10 Instagram Tricks & Tactics That Increase Engagement Rates

Instagram engagement is pretty much the Holy Grail for social media marketers. The platform becomes more popular by the moment, and its users pay close attention to content from top brands. Many small businesses – from hair salons, to fashion boutiques, to cafés and restaurants – owe much of their success to Instagram. They’ve found …

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Retail Arbitrage: Full Beginner’s Guide From A 7 Figure Seller

Want to start selling online and making money immediately without having to go into debt or invest thousands in inventory before you even know how or what to sell? You might want to try retail arbitrage. Retail arbitrage refers to the act of buying products in your local retail stores and then selling those same …

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Improve Your Profit Margin With eBay Arbitrage

Looking for a ‘Get Rich Quick’ scheme? Then arbitrage would definitely qualify! Arbitrage means buying commodities low in one market, and then rapidly selling them again for a higher price in another market. Arbitrageurs take advantage of differences in price and demand in different markets to make money. On eBay, arbitrage involves buying hot items at …

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What is Dropshipping: Things You Need To Know Before Getting Started

If you’re seeking an online business opportunity, chances are that you’ve come across dropshipping.  Dropshipping is a modern online business model that requires very little initial investment. But how does dropshipping work, and why should you go for this model to realize your entrepreneurial dream? But before we get any further, it’s important that you have an …

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3 ways to make animated GIF screenshots of design work for your portfolio

After your latest web design project is done, it’s time to show it off and add it to your portfolio. Your website visitors (and prospective clients!) will want to see your awesome work in action. Great imagery is key, and in the digital space, there will be times when you want to illustrate project functionality. Showing it off with animated screenshots may be the perfect solution.
I’m sure you’ve seen the cool, simple animated screenshots that show us how apps or websites work. GIFs of screen captures give the user a better idea of how certain tasks are performed while also showing what features are available. Video is certainly an option and definitely has an important place on the web. In-depth product videos or case studies definitely benefit from a video format. However, a simpler, more file-size conscious choice such as an animated screenshot GIF may be just what you’re looking for.
Why animated screenshots are important for your portfolio

Whether you pronounce it “GIF” or “JIF,” it’s important to remember that GIFs can be more than just funny cats and movie clips with a clever tagline. Animated GIFs of your projects should be eye-catching and carefully planned to show design functionality. Animating interface elements is both a functional and aesthetic purpose, so a GIF file shows this. How about demonstrating the menu and the options your work presents? How about showing how scroll works? Showing functionality helps the user clearly see how the app or website can help them.
Tools for making GIFs
There’s no better way to demonstrate your hard work than with one of the following tools for creating GIFs. The examples below will demonstrate how it looks when a user taps on an option, views more details, and then scrolls to see more content.
Note: There won’t be any visual design instructions in this tutorial; these tips assume the website or application design for your portfolio project is already done.

In the following sections, we’ll cover the following tools:

How to create animated GIF screenshots in Adobe Photoshop
In my opinion, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe After Effects are the best tools for the job. Both allow for a lot of control over the final product. I personally like Photoshop for making GIF screen captures (and most designers are very familiar with it), so that’s how the following example will be built. Let’s get started!
Showing scroll functionality

This design was done in Adobe XD but then exported to Photoshop with appropriately-named layers. The example has a layer called “MinTour Locations List” for the list page, “Sculpture Garden Listing” for the details page, and the part that is out of the initial scroll view is called “Sculpture Garden Listing Overflow.”
Part one
1. Timeline setup and location list

The Timeline feature is what we’ll use to create the different screens for the final product. Make sure the Timeline Panel is open by going to Window > Timeline.
Here is the listing page; the user starts here, taps on a location, and will arrive at the details page, where they can scroll to see more details.

You’ll see there is already a first keyframe established. Make sure the correct layers are showing so the correct view is shown in the keyframe.
Optional: If you’d like to show where the user taps, sometimes this is shown with a dot. To do this, add an extra frame with the dot area.
2. Individual location details

The ability to organize with layers is a huge advantage and will help you keep everything straight while you create your screen capture GIF. Go to the options in the Timeline panel and choose “New Frame.” The same thing here– make sure the correct layers are hidden/shown. For this one, I needed the individual listing to be shown, so the locations list layer is hidden.
3. Individual location details scroll content

The individual listing page for the Sculpture Garden has more content, so the scroll area should be shown to the user. This was on a separate layer, so I created a new frame to show this overflow content.
4. Choose durations
This may take some experimentation, but choosing the duration for each frame is important. You want the user to have enough time to see each frame, but also they should not have to wait too long before seeing the next one.

