Why I Charge the Same for Building Websites Designed by Someone Else

As a web designer, the vast majority of my new projects are original creations. The process goes a little something like this: I create a mockup, make revisions until my client is happy, then move on to building the website (usually with WordPress).

But there are occasions where I receive a mockup from another designer, then build a custom WordPress theme to match. While this makes up a relatively small portion of my business, I generally end up building around a half-dozen sites like this each year.

From a distance, you may look at each of these scenarios and conclude that the latter would cost significantly less than the former. However, that’s not usually the case. In fact, I tend to charge around the same fee, regardless of who created the mockup.

A closer look at the challenges involved will explain why:

A Similar Investment of Time

Everyone has their own unique style and works in the way that suits them. That being said, taking someone else’s vision and making it a reality (err, virtual reality) isn’t easy. Just ask any developer who’s had to take a PSD or Sketch mockup and make a pixel-perfect recreation across browsers and devices.

This is especially challenging when the original designer isn’t a member of your organization. In these cases, there are no established procedures for, say, naming (or even ordering) PSD layers or spacing out design elements to fit within a specific layout system.

The fallout from this is that a great deal of time is spent trying make heads or tails of the document on my screen. If the designer has included notes, that can be a big help. But even then, there are still details to hunt down.

Granted, some designers are more organized than others. The more they implement things such as clear labeling or even a list of fonts, the easier the process of building the website.

Designing something on your own, however, is a smoother ride (at least, it should be). And it seems like any …

How Many WordPress Plugins Are Too Many?

It seems like one the existential questions of our time – at least, for web designers. But for years, many of us have been trying to figure out the “right” number of WordPress plugins to use within a website.

I hate to break it to anyone who likes nice, round figures: There is no specific number. No threshold that defines you as either a pro or poser. I know, some people define their success by using a minuscule number of plugins. If you can get away with doing so, you get much respect from me.

For the rest of us, plugins are a tempting proposition. They can take care of so many tasks – large and small. And they’re only a few clicks away.

But add too many and it can weigh down your site’s performance. Not to mention that every single thing you install adds another layer of complexity to the mix.

While there is no one-size-fits-all number of plugins you can or should run, there are some ways to tell if you’re past the limit. Here are a few factors to help you make that determination.

The Hosting Environment

Computing power and network bandwidth are incredibly important factors in terms of performance. Yet, most often the only control designers have over them is when choosing a host (if one hasn’t already been chosen for us). If you have a choice, look for a provider that offers lots of both.

Beyond raw power, the server’s OS and related software also play a role. You’ll want to ensure you’re running PHP 7.x, as that’s been proven much faster than previous versions. Server-based caching and load balancing can provide a big boost if your host offers them.

As important as anything, though, is the type of hosting account you have. If it’s low-end shared hosting, you’re probably not going to get the same bang for your buck that you’d get with a higher-end VPS or dedicated setup. The more dedicated resources your site has, the more well-coded plugins you may …

Top 15 Tools and Resources for Web Designers and Agencies Sponsored

Design trends come and go. This makes it imperative for web designers and design agencies to keep a close watch. They need to know the tools and resources they’re using to make certain everything is up to date.

Your tools and resources might appear to be keeping up with changing technologies. Yet, improved tools and more suitable resources keep popping up. So many, in fact, that it can at times become downright annoying trying to decide which tools to keep. and which to replace with something newer.

We can’t stop the flood of new tools and improved resources, nor would we want to. We can, however, make life a little easier for you. We are recommending several of the best tools, apps, and resources out there.

Elementor

Elementor

Elementor is the ultimate & free WordPress page builder. With over 2M active installs, it’s the most advanced drag & drop editor out there, used by professionals worldwide to create high-end designs in no time, without coding. Elementor comes with many built-in widgets to help you quickly build any part of your website: images, text, sliders, icons, testimonials, social media, animation and more.

Elementor works perfectly with almost any theme and plugin and will not slow down your existing website. You can start from a blank canvas or choose from over one hundred pre-designed templates that can be inserted to any page. The Pro version comes with super cool features like pop-ups, forms and theme builder which lets you design the header, footer and archive pages of your site.

AND CO from Fiverr

AND CO from Fiverr

The average freelancer spends almost one day per week on non-billable work—like invoices, expenses, tracking payments, and following up clients whenever a payment is overdue. But when you’re paid for your expertise, time really is money. If you can save time by automating the running your business, you can spend more time doing the work that puts money in your pocket.

That’s where an invoicing software like AND CO from Fiverr comes in. AND CO automatically generates invoices based on …

Things That Come Back to Haunt Web Designers

Making mistakes is part of the human experience. They go together like pizza and breadsticks. But the beauty of a mistake is that you have a chance to learn from it.

Still, the reality is that we usually don’t learn until that mistake properly blows up in our face. Even then, that one false move can come back to haunt us time and again. Once that happens, it can seem impossible to shake yourself from the clutches of such horror.

Perhaps the best (and only) defense is to avoid making that mistake in the first place. So, before you go about your daily business, stop and read our list of business and design-related actions that can come back to bite you in the future. It may just save you from some future headaches!

