Creative Design is one of the foundations of what we do at Zinc. We began life building websites, and even though we’ve grown to add new services and skills, great design is still at the heart of everything we do. A job as a Creative Designer is one of the most diverse jobs we have at Zinc. Between web design, print work, client workshops and more, an average week is full of variety.
We sat down with one of our Creative Designers to talk about what an average day looks like at Zinc Digital.
The workday starts at 9. I’ll get in and have a catchup with the creative team over a coffee to work out what we’re all working on. We work to a booked schedule, so there’s usually a good idea about what everybody is doing each day, but in an agency there’s always something unexpected that might mean I have to pick up something from somebody else’s list or shuffle things around. Once I know what I’ll be working on, I make a to-do list in my diary so that I can stay on track.
Top of my list is a client who is starting a brand new venture. Her site designs are almost complete, but we want to make sure the colours we use reflect both the professional, business-focused side of the enterprise as well as the product itself, which is aimed at children. I spend some time comparing swatches and preparing some options to show the client.
Next, I’m on to a big task. This business is undergoing a complete site overhaul. It’s a large job, so we’re working closely with the client to ensure that everything is exactly the way they like it. Together, we’ve already decided on colours and style, so I’m designing the details like blog pages so that the whole site is cohesive. This will then be sent over to them for approval at the end of the day.
I take a break from my big project to work on one of my regular tasks. One of our clients has an internal newspaper that’s printed and shared in their office, so I lay this out with their latest news and send it over to them.
An existing client wants to update the lightbox imagery on their site, so I spend some time with speaking with a colleague to work out what development is required to get this put on the site. I send them a quote and book them in for a meeting later this week to talk about it more.
I get back to the full site redesign, trying a few different options for the layout of a blog page. For this client, we’re going for a vibrant, creative feel so I have the freedom to try lots of different things to find something that really reflects what they’re looking for.
I’m back from lunch and refreshed after a break. My next task in one of my favourites; a brand refresh exercise. We’re working with a company that’s relaunching, so it’s time for a new start when it comes to their logo and company colours. I lay out a document that shows different fonts, colours, imagery and styles so that the client can pick one that suits their new look.
The client who I’ll be meeting later this week about their imagery replies, so I make up some contact sheets to show them. These are sheets of thumbnail sized imagery that enable the client to look through all of the potential choices and compare them quickly.
In my last hour, I go back to the design overhaul to refine the things I did earlier. Working at an agency can require a lot of juggling, so I like to look over things to make sure that the finer details are always looked after. Little details make all the difference, especially in creative design.
For our Creative team, no two days are the same. The range of clients and mediums we work with ensures that we’re never bored, working with web design, branding, print and more. If you’d like to talk with our Creative team about what we can do for you, get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you.
Our design team lives in Adobe. We use InDesign for our print work, Illustrator for our logos and Premiere to edit videos. We were delighted when Adobe released XD, a way to design websites that enabled them to come to life. With this platform, we can visualise and present a design all in one place. It allows us to link pages together to simulate the navigation and flow of a site in a way that wasn’t possible before.
As we spend so much time in XD, we’ve got to know it pretty well. Shortcuts make everything go more smoothly and keep our design process quick! Here are the ones we use every day, and the ones our team find the most useful
Mac: Select Artboard Title + CMD + D
Windows: Select Artboard title + Ctrl + D
Switch between design and prototype mode
Windows: Ctrl + Tab
See all connections in prototype mode
Windows: Ctrl + A
Share prototype online
Windows: Ctrl + Shift + E
Show Layout Grid
Mac: ⇧ ⌘ ‘
Windows: Shift + Ctrl + ‘
Increase or decrease a value in a field by 1
Mac: ↑ or ↓
Windows:↑ or ↓
Windows: Not available
Make repeat grid
Windows: Ctrl + R
These shortcuts get used all day, every day by our design team. We’re always learning and looking for new ways to improve our process. It’s what makes us one of the best creative design agencies in the area.