I put in values for each frame, totaling five seconds for the entire animation.
5. Preview
It’s good to take a look at what is going on so far. There is a play button in the bottom row of the Timeline panel. Try things out and see if there is anything that can be improved.
(Optional) tween control

Things are ordered correctly, but they seem a little jumpy. Screenshot animations can be adjusted to make things appear a little smoother. From the Timeline options, there is a “Tween” option. To automatically make a smooth animation between the current and previous frame, there can be more frames automatically inserted.

From the listing to the list overflow, Tween was added to make it look like more of a scrolling action. Those new frames were set to have a very short duration of .05sec (scrolling in an app happens relatively fast).

If you want this to keep looping in Photoshop, make sure that “Forever” is selected. If there is a set number of loops, that value can be entered.
6. Saving the screen capture GIF (screen flow only)
If you’re looking to include this as just an animated screen flow, saving will be the last step. At this time, the screenshot animation is created, it just has to be saved in the correct GIF format. You may be used to saving a static image, but saving a sequence of images is different. Go to File > Save for Web to save this GIF file.
Here you’ll see all the settings you’ll need for your GIF. Remember, you are limited to the number of colors, so we’ll get things looking their best before exporting. 256 is most likely the best option since websites and applications tend to have large range of color, but if your design allows for it, you can simplify (which keeps the file size down).

There are also some “Animation” settings in the lower-right corner; you can choose Looping if you want this to loop indefinitely. You can also loop a set number of times if you wish. Save it to the desired location, and it’s ready to go!
Part two: Layered screens featured on a device

If you’ve decided to continue, some additional steps are needed to layer it so it looks more realistic on the phone. From the Timeline panel choose “Flatten Frames Into Layers.” Each frame will be converted into a flat layer, which ends up being 26 frames (so there are 26 layers).
Once that is saved, the phone image will need to be added to the file. To accommodate this, some resizing of the image size will have to be done.

1. Adjust the canvas size for your animated screenshot
The background image is 1300 X 920, so the canvas size needs to be adjusted to fit that exactly. Go to Image > Canvas Size and put in the correct dimensions.
2. Get layers ready to be placed on the phone screen

Next, make a new layer for the background image so the animation can be layered on top. Here’s where “Select All” frame layers will come in handy.
3. Double check frames
This is a good time to make sure that the frames are still how you planned. If you play the animation from the Timeline panel, you will see the sequence animated.
4. Skew the screens

It’s important that all the screen layers are selected so they can all be skewed at once to stay uniform. Edit > Transform > Skew is where this is done.

It will take a bit of experimenting, but adjust the corners so they line up with the bounds of the screen, giving it the illusion that the screen is illuminated with the animation.
5. Image adjustments and saving your GIF screen capture

Now is the time to do any adjustments. Color, contrast, or any other final touches should be done before saving. Saving the animation is the same as what was done in Part one, step 6.

In this example, the background was desaturated and contrast was increased to make the animation really stand out. Now it appears to be on a real device!

Giphy

If Photoshop isn’t your preferred tool, there is a free and easy tool called Giphy. (In addition to professional use, you can make a lot of funny GIFs, too!)
If you choose “Slideshow,” this is a good option for creating an animation screenshot. To use this, you will have to have individual files of the screens saved. You will then drag and drop still images and the process will start.

Once the files upload, select “Create Slideshow.” When it’s done putting the images together, you can download the file. It’s as simple as that!

Recordit
This app is pretty simple; it records the action that takes place on your computer screen and uploads the recording to the Recordit.io website and creates a shareable link, with the option to download the GIF.

When Recordit has been installed on your computer, an icon appears in the taskbar. When selected, you can drag to and select the area of your screen you want to record. This was perfect when I went to preview mode in Adobe XD and was able to use a prototype for demonstration.

