About ac4designs

Graphic design professional. 15 years experience. Delivering design for print and digital solutions in our ever-evolving rich media world. Cricket lover.

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Latest News 21.11.2019

Announcing the latest development for ac4designs. 2019 sees me partnering with www.alfindlay.com to provide graphic support to Al and his team supporting the promotion of the business and work on website development.

www.alfindlay.com website image

Working with businesses in the local community is an important part of the ac4designs philosophy. Working local but thinking national means building links with like-minded businesses that want to deliver the very best service. Al Findlay and his team are a business that truly believes this to be true. ac4designs looks forward to working across a range of projects as we move towards 2020.

How do you write and design at the same time?

The challenge of combining the written word and creative design and layout.

As a graphic designer with twenty plus years of experience, I have worked in a number of environments and on many long format projects. Projects that have significant amounts of content, particularly the written word always present a similar dilemma. How do you combine the skills of the writer with that of the designer and ensure the process is efficient? The designer really wants the final written draft, but often this is not available at the beginning of the task or the client wants to visualise the format and layout before finalising content. Sometimes content is subject to live updates right up to deadline day, as is the case with financial reports for example. Often once a design is created rewrites, reformatting, revisions and updates have to be supplied and updated into designs manually by the design team, driving frustration for all involved.

This issue is a common challenge for anyone involved in the writing of the printed word and there are as many different approaches to solving the issue as there are letters of the alphabet, if not more. I want to discuss one option for writers and businesses that have Microsoft Word and Excel as their first choice content creation and writing tools, but that work with designers that create using Adobe InDesign.

Wordsflow

Wordsflow (http://emsoftware.com/products/wordsflow/) is a software plugin for Adobe InDesign that allows Microsoft Word and Excel content to be directly imported into formatted Adobe InDesign documents. Once this link is established, writers and content owners can continue to work on their version of the draft while the design team progress the creative layout. Once updates are ready these can be imported automatically into the design. Benefits are that formatting in the InDesign file is unaffected by written updates massively reducing the number of minor marked up text corrections that designers are required to complete. Of course, this approach does not solve the disruption that major content changes or design format adjustments can cause to a project. It can though given significant benefits as projects progress and become more stable in format but continue to require low and medium writing and content adjustments. Anyone who has experienced supply marked up text corrections or adjustments to a design team and received back a draft with some missing or additional errors introduced through misunderstanding or human error will truly love this tool. No more need for multiple people in the chain to affect the same change. Make the correction in the master Microsoft draft, hand over to the design team, update the linked file, print and proof. Job one.
If this sounds too good to be true, I can promise it’s not. For more information on this subject and other time-saving approaches to your design workflow, please just get in touch. I will be happy to discuss your needs and reduce your stress levels.

MAKING BETTER USE OF ADOBE ACROBAT

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Understand that not all PDF’s are equal

One key fact that anyone that works or creates PDF documents should understand is that not all PDF’s are equal. The PDF format allows the creation of files specifically optimised for a number of uses which can include:

  • General office printing and viewing.
  • Optimised web and digital display; and delivery.
  • Long term file storage.
  • High quality professional printing.
  • Interactive media delivery (including sound and video).
  • Fully accessible and structured files.

Dependent upon the requirements or features of a PDF the method of preparation and creation will differ. When generating PDF documents for a specific use, users should ensure that they understand the requirements and are using the correct settings. Likewise, the behaviour of a PDF document will differ in Acrobat Reader depending upon the creation settings applied.

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT PRODUCT OPTIONS

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ADOBE ACROBAT AND ADOBE READER DC

The video link below provides a short overview of the key differences between the different versions of this product ( https://www.lynda.com/Reader-tutorials/Understanding-differences-between-Adobe-Acrobat-Adobe-Reader-DC-Video/191091/382966-4.html

WHAT IS ACROBAT DC?

Official introduction video to Adobe Acrobat DC. (3 minutes). Basic overview.
https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/what-is-acrobat-dc.html #

GET TO KNOW ACROBAT READER DC

This short video introduces the features and layout of the latest Acrobat Reader version. ( https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/acrobat-reader-dc-overview.html

GET TO KNOW THE ACROBAT DC INTERFACE

Official introduction video to the working interface highlighting key menus and tools. This video covers many of the same topics as the one highlight above but also includes some additional information. Watching both is a good way to embed the learning. (4 minutes).
https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/new-experience-acrobat-dc.html 

CREATE PDF’S FROM MICROSOFT OFFICE

This step-by-step guide covers the methods for generating PDF files from Microsoft Word. You are promoted to download sample files and practice the walk through. (Time required 8 minutes).
This tutorial discusses three separate methods:

  • Method 1: Use the Create PDF tool in Acrobat DC.
  • Method 2: Use the Acrobat task ribbon in Office (Windows only).
  • Method 3: Print from an Office application.