If you’re hoping to work with a design team that’s all about learning and improving our skills, talk to Zinc. We can’t wait to hear from you.
Being creative day in, day out is harder than you’d think! Although it can sound like the best job in the world, when creativity becomes your day job, it’s easy to get burned out. Sitting down at a desk and waiting for ideas is tough, but agency life waits for no man. We’ve got clients excited for their new site, brands waiting for their new look, and more in the pipeline. So, how do we keep things fresh and the inspiration coming?
Although there’s an image that many people have of the isolated creative, we think that the best ideas come from a strong team. This way, we’re able to support each other and offer a fresh perspective on a design or concept that we know will work for the designer because we know their style and the way they think.
One of the ways we do this is through what’s known as a design workout. It’s an idea we stumbled upon that has become one of our team’s favourite ways to press the reset button on our creativity.
If you or your design team needs a boost, here’s how to get moving on your own design workout.
Find a new space
The last place you should be doing a creativity workshop in is at your desk, the same place you sit every day and search for ideas. Sometimes it truly is as easy as a change of scenery to kickstart your creativity. Find a space that’s got enough room for people to loosen up and get creative, away from the usual space of your studio.
We like to use pencils and paper for our design workouts. When you’re working in front of a screen, shaking things up with the real thing is even more fun! If you’d like to keep things digital, just make sure that there are all the chargers, devices and gadgets you’ll want so that you don’t have to break up the day.
Always Warm Up
Creativity is like a muscle – make sure you warm up before you push it. Start with something small and light. Pick an item in the room and get a few logo options for it, start out a few personas to use later on, redesign your water bottle. Little things that will only take 15-20 minutes and get everybody moving.
Now for some big tasks. Try some things that will get your team to break a sweat – pick out some of the personas you made earlier and design each of them a landing page for your product, get photoshop up and try to create something crazy around your office photo, or analyse a design you like and work out why their designers made the choices they did. Spend an hour or so on each one of these larger tasks.
At the end, chat about the processes you went through and the reasons you made the design decisions you went for. Make sure it’s an open discussion that’s easy going an fun – this isn’t an appraisal, it’s a workshop.
Exercises like this help keep the ideas flowing and the morale up. We’re able to understand each other’s creative process and to use work we did when we were at our most creative as a jumping off point another day.
If you’re looking for a creative shake-up of your site or branding, talk to the Zinc Creatives. We’ll be ready and waiting to help.
No matter what you’re trying to achieve online, page speed matters. For customer experience, a slow-loading site will turn away impatient customers looking for an answer. For SEO, sites are penalised for long load times. With every additional second of load time, research has shown that your conversion rates drop by 7%. If you’re building a brand image of modernity and professionalism, your website should support that from the second somebody navigates to your site. If you look after your load speed, you’ll see better engagement, returning visitors and a boost in sales.
Page speed is a difficult balance to maintain. Most people like plenty of images, text, contact opportunities and on their site – but all of these will need to load. The more there is to load, the longer your site will take to appear, and the more users will bounce from your page.
If you’re not sure what your page load speed is, or should be, try using Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to take a look. You’re hoping for a score of at least 50 overall.
Improving the page load speed can require you to go into the building blocks of the site and make improvements there. On the outside, it can look the exact same, but load far more quickly.
Hosting is essentially the place your website is stored until somebody navigates to the site. If your hosting isn’t fast, your site is going to be slow no matter what you do onpage. Make sure that your hosting is delivering the site quickly, and consider switching to a more efficient provider if not.
Loading many large images is a surefire way to slow your site down. A good designer will be able to make sure site stunning without overloading on images, but it’s also a good idea to make sure that when you add them, they’re in the smallest format possible – ideally compressed, in JPEG form, and only as large as it needs to be. There’s no point uploading a large image file if it only needs to be 150px wide; save the big, beautiful image files for where you need them.
In general, you’ll see people warning against plugins if they want to reduce load speed. This is because adding extra things to load such as forms and widgets is simply another thing on the list. However, WordPress has some excellent plugins designed to do the hard work for you when it comes to page load speed. They’ll compress the images, minify the HTML and help cache the site in one easy step.