After you select the area that will be included, a record button appears. When you press “Record,” Recordit then records everything that happens on your screen, within the boundaries that you created. When you are done recording, simply choose “Stop.”
It will take a few seconds, but after the recording is stopped, there will be a pop-up with a link that takes you to the recording, which is hosted on the Recordit.io site.
Animated GIFs of screen captures are a great way to show user flow and how your design projects work. Video also has its place, but GIFs can be created very quickly and are easy to add to your online portfolio.

Free worksheet: Target audience and client persona
Looking for an actionable guide to help you keep your content relatable and engaging? This three-page interactive PDF will help you find your audience, audit your content, and create a game plan for growing your business.

How to optimize images for web: A step-by-step guide for better site performance

There’s no doubt that images are an invaluable asset to the world wide web. From visualizing data to breaking up paragraphs of text to showing off your portfolio work, photos and graphics are an important part of most website designs and help users have great online experiences.
Having great visuals, however, can take a toll on your website. With higher resolutions comes larger file sizes, which also means slower loading times. AKA, images are often the cause of poor site performance. And remember, the whole point of adding images to your website is to create a better experience for your users (or maybe even to increase sales and conversions!), which is hard to do with a slow site.
So, how do you balance site performance with visual design?
By optimizing your images.
There are a lot of little things you can do throughout the image creation process to optimize file sizes, specifically with your website in mind.
In this step-by-step guide to image optimization, I’ll cover:

What is image optimization?
Generally speaking, image optimization is the act of decreasing file size without losing quality. You can optimize your images in the creation phase (such as using the right “Export” options in Photoshop) or directly on your website (such as using lazy load to display media on your site). The goal is to reduce the amount of data a user has to download, so they can get the content they’re looking for faster.

Why is image optimization important?
People have short attention spans when it comes to the web, which is why it’s important to make your website load in two seconds or less. And one of the most common factors slowing your site down is your images. (Even if you website is running on the best servers, like you’ll get with a managed WordPress host, images can be the downfall of performance.)
By taking advantage of image optimization best practices, you’ll keep your file size small and your load time fast, creating a better experience for your site visitors.
There’s another reason image optimization is important, however, one directly tied to your business’s bottom line. Beyond slowing down your website, images take up disk space on the server powering your site. Most hosting providers enforce a bandwidth limit per plan, meaning you don’t have unlimited resources – and your images will quickly take up that space.
While it’s not the end of the world if you exceed that limit, you may get charged an overage fee or worse – have your website shut down.
By optimizing your images, you’ll be able to get the most out of your site storage and avoid that bandwidth limit.
Now that you know how important image optimization is, let’s talk about how to do it! This step-by-step guide will cover everything from Photoshop tips to development practices.

How to optimize images for the web
This step-by-step guide will cover everything you can do to optimize images, starting in Photoshop and ending on your site.
Follow these steps to optimize your images for better site performance:
Benchmark your current site speed.Know how to choose the best image file type.Resize your images before exporting.Compress images to reduce file size.Automate image optimization with a WordPress plugin.Use the “blur up” technique to load a Lower Quality Image first.Use lazy loading.

1. Benchmark your current site speed
Before you do all this work to optimize your images, start by running a speed test on your site! By the end, you’ll be able to see the impact you’ve made (plus you can share that with your team or boss, for extra kudos).
As part of Flywheel’s support team, I’m familiar with quite a few speed tests, but these five are my favorites:

The first four, the browser-based tools, work pretty similar to each other: Open the link, then enter your URL for a quick report about your site’s speed and performance.

Performance Insights, an Add-on to Flywheel’s hosting platform, will go beyond the basics to give you actionable recommendations for your site, including insights that only your host can provide.
Plus you’ll be able to track metrics over time in the dashboard, making it easy to see the impact of your changes as you’re doing things like optimizing images. Learn more here.
These tools will recommend several steps you can take to improve site speed and performance, but for the purposes of this tutorial, focus on the score for now. This gives you a great benchmark so you know where you’re starting at.