Even if you are familiar with making PDF files I would highly recommend refreshing your knowledge as even seasoned users may pick up useful tips.

https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/create-pdf-files-word-excel-website.html

ADDING STICKY NOTES AND OTHER ANNOTATIONS

If you request others to or are required to make comments to PDF documents then this short video provides an up-to-date review of the tools and process. (5 minutes).
https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/add-pdf-comment.html

SEND FOR E-SIGNATURE

A brief introduction video to the digital signatures features available in Adobe Acrobat.
(4 minutes) https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/send-documents-get-e-signature.html

EDIT SCANNED DOCUMENTS

Ever wanted to edit a scanned file or text in an image file, here’s how in this short video.
(3 minutes). https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/edit-scanned-pdf-files.html

EDIT TEXT AND IMAGES IN PDF’S

This video explains text and images can be adjusted directly within Adobe Acrobat Pro. However, I recommend caution to the inexperienced user as direct changes can cause unseen changes to the files accessibility and suitability for its intended use. (5 minutes).
https://helpx.adobe.com/uk/acrobat/how-to/edit-text-images-pdf-files.html

SHARING FILES

Adobe Acrobat provides a number of ways to share and track files. The following links provide information on the different options:
https://helpx.adobe.com/reader/using/share-comment-review.html (Web page).
https://helpx.adobe.com/acrobat/using/sharing-pdfs.html (Web page).

If you wish to know more about Adobe Acrobat or have a specific issue then please get in touch via my contact page.

Becoming a website owner – part one

Crop of the ac4designs home page

Building your own website is a challenge I understand from personal experience

In terms of being a website owner, this post is a case of ‘do I as I say not as I do’. I hope however it does offer some useful insight into the things to consider and the potential pitfalls of choosing to set up and manage your own website. This first part will consider aspects of planning and approach and the second post will follow with some practical issues to discuss and implement.

I began developing my WordPress sites at the beginning of the 2012 ahead of a planned business launch in January 2013. Half way through 2012 I realised I need to radically reconsider my approach. I essentially needed to stop and create a new plan to develop my website structure from the ground up. This has taken rather longer than I would have liked (due to a number of other demands) and much of the work I had put in on my websites in the early part of the year has been lost. However the lessons learned are real and valuable and the new versions will be much improved. The content creation and the planned structure are now all pretty much ready to implement and over the next month or so the Phoenix will rise…

During the second part of the year I have also helped develop and deliver a seminar to  colleagues a the Audit Commission on setting up as a website owner. This post contains content from the worked completed as part of that task and thanks must also go to my colleague Jim Gwilliam for his clear and concise advice.

Owning a website is a BIG decision!

Certainly choosing to set up and manage a website is a complex task.

.. .and the bad joke of the day! A website is not just for Christmas…

I have come to think of owning a website as very much like deciding to own a pet or have a child.

  • It requires planning (always better to do this before the arrival).
  • It requires commitment – in terms of time to nurture and develop.
  • It will turn your world upside down! With demands you just won’t expect!

Do you really need a website?

The  first choice in the website journey is – Do you really need a website? Once upon a time the only way to get an online presence was to have a website, understand html, coding and essentially be a nerd (sorry if I have offended any nerds out there). However, social media, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram and all manner of other blogging and online platforms have changed the web landscape forever…
You can now promote, advertise, sell and brand build yourself, your services and your productswithout ever having to own a website. The possibilities are really only constrained by your creative thinking around how to use any given social media platform to deliver your online presence. For example:

  • LinkedIn: A great personal profile and networking tool. There is the option with his platform to add a company page where you can promote your business products and services.
  • Facebook: The social networking platform of the masses! You can also promote your business and even sell direct through Facebook. Facebook advertising lends itself well to product selling to targeted audiences.
  • Pinterest: This growing social media network is becoming popular with product-focused retail sellers looking to promote their products visually. By linking profiles directly to purchase options such as Amazon a small business can create a simple sales route.

The pitfalls of using social media platforms as your key online presence

Using social networking to promote your business and deliver an online presence is certainly a practical approach, as many big and small brands are showing. When starting out, give these options some real thought. Take some time to assess the platform and whether it offers your business proposition a clear audience. You may decide that focused energy spent on a social platform that you can affect is better than lots of energy spent on something (creating a website) that is beyond your control. If you can create a connection with your target market you will be achieving your business goal.