Any good developer will build best practice for site load time into the site as they work, but time and added content will always take its toll. Make sure that you’re often testing and improving the site whenever you can.
‘Everything is online these days – why waste time with traditional marketing?’
There’s a reason that Zinc is a full service agency. Our phone is always ringing for digital marketing or website build enquiries, but our clients don’t always realise that the most successful campaigns don’t begin with a new site or a great campaign. Step one is always your brand.
Branding is more than a name and a logo. It’s something tangible, the soul of your business and the way that your customers relate and connect to it. It’s who you are, and deserves the time and effort to create a perfect branding that reflects your personality, embodies your values and offers a strong foundation for your future marketing endeavours. Without this start, every campaign you send and person you connect with isn’t fulfilling the potential it could.
In the digital age, your customers are being constantly bombarded with information. Every day they scroll through a minefield of shareable content, targeted advertising, clickbait blogs and alarmist headlines. The ever-changing landscape is creating an audience that’s always adapting to change and processing new information. The one thing that remains constant throughout all of this is branding.
With a strong identity, you have a powerful weapon in your arsenal. You’re able to gain a competitive advantage over others in your industry:
Build a consistent, controlled message
Stand out from the stream of fast paced, changing information with a clear message. Choose your values and stand by them, and make sure that you’re communicating them with every post you press send on. There are a lot of voices in your space, so make sure that yours is distinctive. This means that if a time comes when you’ll have to address negativity or speak on a touchy subject, you’ll be able to do so with the confidence of your brand behind you.
Foster a long-term relationship
Your business shouldn’t be about the one-time sale. It should be about building relationships for the long term, enhancing referrals and encouraging returns. With strong branding, you’re giving your business name a likeable face that is likely to bring people back for more. It’s beyond buying and selling – you’re able to show authority and trustworthiness, or a friendly new perspective that’s going to make sure that you’re the name they think of first.
Your priority as a business owner is to grow. If you’ve become one of those businesses that nobody remembers, you need to take a step back and consider the brand that you’ve chosen. In the old marketplace, the only choice was stuffy and professional. Now, it’s necessary to forget old habits and think more deeply. By truly understanding the voice you want for your business, you’ll be able to make a deeper connection and a lasting impression.
If you’re looking for success in a competitive digital age, you should start with your brand. It’s a simple yet effective first step to ensuring a successfully converting website and an effective digital marketing strategy. Without this, you’re just another voice shouting for attention in an oversaturated digital world.
Zinc Digital love to build brands from the ground up. Whether you’re a new enterprise or need a revitalised approach to your branding talk to our team today. We’ll get to know you and your brand to help create a look, a voice, and an identity that’s cohesive, memorable and entirely you.
SEO is an ever-changing world. The best performing sites are built with search engine optimisation best practice woven in, and have the design prowess to encourage conversions.
For a successful site, SEO and design should be working in tandem. Alongside beautiful design is the potential to rank highly and gain a wide audience to appreciate it. One without the other is worthless. That’s why an integrated approach is best.
If you’re a web designer, here’s what you should be bearing in mind this year in the world of SEO.
By necessity, pleasing Google is the top priority when it comes to SEO. In 2018, Google switched to a mobile first index – this means that the first measure of efficacy comes from how your site performs on mobile. This is because the internet is now primarily used on devices such as phones and tablets. Google’s priority is ensuring the best experience for their users.
To design with this in mind, the first thing that you need to do as a designer is be aware of how your designs will affect speed – a site that is slow to load on mobile will suffer when it comes to rankings. Keep designs as light on code as you can, with small compressed images and Google fonts instead of custom. Secondly, make sure that the experience for your mobile user is a smooth one. This usually comes in hand with good design, but it’s important to bear in mind that a site with a high bounce rate and non-converting users won’t perform as well in rankings as a site that has been optimised well.