2. Know how to choose the best image file type
When you’re done creating images (either saving from your camera or exporting from a tool like Photoshop), you’ll have the option to specify the file type. The most common file types for use on the web are JPEGs, PNGs, and GIFs. And as I’m sure you can guess, they all have their own pros, cons, and best practices when being placed on your website.
JPEGs
JPEG images work best for showing off complex color photographs on your site, as they allow for a higher-quality image with a smaller file size. This file type will probably work for the majority of images you want to use on your site, with one major exception: images with a transparent background. (For those, see the next section about PNGs!)
When using a JPEG image for your website, consider exporting it as “Progressive.” This allows the browser to instantly load a simple version of the image before fully loading the full resolution onto the site.
Here’s an idea of how a non-progressive image would load:

Here’s how a progressive image would load:
Flywheel’s co-founders (Dusty, Tony, and Rick), celebrating a five-year milestone!
If you’re working in Photoshop, you’ll find this setting when you export as “Save for Web.”
PNGs
If you don’t have a ton of color in your image (like flat illustrations or icons), or want it to be transparent, I recommend exporting as a PNG. Make sure you have the right image dimensions, and look for the option to save as PNG-24 (or 8, if there’s no quality loss).
GIFs
The third most common image format for the web are GIFs. They only support 256 colors, so you’ll have to be selective with this file type!
To optimize GIFs for your website, think critically about how long they last, if they need to loop, and how many you really need on a given page or site.  

3. Resize your images before you upload
One of the easiest ways to optimize images for the web is to resize them before you upload them to your site. Especially if you’re working with raw images from a DSLR camera, the dimensions are often much larger than you actually need.
For example, let’s say you’re adding images to a blog article on your site. If your WordPress theme displays images at 500 x 500 but you’re uploading images with a resolution of 1024 x 1024, all those extra pixels are just increasing the file size and decreasing site speed without providing a real benefit.
By cropping your images before uploading, you’ll decrease the file size, which will help your site load just a little bit faster and save your disk space for even more images.
To resize your image, just open up your image-editing software of choice. Photoshop works well, or you can also use simpler tools like Preview (for Macs), Paint (for Windows), or Canva (a browser tool).
Pro tip: Not sure exactly what size or resolution to use? Our in-house photographer, Kimberly Bailey, recommends exporting images at 2048 pixels wide and 240 DPI for web resolution.

4. Compress images to reduce file size
Once you have your final image, saved in the right format and cropped to an appropriate size, there’s one more step you can take to optimize it before uploading to your site: compressing it.
This process will help you make the file size smaller without losing noticeable image quality. There are two main types of compression: lossy and lossless.
Lossless compression will maintain the same level of quality before and after the compression. Lossy compression will discard some elements of the photo, but typically in a way that the human eye won’t notice. To learn more about these compression types, I recommend this guide from Imagify.
If you see a specific image on your site load and slowly come into view, that may be a sign that it needs compression, resizing, or both.
To compress your images, all you need is an image compression tool. My favorites include:
TinyPNG: A free browser-based tool for compressing PNG and JPEG images. ImageOptim: A free open-source app for compressing images. JPEGmini: A photo recompressing app for Mac and Windows.  RIOT: A free Windows app for optimizing images. Image Optimizer: A free Add-on for Local.
TinyPNG

This browser-based tool optimizes images using smart lossy compression, reducing your file size by decreasing the number of colors used. (But don’t worry, you won’t even notice!) It’s free and quick to use for PNGs and JPEGs.
ImageOptim

This is a free Mac app that compresses images by removing unnecessary bloat, while preserving as much image quality as possible.
JPEGmini

JPEGmini is a powerful paid option that helps you reduce file size while retaining both quality and format. It does have a free trial, so you can give it a test run before you purchase.
RIOT
The Radical Image Optimization Tool (RIOT) is a free Windows app for reducing image file size. It features a side-by-side view, so you can compare image quality before and after compression.
Image Optimizer, a free Add-on for Local

If you’re using Local as your local development environment, you can use the Image Optimizer Add-on to automatically compress images offline. It scans your site for all image files, saving you the time of individually compressing them and speeding up your site in the process.