However, the potential disadvantage of building your business proposition on social networking platforms is that you don’t own the site or in many cases the content (make sure you understand the T&C’s of any platform you use). You will have much less control over how a platform might change over time. Changes made to the infrastructure of your chosen delivery platform might have serious consequences for you business, with little you can do about it.

Social media is now an important part of your online presence and for the most effective outcomes ensure social networking is integrated with your online activity. If you chose to use it as the main delivery platform for your products or service, make sure that you keep up-to-date with potential changes and new features to your chosen social networking platform to make sure you don’t run into difficulties.

Define your objective

The key question to ask yourself before you proceed any further is simple – What is my objective?  This is vital to understand before you begin to consider how to build and mange your website. Your reasons for developing your website will be your own. However for the purposes of this blog we are going to discuss them in these terms.

  • Personal – Just for fun, to support a hobby business, raise an personal profile or to support a charity. Essentially a website you have time to learn and develop with and where ultimately financial success is not the driving factor.
  • An online e-commerce business.
  • A business providing services (a website can support online and offline business services).

Why does this make a difference?

Because it should lead you to your first big decision… DIY or professionally developed?

If you are looking to build a website to support a serious business proposition aimed at delivering real returns you should consider the following. While you’re learning to build your website you are not working on growing your business. Your value to your business, let’s say as an hourly rate, is likely to be much more than that of your web designers. It’s really a question of the best use of your time.

How much is your time worth?

 This blog isn’t about offering financial business advice. However the following approach to evaluating the value of your time is useful.

  1. Decide upon a figure for the annual return you would like.
  2. Now divide this by the hours you wish to work (1840 is 46 weeks, 5 days a week for 8 hours as a guide).
  3. This will give you your base hourly rate.
  4. Now multiply this by your chosen non-productivity factor. No one is productive for all of their working day. Even the most successful business people tend to accept that they are productive for only about a third of their time. So multiply your base rate by 3 or 4 to give you your final figure.

The number you have come up with is the total that your time is worth per hour. My guess is its higher than you expected. It certainly was when I completed the task. Why is it of value? Because I believe it should give you a different perspective on the potential of buying in services, such as web design. Better to spend time learning to build a website? Better to spend time building your business? Yes, a web developer will cost money, but your time is not FREE. Building a website takes time. And lots of it if you don’t know what you’re doing or have a clear objective.

If it takes you two hours to adjust something technical on your site, it’s going to take a professional less than half that time (if they are any good).

So get some rates, do the maths, and ask yourself, ‘Am I really saving money?’

Get your website priorities right 

OK. So your still determined you should take on this challenge yourself! Then the next step is to get your priorities in the right order. Most novice web owners view the priorities of their site in this order (and I know I certainly used to):

  • Design
  • Technology
  • Marketing

Wrong! 

Marketing is the factor that will decide whether your website succeeds or fails. Focus on this before design or technology. Design and technology are things to be adjusted to fit your marketing goals.  Your website is about getting traffic and converting visitors.  If you’re planning to build a website to support a business then I would recommend reading Make Your Website Sell by Jed Wylie. This book walks you through the entire planning, set-up and management process.

Marketing your site

Step 1: Customer profiling

Define your ideal customer (and not your average buyer) considering these attributes:

  1. Name
  2. Gender
  3. Age
  4. Appearance
  5. Occupation/salary
  6. Other identifying traits – (relationship status, past failures/successes, likes/dislikes – look for common identifiers that bind your market together)
  7. Emotional needs (to feel secure about business, freedom from stress, etc.)
  8. Core desires (to earn more, spend more time with family)

The more detail and types of customers you can identify the clearer your picture of what is required will be.   

Step 2: Ask yourself some key questions

Next answer the following questions about your website and from the answers (taking into account your customer profiling) you will have some clear ideas about how your website should work.

  • Who (is it for?)
  • What (do you want them to do?)
  • How (are they going to do it?)
  • When (do you want them to act?)
  • Why (should they bother?)

You have reached website base camp

OK, so this is the end of Becoming a website owner – part one and hopefully it has challenged you to think about what you want to achieve and how you might best go about this. In the end the decision as they say is yours, choose wisely and make sure you stay focused. Becoming a website owner – part two will continue the website owner journey a little further and look at more practical issues to discuss and implement.

Thanks for reading…