Content is Key
Google is getting cleverer every day. It’s looking for good quality, informative content that’s relevant to searchers, and the old-fashioned tactics of keyword stuffing don’t work any more. You might think as a designer that this isn’t your remit, but it’s still important that you equip the content writers with the tools to do this job.
When designing, make sure there’s space for plenty of content. This can be in many forms – you don’t need to lose the balanced designs of your dreams to be able to make room for the amount of content required. Work in accordions or tabs to hide content, pack in lots of small bitesize pieces, and work in blocks so there aren’t walls of text. In general, it’s best to have around 500 words as a minimum on a page you’re hoping to rank. The more the better.
Structure your site well
Search engine robots behave in a similar way to humans when they’re exploring a site. They want to be able to navigate clearly and find the information they’re looking for easily. When you’re designing a site, you consider the customer journey; what they’ll do when they arrive at the homepage and how they’ll find answers.
The best thing about good site structure is that there’s one rule that works universally: make things easy. Don’t bury important content too deeply within the site – more than 4 clicks from the homepage is too granular for a search engine robot to consider the content important. Your customers and your rankings will benefit from a simple site structure.
As a designer, the performance of the website you create is a KPI. If you’re designing with SEO in mind, the likelihood of a strong website with plenty of traffic will only go up.
2018 is seeing a resurgence in the popularity of Print Marketing. Online brands are seeing the potential in print to engage, inspire and capture an audience who is bombarded with digital advertising throughout their day. Big names like Facebook and Amazon are straying from their traditionally entirely digital strategies by supplementing with a print marketing strategy. For Amazon, a printed toy catalogue is being circulated in the US to revive nostalgic memories of Christmas past. Facebook, on the other hand, is using print to make its public apology, supplementing the lost trust that the company is experiencing with the reassurance of words in print. For both, print brings with it the authenticity and trustworthiness of a time before an easily editable online medium.
The beauty of print is that it’s now become a medium that is underused. That means that, to an audience who is faced with digital marketing all day, the sight of a physical printed communication holds new weight. Alongside the cheap, unreliable information that saturates the market at the moment, it proves that the company that commissioned it cares. It suggests permanence, investment and thought. It enables a company to curate a more ‘human’ presence outside of the strategised online space. Research has found that forms of physical media, such as cards and mailouts, increased feelings of connectivity more than online strategies. Alongside this, with the right design and content, engagement is instant and action is often not far behind. It allows for complete focus, without the distraction of a notification, a scroll or another advert. In the event that there is a distraction, print media is always easily accessible to be picked up and perused again.
The benefits don’t stop there, however. With costs per click rising and print becoming more accessible, there is a shift in the balance that is making print a cost-effective option. What’s more, the returns on investment are often even better. This isn’t to say the two are mutually exclusive. The best campaigns are ones that use both print and digital media together as complementary services, providing multiple touch points across the user experience and sending a tailored message with each. That way, when your printed product hits the doormat, your client has already seen your name and understands what you do.
Print can encompass everything from business cards and mailouts to the exhibition stands that stop you in your tracks at conferences. Some are essentials, some are niche, and some are to be used alongside a strategy to get the best return. Whatever you choose, working with a design agency that doesn’t just do things digitally is vital. Print design is a different game altogether, with restrictions and considerations that many digital designers haven’t faced.
Print marketing has been in the shadow of Digital for too long. The intention, credibility and tactile experience of printed media is regaining the strength it once had, carving a niche it never had when it saturated the market.
The first meeting between a creative team and a client is one of the most important ones we’ll have with you. It’s the time where we get to know you, your brand, and where we’re going to take it all.
Meeting your designers doesn’t require a lot of preparation, but anything you can bring us helps speed the process along and makes everything more productive. If you’re getting ready for your first creative design meeting, why not bring:
The right people
We love a first meeting to be full of ideas. We want to meet the people who are going to be working with us as we design your site, so bring along anybody who’s likely to have input. That having been said, if it’s going to get crowded then send a delegate with some notes from everybody else.
