Most people, have kids, like kids, were kids and can identify with you straight away, perhaps forming an opinion about you as being someone who loves their kids, wants to show them off, is sane enough to have kids, etc..oh and look, he’s a web designer. I’ll remember him when I need one.

Today, I think it’s all about standing out from the crowd and selling your personality, opinions and knowledge, interacting with people and only very subtly if at all, mentioning what you do the odd time. If you make yourself interesting enough, people will probe further to find out more about you and what you do so have that information handy in the background. I think people crave interaction and love to give their opinions. The success of Facebook is proof of that so tap into it, interact with people, get known, get liked and get business.

You’re more memorable when you’re liked, not just known.

Leon