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Taking on Projects That Don’t Feel Right

Not every project or client is going to be the right one for you. And it seems like, quite often, you can spot a bad one right from the beginning.

Yet one of the most difficult things to learn in business is to trust your own instincts. Other factors, such as the need for money and to build out our portfolios get in the way and cloud our decision making.

Signing up to work on a project that looks like a disaster-in-waiting is something that can have detrimental effects to your business and health. Whether it’s because of the work itself, an untenable client, or both, it’s a bad situation. And unfortunately, there’s not often a graceful way to get out.

Therefore, it pays to think long and hard before agreeing to something you’re uncomfortable with. If you can’t see yourself cozying up to the project, it’s okay to say “no”.

A sign that reads "NO".

Failing to Comment Code or Document Changes

Have you ever written a piece of code and said to yourself, “I’ll remember it”? Even if you are blessed with a sharp memory, there …

Reasons to Stick with WordPress

Sometimes, even the best of friends can have a disagreement. That’s the sort of vibe that WordPress and its community have been dealing with for quite some time. There’s still a lot of love, but it goes along with some undertones of frustration.

No, it’s not everyone who feels this way. It may not even be the vast majority of those who use the software. But, ever since the process behind the building and release of the Gutenberg block editor (and continuing with some dashboard drama), there seems to be a bit of a trust issue. Some have voiced displeasure with the direction of WordPress and tend to think that there are ulterior motives for various changes that have occurred.

This tension has even led some folks to abandon the CMS altogether and jump onto the bandwagon of an alternative. The drama is real in some corners of the community.

While acknowledging the issues, I can confidently say that I have zero plans to move to another CMS. Why? Here are but a few reasons…

The Software is Still Amazing

At one time in its history, WordPress was but a small up-and-comer. That’s changed quite a bit in recent years, as it has become the dominant CMS on the web. Therefore, as WordPress has gotten bigger, the stakes have gotten higher.

With that growth comes a lot of pressure to keep pushing things forward. As the software adds new features and changes our workflow, it’s only natural that some friction within the community comes to a head. Change is difficult and not everyone’s going to agree (I am no different, as I’ve had my own share of gripes).

That said, WordPress is still the software that has enabled so many of us to make a living. At its core are the features and flexibility that we love.

And even with all of the Gutenberg-related fears that the sky was falling, it didn’t. The controversial new editor (a pretty decent one, at that) is a far cry …

8 Powerful Plugins That Turn WordPress into an LMS

As more people look to further their learning online, there has been a growing market for software to help businesses build and sell courses. Known as a Learning Management System (LMS), these niche apps include (more or less) everything you need to get up and running.

Like many other speciality tools, the LMS was at one time standalone, clunky and expensive. However, in recent years there have been a number of options released that fit all manner of needs and budgets. One of the brightest and busiest areas of LMS development have come in the form of WordPress plugins.

Today, we’ll introduce you to a variety of plugins that will take your standard WordPress install and transform it into an educational powerhouse. They offer features such as course building, eCommerce and testing – along with a number of other helpful tools. Some are free, some are commercial, but all can bring online learning to your website.

The WordPress Toolbox
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WordPress

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LearnDash

One of the best known LMS plugins, LearnDash offers a high level of control over just about every aspect of your online courses. It includes a course builder that lets you easily create hierarchical lessons (each with their own set of topics) as well as flexible online testing. There’s also some eCommerce functionality built in, although the plugin is additionally compatible with WooCommerce. In addition, this commercial plugin offers a number of integrations with plugins ranging from membership (Paid Memberships Pro, MemberPress) to bbPress forums.

LearnDash

LearnPress

LearnPress is a free plugin (with multiple Pro upgrade options) that can be used to build and sell online courses. Out of the box, it works with WooCommerce and BuddyPress to help you sell online and communicate with students. There are also a number of free add-ons that offer functions such as prerequisites, offline payments and import/export. Pro add-ons enable assignments, the awarding of certificates and support for a number of additional payment gateways.

LearnPress

LifterLMS

A free option with a number of …

Getting Answers to Your Web Development Questions

Regardless of our education, experience or skill level, every one of us will run into a situation where we could use some help. It might be a bit of code we can’t get quite right or even some confusion as to the best approach for a particular task.

This is where the web design community shines like no other. There are any number of channels where we can get help from others who are willing to share what they know. Everything from official knowledgebases, general support forums to social media affords us an opportunity to help and be helped.

But, to get the most out of the experience, there are some best practices and niceties to consider. So, before you ask for help, keep the following in mind:

First, Try to Help Yourself

If you don’t know the answer off the top of your head, it’s best to at least do a little research before reaching out to others. Odds are that someone out there has either written a blog post on the topic or has asked a similar question in a forum. You may just find the answer, or at least get part of the way there.

Even if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, hopefully you now have some useful background information. So, when you do ask a question, you can provide a little more context on what you’ve seen elsewhere.