An idea of what you want to achieve from your new site
The goals and expectations of your site are vital for everybody to understand. By this, we don’t mean what you want it to look like (although we’ll definitely be talking about that!). We want to know if you’re looking for people to buy from an ecommerce platform, read your content, use a contact form or something else.
Competitors, colour schemes, or just sites that you’ve stumbled across that you love – it’s all valuable. From the things you show us, we’ll be able to understand whether you like things minimalist and clean or bright and busy. Even if there’s just the one component that you like, bring it over to us for a look.
The things you don’t like are just as valuable as the things you do. When it comes down to it design is all about personal style, and we want to make sure that what we’re designing is in line with yours. We primarily design for the end user, but it’s important to us that you’re just as in love with your website as we are, so if you can show us sites you’re not a fan of we’ll be able to get a feel for the things we should be avoiding.
The beginnings of a plan
We’ll walk and talk you through everything that we need to know, but if you’ve got an idea of what you need in a website at the beginning it’s invaluable for us. Think about the pages you’ll need and the kind of things you need on there. A mini plan with your navigation and what’s required is a great jumping off point for us.
To talk about your new website, branding and more, give the Zinc Creative Team a call today. We can’t wait to hear from you.
When it comes to mobile apps, there’s a life cycle. A user will have a need, search for a solution, download it and engage with the app. Following this, your users will either continue to engage with your app, or they’ll delete it. Gaining users for your app is only half the battle. The true measure of success is when they are retained, returning and engaging with you.
The primary reason a user will delete an app is because they don’t use it. If your app doesn’t provide a user-friendly experience and deliver the solution they’re looking for, it’s simply taking up space on their device. This is valuable real estate, so you need to make sure your app is created to convert a first-time user from the moment they open it. Done well, you’ll foster a community of long-term users who are active and engaged. Alongside this comes increased usage, growth in brand awareness and by default an improvement in revenue.
App engagement is simply usage. If they’re opening your app and using it, you’re getting engagement. If they’re staying for longer, you’re providing them with the product they were hoping for when they downloaded your app. The app store provides a quick and easy road to your competitors if you aren’t able to do this.
In our experience as app developers and marketers, engagement is all about experience. Every demographic is different, but there are a few golden rules that will help your app get the engagement and dedicated users it deserves.
Your first impressions count. If the initial action you’re asking your users to do is a long, drawn out onboarding process, they’re going to close the app and find a quicker solution. In a world of instant gratification, your user base isn’t going to wait. The fewer steps you have in your signup process, the better. Don’t ask for too much information, and if you can combine steps to keep things quick then do so. You don’t need to explain everything at the start or offer a tutorial – let the user explore or ask for help. If you do want to explain, replace text with icons and images to keep things simple, or give them an option to skip.
Personalise the experience
Use the information you gained in your onboarding to add personalisation to your app. Addressing users by name and tailoring the messaging to their needs will help deliver the experience your users were looking for. Welcome pages, in-app messages, notifications and landing pages can all be directed directly at your users, and can lead to a 27% increase in conversions according Braze.
Whether your app is all about fun or all about function, adding an element of reward and gamification can help improve the engagement from your user base. Ordinary tasks such as filling out a profile or changing a password can be encourages with a progress bar or badges. If there’s a way to make things competitive, incorporate a leaderboard where your users can see how their friends, or even other users across the world, are doing.
Make Use Of Push Notifications
If users aren’t opening your app, there’s not much opportunity to tempt them back. Some use emails, which can be effective, but the best way to get a user back on your app is to talk to on the same channel they associate with you. Push notifications are the perfect way to announce a tip, offer, new feature or to simply offer a gentle reminder that you’re there. For some, non-engagement isn’t a case of disliking your product but simply forgetting it’s there.
Engagement is the true measure of success for your app, but you should never leave it up to fate. Watch how your users are interacting with the app and where they start to drop off. Address the problems and make every step easy and intuitive. The most important thing is to never stop learning and improving.
For an expert app design that’s built to foster engaged users, speak to the Zinc creative team. We’ll work with you to create something that’s tailored to your demographic and industry, delivering something that not only addresses your needs, but surpasses them.