5. Automate image optimization with a WordPress plugin
At this point, you might be starting to think that image optimization is a lot of work – and it can be! But there’s also an easy way to streamline a few of these steps, and that’s by installing an image optimization plugin on your WordPress site.
I have a few recommendations, and they each have unique features. But generally, an image optimization plugin will compress and resize your images when you upload to your WordPress site. This means you can skip those steps instead of doing them manually, a big time-saver.
This method is also nice if you’re building sites for clients. It’s a lot of pressure for the end-user and content creators to try remembering every step of the image optimization process. By installing a plugin that’ll do most of the work for them, you’ll help ensure the speed and performance of the site you’ve built once you hand it off.
To optimize images on a WordPress site, I recommend these plugins:

EWWW Image Optimizer Cloud

This WordPress plugin will automatically optimize your images when you upload them to your site, or it can also optimize images that you’ve uploaded in the past. This makes it incredibly beneficial if you’re working with an existing site with un-optimized images.
Compress JPEG and PNG images

This WordPress plugin by the TinyPNG team can optimize JPEG and PNG images on upload. If you’re a fan of the browser-based tool, streamline the process with their free plugin!
Kracken.io

The Kracken.io plugin can optimize both new and existing images on your WordPress site. It also supports both lossless and lossy compression modes, giving you lots of control over the end result.
Imagify

This WordPress plugin will help optimize your images without losing quality. It’s also compatible with WooCommerce and NextGen Gallery, if you’re using those plugins.
Note: Before choosing a plugin, be sure to look at how they operate. Some use server-taxing operations that can cause issues on your site, while others use FTP options to lesson the load on your web server.

6. Use the “blur up” technique to load a Lower Quality Image first
Even after all the previous optimization steps, there are cases where you still might be working with large file sizes or lots of images on a page, slowing down your site speed. In those cases, sometimes it’s helpful to not only optimize images, but to optimize the load experience so site visitors think your media files are loading faster than they really are.
That’s what these next two steps are all about – giving the appearance of faster loading images, so users aren’t just staring at a blank page while your files load.
One way to do this is to load a Lower Quality Image (LQI) first. By loading a smaller version of the image before loading the full size, it gives the user something to look at while they wait for all the details. This gives the perception of a faster load time, even if technically, everything is loading at the same rate.
A popular way to do this is the “blur up” technique, which you can learn how to implement with this tutorial on CSS-Tricks.

7. Lazy load your site images
Similar to the “blur up” technique, there’s one more trick that will help you give the appearance of faster loading images: Lazy loading.
When someone lands on your site, they start at the top of the page. It’s probably going to take them a moment to scroll the entire page, especially if they’re engaged. Instead of trying to load all the images at once, lazy loading acts under the assumption that users care most about the content they can see. So, the images within their browser view fully load first, while the other images load a placeholder first, until the user scrolls to that section of the page.
Lazy loading is a great technique on its own, and even more powerful when paired with the rest of these image optimization tips! And, it’s very easy to do on a WordPress site, thanks to the BJ Lazy Load plugin.

This concludes my step-by-step guide for better site performance by optimizing images! To see the impact this has made on your site, run another speed test. How’d you do?
Between an optimized workflow and the right image optimization tools, you’ll be able to see better site performance from optimized images in no time!

Go beyond images: Learn how to improve site speed for blazing fast performance

Flywheel’s managed WordPress hosting platform is optimized for making WordPress sites fast, but your server is only a piece of the puzzle. With our Performance Insights Add-on, you’ll get an in-depth look at the performance of your site (so you know exactly where to make improvements!) while being able to track metrics over time to see when, if, and how things change.

How to make your own font template

If you’re here, you’ve probably been scouring the internet for hours looking for that perfect font — and you didn’t find it. You’re under a lot of pressure to make this look *just right* as the bar for creative brand storytelling rises higher and higher. Now, your plan of attack is to create your own font, and might I say, what a great that idea is!  

Creating a font is not as hard as it sounds and you can open the floodgates of opportunity when it comes to customizing your font’s look and feel. When you make your own font template, you harness the power to control your line weight, serifs, density, and so much more.
There are a couple of different ways you can go about this, and depending on what style you’re going for, there are ways to create digital solutions, as well as hand-drawn fonts. For now, we’re going to focus on the hands-on method and learn how to turn your artwork into a real-life typeface. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Choosing the font or template site you want to use
Gathering your materials
Practicing your font
Doing it for real
Uploading and creating your font
Installing the font
Lessons learned

Choose the font or template site you want to use

If you Google “make your own font,” you’ll find more than enough websites capable of bringing your artwork to life. Overall, they mostly follow the same system, so don’t stress too much about this. To help you sort through everything, here are three font building sites I recommend:

For this tutorial, I’m using  Calligraphr to get my project off the ground. This platform is free and super user-friendly for beginner font designers.