This practice is also just good etiquette. Sometimes the answer is virtually right in front of you (especially if there is official documentation available). In those cases, it saves you (and those helping you) some unnecessary back-and-forth. Plus, folks like to see that you at least made an effort to solve an issue on your own.

Person typing on a keyboard.

Be Specific

So, maybe you couldn’t find the answer out there and really do need to ask a question. That’s okay – it’s why support exists in the first place. You’ll just want to be prepared to explain exactly what it is you’re looking for.

For instance, think …

Beautifully Designed Examples of Asymmetrical Split Screens in Web Design

Some trends stay with us forever, turning into classic solutions. Others vanish without leaving a trace. You may think that all trends break into these two groups, but that’s not quite true. There is another category of trends whose life has its ups, downs and calm periods. Such trends keep appearing and disappearing all the time. One such trend is the use of split screens.

The split screen took the web by storm several years ago. It was incredibly popular in those days. There were even premium WordPress themes built around this approach. And that’s a big deal. However, slowly but surely its enormous popularity faded away and we started to forget about this interesting layout solution for hero areas.

Recently, it has awoken and reminded everyone about its incredible charisma with some tiny changes in appearance. Asymmetrical split screens are a new twist on the old trend that ignites passion and excites the minds of web developers.

Want to see it in action? Here are some great examples of how asymmetrical split screens are being used in the wild.

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Nourisheats / Golden Green

When it comes to asymmetry, the first thing that springs into mind is, of course, the uneven division of the welcome screen. Nourisheats and Golden Green are two typical examples. Their hero areas are broken into two parts, where one of them is bigger than the other.

Nourisheats uses a split screen to turn a regular slider into a real centerpiece of the website. Note, this is not a traditional slider that cycles through a set of pictures; it is a full-screen navigation that supports the top navbar. Visitors have an opportunity to peek into two different sections of the portal at the same time.

Nourisheats

The team behind Golden Green goes off the beaten path and uses a solution not for the hero area, but the entire website. Beautiful images come into the fore, drawing the overall …

What My Old Design Projects Have Taught Me

If you take a look back through your portfolio, what do you see? Maybe it brings back memories of a certain challenge you faced or a really difficult client. Perhaps you cringe at the sight of a dated look or now-extinct technology. I hear you.

Over the past couple of decades, my career has had its share of hits and misses. And, for the longest time, I was really embarrassed when looking through some of my older projects. But time brings perspective and you start to see things in a different light.

Because, regardless of how a particular project turned out at the time, it was a learning experience nonetheless. As I think back to the variety of sites I’ve built, I wanted to share some of the most important lessons that came from them.

So, in no particular order, here are some valuable things I’ve learned from past projects.

Code Can Be More Resilient Than You Think

In the past few years, I’ve found myself retrofitting some older websites for responsiveness. These sites were built in the days before smartphones really changed the world, and it was important that they at least looked and functioned well on small screens.

What I discovered is that, in most cases, this wasn’t terribly hard to do. I had a range of different sites to retrofit, as well. Everything from early experiments in WordPress to table-based static HTML. While the table layouts were generally the most time-consuming, I was amazed at how well I was able to convert them to CSS within just a few hours. And the CSS-based layouts were even easier to deal with.

To me, this demonstrates that HTML and CSS are quite resilient and much of what an old site has can be salvaged in these types of situations. That’s not to say everything is semantically perfect, but you can indeed squeeze some more life out of an old site.

HTML code in a text editor.

Typography Isn’t an Afterthought

At one time, the web was severely limited when it came to fonts. That …

Imagining a Single-Browser Web

It is often said that competition brings out the best in all of us. Whether we’re running in a race or building software, knowing that others are out there doing the same thing pushes us to do more. It’s the place where progress and innovation come from.

However, a quick look at the web browser market these days will show one clear winner – with everyone else just hoping to make a dent.

As of this writing, Google’s Chrome browser holds over 64% of market share. From there, it’s Apple’s Safari a distant second (16%), along with Firefox (5%) and (gasp) Internet Explorer (4%). And with Microsoft’s Edge (under 2%) soon switching to the Chromium engine, Google is picking up even more steam.

Should these numbers continue to hold over the long term, it would seem that many of these competitors will become a footnote to history. Thus, Google’s supremacy will go pretty much unchallenged. So, what effect would that have on web designers?

Where Things Stand

Years ago, many were concerned that Microsoft would become the company who ruled all the web. Then, Firefox and Chrome came along and changed that narrative. Suddenly, we went from a browser (Internet Explorer) that had lacked support for some standards (not to mention championing its own proprietary code), to software that really did push the web towards standards compliance.

Both of those new browsers became the default for designers, enabling us to use the latest features. Power users were happy to have real choices that prioritized ease-of-use and speed over the slow, buggy IE.

But, the tables have turned dramatically. Microsoft is but a bit player in the browser market. Firefox has been innovative, but struggles as it does not have the monolithic reach of Google. Safari hangs on, mainly due to it being the default option for iPhone users. In fact, Safari has about 26% of the market on mobile, while running on just under 4% of desktops.

Those numbers are in line with the mobile OS market