Gamification is a form of marketing in which an everyday activity is made into something engaging, fun and interactive by including the same tactics many games use.
You’ve probably experienced gamification before, whether you know it or not. Very simple forms of gamification are loyalty point schemes, a progress bar, or a fundraising thermometer. Providing a clear aim can help guide users to complete an action. It’s the reason your LinkedIn shows a completion percentage on your profile, and why your local coffee shop has a loyalty card.
For charities, Gamification offers a unique opportunity. It’s a way to create an engaged, active audience whilst spreading your message and raising money. Here are our key tips for charities considering Gamification.
Consider some of the most popular games of the past few years. Flappy Bird, Candy Crush and Farmville are all prime examples of taking a relatively basic concept and making it addictive. The key here is creating a game that isn’t hard to understand, but isn’t easy to play. Apply this to your own needs – if you’re planning a sponsored run, create an app to gamify the training process. If you’re hoping for fundraising, a local leaderboard to help motivate volunteers.
Above all, the most important thing to include is a goal. Offering something to aim for will keep your users coming back each time. This can be anything that suits your game and your branding; points, badges, levels, or leaderboards are just a few options. Any combination of these will create the drive needed for a little healthy competition!
The thing that will really be your key to success is shareability. Offer a reward for social media shares, show users what scores their friends have achieved, and foster a sense of healthy competition. If you’re able to offer prizes, whether they are physical or digital, it will increase the sense of achievement and the likelihood of a share.
A great example of a charity using Gamification to their advantage is the Help for Heroes ‘Hero Bears’ app. It was a simple platformer game that involved bears collecting coins, but a significant portion of the cost of the app went to charity.
We’ve been part of some exciting Gamification projects before, and we’d love to get involved with yours! Get in touch today to find out more.
If a website is the first thing a business should be investing in, making it mobile friendly should be step two. In 2018, it’s going to become even more important to make your site accessible for all devices.
What makes a website mobile friendly? There are a few ways to adapt your website to mobile, but here at Zinc, we make all of our sites fully responsive. This means that we not only minimise load times and clean up content, but we also develop our sites to detect and adapt to any screen size. Especially when your target audience is particularly active on mobile devices or will be making purchases on mobile, it’s a vital part of development.
We incorporate responsive web design as standard, because as a digital agency we know the difference it makes. Here’s why:
Worldwide, over 80% of internet users own a smartphone and many even use a device as the primary way to access the internet at home. Mobile internet is a part of our daily lives, and businesses need to make sure that they are adapting. If your customers are coming to your site on a mobile, you need to be able to accomodate them.
As more consumers are using their devices to browse, the mobile conversion rates are increasing rapidly. The average smartphone conversion rate has gone up by 64% when compared to desktop conversion rates.
A perfect example of this is Black Friday 2017. Mobile transactions hit a record high as more users took advantage of the deals from the comfort of their own home.
As of 2017, it was confirmed that the majority of search traffic is on a mobile device, and Google has definitely taken notice. Nobody except Google knows exactly how their algorithms, but load time and mobile responsivity is a known factor. If your site doesn’t accommodate its mobile users, its search engine rankings will be suffering.
As of early 2018, Google will be launching their Mobile-First Algorithm. This means that they will be indexing the mobile version of the internet ahead of the desktop version. Sites that don’t perform well on mobiles w
Without responsive web design, you could be turning away hundreds of customers. Device users behave differently to those on desktop devices – they prefer not to search for information, scroll less, and generally have less patience for slow loading pages.
If you have high bounce rates and no mobile-responsivity, it’s very likely that you’ll see a great improvement from a site that’s tailored to your mobile users. Seeing as those on mobile tend to spend more than desktop users, it’s definitely worth making your website responsive.
The most important thing to remember for your mobile site is that you are aiming for speed, efficiency and relevancy.
To discuss your website’s mobile responsivity needs, get in touch with our creative team at Zinc Digital today. We offer a full site review to show you exactly how we can help.
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