Gather your materials
You’ll need a few things to get started building fonts with your own handwriting. At a minimum, a decent pen and paper is a good starting place. To jazz up your creative process, grab a ruler, a protractor, and your computer to look up creative inspiration. This will help with your drawing consistency, especially if you’re adding a lot of bells and whistles to your custom font! 
Let your creativity run wild. If you want to make perfect curves and lines, go for it. Want to grab your 3-year old and see what they come up with? Utilize them too. That’s the best part of making your own font — you can determine however it looks according to your client creative brief.

No matter the style, you’ll want to use a dark pen for the final product on font template paper. Nothing too skinny or heavy — find something with a medium weight. I used a traditional Sharpie, so you can see how that turns out in the final project (spoiler alert: The font looks really thick).
I’d suggest starting with a pencil. Remember, you can always sketch and then refine with the pen. Just erase your scribbles before you’re finished!

Time to practice your font
Depending on how natural your font is to draw, you may or may not need to practice before attempting the final version. I chose a simpler path — I’m just creating a font with my own handwriting, so I didn’t really practice for my font.
On the template sheets you’ll download in the next step, you’ll have to put multiple characters on a single sheet of paper. That means if you mess up one letter and aren’t able to fix it, you may have to redo an entire sheet of characters. And if your font is really intricate, that’s going to be incredibly draining on your time and patience.
Even if it’s just once, practice your font, and hopefully you’ll avoid the bumps in the road during the final version.

Do it for real now
Once you’re ready, download the paper font building template from the site of your choice. This probably looks like a couple of pieces of paper with a designated area for each letter. Like you’ve practiced, just draw your letterforms as you want them.
Your font template sheet will look something similar to this!
Since the artwork on the templates will be your own font, you want it to be right. Go slow, double-check your characters, and leave yourself enough time to do this without being rushed. The last thing you want is to discover mistakes in your font after you’ve installed it on your computer and are trying to use it for a project.

Time to upload and create your font
Here’s what mine looked like with all the letters drawn!
Once you’re satisfied with your work, it’s time to upload the templates to that site you chose in step one. Scan your font templates and then make sure you look at the specific requirements of how they need to be uploaded. Just follow the site’s instructions, and wait for your font to be created. With Caligraphr, my wait time was approximately seven seconds, so it’s a pretty fast turn around.

Install the font and go!
Your font is now just like any other that you would download, so install it the same way you would any other font you found online. It’s really that easy!

A few things I learned from drawing my own font:
See those two dots in between the two lines of text? No idea where those came from, but they’re attached to the “M” character.Writing your own font with the template can feel very awkward. Think back to kindergarten when you were first learning how to write; creating your own font is a similar experience. Maybe consider practicing on the template sheets first to get the hang of it.The Sharpie looked nice on paper, but its lines look much thicker as a digital font. And the ends of my letters didn’t get copied very well, resulting in the rather childish-looking font you see above.Although it’s difficult since you design each letter separately, try to keep in mind how all the characters relate to each other. For some reason, I drew my lowercase “t” much smaller (and higher) than the other letters, so it looks a little out of place.
Honestly, your first font may take a couple of tries. While it’s a simple process, you’ll probably learn new and better ways to go about making your own font each time you do it.
Want to download Morganly? Great news, you can! Here’s a free download.

Conclusion
Custom fonts and lettering have been on the rise as the demand for unique brand storytelling pushes our creative ceilings higher and higher. I hope this font-building tutorial eases your frustration because you now have the power to bring your custom lettering ideas to life! 

If you’re nervous about this creative venture, look no further than to our friend and custom letterist, Simon Walker, for a little push in the right direction. Pizza Hut’s legendary 1960’s logo made its official modern debut in the form of a custom font created by English Graphic Designer Simon Walker and GSD&M for the pizza giant.  
So how did he turn seven letters from an old logo into full-fledged alphabet characters? Well, we (virtually) sat down with Simon to chat about the project details! Learn what he had to say here.